My Story: Susan

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

I had a rough childhood and when I was in my early teens I felt like something was not right with me. My mother kicked me out of the house at 16. I got pregnant later that year and experienced an awful feeling inside – depressed and wanting to cry one minute and then feeling out of control and angry the next. I found out I was pregnant and felt like that was what was making me feel this way. I made a decision, which I look back on very often, to not stay pregnant.

Once I terminated the pregnancy I started to feel better and felt like myself. But I still had issues I didn't understand. At that time my fiance wanted to marry me, and I loved him but I was scared. He was very angry about not having the baby, but we were too young and I was not feeling well at all. I didn't know what was happening to me and I didn't have any idea how to help myself. The depression and moods were just so bad.

From the stress, I ended my relationship and started seeing someone else. I was still was feeling the same feelings, and they were getting worse. I got engaged again and by 22 I was married. After my wedding I decided to see a psychiatrist. My first appointment I was amazed at what I found out.

I told my story to the psychiatrist regarding the awful depression, mood swings and manic behaviour (I would talk very fast and not be able to sit still) panic attacks, anxiety and family history. I was told I was bipolar 2, called manic depression at that time. It’s a condition I inherited from both my parents.

I was in shock, but happy to have a diagnosis. I finally had some answers to begin my journey towards getting healthy and feeling like everyone else. I was excited to start medication. I knew there was no cure but that I was young and hoped to have a good response from the meds. I had some side effects, but at the time they were manageable, and for a long while I was doing OK being on meds.

Who has been there for you? How?

My husband has really been the only one there for me. I have a best friend but she has her own life and tries to tell me to snap out of it. People think they have all the answers. Other friends I just don’t discuss it with them if I want to keep them as a friend. It’s like, “Park your wheelchair outside.” No one knows the suffering we go through every minute, every hour, every day.

I fear passing this on to my kids and look for signs all the time, feeling terrified to know it would be my fault. I am so sick of ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) but I can't stop them. My children do hug me and that means the world to me.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

As time went on my side effects as well as my depression, anxiety, etc. were getting worse. My meds were adjusted a few times. At this point I realized I had to really step back and say, “Wow, I need to learn how to live with this.”

I was never told this condition gets worse as you get older. I was learning this the hard way. I was pregnant again and early on started to feel the same way I did with my first pregnancy. I wanted this baby with all my heart but I didn’t know how bad this can get. As the weeks passed I was going out of my mind. I was crying non-stop and was so miserable every day that I felt like I was going to die – and wanted to. At this point all you want is relief, and to get that meant death.

I was dehydrated and went to the hospital often for fluids. I said, “So all pregnant women feel like this?” Nope. But I did. I was hospitalized several times for suicidal thoughts, and went on more meds. When I finally gave birth it was like being released from prison. I went back to what I was like before being pregnant, just like that – I was amazed no one told me this could happen.

I loved my son and was a good mother. I didn't want him to be alone so, as scared as I was, I got pregnant again. What were the odds of this happening again? Every pregnancy is different, right? Not for me. I was the same way. In and out of hospitals again, this time contemplating an abortion. I said, “I can't do this again.” My husband pleaded with me not to do it. I was scared but I kept the baby, and I thank God for that every day.

I gave birth to my second son and went back to the same person I was before pregnancy. Then I had my tubes tied for fear of becoming pregnant again – the hardest decision of my life. I had wanted a baby girl, but I knew I couldn't handle being pregnant again.

I went back to work and was trying to get by; I needed to help my husband raise our family. But day in and day out I was getting worse. I was crying all the time and just wanted to lie in bed, but I pushed myself for my family. I would cry away from my children so they wouldn't know. I did my best. I was in and out of the hospital for suicidal thoughts and attempting suicide. But there’s no cure – I had to just live this way.

I have been on meds for years now, but I don’t feel better and the side effects are worse. I just want to crawl into a ball and cry. I’m trying to get a handle on this but I can't. It's destroying me. Now I feel rages and sometimes I want to hurt someone, though never my children. Just when you think it can’t get worse another awful feeling comes along.

I fear passing this on to my kids.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

My kids are the best thing in my life. My marriage is good – it has lots and lots of ups and downs but my husband loves me. I’m happy to have had good jobs and good bosses. I never hid my bipolar disorder from my bosses. I am OCD as well but it made me a good employee. I was fortunate for those jobs. I’m also proud of owning my second home. It feels like we accomplished something to give my children a good home.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

My kids are the best thing in my life. My marriage is good – it has lots and lots of ups and downs but my husband loves me. I’m happy to have had good jobs and good bosses. I never hid my bipolar disorder from my bosses. I am OCD as well but it made me a good employee. I was fortunate for those jobs. I’m also proud of owning my second home. It feels like we accomplished something to give my children a good home.

My kids are the best thing in my life.

My kids are the best thing in my life.

What's your advice to someone else living with Depression?

If you are living with this disease, you need help. If you have really good friends and extended family talk to them. Make them understand your illness and try not to lose them. I lost a lot of people, but if they don't stay they are not worth it. It took me a long time to learn that.

Counseling can help get things off your chest, and teach you how to breathe and try to look at things differently (cognitive therapy). It doesn't always work but at least you can get things out. Get a pet if you can handle it. I have a dog and she's the best. Watch funny shows on TV. Get your thyroid and vitamin B and D checked out.

Get a pet if you can handle it. I have a dog and she's the best.

Is there anything else we should know?

I just hope this disease gets noticed more in the news, and that in time more hospitals and doctors will knowing how to deal with us.

I just know am going to my best and stay alive for my family. It's the battle of my life. I try to win it everyday. I pray to God for his help and to take care of me and my family. This disease, like all others does, not discriminate. It can affect you or someone you love. You may see us smile on the outside and never know the battle we fight on the inside.

Be well everyone who suffers from mental illness. One day our voices will be heard!

About Susan

My Story: Susan
I was born and raised in New York and I’m now living in North Carolina. I’m Italian, a mother to two boys – Jason, 14, and Andrew, 12 – and have been married for 22 years. I’m a homemaker for my family. I worked most of my life but now bipolar disorder has taken over.
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