At what point did the doctors determine you had bipolar? (Part Three: Adult Bipolar)

Finishing up our three part series answering the question: At what point did the doctors determine you had bipolar?

I apologize in advance for the novel length post here, but I do have 29 years to explain!!!

I was diagnosed with ADD at the ripe old age of 6. Apparently I was hyper or something, maybe I just couldn’t stay on task. I began taking the infamous Ritalin and continued up till middle school when I convinced my mother I could function without it. (One thing to know about those with bipolar, we are incredibly manipulative. Very important to be aware with if you are a parent of a bipolar child. We can convince you of ANYTHING. I was able to do it without even knowing I was doing it!) I wasn’t a big fan of what I thought were side effects from the stimulant…namely that I would sometimes stay up all night unable to fall asleep. In retrospect this was probably one of the first signs of mania.

When I was 13 I began to suffer from heavy depression. I’d sit in my closet for hours contemplating the many uses of a coat hanger…no need to go into details. Luckily I’m a big fat wimp and the thought of pain kept me from harm. I had one huge episode in the 8th grade where someone upset me during gym class and I ran to the bathroom and started crying. My teacher attempted to calm me down, but the bigger the deal she made out of it, the harder I cried. It took at least 4 people, including the principal, to convince me to emerge from the bathroom floor. I distinctly remember one of them saying, “Something is wrong with her. This just isn’t right.” But I was 13, 13 and full of hormones. Whose to say how emotional one can be at that age. What they didn’t know is that I often had these episodes at home, I just didn’t want to tell anyone about it.

Things didn’t exactly improve after that, in some ways it did, but the depression stuck with me. Anxiety kicked in around 15 and by 17 I became suicidal. I’d write notes in my journal about wanting to die and how I wanted to do it. I even sat on the phone one night with my sister and a bottle of sleeping pills in my hand, trying to get her to calm me down. I don’t think I ever really wanted to die, I just wanted to end the pain.

It wasn’t until this past year that I found out my mom didn’t know what to do, so while I was at school she read my journal. (Mortified…there were definitely things in there I like to believe she didn’t see…it’s best if I make myself believe that!) The thing is, I’m not upset about it. It was then that she read my entries about death and realized I really needed help. Even my friends told me I needed help, as did my boyfriend…well ex boyfriend by that time. My one friend even made comments stating she thought I was super manic.

MANIC? Taboo word!!! Manic means bipolar and bipolar means crazy and crazy means I belong in a straight jacket. I would not let anyone give me the title of Manic!

So I may or may not have avoided the specifics about my moods and just shared the parts about depression. (There’s that manipulative thing again…)They put me on Welbutrin and stuck me in therapy. It kinda helped…for awhile..

Then I got pregnant. I was only 19, thus this just pushed my anxiety issues over the edge. I had a baby, I got married, and I fell into the rabbit hole of depression. Unfortunately there was no Cheshire Cat to show me the way out. Postpartum depression walked itself to the top of my ever growing pile of issues and sat it’s fat little tush down as though it was the most important thing ever. I couldn’t take my meds if I wanted to breast feed, and not being able to breast feed made me feel like a failure, not to mention my marriage was a mess. (What marriage wouldn’t be with two 20 yr olds and a baby?)

Shortly after we married I toppled further down. I got to the point where I finally understood why mothers drown their babies. I didn’t WANT to do that…but I understood it. The Bean never stopped crying and my husband and I never stopped fighting. There was no way I was going to bring any sort of harm to my daughter, so I locked myself in the bathroom with only the comfort of another bottle of sleeping pills in my hand. My husband kicked in the door and took them from me. I hated him for it at the time, convinced that I wouldn’t have done it anyway, but who knows.

Things were very rocky from then on. Life was a mess. The depression rarely went away, even with counseling and tons of different meds. But then sometimes, it would disappear all together for short bouts of time and I’d be really happy. Like insanely happy. I was on top of the world. But when I fell, I always fell hard. I blamed it on the meds not working anymore and would try something new.

In the fall of 2007 I experienced one of the lowest points in my life. I had bought a house and it was a disaster. When I purchased the home my job was going well and my credit was on the repair. Things were good. Then my job went downhill. The industry I was in was tanking and we were about to shut down. My commission halved and the bills piled up. Then my balloon came due and the house appraised for $10k less than when we bought it, so nobody would refinance us.

