Today I am sharing a guest post from a fellow mental health blogger named Nikki, she asked that I share a post for her. You can find Nikki on her blog https://digitalbutterfly.life.
*Note: The thoughts, ideas, and experiences are that of the guest blogger. Like all contributor writers I allow them to post their ideas with limited correction or editing so their thoughts stay the way the author intended
It’s been nearly 9 years since I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder type II. But with every year that passes, I ask myself, do I really have Bipolar Disorder, or did I experience Antidepressant-Induced Hypomania?
After my son was born in 2010, I suffered from severe Postnatal Depression. I could barely get out of bed, was suicidal and suffered from extreme panic attacks. I was initially prescribed Citalopram, but the side effects were horrendous. My anxiety increased so significantly that I trembled and couldn’t leave the house without help. I tried it for 3 weeks but couldn’t continue. I was then prescribed Sertraline, an SSRI. After a few weeks on the drug my mood was still not improving. In fact, I was becoming more suicidal. Eventually I was hospitalised.
In the hospital I lived for my prescriptions. During “medication hour” patients would line up outside a little hatch in a wall, a medicine tuck shop, and wait to receive their tiny plastic pot of pills. My increasing dosage of Sertraline, as well as my dosage of Valium, kept me floating through the day.
But the negativity in my head didn’t stop. The suicidal thoughts got worse and as the dosage increased, so did my energy. I hung around like minded patients who plotted their demise and I soon became deceptive. I disconnected myself from being a mother and wife and started feeling a rush from partaking in risky behaviour. I’d sneak out the hospital, run away to bars to get drunk and smoke weed at the bottom of the hospital grounds.
Then I crashed. The buzzing in my head became overwhelming. I couldn’t cope and tried to end my life. I felt like a failure as a mother and thought my family would be better off without me.
Somehow though, I managed to convince everyone I was fine. I conned the quizzes and was released with my meds. Only to have another episode in which I ran frantically around the streets and ended up hiding in a shed.
I was hospitalised again.
This time I was watched. I was kept in a small, white room with windows in the door. Right next to the nurse’s station. I was checked on every 15 minutes. I felt like a caged animal. My jaw was sore from clenching, my pupils dilated so wide I could see every colour in the universe. I became irritable and unruly in the group therapy sessions. I’d have outbursts telling the therapists that they didn’t know what they were talking about and I knew much more.
Doctors started to wonder whether there was more to my Postnatal Depression diagnosis. They asked me to write down periods of my life where I’d felt higher in energy and periods of lower mood. Like an inspired artist I wrote down a time line of my entire life. I mapped out months and years and charted moods and events. I worked for hours non-stop. There was a pattern. Every year starting in October, my mood dips. And every Spring I get a renewed energy and feel like I can take on the world.
I noted my thoughts around synchronicity and my belief that I was destined to be a writer. This was the final nail in my diagnosis coffin. Ideas of grandeur. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder type II.
Promptly the doctors took me off Sertraline and placed me onto quick release Quetiapine. I was no longer an issue in group therapy. I was walked to the sessions in my dressing gown, placed in a corner and left to silently drool. There was no more noise in my brain. There was no more pain in my jaw. I lost the ability to speak or overreact. I couldn’t think creatively or behave inappropriately.
I also lost the ability to engage with my baby. After a few weeks of being a zombie, I was transferred to another hospital, where I would be able to see my baby more. I was moved onto slow release Quetiapine and my moods slowly started to stabilise.
The Quetiapine didn’t agree with me either though and started affecting my hormones quite badly. After a year, I had to change medication again. I ended up on Lithium. There I stayed, flat lined, for 3 years. I lost my creativity. I lost my ability to feel varying levels of emotion. I stopped writing. I feared it, after being told it was a symptom, but I also had nothing to give.
One day my husband said to me, “Do you think you still need to be on the meds?” I’d been told by the doctors that my Bipolar was in remission, yet I hadn’t considered coming off the meds for fear of a relapse. I wondered whether I could do it.
I saw my GP and was given the all clear to come off Lithium, along with strict instructions on how to reduce the dosage. It took 6 months of hideous withdrawal symptoms and more regular blood tests to check my thyroid function, but eventually I was off it.
And what happened? Nothing. No relapses. No more hypomanic episodes.
I’ve been med free for over 4 years. I’ve had another baby with no further Postnatal Depression or Bipolar relapse. Although I have recently been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Doctors and Nurses have assessed me and said I have no symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. My creativity has returned and I’m now following my dream of being a writer. A dream I was told was an “idea of grandeur”.
While there’s no question that I had severe Postnatal Depression, I do ask myself, was I wrongly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder? Did I simply experience antidepressant-induced hypomania? Or am I still in “remission”, with relapse waiting around any corner.
Want to read more about my story? Check out my blog: www.digitalbutterfly.life