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Consumer Interview

1. Would you please tell me the exact nature of your diagnosis?
I am Manic Depressive, Bi Polar and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

2. What is your age and when was this diagnosis made? I am 37 and was first diagnosed at age 25.

3. Prior to being diagnosed how did your disease affect you?
I was very moody, have extreme highs and extreme lows - never any gray area. I was either sleeping or up for days doing everything. I was raging at everyone and everything, getting destructive and verbally and physically abusive. I could not hold a job for more than 6 months if that. Nothing was my fault, it was everyone or everything else's fault.

4. Do you have a substance abuse problem? If so, please state the exact nature of that problem. I have been in recovery from Drug and Alcohol abuse for almost 9 years  now, Alcohol having been my drug of choice.

5. How do you think your substance abuse affected your psychiatric illness? Alcohol and Drugs were but a symptom of the true disease for me. They  masked the true problem so I didn't have to think about what was really going on with me.

6. Do you think the symptoms of one masked the symptoms of the other? As stated above, they masked my psychiatric problem.

7. How were you able to differentiate between your psychiatric illness and your substance abuse? My counselor at the time picked up on it. I was in counseling for being abused by and ex husband. Once I got sober, the psychiatric illness showed itself.

8. Would you describe your substance abuse as a sort of self-mediation for your brain disorder? Please describe how this worked for you. Yes. As long as I was drunk or high I felt good, normal I guess. I was happy and everyone seemed to like me and thought I was OK.

9. To your knowledge, did you exhibit any signs of your disorder at an early age? How early? What were the symptoms? I did not start abusing drugs and alcohol until 18, so as I look back I think I did exhibit signs of my disorder at a young age. As early as 8 or 9 if not before. I would have lows where I was lazy and wanted to sleep, isolate myself. I didn't care about myself or my looks - whether I bathed or anything. I would have severe mood swings - often abusing verbally and physically my siblings. I could have highs where I would go for long periods of time without rest and thought I was on top of the world and no one or nothing could touch me. I was the best. I was obsessive and possessive.

10. Can you pinpoint exactly when you knew you were somehow "different"? What about your parents? Friends? I think it was in Jr. High or my first year in High School. Something just didn't seem right with me and I couldn't put my finger on it. My parents didn't notice or chose not to notice anything. I was a loner by then, with no real friends to speak of as they moved on to drugs and alcohol and hadn't crossed that line yet. Food was working for me at that time.

11. Please describe what school was like for you. Did you go on to higher education and, if so, what did you study? School was pretty much a lonely time for me. I didn't think anyone like me. As I was using food to medicate I was overweight. I was depressed all the time, except for my occasional highs, but was still alone. I did attempt college - attempting nursing, but failed. Started my life into addiction with drugs and alcohol. I went back a few years later to attempt Education, but still failed. Highs and lows coming more frequently.

12. Beginning in grade school and working forward to the present, please describe how your illness affected your school work. In grade school through mid Jr. High my grades were great. After mid Jr. High and into High School my grades began to drop. I just didn't have the desire to do the homework, I couldn't focus, I was depressed alot. the occasional highs are what kept my grades up enough to graduate and the desire to please my parents and graduate and make them happy at least. My couple of tries at college early on failed. After being diagnosed, getting sober and being med compliant, I tried college again at 33. With the help of SDS (Student Disability Services) at the college I went to I have since graduated with a BS in Education.

13. What obstacles would you say were the most difficult to overcome in your academic life? The fear of success. Stress. Completing something I started.

14. Are you working? Full or part-time? Since graduating I am now working. I am self-employed so I work either full or part time, depending on how I am feeling.

15. How has your illness affected your work life? If I get too overwhelmed or stressed out, I get a little crazy and/or depressed and start self sabotaging myself and my self-esteem takes a turn for the worse.

16. Are your employers aware of your illness? How have they reacted to you in light of this? The lady I subcontract for is not aware of my diagnosis. Due to the type of work that I do - Job Coaching/Job Developing - I have heard what her feelings are about people with Bi Polar Disorder and I choose not to let her know what the diagnosis is at this time. I realize she may have been talking about people who are not med compliant or a bit worse than myself, but I would rather prove my self capable first.

17. What about fellow employees? What are their reactions? I do not choose to tell fellow employees either, as I work with other Job Coaches she subcontracts out to. I train them.

18. Can you describe how your social life has been affected by your illness? I tend to be a loner or I have one good friend only, whom I can get very possessive of at times. I don't like large crowds, am suspicious of anyone who wants to befriend me. My one good friend understands my illness and forgives a lot when I get into mood swings. She checks me and will suggest when I may need a med check.

I do have a significant other and he understands my illness and forgives a lot as well. He helps me to be med compliant and watches out for signs that my meds may need changed as well.

19. What are the greatest difficulties you have had to overcome in this aspect of your life? Being around people and realizing they cannot see through me and know that I have a disability. That I am not alone, there are others out there with the same disorder and live happy and normal lives. I can function as a normal human being if I take care of myself.

20. Are you particularly aware of any triggers for your condition? Please describe each in as much detail as possible. Stress is my biggest trigger. If I try and do too much and not take care of myself and get the rest I need I will find myself heading into a depression or going on a high.

Crisis situation will send me there as well. When I go into a crisis I will often forget to take my meds and that sets me up an episode of high and lows.

21. How do you avoid these triggers? I take One Day At A Time, keep the stress out of my life as much as possible and get enough rest and eat right. Most of all I take my meds on a daily basis - med compliance.

22. Once one of these triggers is in motion, what are you able to do? I have my best friend and significant other who keep me in check and take my meds, talk to my counselor and psychiatrist if meds need to be increased or decreased as needed.

23. Please describe as completely as possible your relationships with any mental health professionals with whom you are involved. I go to counseling 2 times a month for an hour long session and I see my psychiatrist once every three months unless I need to check in sooner because of a crisis or stressful situation and feel my meds need changed.

24. Do you belong to any support groups? Not at this time. I have been checking around to get involved in one in my area though.

25. What sort of network or safety net do you have in place?
My counselor, psychiatrist, best friend, significant other, family at 
times and my AA support group.

26. Please describe what it has been like for you to live with this illness and what you would say to others who have the same condition but who have not been able to admit it. It has been and up and down struggle for me, but once I came to surrender to the fact I have the illness and need to take meds for the rest of my life if I want to function as normal a human as I can in this life, it has been great. There is nothing wrong with having this illness, it is an illness just like diabetes, cancer, flu, etc. We have meds that help control it and help us to live like other normal humans who do not have an illness.

27. Have you ever felt discriminated against due to your illness? In what way? At times, yes. People who have found out about my illness have treated me differently in situations when I try to explain something or give an opinion. I have heard comments about she is mental, don't listen to her... It hurt, but they are ignorant is my thought.

Comments from my "boss" from her experiences with Bi Polar individuals, so that I will not tell her about my illness.

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