Vicky was finally diagnosed with a correct diagnosis of bipolar II in December, 2010 at the age of 46. Vicky believes that her illness started when she was 14 years old when she began to experience some depression. She began to feel depressed and experienced some suicidal ideation in grade nine when a male classmate committed suicide. At that time Vicky became withdrawn and self-absorbed. At one point her mother commented that Vicky seemed depressed. However no intervention was taken to provide Vicky with some sort of help or support. She struggled immensely throughout adolescence and in early adulthood. Vicky did not do well with transitioning from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.
As Vicky continued to struggle in her twenties she often jumped from job to job. She became easily bored with most jobs and experienced a lot of frustration in the work world. She had even been fired from one job for insubordination as she had said some not so nice things to her boss. While unemployed Vicky decided to apply to get into university and was accepted as a part time mature student at the University of Calgary. This was a large university and Vicky struggled in that environment. Vicky managed to complete a few courses in Calgary when she decided that she might do better in a “smaller university”. Vicky then applied to the University of Lethbridge where she was accepted into a liberal arts program and began working on her bachelor of psychology degree.
During her time in Lethbridge Vicky struggled to complete here degree but managed to graduate within three and a half years. Upon graduation Vicky was relieved to be finished with school and was looking forward to begin working again. Vicky seemed to have experienced a lot of anxiety and had bouts of depression while in university. However she fought her way through that without realizing that her symptoms were part of a much bigger problem. Vicky began working with adolescents in the school system in Lethbridge. Within a year she felt like she had to work somewhere else.
Vicky was then hired as a mental health outreach worker at a child and adolescent mental health community clinic. She did quite well at this job and stayed there for about three years. During this time she realized that she was still experiencing bouts of depression along with some anxiousness and restlessness. Vicky complained about this to her family doctor and was put on an anti-depressant called Paxil. Her doctor had diagnosed her with dysthymia, a chronic, lingering type of depression. The Paxil seemed to help for a little while but Vicky was still having a difficult time with managing life stressors and her mental health slowly began to decline.
Vicky applied for a new position at a hospital as she was beginning to feel bored with the outreach work that she had been doing. Vicky accepted a job as a child life specialist and worked at a hospital with children and adolescent patients who were admitted into a psychiatric unit. Unfortunately Vicky did not transition well into the new work environment. She seemed to manage reasonably well for the first few months. However as time went on she became, very anxious, restless and agitated. Vicky complained about these symptoms to her family doctor. Her doctor initially diagnosed Vicky with bipolar disorder and tried her on lithium. However Vicky did not tolerate the medicine well and was taken off of it and referred to a psychiatrist. Vicky and her family doctor unfortunately second guessed the original diagnosis of bipolar.
Upon seeing the psychiatrist she was then diagnosed with ADHD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Vicky was then put on Dexedrine which initially gave her a very clear mind and slowed things down. However after a few months on this medicine she began to struggle again and the psychiatrist took her off of the Dexedrine and introduced Concerta. This new medication trial seemed to help for a little while as well. However Vicky then began to experience all sorts of problems at work and with her relationships. As her stress and anxiety level increased her mental health started to plummet. She was then put on short term disability as her psychiatrist felt that she would get better if taken out of a very stressful work place.
After about five months of being on short term disability the insurance company began to push to have Vicky return back to her old job. Even though Vicky expressed to her psychiatrist that she felt she was not well enough yet to return back to the workplace he told her that there was not much choice as that is how insurance companies work. So Vicky was sent back to work, endured even more stress and anxiety until she finally “crashed and burned” and ended up being on “overload” within seven months of returning back to work. This time her psychiatrist put Vicky on long term disability and it was confirmed that going back to work would not be therapeutic for her. Vicky was a complete and utter mess. She was also suffering from sleep deprivation and her sleep cycle was severely out of whack.
