There’s a graphic circulating through social marketing it says, “I hate being bipolar, it’s awesome.” I laughed at the logo. My family, however, did not see the humor in it. No. In fact, they were offended. And rightfully so. At age 39 I was diagnosed with bipolar depression. As much as they’re glad I’m better, they’re quick to remind me, I’d put them through hell.
Bipolar I depression: my diagnosis.
The signs of bipolar were subtle at first. I began sleeping few hours each night, and after weeks of sleep deprivation experienced devastating lows of depression including fits of uncontrollable crying. Soon, symptoms were more like a freight train: I detached from reality, binging in my shopping habits. I spent money feverishly thinking it would make me feel better and as if it were funded from “somewhere out there.” Shopping was fun and it did provide comfort, but eventually it dropped me to new and ultra lows.
My family became concerned. There were hushed tones during phone calls between loved ones. I soon became paranoid and fearful of my environment. Finally, my mother “made the call.” In return, I packed and moved into the local Hampton Inn.
How do I cope with bipolar depression?
At first, my family had a difficult time finding a psychiatrist to see me. I didn’t use or abuse drugs or alcohol and thus I was a psychotic anomaly. Moreover, they had a worse time convincing me to see a psychiatrist. I caved to my illness when my mother agreed to make the doctor privy to her similar “episode” at age 35.
When I was first diagnosed as Bipolar I, I was severely medicated with high doses of Lithium Carbonate (900mg) and the anti-psychotic Risperdal (1mg) . This “cocktail” as my doctor called it, helped me to stabilize. It brought me “back” as she put it and into reality from a state of hallucinatory detachment. Soon, I was getting well. I moved home and eventually made my way back to work, regaining most of my normal activities of daily living.
What treatments have I explored for bipolar depression?
The main course of action during a “manic” episode is a mood stabilizer (i.e. therapeutic dose of Lithium Carbonate) and the addition of an anti-psychotic as necessary (Risperdal). Although this treatment provided only a means to stability, I soon desired to create a more natural route for myself.
After intense research I sought help from an integrative medical doctor. She ordered a full panel of nutritional testing. I proved deficient in many areas. My doctor suggested, in addition to fish oil, I begin to supplement with magnesium and vitamin D3.
My doctor also suggested I take the B vitamin complex True Hope (www.truehope.com). “It’s something new,” she said. “This supplement has been undergoing fierce clinical study,” she told me.
It worked. I was able to taper from Risperdal entirely and reduced the Lithium to a sub-therapeutic dose of 600mg. With the final addition of the cognitive behavioral therapy found through the Recovery International System (www.recoveryinternational.org) I was in remission within two years.
Why is this condition unique to me and how does it affect my life?
The condition of Bipolar I is unique to me, just as it is to most individuals who experience depression. As I’ve stated, I have no previous history of alcohol abuse or drug abuse. Yet, make no mistake. This has not been an easy road. Recently and under a doctor’s care, I make the decision taper from Lithium Carbonate entirely. I slowly reduced my dose to 150 mg daily (from the original 900mg). Sadly, it wasn’t long before I discontinued sleeping, suffered from sleep deprivation and was in the lows of depression, once more.
The best solution for me has proven to be 450 mg of Lithium Carbonate, daily. With the addition of the True Hope supplement and the cognitive therapy of Recovery International, I feel stable. My doctor’s assure me a tiny bit of Lithium far outweighs deep depression. “Any day,” I tell them. And my family agrees. Yes, I fought back a second time, and although the shopping sprees are “awesome,” I am well and balanced now and this is where I aim to stay.