I recently participated in a mental health interview for Michigan Hedgehog. Please visit this blog… you will not be disappointed. I love others who are raising their voice about mental disorders.
Thank you Michigan Hedgehog for allowing me to participate on your blog! I loved answering these questions and I love to help bring awareness while sharing bits of myself.
Welcome to Friday Feature. Each Friday I post an interview with someone new who runs a social media account of any kind (blog, twitter, Facebook, tumblr, etc) related to mental illness, addiction, or psychology. My hope is that by interviewing individuals, I can bring you perspectives on mental illness that are unique from my own, whether they just vary in opinion or whether they are for mental illnesses that I don’t have or am not familiar with. This week I interviewed the owner of the blog BipolarMuse. Want to be included in a future Friday Feature? Email me using the contact form at the top of my site!
1) Can you introduce yourself a little bit? What is your diagnosis?
I go by bipolarmuse… and my blog is www.bipolarmuse.com. I was always a loner as a child and as I grew into my preteen years, I knew that I was different from the norm. I would sit on my dresser with headphones on, staring out into the night, writing poems and songs… almost all of them had a melancholic theme. In my early 20′s, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and treated with antidepressants (serezone, and wellbutrin) and anti-anxiety medicine (klonopin). Of course I was non-compliant with my meds until I had another breakdown in my middle 20′s, in which I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 disorder. I didn’t believe the doc and felt she was wrong. I was treated with Wellbutrin and Depakote with anti-anxiety med Klonopin as well. I went on and off my meds like it was no big deal. In my early 30′s, I had the worst breakdown of my life which became worse because of horrible things out of my control (ie, the abuse of my youngest son by someone I thought I trusted). I tried every med under the sun, still in denial of the bipolar diagnosis. I tried Celexa, Lexapro, Zoloft, and more… these meds all added to the mania I was experiencing but attributing it to “anxiety”. Finally, after nearly feeling defeated, and almost giving up… I HAD to face my diagnosis. By this time, I was diagnoses with Bipolar 1 Disorder with episodes of Psychosis, Borderline Personality Disorder, and PTSD… not to mention anxiety. I was in a severe mixed episode of mania, hypo-mania, combined with depression from 2008-2012. How I survived is beyond me. Finally the Docs stopped trying to treat me with antidepressants because all they did was add to the mania. My exploration of a mood stabilizer was just as bad. I tried Depakote which did nothing but make me gain weight, Tegretol which gave me horrible nightmares… this was taken with both Ambien and Klonopin so I would literally be stuck in the nightmare because I could not wake up from it. I tried Lithium and Depakote together which made me sleep 12-15 hours a day, gain 40lbs, and made me severely depressed… they added Resperidol (an anti-psychotic). I cried every single day from the year 2009 until 2012. I finally found relief in my medicine when I asked a cousin of mine what type of mood stabilizer he took, (Bipolar is no stranger to my family), he told me “Lamictal”. So at my next Psych visit, I mentioned this to my doc. She was excited to try it because A. we were running out of options, and B. sometimes treatment success also runs in family’s with the same medicines. So, she put me on Lamictal and took me off everything else except the klonopin for panic attacks and sleep. Slowly, I began to feel the weight on my chest lift up… I notices I was starting to see some light in the tunnel of darkness I was trapped in. I felt like the “monster on my back” was getting lighter. We were ecstatic for the results. To add to my treatment to see if we could take away a little more of that “monster”, she added Haldol, a very old school anti-psychotic. She put me on a very low dose (.5milligram) and upped my Lamictal to 200milligrams a day. This was my “miracle”. It was about this time that I started getting very heavy into my blog… and you can literally see the transformation before your eyes if you go through the archives to the present moment. Finally I can live and feel alive again. For so long, I didn’t know if I could make it…. now I know that no matter what happens, I will never stop trying. Never.
2) What types of things do you struggle with day to day as a result of your illness?
Day to day problems include feeling guilty for my past mistakes. Sometimes they play in my mind like a reel to reel and the guilt can be so consuming. On these days, I look for positive affirmations and bring out all my techniques to practice mindfulness… it has been the best solution for me to free myself from my past mistakes, guilt, and pain… and it frees me from the death grip of anxiety of the future.
