Bipolar disorder: “I can't count the number of specialists I've seen.”
Published Nov 3, 2021 • By Candice Salomé
AbyDragonfly, a member of the Carenity community in France, has bipolar II disorder. After many false diagnoses (hypersensitivity disorder, schizophrenia), she finally has a treatment plan that soothes her and allows her to live better with the disease
Read her story below!
Hello AbyDragonfly, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us on Carenity!
First of all, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm 26 years old and don't work, but I receive disability compensation. I am living with bipolar II disorder, according to my last diagnosis. I live at home with my parents, although I do have a flat in my own name. I have two younger brothers who also struggle with their mental health.
You have bipolar II, could you tell us about it? What types of symptoms do you experience?
My symptoms a hypersensitivity to change and mood swings. During my mood swings, I can develop paranoia as well as auditory and then visual hallucinations. These symptoms increase with my stress level.
When I'm in a manic episode: I'm sleep deprived, and I make all kinds of big plans that change all the time.
When I'm in a depressive episode: I feel a constant unhappiness, I have dark thoughts and suicidal ideations.
How did bipolar disorder come into your life? What were the first symptoms?
I have a family history of it, both in terms of upbringing, which was good, but I was raised very emotional parents, and also genetically, I think (I can only assume, as my father has been dead since I was 20).
The first signs are linked to what has been called my "character". I believe that the signs of a potential mental illness were apparent from the time I was at least 6 years old. I had, according to my mother, a sort of 'teenage breakdown'. I often felt conflicted and misunderstood by my family.
Then, from the age of 14 to 16, I was observed to be in a "mild" state of depression, and I was seen by various specialists without any real diagnosis being officially communicated.
I used THC in large quantities between the ages of 16 and 21. I lost my best friend at 16, my father at 20 and then I had an abortion.
All this, combined with addiction management not supervised by a doctor and a more than irregular follow-up with psychiatrists, led me to be admitted in a clinic of my own free will, because that's when the most disturbing symptoms really started.
I had hallucinations, which were first auditory, then visual. Not to mention that I had had paranoia since I was 14 years old, coupled with an explosive and at the same time introverted temperament.
Did you seek help straight away? How long did it take for the diagnosis to be made? How many doctors did you see?
The first diagnosis was hypersensitivity disorder, then schizophrenia, and now bipolar II. I can't count the number of specialists I've seen, as I go to the local mental health clinic and the positions unfortunately change often. Probably more than fifteen.
What impact does bipolar disorder have on your personal and professional life?
In my private life, I really have to be careful about who I spend my time with. Toxic relationships tend to destroy me much faster than someone who is less mentally affected. Neurosis can already be very debilitating, so with a condition that can cause hallucinations, it's a challenge!
I have managed, very recently, to rid myself of those people who've used me as a verbal punching bag or a spare wheel.... like I said, toxic relationships!
I try as much as possible to surround myself with healthy, human, and well-intentioned people. I am now much more careful about who I associate with.
So far, I have only worked for 2 months and 2 weeks in my life.
I plan to do everything I can to become an artist or at least develop my passion by doing something on the side. If I ever find a job that feeds me so I don't have to depend on others (e.g., the disability aid, my parents, etc.), that would be great!
How does your bipolar disorder manifest in the manic phase? What about in the depressive phase?
The symptoms are, in this order, for the manic episodes: lack of sleep, increasing paranoia, grandiose plans, auditory hallucinations and, finally, loss of contact with reality and visual hallucinations.
My depressive episodes have been very rare lately, but the most striking one was the one during my first voluntary hospitalization after the abrupt stop of THC: visual hallucinations, anguish, and almost constant sadness.
How does your bipolar disorder affect your relationships with those around you?
I'm very sensitive but I'm working on it, and it sometimes still comes out. This can lead to isolation, which is relative in my case, as I have a strong fear of abandonment and I stay in contact with lots of people (especially in terms of the number of people I meet on the internet).
Are you taking any medications or undergoing any treatments? Are you satisfied?
Yes, unfortunately I had to go on Abilify®, but it helps with my auditory and visual hallucinations on a daily basis. And as it is prescribed for mood swings as well, it's a good thing I have it as an injection once a month in 400 mg format. I also have lithium carbonate which works very well for me.
I'm feeling more and more in tune with my mood swings, I'm gaining perspective and managing it all with my treatment. Overall, I'm really happy with it.
Do you follow up with your doctors regularly? What do you think of their care?
I am registered with the mental health center in my town and in the district where I live, and I also have a psychologist whom I can contact more easily online without reimbursement from the French healthcare system.
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to, and I will give everything to become an artist or to grow in my passion (drawing with pencil, digital drawing via computer, photography).
I also plan to move away from my region. An uprooting of at least one year, in one year, in order to start a pre-preparatory art course and to live with partner.
What do you think of patient exchange platforms like Carenity?
I like the fact that such platforms exist! I'm mainly interested in the statistics on the site, but also in the surveys and testimonials.
The advice and support will be important if I relapse, it could be a good tool for those around me to understand me better.
Finally, what advice would you give to other Carenity members also living with bipolar disorder?
I would tell them that a healthy lifestyle (especially sleep and hygiene) can slow down or even stop the bipolar altogether and help with certain symptoms.
If you are reading this, I hope with all my heart that you have found a solution adapted to your type of bipolar disorder. Don't hesitate, finally, to be honest about your condition. It's easy to get confused by people who are narrow-minded and don't accept our illness as being real or disabling, or even extremely disabling. Only talk about it at work, if necessary, though.
Take care of yourself, love yourself and forgive yourself for the mistakes you sometimes make, it's human after all to make mistakes!
Any final words?
I really want to thank the people who run this site, as well as its users, without whom the site would have no reason to exist and keep moving.
Mutual support is important, surround yourself, if you are ill with any mental illness or not, with people who accept and work with your illness (and not just in words, right?). Support each other as much as you can, find activities and be optimistic because it's real: we are making progress in psychology so "wait and see", stay strong!
Many thanks to AbyDragonfly for sharing her story with us on Carenity!
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