I got a new job, but it wasn’t soon enough to recover from our losses. So that fall my husband and I decided to let the house go and file bankruptcy. I was a failure. At this time I was also the Matron of Honor in my best friends wedding. I was broke and the other bridesmaids were not. I’d spend money I didn’t have, then I’d borrow money I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pay back. I always felt like I was doing a horrible job and trying everything I could to be the best Matron of Honor ever. In the end, I probably ended up the worst.

It all became too much. I was a mess and I was sure my meds weren’t working, probably because they weren’t. So I just went off them all together. Without them the depression increased. I’d sleep for 18 hours a day. I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I drank like a homeless man and I was missing work like crazy. A few weeks after the wedding I got into a huge fight with the bridesmaids and bride and it was like I just broke into pieces. Nothing could fix me.

I no longer had my friends, my house, my credit, any money, and if I kept it up I was about to lose my husband. So after a fight with him one evening, I just packed a suitcase and left. I drove myself to a Mental Health care Hospital and checked myself in. I wanted to die, but I didn’t. I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t. And I wanted to just go to bed and sleep for forever, but we all know that’s not possible.

In the hospital, where I held back nothing, they finally diagnosed me with Bipolar II. They explained why my meds never quite fit the bill and began a new treatment plan. I was put on a mood stabilizer and for the first time in my entire life I felt … well I felt even. I was neither happy nor sad. I just was. I didn’t know what to do with it. All my feelings of failure and hurt were still there, but I could handle it. They were no longer ruling my life. It was peaceful.

Life didn’t exactly get better after that. It’s customary to hit rock bottom first, and I absolutely did. But I did it without landing myself in the hospital again. And I did it with a clear head. It was hard, but I did it.

NOW life is wonderful. I feel like a stronger person for everything I went through. I’m aware of what’s going on and I know when it’s the “Bipolar Talking” in regards to my moods. I can function like a real human being. Granted it takes an enormous amount of effort and maintenance, I’ve learned my lesson and I refuse to end up in the hospital again.

11 thoughts on “At what point did the doctors determine you had bipolar? (Part Three: Adult Bipolar)

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  2. I am glad to see your story (life).

    I am Hyperactive/Impulsive-type (ADHD-H). 19 years successful treatment!!


  3. Hi…just stumbled across your site looking for help online. My son (19 in Sept) was diagnosed with Bipolar II last October, after a failed suicide attempt. Bipolar and ADD. Med changes every other month…mood cycles about every 6 weeks. Lately though, I’m seeing alot of new stuff…OCD behavior. Went from one of his dark cycles into a manic almost, which he has never done.

    He can’t complete a task, let alone a thought. I think his psych doc is snowed. I finally called his therapist and made an appt for him, which he has agreed to go to.

    I feel like I am a prisoner in my own home. I can’t breathe. Every now and then, when he doesn’t wake up until 5pm, I wonder if I will find him dead…after all, I found him near death the first time.

    Thanks for listening….I so could use some help.

  4. @Patty

    Hello there;

    I am the younger voice of Ask A Bipolar; the teenager in the mix. Please feel free to e-mail me ( if you ever want to talk or get my side of the fight. Marybeth can help from both a Bipolaree and parent’s view, and so you may want to send a question into her (on the Ask A ? tab). Other than that, The Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation ( has a lot of information and parent-to-parent venting.

    Hope you are doing OK today.

    With Love,

  5. Tom Brow You rock! I never knew you had ADHD. Now wonder you were so entertained when you saw my drug test. LOL You manage it well 🙂

  6. Hi. I was very happy to see someone who has reached an understanding so young of what they’re actually dealing with. I was diagnosed with ADHD also, but around the age of 10. Then after many “episodes” and “acting out” and maybe after the fact that I ran away my parents decided to take me to see a psychologist. That was at the age of 15. The pyschologist at that time diagnosed me with ODD, ADHD and Bipolar type one. At that point all I could think was this guy is crazy. My parents are stupid, maybe if they didn’t beat me and raise me so inappropriately I wouldn’t have such a bad attitude on life or things in general. As I got older I convinced myself that I had no such thing close to bipolar. I was working, going to school, sleeping, and partying like any other 17 year old. Then it wasn’t until maybe November of 2010 that I realized an anti depressant is NOT doing any good, i always feel crappy during the day and thats all I can remember. From November til Febuary my boyfriend and I worked together on getting our own apartment. I was stuck with a slumlord that shut off my heat entirely and being from the state of NE in feburary its quite cold. I was having issues with my co-workers many of them being men. I was having family issues but that wasn’t anything new. So I decided I needed to go back to a pyschologist to figure my moods out. because it was up down all around ALL DAY. and I was getting angry for no reason, freaking out for no reason, crying for the littlest reasons, and laughing about nothing. I couldn’t even get a grip on how I actually was feeling sometimes. Until the day came I was suppose to go see the doctor and I got a call that she wasn’t in because she was ill. My world came crashing down to an instant halt. How the hell could she be sick today?! Seeing her and getting some answers was the one thing keeping me on a positive note. So in tears I gave my bf the biggest hug I could make last and I drove myself to the Mental Triage Unit at the hospital. The only reason I “liked” that place was because I felt safe. Until I called my bf the second day I was in there only to tell me that we were done. ….. Today I take Tegretol, Prozac, Ativan and Soma for the physical pain that stress gives me. I’m 20 years old. I still feel like I have nothing under control. and that it may take two weeks to two years. But i tell you. reading other people’s stories are one of the best coping tools to help myself comprehend that I’m having an episode and its only bipolar. the hardest thing to do now is not to let it consume my life.

