I’m a white male, 57 years old. I had my first manic/psychotic episode in 1972 when I had just turned 18. I was mistakenly diagnosed as paranoid-schizophrenic. The diagnosis was changed to manic-depression in the spring of 1978 after a serious episode, and I started lithium treatment. I have been hospitalized over 16 times thus far as a direct result of my mental illness. Between 1972 and 1996 (my last hospitalization) I have averaged being hospitalized once every 17 months. After years of trying just about every anti-psychotic medication, I finally found one that worked for me.
Prior to 1973, I was a carefree, happy go lucky guy, with a great looking girlfriend and a large circle of friends. I was an athlete, a star baseball player since I was 12. I loved to party which included drinking beer and smoking pot, which was quite common during those days. But on the day that I turned 18, my life became confused and uncertain. Pressing thoughts starting running through my mind: did I believe in pre-marital sex; would I go to war if drafted; did I think it was OK to drink and smoke pot; and perhaps the weightiest one of all – did I believe in God. I was now 18, an adult, solely responsible for my thoughts and actions. I spent long hours walking alone trying to figure out who I was. I couldn’t eat and slowly became incoherent. Within days I ended up in a hospital psychiatric ward.
That was the beginning of my illness. I have been fighting this disease now for over 39 years. During that time, I have been addicted to both drugs and alcohol (self-medication), suffered from panic disorders, social anxiety disorders, and general anxiety disorders. I would be hospitalized over 16 times for four to six weeks at a time. My illness seemed to follow the same pattern: sudden lack of sleep, racing thoughts, preoccupation with religious ideas, followed by delusions and then psychosis. I could go for one to two years symptom free, but then, without warning, I’d find myself back in the hospital.
For many years, I considered myself to be treatment resistance. I have tried just about every typical antipsychotic medication. My main maintenance medication for over 21 years was lithium. I maintained a lithium level approaching 1.0, but I had to quit taking it because I developed chronic kidney disease. Zyprexa changed all that.
Currently, all my symptoms are under control with the exception of Tardive Dyskinesia. I seem to be the only one on the site that suffers from TD, but I attribute that to all my hospitalizations and exposures to older antipsychotic medications. As an update, I think I've finally found my solution to my tobacco addiction: the electronic cigarette. I had to do a lot of research to find something that worked. I'm still addicted to nicotine, but at least it's not causing me any health problems.
At present, I am the president a peer led depression bipolar support group. This support group provides a forum for individuals who suffer from depression and bipolar disorder symptoms who are seeking help in managing their illness.