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J.R. Buchanan

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Me, My Thoughts, and I

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February 14, 2015

My diagnosis with bipolar disorder

I was diagnosed with bipolar in the fall of 2001. I wasn't at all upset, I was relieved, I'd always known something was wrong, now that it had a name, we could do something about it.

Part of this acceptance was because my son had been diagnosed with bipolar almost exactly a year before. I'd researched it heavily and knew that there was hope. While I was reading about bipolar, I realized that I fit what I was reading about more closely than my son did. Then I laughed at myself for being a hypochondriac and didn't give it any serious thought until I was diagnosed a year later. Having thought about the possibility before I was actually Dx. helped a lot with acceptance.

I also knew that I wasn't any different because of this diagnosis, I had been depressed on and off since before grade school, and the manias started when I was 20 and in college. Nothing had changed except that I now had a name for the problem and some hope.

How did I wind up being diagnosed by a psychiatrist a year later? I had always been moody and often very irritable (two characteristics of bipolar). One day when I was at work a friend of mine, whose father has bipolar, said that he had been noticing my behavior (which was getting pretty extreme) and that he thought I should go to the mental health center to be assessed. My boss, who was a pretty cool guy, agreed.

So I went.

When I got there, I was showing signs of extreme depression, including a lot of crying. I remember saying. "I don't want it to get as bad as last year, I can't take that again." They set me up with an appointment with a psychiatrist in 6 weeks and, since I was so bad off, they found a psychiatrist who prescribed an anti-depressant. They told me it could take weeks before the anti-depressant took effect, so they wanted to get me started as soon as possible.

While waiting to see the psychiatrist, I went on vacation. During the vacation my mood improved, probably too soon for the anti-depressant, probably the different situation made a difference. On the way home though, my mood started really lifting. To the point that I was quite cheerful. This was maybe 2 or 3 weeks into the anti-depressant.

After I got home, my mood got really really good, then I began to talk rapidly and jumping from one subject to another so fast that people could not follow me.

Then I started having hallucinations, something that had never happened to me before. I saw the psychiatrist the next day, so I waited until then and told him about them. I also told him about the accelerated thinking and talking (I'm sure he noticed that long before I mentioned them, other people had). I remember telling him that I couldn't think, the thoughts were racing around in my head faster and faster, so fast that I couldn't pull one out to think about it.

He told me that he thought I probably didn't have major depression (what they had told me at the mental health center), that I probably had bipolar. He put me on meds which did not work, over the years I have made many changes in meds, they work well now, and they have, possibly literally, saved my life.

It's been 14 years now, and one of the best things that ever happened to me was going to the mental health center.

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