While on disability the insurance company sent Vicky to two independent psychiatrists in Calgary. Vicky saw the first psychiatrist when on short term disability where she was not diagnosed with a mental illness. That psychiatrist believed that Vicky was having occupational problems and that was all, thus she was sent back to work. When Vicky’s psychiatrist put her on long term disability she was sent to another independent psychiatrist chosen by her insurance company. This doctor diagnosed Vicky with Asperger’s Syndrome and High Functioning Autism. Upon returning to her own psychiatrist it was determined that Vicky was not displaying enough symptoms to warrant a diagnosis of either Asperger’s or Autism. Vicky continued to be treated by her psychiatrist for sleep deprivation, ADHD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. As time went on Vicky was feeling like she needed to move away from Lethbridge and start a new life somewhere else. Her psychiatrist agreed that a fresh start elsewhere may help, along with a new psychiatrist which would perhaps have a different perspective on what she was suffering from.
Vicky moved to northern Alberta near the city of Edmonton. Initially Vicky obtained a good family doctor who referred her to a psychiatrist in Edmonton. Vicky had a lengthy assessment upon her first visit to the new psychiatrist. Upon completion of her assessment Vicky was told that she had been incorrectly diagnosed all along and that the medication she had been on was actually making things worse. The new psychiatrist had then diagnosed her with Bipolar II and believed that Vicky was in a manic state. He worked on slowly decreasing her Concerta until Vicky was no longer on any type of medication. Vicky was told that she was a good candidate for an upcoming bipolar II study and was asked to participate in it. Vicky weighed the pros and cons of being in such a study and decided to give it a try. Prior to her assessment by the psychiatrist in Edmonton Vicky had attempted to self-medicate by abusing alcohol and marijuana. She had to agree to quit both by January 1, 2011 as she had to be “clean” in order to participate in the Bipolar II study. Vicky was able to kick her old habits and was started on Seroquel and either the study drug or a “placebo”. She was also assigned a psychiatric nurse to follow her progress in the study and to provide Vicky with further support and encouragement.
Vicky’s progress was followed on a monthly basis and eventually her Seroquel dosage was increased to an adequate level. Vicky was instructed to take her medication in the evening. Upon waking she initially experienced a lot of grogginess and felt sedated for a good 4-5 hours. It was an unpleasant side effect for Vicky but she was ensured that this side effect should eventually subside. So with some patience and time the psychiatrist was correct and Vicky began to feel quite a bit better. Her moods started to level out, she was less restless and hyper and overall felt the best she had ever felt. Vicky completed the six month study in June 2011 and continues to remain on Seroquel. Her dosage was increased and she was less groggy in the mornings than when she was first put on it. However she began to experience a lot of unpleasant muscle pain and stiffness especially in her right leg. Upon another increase in dosage the Seroquel continued to produce this side effect in Vicky. The muscle stiffness and pain seemed to be worse and was not subsiding. After letting her psychiatrist know he believed that the Seroquel dosage was too high thus she was starting to feel worse instead of better. He then decreased it and in time any grogginess that Vicky was experiencing had disappeared along with the muscle pain and stiffness.
It was determined by the psychiatrist that a Seroquel dosage of 300 mg per day was best for Vicky. Vicky is still waiting for the results of the Bipolar II study and still does not know if she had a “placebo” or if she was on the study drug along with the Seroquel. Shortly after the study was over Vicky began to notice that she was having “low moods” and that her mood would drop significantly a few days before menstruation. Her mood would become so low that she ended up having some suicidal thoughts. Because of this she let her doctor know and he believed that an anti-depressant would be beneficial.
Vicky was given a prescription for Wellbutrin and was advised to start with a dose of 150 mg per day. Upon starting the Wellbutrin Vicky had a lot of light headedness especially before falling to sleep and again upon waking. It was a little disturbing to her because she felt like she was going to faint and was worried about losing consciousness as she lives alone. After about a week the dizziness and light headedness became less and within about 2 weeks it disappeared. Vicky’s mood was not as low but she was still experiencing some depression. Vicky reported this to her psychiatrist at her next appointment and her Wellbutrin dosage was increased to 300 mg per day. With the increase, Vicky was worried that she would experience more light headedness and dizziness but because her system was used to the medication she did not, much to her relief. Although it has only been about six weeks with the higher dosage Vicky is doing much better. She is no longer experiencing low moods and occasionally gets down but not to the point of being depressed or staying depressed. So for now Vicky’s medication dosages seem to be at a good level for her. She is very grateful for the proper diagnosis and to be on the right type of medication as she is finally feeling pretty stable!