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Bipolar Disorder is Ageless

Bipolar Disorder is a disorder seen throughout the aging process. It can start in childhood and continue on through into senior citizens. It is not just a disorder for young adults, criminals and the rich and famous. 

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is generally thought of as disease starting in young adulthood. I am approaching age 60 and have suffered with bipolar since I was a very young child. I was one of the statistics and back then mental illness just wasn't talked about. I knew I wasn't like other kids, but my parents and I didn't know what was wrong. There were high periods of activity and not having to sleep that lasted usually a few months for me as a child. Then would come the months of depression where I wanted to be left alone to read and not associate with others including my friends. I threw serious temper tantrums where I refused to breathe and the only way to get me to breathe was to throw water in my face. 

Ahh, the teen years. Things did not get better. Rage issues got more serious. I still caused temper tantrums in school and a child who had at least behaved herself most of the time became an angry human being. My parents couldn't believe it was me when the school would call. I screamed at the teacher and slammed my books on the desk she moved me to. In a way my parents enabled me, by telling the teacher to just move someone else because they didn't know how to stop my rages. 

As a teen I began dissociating. I would go to my own world. I would daydream about how wonderful my life was, usually with a handsome movie star. It took up most of my life. I didn't pay attention as well in school either. I read non-stop and lost myself in the world of the book, and even became that character if it was a happy story. Their lives were more interesting than mine.

As a young adult I still suffered through the high energy, no sleep periods. The depression as well. Now I had learned to keep most of my rage inside. If I did explode it was usually pretty serious and potentially dangerous to the target. Although I never did physically hurt someone. Just emotionally screamed at them. 

I gave birth to three children. By now my struggle was becoming harder and we knew something was definitely wrong when I had a mini-breakdown. I went to a psychologist who rather than really evaluating me had my doctor prescribe an anti-depressant and it made the bipolar worse. Again that was still years ago when not a lot was known about bipolar disorder. I was finally referred to a psychiatrist who could actually prescribe the drugs themselves. One major mood-stabilizer was now tried with no luck.  

I didn't take to medications well and we just kept trying one anti-depressant after the other, but without that anti-psychotic I was just pushed further into manic episodes and the mood changes started to come faster. I went off medications and just had talk therapy. It helped a little, but without medications combined with it, we only worked through some problems. One of them being my husband, now ex-husband. 

The kids were growing up and after our divorce my son was living with his dad. He had serious rage issues that surfaced around age 14-16. He came to live with me and asked for help. The doctor diagnosed him with bipolar and rage issues. He broke items constantly. One out of my three children has bipolar and has been hospitalized as a juvenile. 

As I aged my bipolar seemed to worsen some more. I sought help again with a psychologist and I started medications again. There were new ones out. I just couldn't take them even with the anti-psychotic added this time. I became worse and suicidal thoughts started up. I was un-medicated at this time and then I attempted suicide. I had spent almost my whole life suffering, un-medicated, from this disorder and I just couldn't imagine another 25 or so years of it. I was almost 55 by this time. 

I was hospitalized and the medications search started again. I eventually found someone who was willing to try something more outside the box, and we tried a less commonly used anti-psychotic. 

While being treated for something else, an anti-depressant was found that went with this anti-psychotic and I have been almost stable now for 8 months, but it took until I was almost 60 to find some relief. That is for now. Things might change over the years as they tend to do with medications that work great and then quit working, but I am currently fairly stable with a little tweaking now and then. 

60 years of bipolar disorder and who knows how many more years I have left to go. Bipolar is ageless.

To read more from Teresa, see the rest of her posts for IBPF here or visit her personal blog here

Comments

Thank you so much for sharing your journey, Teresa!

Thanks for reading Dyane.

thank you both for being there. I knew during my first 60 day hospitalization I would have this problem for life but the meds they put me on worked seamlessly for a decade. Other than productive, creative hypomania augmenting a journalism and disc jockey career, and me being self willed and hard headed, my illness worked for me. Until the Prozac 'pooped out,' which is now clinical jargon for any antidepressant that suddenly stops working. By then I had drifted so far from psychiatric support I thought I was finished so I went back to self medicating for three years, after which I was psychotic. I even thought I had kids. I tore up escrow papers, convinced the realtors were 'cheating' me when I really needed to unload a Hollywood Hills home I couldn't afford after my husband left me. And he left me because he saw bipolar disorder and substance abuse at it's worst. Well, it's worst for me. The stories I could tell.

I never thought it would go away. We were all told we'd lead 'normal' lives. When you consider the long term effects of lithium, the gold standard treatment, on kidney function, you have to wonder if they were being disingenuous or just didn't know. I'm pretty sure Lithium, although used in Europe much earlier, wasn't mainstream treatment in the US for bipolar until the 70's. I was diagnosed in '89 at age 29 after being clean off drugs and alcohol for one years. When I came to South Florida and started attending AA meetings in earnest I met all these new people and made friends quickly. But something seemed off. It seemed every young person with a substance abuse disorder and only weeks of clean time was given this diagnosis.

I have to wonder why they weren't waiting until those patients' heads were clearer before jumping the gun. I'm almost glad I didn't get lithium. The last time I relapsed into bipolar depression I asked my doctor about it and he said, "It works really well for about twenty years......" he didn't need to finish the sentence. I'm better off in the boat I'm in and will be dealing with side effects for the rest of my life. Statistically though, I've had my share of bad luck...the odds of me getting another catastrophic illness have GOT to be small.
I spend all my resources on medicine. Dad feels bad because I'll never get to travel, etc. He doesn't realize that a day like today, where I feel pretty darn good is LUXURY ENOUGH FOR ME.

I had problems with almost every medication. I spent most of my life unmedicated, but can't do that now. The older I get the worse it gets.

You just described my life. I am 61 and went through the exact childhood and adolesence that you did. The reading, disappering into books, the dissociation and living in a different world. It is so interesting to read my life.

It just wasn't talked about in our youth. I would probably be better if treated earlier.

Thanks for sharing ur story. I can relate to some things. I just want to know what the future holds for me.

Julie, we never really know what is coming next. There is no way to predict what each of us will suffer with. Wishing you luck!

I am 67 years old...I was diagnosed and treated in my 50's. I have had problems exactly like yours...no one knew what was wrong..I was considered "bad". I seem to be getting worse as I grow older..isolation and paranoia, fear of leaving the house...ugh!

You're amazing. It is a long process and you think it will never end. But it's amazing how long you went without being stabilised, yet you still were able to do things in life!

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