1. Would you please tell me the exact nature of your
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
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
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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