3) Do you think you were born with your illness? If not, how old were you when you started experiencing symptoms of it? How old were you when you gained your diagnosis?
I do feel I was born with this but I also feel it was both nurture and nature. I knew from a young age that I was different (probably about 10 or 11) but never got any medical help until I was about 23-24 years old. At that time, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. By 26-27 I was diagnosed Bipolar 2, and by 33 I was diagnosed Bipolar 1 with psychosis, Borderline Personality Disorder. I always had anxiety as a diagnosis…
4) How did you come about seeking treatment and/or getting diagnosed?
After my first divorce, I didn’t get custody of my children (the ex played dirty, and well, he made 100,000 a year and I had a job making 8$ an hour)… this was so traumatic for me, I could not stop thinking of suicide. After meeting my next serious boyfriend, he forced me to see a psychiatrist. He himself had Bipolar Disorder. Then after he and I split up, he committed suicide and this threw me into my next breakdown. After my third breakdown, I HAD to step outside of myself and truly examine who I was and what was causing me to live such a chaotic miserable life… what was behind the driver seat… because it certainly didn’t feel like it was “me”.
5)If there was one thing you could let the world understand about your illness or how it affects you, what would it be?
That just because I can throw on some makeup, put on that smiling face, and pretend to be great… this isn’t an indicator of illness or lack of. I have spent most of my life fooling myself and everyone around me. I had a doctor recently tell me (not my doctor mind you, just one I was having conversation with), “you aren’t bipolar. I have patients who are and they don’t look like you… they can’t work… etc”. I was speechless. In fact, I wanted to punch him in the face. He has no clue the efforts I had to make to get to the point I am at today… and it is people like him who keep the stigma and misconceptions going.
6)What is the hardest or worst part about having your illness?
People without it or who have never experienced it in some way have no clue. They think it is just an excuse for poor behavior.
7)Do you think that your mental illness has helped you or benefited you in any way? If so, how?
It has helped me to be more compassionate towards others because we have no clue what a person is up against every single day… it has cultivated a love for poetry and words…
8)What was your reasoning for beginning to blog/facebook about mental illness?
Just to “bleed on paper” so to speak. It was my way of letting some of that darkness out. It helped me to release some of the negativity and helped me to document and journal my life in some way. Second to that, it turned into a way to educate others and to let others know they are not alone in their feelings, diagnosis, or thoughts. Now it is a podium for mental health… with poetry, inspiration, and personal life experiences to show that I am simply human trying to live the best way I can.
9)If you were (or are!) friends with someone with your diagnosis, what would you do to help your friend out? Is there anything that the people around you could do to help you out?
Listen. I wouldn’t judge… I wouldn’t say that suicidal thoughts are selfish… I wouldn’t belittle because I can’t “see” the illness… I wouldn’t make light of the feelings experienced or think it’s just dramatized. I would understand that some days are better than others. I would be happy and celebrate life when things are going well and ask “what can I do to help” when things weren’t so good.
10) What is your blog/fb page? What types of things do you blog about/share?
My facebook is BipolarMuse and it is where my blog posts are linked to. I am also going to try to be more proactive with this page and make it a more personal connection to those who follow. My blog is www.bipolarmuse.com. It is a little poetry, a little about my life specifically, a little education about mental health… bipolar disorder specifically… and a little bit of mindfulness, inspiration, and positive affirmations… with an occasional quote or song thrown into the mix. It is basically a “collection” of who I am. I intend to keep it that way.
11) Anything else you’d like to say or let my readers know?
I appreciate all the support that I get whether it is simply someone reading in silence, or following loudly. Our mental health system needs a serious overhaul and we need to change the way we think about mental health. If my blog opens the door to anything positive in regards to mental health or helping someone realize they are not alone, then I have reached my goal. Just opening the topic for conversation is an accomplishment. Thank you for all of your support… may we all keep learning, teaching, helping, and loving with an open mind and heart.