Bipolar & in Denial?
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Q:  Bipolar & in Denial?

I'm writing this to you with a concern about being BiPolar and possibly just being in denial. I've gone through my share of medicines and bouts with being BiPolar in the past 3 years. When I was 13 it all started because I went out with a boy who had problems himself. I got into drugs, sex, drinking and my grades went downhill. I thought about suicide but had never really gotten to the point where that was a real option for me. I guess I just wasn't that weak yet and I hadn't broken down that far. As time progressed, I fought constantly with my parents, couldn't keep a steady friend and lied alot. My mother is bipolar so she took me to the doctor because she was very worried about my condition. The psychologist ran tests and concluded that I was just a teen having problems that she believed would only get better if I made them better and actually wanted them to stay that way.
When things got worse she decided to send me to a psychiatrist for possible diagnosis of !depression. At first they thought that I was depressed and I went through medicines along with an anti-psychotic because of the suicidal thoughts. By this point, I had actually began cutting. I didn't want to die but it seemed like the only thing that would make me feel better. Most days I kept to myself and didn't want anything to do with anyone else. I sat in my room alot and did alot of writing. I missed alot of school and my grades were still at the bare minimum for passing. They finally diagnosed me bipolar because my mom had been picking up on some of the symtoms. At one point, I actually went over the edge and my parents admitted me to Hamot Hospital in the mental ward hoping I would gain some strength and sanity. But, I was fine there because there was really nothing that would set me off. Finally, by the summer I had been through probably ten different medications, none of them working to my advantage. I was very sensitive and often I experienced alot of the side ef!fects. During the week that I was off medicine, I actually found that I did better than when I was on. My mind was clear and I didn't feel under pressure to act the way that a pill was trying to make me feel. Thinking they had made a mistake, I was put on only adderall and did wonderfully. During my 9th grade year, I still hated going to school because I did rather poorly and just didn't want to try.
My house was generally chaotic, so I wouldn't ever want to do my homework. I quit drugs and hung out with the "clean" kids and I found that was alot more beneficial.  I quit cutting and I wasn't ever really depressed. There were times when I felt that I wanted to be depressed just to feel so I made myself that way. I lied alot still, compulsively actually. I didn't know where the real story ended and the fake one began and that got me into alot of trouble. The only times I would really flip out was when someone would push me to my breaking point. Then, they would easily blame it on me not being on any medicine. But, I believe that I only act that w!ay when someone puts me into the position where I feel hopeless and I get very defensive. As long as my enviroment is semi-decent and the people around me aren't bringing down the universe, then I'm generally happy. I've realized that next school year I need to do better in order to succeed the rest of my life. Any problem I have, I solve on my own because that's just the way that I deal with things. I have the power to get myself to snap out of it when I'm too upset and realize that it's
just pointless. But, I'm worried that maybe my cycle of bipolar happens over the span of many months and that the winter may be bad for me. But, still I'm not sure if I was just going through a phase or if I am bipolar. I want to be able to know before I make the mistake of battling with pills again. I was hoping maybe you could tell me whether or not I'm manic or if maybe I 'outgrew' my tantrums. Thank-you very much for your time and I'm sorry if this is too long!

Dear Ms. H' -- 
A couple of ideas based on your description of things.  First, if you were able to find a psychotherapist (not a psychiatrist) you really trusted, that would be a place you could talk all you want about what you're going through and not have to worry about it being heard from a the point of view of "what medication should we use?" 

This person could also serve as an observer to help you with your own efforts to watch your symptoms.  She or he could then refer you to a psychiatrist with some specific targets in mind, if you had to think again about medications. 

Finally, look into light therapy for winter symptoms (but be careful; too much can induce hypomanic symptoms).  

In the long run if you're lucky you'll find a psychiatrist as well that you can trust to work with your symptoms with minimal medications, if necessary.  You can decide later if it's worth continuing that search.  

Dr. Phelps

Published September, 2002


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