Living with Bipolar Disorder and Depression
Published Jun 12, 2019 • By Lee Ruiz
Discover the experience of Camille, a 21 year old studying chemistry. Camille, who suffers from depression and bipolar disorder since 2013, wants to raise public awareness about her illnesses, especially among young people.
How did you get diagnosed and what health professional did it?
I was diagnosed around the age of 15, after many appointments with a psychologist and then, finally, with a psychiatrist.
What were your symptoms? Your phases?
The first symptoms I had at the age of 15 were peculiar, I would experience great mood swings. I could laugh quietly and a few hours later cry or get angry, all this more exaggerated than normal. At first I was not following any medical treatment, so these mood swings continued.
Afterwards, this got worse, I could do completely delirious acts. I worked entire nights without stopping. I did not sleep. I did not eat. After a couple of weeks, I would end up in the hospital because my body was exhausted. Then came the phase in which I was numb, follish, crying, did not go to class, depressed for days with suicidal thoughts.
Now, with the medications that help stabilize my mood, my bipolar problems are under control, but my depression is still present.
How did the bipolar disorder affect your adolescence?
Bipolar disorder has impacted my emotional adolescence and physical adolescence. Adolescence is a complicated period but, in addition, with a pathology, it was really catastrophic.
In fact, during the manic phases, I ran all the time everywhere. In class, it was impossible to concentrate, to even sit down. At that time, I felt untouchable, immortal. I put myself in danger using drugs and drinking a lot of alcohol.
I had a reputation for being a problem girl and a drug addict. I grew up in a small town and as in every small town, everything ends with someone knowing someone or something. I suffered a lot because I was not this girl that appeared to live life shamelessly.
How does this affect relationships with your loved ones?
Since my parents were divorced, I lived with my father and stepmother. When I was a teenager, they said that everything was because of the " famous " crisis , even if the psychiatrist told them it was much more than that. Some time ago, I made three suicide attempts, with a stay in a psychiatric hospital and a guardianship. My stepmother refused to come to see me at the hospital, she thought that everything was a show. And my father did not want to communicate with me; he resented me and refused to support me.
I missed my first year of college due to depression. My father was very angry. He said I was doing all this to make me seem "interesting," that I had nothing wrong with me, that doctors only said nonsense, that I was only weak and that I risked losing my life if I continued to do "act this way." I never felt compassion from him. Not even sadness on his part, even after my three suicide attempts.
What health professional(s) do you see currently? How do you feel about this?
I am currently being followed by a psychiatrist and a psychologist with the frequency of one session per week or one session every two weeks. I often hated going to the psychiatrist, I saw him as a merchant selling me his antidepressant drugs. He promised me a cure with Prozac , also called the happiness pill, which was just an illusion.
I changed from a psychiatrist and then everything was different. The sessions, I manage with what I want to talk about or not... and whether I even want to talk. I have the right to refuse to speak... to leave after ten minutes if I wish. I feel like I'm moving forward. I feel understood and not just looked at as another patient to be sold medicine. The psychologist works on the fears that I can have and how to react to a stressful situation. This is really important because it allows me to be heard on one side and on the other, work on me to continue to progress.
What are the most difficult symptoms and manifestations to manage?
It is difficult to manage my student life. My absences are scored, and, unfortunately, suffering from school phobia, sometimes it is impossible for me to go to class. And the teachers are not sympathetic, they immediately think that everything is funny or fake because one day I can finally show up to class and have a normal day and then the next day I cannot... they do not understand how this is possible.
The treatments are also very intense, I am often in a second phase... it takes me a long time to think, I have trouble concentrating. I am constantly forced to justify these phases, actions, and absences to people who do not care to even understand. Because, for them, if I do not spend time crying, I can not be depressed. It is a heavy burden to carry, the look of people is very hard to face.
The night terrors, the crying that does not stop, and the anorexia are factors that all complicate my life even at a social level.
Do you have a message to convey to people in the same situation as you?
At age 21, when we hear that these are our best years, we still can suffer from depression. We can suffer the pain of life. It is possible for us to want to abandon everything!
It is necessary to be surrounded by others to help, even if in my case my family does not support me. I have the specialists that are here and some friends that I can trust. I have a boyfriend who stays by my side despite all these dark days and difficult moments. It is difficult, even terrible, but we can overcome it all. I would like young people who live the same, to not give up. I want to let them know to keep fighting and that they are not alone, that life deserves to be lived even if we think otherwise when weare facing difficult days and times.
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