I've wanted to write one for a really long time but have never really had the courage to do so before. I'm at a stage in my life where things are very stagnant and I need to relieve some pressure and stress that I'm feeling and I think this might be a good outlet for me to do so. Hopefully it might also be of some interest to those of you (if anyone does!) reading this. If I can share some insight into my experience with mental illness, as taboo and stigmatised as it might be, then I'd consider myself blessed.
I first got diagnosed with depression and anxiety at college many years ago while studying in Washington State. It happened my first semester as a freshman not long after Spring Break. I absolutely loved school and was making new friends but was still struggling with the anxiety I'd had my entire life and I therefore decided to go and speak to the school psychologist. We had a few chats about my history and I was quickly diagnosed with depression and anxiety and sent off to see the resident Psychiatrist who put me on Sertraline. I still continued to see the psychologist for another year or so every single week being closely monitored as well as seeing the Psychiatrist every four weeks for a chat about the dosage on the medication.
After about a year or so, as a junior, noticing that my depression hadn't shifted much and my mood swings would alternate quite rapidly (I could be fine one week and depressed and bedridden the other) the doctors decided to put me on a higher dose of Sertraline. This is what ultimately triggered my Bipolar to appear in full force according to my psychiatrist. A few months after that my self harming and suicidal thoughts had started to worsen to the point at which they had never been before. I had always had suicidal thoughts but thoughts of self harm were for "other people" not sane people like myself... During a period of two weeks I ended up beating my forearms so hard they bruised, I would pinch so hard I'd bleed internally and I started cutting myself. I remember consciously going to Wahlgreens and buying razors, bandages, antiseptic wipes and ice packs. I remember being excited about it too. Like I was shopping for a new dress or some new shoes... The sickest thing is that I would take photos of what I had done to later look at. The pain felt like such a relief and looking at the photos made me feel powerful. My dogs make me feel good these days. Animals are amazing companions. They give us unconditional love and devotion and they expect nothing in return.
I did, however, realize that what I was doing was wrong and after those two weeks and went to my psychologist, told her everything and was promptly diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. I was in denial and scared because in my mind the next step for me would be to slip into Schizophrenia. Especially when she kept asking if I heard voices. The answer to that was then and is still to this day no. I cannot imagine the pain someone with Schizophrenia goes through on a daily basis. And I think I have it tough sometimes.. Anyway, I was told to see my psychiatrist who prescribed me with several different anti-psychotics before we found the one that worked for me, Topiramate. Now, Topiramate or Topamax is an anti-convulsant drug used for people who suffer from seizures and is also used for migraines but it is starting to be fairly commonly used as an anti-psychotic. I started out a low dose and increased my dosage. Over the years I've adjusted the dosage several times.
Now, at age 25, I'm on 250mg of Topiramate a day as well as 150mg of Sertraline. Being on medication doesn't mean that my life is normal and that everything is okay 100% of the time but it does mean that I feel balanced for a lot of the time, however, I still have my depressive states or my hypomanic phases even on the medication which can feel quite baffling sometimes. The environment I'm in and stress-factors also trigger a phase. I recently had a really bad spell where I wanted to cut. I haven't had one of those in years and that was me on the medications. I spoke to my GP about it but he didn't think there was reason enough to alter the medication and he was right. The feeling passed after a week or so but it can be quite scary when you're in it. I've had quite a few bad spells lately and actually lost my job because of it so feeling like a failure and knowing you're got fired for being ill is not a good feeling. I'll explain more in a later post. It's a long story.
I've been very lucky to have such a supportive team of medical professionals around me. I know some people don't feel like their doctors understand them and that can certainly slow down the healing process. I feel especially thankful since I don't have such good support at home. My mom is very New Age and doesn't believe in medications. She'd rather I exercise the brain well.. Thank you, mother. Well, it's my life and I chose to take my medications and live. I can't please everyone anyway not even if I tried.
Thank you for reading. I'll blog more soon.