Friday, June 12, 2009

My bipolar 2 Story

I keep thinking I should write a post about how I came to be diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. It's rather a long & involved story so I will try to give the abridged version.

Toward the end of college, I found myself tired & depressed. I went to 3 different doctors. The first one thought I might have fybromyalgia & prescribed Prozac. The second said my problem was hypoglycemia & changed my diet. The third (a psychiatrist) diagnosed me with major depressive disorder & continued the Prozac. Some adjustments were made in the levels I took in the next few years. I also got married. But eventually the medicine didn't seem to make a difference anymore. I was able to go through pregnancy with my first daughter without taking medication & did surprisingly well. I even nursed her for 9 months afterward. When I was ready to go back on medication my doctor put me on a new antidepressant. It seemed to make a difference. It showed that my body's chemistry was adjusting, to some extent, to the chemicals that were being added to it. I guess that makes sense. Anyway.

I had another daughter 2 years later. Again I was able to go through the pregnancy & able to nurse her without having to worry about taking meds. I was again changed to a different medication because the one I was taking before pregnancy didn't seem sufficient. I was more than beginning to suspect that there was more to my diagnosis than just plain ol' depression. But I had moved 7 times (my husband was in the military) since my original diagnosis & nailing things down was tough. Plus my priority was my 2 babies.

We were in Germany in 2001 & pregnant with our son when the planes crashed into the WTC. My husband had to be on 24-hr duty much of the time for the next few months & I had a much harder time with that pregnancy. I ended being placed on a mild antidepressant for the duration as well as having gestational diabetes. He had a few complications at birth: induction, c-section, low O2 sats, a stay in Kinderintensivstation, none of which was fully explained by anything. (By the way, he is now a perfectly healthy & happy 7 year old!)

My psychiatrist in Germany at Landstuhl agreed to have me tested for ADD because I felt that depression alone just didn't explain what was wrong with me. The doctor who did the analysis concluded that while it was possible, I had too much acquired knowledge for someone who had ADD. (Read: he thought I was too smart.) While I didn't necessarily agree with the smart part, I figured I needed to keep searching. My psychiatrist said she believed what I had was more along the lines of dysthymia. She prescribed Wellbutrin, which is a med I have pretty much stayed on since.

When we moved back to the States, I tried going back on Prozac, since that was the first med I had success on. Kind of like my first love, I think. But to no avail. I looked up lots of stuff online. All my symptoms. Found that my depression is atypical. Also started to run across something called bipolar 2 disorder. Now I knew that I could be moody. But I also knew that I had never been full-blown manic. I had definitely had periods of time when I had amazing energy that I wished would last longer, ideas for projects that I couldn't seem to finish, nights that I could not sleep because of the thoughts that were going though my head. But then I would crash & sleep for hours. And feel, quite honestly, like crap.

So I eventually talked to my ob/gyn about the possibility of this being what I had. At the time, we were at Ft. Campbell & it was nigh on impossible to get in to see a psychiatrist because (I assume) of all the deployments to Iraq, etc. I was quite comfortable with talking to my ob/gyn & he agreed with me that BP2 was a possibility. At the time, he put me on Topamax, an anticonvulsant which is used off-label for bipolar disorder. I also continued taking Wellbutrin.

I wish I could say that I have made a miraculous recovery. I felt much better for a while; then my father-in-law passed away suddenly in 2005. My husband chose to leave the military & we moved to FL to live near his mom. It took some time to get medical insurance & in the meantime the state would not pay for Topamax. As a single month's worth of the drug costs hundreds of dollars, I was forced to take lithium for a couple of years. When that drug caused my thyroid to malfunction, I tried Depakote. I only took that one for a month before I finally gave up on my psychiatric provider in favor of a family doctor who was willing to (after nearly 4 years) put me back on Topamax. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut instincts, I think.

I will say this: It is not uncommon for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder to take 10 years for one reason or another. My little story above was from 1988 to 2004. I hope that the more people know about the disorder, the less time it takes for a diagnosis.

If you would like to ask any questions about my experiences, please feel free to email me. My address is in my profile. Just click on the picture of the beach in my sidebar!