In reflection, Iíve always done crazy stuff that most normal sane people wouldnít even contemplate.  I was a fun guy that liked to have fun.  I was a problem for my grade school teachers and didnít get very good grades throughout my early education.  I probably would have been diagnosed as having ADD if it were today.  After high school, I spent 4 years in the Army.  I liked the discipline that it taught me and I excelled in that environment.  It was my military experience that gave me the drive and commitment to go to college and graduate with honors. 

 

I married a wonderful woman and we had 2 wonderful children I was very optimistic for the future.  I had a degree in my chosen field, made good money and a wife that was supportive. This was the high point in my life with no apparent signs or signals of what was to come.

 

Then came 1988, I donít know how or really why it happened; I suspect it was the level of stress I was under at the time that acted as the trigger.  Things started to slip and then I just snapped.  I was 32 years old.  I lost 30 lbs almost overnight, I was suicidal to the point that I had planned it out and was prepared to ďdo it,Ē I even made a goodbye video to my wife explaining why I had to do this to myself because I just couldnít stand to live one more day.  At this point, my wife convinced me to seek help.  I went to a psychologist recommended by my physician and was diagnosed as being severely depressed.  He put me on Amitriptyline and therapy for the next 9 months.  After about 6 weeks the depression was lifting and I was starting to feel a lot better.  Thatís when the next phase started.  My psychologist didnít even pickup on it when I think he should have been very attune to the symptoms that maybe I had been misdiagnosed.  I went on my very first mega-shopping spree.  I bought a new (very expensive) sports car (and I enjoyed telling him about it too), cloths for everybody, exotic vacations and new furniture for the house.  I even had a sexual indiscretion, which my wife caught me in.  Life was great again, only better.  My wife made no attempt to stop me and I donít know if she would have been successful anyway.  After I was off the meds and settled back into a semi-normal mode, the reality of what I had done scared me.  I had no idea why I would do these things, which were so contrary to my normal past behavior.  However, after recovering from the depression and subsequent manic swing, life wasnít quite the same.  I had caused some damage to my career, the relationship with my wife and I wasnít the same person anymore.  I found it extremely difficult to do things, which used to be very easy.  I had to change jobs to something, which was not as stressful.  I switched jobs and started a new career.

 

The next ten plus years were spent pretty much in hibernation.  Increasingly, I suffered from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.  My moods were a veritable roller coaster as was my personal life.  Some days it was all I could do to get up in the morning and go to work.  My job wasnít especially stressful but I was having chest pains.  I went to my doctor and had a stress test.  There were no heart problems indicated.  He told me I was under too much stress.  I would come home and be too exhausted to do anything else except watch TV and lay on the bed.  My life was hell and I made life difficult for my loved ones.  What finally tipped me off that I had a problem is an article I was reading on male depression.  After reading the article, I knew that I needed to see the doctor again.  It took some prodding from my wife but I finally went after several months of procrastination and promises Iíd made to my wife.  After he evaluated me, he started me on Effexor.  It was all I could do to wait for the relief I knew would come from the ADís.  Sure enough, after about 4 weeks I was really beginning to feel great.  I was starting projects around the house that I had left unfinished years ago.  I was productive again.  Then came week 6.  It started when I told my wife I was feeling very strange.  Three days later I was experiencing a full-blown psychotic episode.  My wife took me back to our family physician.  Itís humiliating listening to people discussing what to do with you and youíre cognizant of whatís happening.  Is he a danger to you?  Is he a danger to anyone else?  Is he a danger to himself?  Can you care for him at home?  Do you think he needs to be hospitalized?  At this point he figures I must be BP?  So he takes me cold turkey off the Effexor and starts me on Depakote.  Three days of tremors, cold sweats, and vomiting Effexor hell later, Iím off the Effexor and on my way with the Depakote.  I missed over a week of work and my wife had to cover for me by telling my employer I was under the care of a doctor for my back.  I wasnít even capable of talking on the phone.  So then I start studying about BP and understanding what it is and isnít.  Still suffering from severe depression complicated my situation.  At this point I determine that if I really want to get better, I need to be seeing a psychiatrist, a family physician just doesnít have the experience to effectively treat a BP individual.  I am fully committed to getting my life back and donít have a lot of unresolved issues I need to be working out with a therapist; I just need to get my brain back into some semblance of chemical order (better living through chemistry).

 

I got very lucky in that I was able to get in to the best pdoc in the state.  He has diagnosed me as BP II and we are working together to get the meds right.  After several months of hell again, my life balances out. 

 

Iím currently on Serzone 300 mgs/day and Depakote 1500 mgs/day.  Itís been over 10 months now, could life be better?  You bet.  I canít say that everything is perfect but life is so much better.  My wife says that Iím not the same person as I was and I donít want to be that person.  But I may never find quite the right cocktail mix or learn how to deal with everything which could potentially cause a cycle.  Although I am more in tune with my moods, listen to what my body is telling me and am fairly stable. 

 

Throughout this entire incident I was lucky that I have a wife who has stuck by me (weíve been married 24 years), my family has been a great support group and I have a very good job as an engineer for a medical equipment manufacture in which Iím not closely supervised (otherwise I would have had employment problems).

 

Is life fair, no!, although, we all have it within our ability to change our circumstances if we have the desire.  I wouldnít have chosen to be BP.  The thing I hate the most about being BP is how much of my life I have lost.  My advice to fellow BPíers is; life is what you make it.  You can let the disease control you or you can control it.

 

Curt

 

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