By: Christina Broderick
My childhood was what I considered entirely normal. As a kid I had a great family, nice friends, performed well at school and participated in extra-curricular activities, becoming highly involved in sports during my teenage years.
College began with an epic bang! I loved the freedom, living 2 hours away from home, the variety – so many people to see, places to go and things to do. However, then it began.
Around 2007 I began having what I refer to now as ‘indecisive episodes’. I found it extremely difficult to make even the simplest of decisions so I gradually began to retreat to my room and had days of doing nothing.
Not being able to decide things such as what to wear, what to eat/drink or what to say became overwhelming and withdrawal became the answer for me. Due to this unusual behaviour I attended my local GP and she initially put it down to adapting to the recent change of university life.
The random sporadic short lived (few days usually) episodes continued however so my mums concern saw my attending a psychiatrist in my home town. Of my own accord I also began attending the drop-in counsellor service at university to try look for answers and gain insight for myself.
Here began the start of my career attending medical professionals on a regular basis! I expected answers from the counsellor and for him to tell me what to do but he explained he could simply listen and guide. I wasn’t entirely happy with this advice but continued attending when I could in an attempt to improve.
After seeing the psychiatrist a few times and trying one type of medication for depression I was referred to the head psychiatrist at the city’s main hospital as an outpatient. After a few appointments, I was almost relieved to be told I had ‘brief recurrent depression’. To me a diagnosis meant I was not abnormal! There was something medical that could be fixed causing my behaviour.
I got through my college years trying different types of meds and attending therapy. I had hopes that just like this ‘issue’ started when I began college it may end when I graduate. I got a teaching job overseas but was devastated when within the first few months I experienced depressive symptoms again and went into a low episode.
This reoccurred so a few months down the line I experienced what I know now as my first manic episode. I was sent on a flight home and to the hospital and it was then (Jan 2011) that I got an official diagnosis of having bipolar disorder. Again relief was one emotion I experienced.
Since then, as I’m sure you can relate. I’ve had many ups and downs. My typical episode consists of a few days/weeks and sometimes months in a very low place where normal functioning is extremely challenging. When down thankfully I have family members who drop food to my house and make sure I’m alive as I find the prospect of meeting people totally daunting and overwhelming so only leave the house when totally necessary.
After the low mood randomly lifts (no known trigger), I usually become hypomanic (twice it has been full mania) but this phase lasts typically a few days to a week or two. As you’re probably aware, symptoms like racing thoughts, grandiosity, restlessness, irritability etc define this time. Lack of sleep is also extremely significant for me and regulating it is an ongoing battle.
I stopped teaching for 7 years after my original diagnosis but went back to it in 2018 for a few years. I got by and did ok but thankfully had employers who I was open with and hence facilitated my mood fluctuations and catered for my ongoing medical appointments.
To bring you up to date. I finished teaching last sept (2021) when I was pregnant (unplanned) as my moods were very unstable to stay the least. My beautiful daughter, the joy of my life is now almost 5 months and although I love her to bits, I just recently came out of a typical, two and a half week low episode.
I have a large perinatal team who I work with regularly, I take my meds every day and I stay as optimistic as I can but there’s no doubt the illness is ongoing and significantly impacting my life, both positively and negatively sometimes.
The struggle goes on but the rewards are appreciated. I hope continued hard work with my medical professional team, interaction with others in similar situations such as through forums like this and continue hard work on my behalf will continue to see me through life. I strive for more level up and down episodes in the future and aim to continue to live a normal fulfilled life. I hope you do to.