  7. Hey! Thanks for sharing your story, Marybeth. I was also diagnosed with bipolar 2, this summer, after almost 15 years with the symptoms of a disorder I knew nothing about.
    “Even” is definitely the right word, the moodstabilizer had an almost miraculous effect on me too. I was in a state of “shock” for days, just enjoying the feeling of inner peace, wondering when this little divine prank would end..
    It felt like a reunion between me and myself. : )

  8. I was recently diagnosed w BP2 after 2 years of being diagnosed w anxiety/depression and ADHD (had them for years, just professional diagnosis) My psychologist has me working on the depression with cognitive therapy which has brought me from a 76 on the BCD scale to a 33 in 3 weeks! I am solidly gaining momentum but the Depressive part comes up and paralyses me into focusing on all that I can’t fix right now and it overwhelms me. the psychologist is recommending the psychiatrist to start treatment for the Bipolar2. How long should this take? I am excited to hear the ability to deal with the fears and failures as I am currently separated from my family and don’t know if it is can be reconciled.

    It’s like my whole life, someone pushed me out of the driver’s seat and destroyed everything until I took the wheel back and see all the devastation…

    so how long usually do the Dr’s take to share the info?

    and how long do these meds take to show results? My down sections are painful in my chest and I just surrender to the pain…

    actually in my church on sunday, they felt led to ask for a man in deep sorrow and sadness with a pain in the chest to come for prayer. I couldn’t have seen anything more clear and YES thru prayer, God lifted the pain completely.

    but I still need medical help to maintain it.

    Please help

  9. I have BP II. For as long as I can remember I was told I was “too sensitive” and I always felt “odd”. I married a woman that was a friend of mine. I thought she could ‘fix’ me since she seemed to have her life all together. We were married for 7 years. I did whatever she told me to do, including changing jobs, acting and dressing as she instructed and so on. I was miserable. I started catching myself at my desk at work unknowingly pointing my finger at my head and gesturing as if I were pulling a trigger. One day when walking to the insurance building where she told me to work I just kept telling myself, “Don’t go in there. You know you don’t want to go in there.” I went in there. I sat at my desk motionless for an hour. Finally my boss came over to ask what I was waiting for. That’s all it took. I burst into tears and totally lost it. They escorted me to the nurse’s office where I was put into a room where I sat with the lights off and continued to bawl for a few hours. I recall a sort of out-of-body experience in which I was looking at myself saying, “Knock it off! What’s wrong with you?” I couldn’t. Finally when I stopped I just went home and never went back. A few days later I was wandering through a mall. It just so happened that they were having a mental health screening. I filled out the form. I could tell something was not quite right just by how big the screener’s eyes got as she read my responses. She asked me to fill out another form, I think to keep me there until she could get the doctor. When they returned I was told I needed to get help right away. Later after going through a couple doctors I was told I have Bipolar Disorder II. At that time I had never even heard of bipolar disorder Soon after my wife said to me, “I didn’t sign up for this.” At those early stages I was asleep most of the time due to the meds. Apparently she would wake me now and then to sign various forms. Before I knew it I was divorced and she was standing over me saying, “I sold the house. You need to get your stuff and get out of here.” She had already taken all the stuff she wanted. I didn’t even find out until about 10 years later that we had sold the house for almost $30k profit. I didn’t get any of the money and haven’t seen her since. I glad for the divorce and actually didn’t mind so much about the money except for the fact that I later spent 2 years living in a shed with no plumbing and only a family of possums under the shed to keep me company. And then the real fun began. I sometimes recall that once when I was a kid I wished for “wisdom”. In hindsight I probably should have just wished for a new bicycle. -j

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