June was 28 years old, fit, beautiful and falling apart when we first met. Her life had gone quite according to her plans until she started university. Her freshman year was filled with sorority parties, tons of new friends and a lot of binge drinking. She maintained her grades enough to pass and start her second semester but by spring, she was failing almost every course. She was exhausted and defeated and full of self-loathing and moved back home with her parents that summer. That summer she found herself sleeping most of the time. She became increasingly depressed and later that year, she would attempt suicide for the first time. Her parents were desperate to get her help and reached out to their family physician. Her family doc prescribed her an antidepressant, which seemed to work really well at first. Her mood improved, she stopped sleeping so much and she stopped having thoughts of wanting to die. With her newfound ability to function, June decided to enroll in some courses at her local community college and found that she was very interested in studying the human body. She continued to have times where her mood and energy were low and she would scale back on her social life to sleep more frequently but she maintained her coursework and eventually went on to complete her bachelor’s in science and enroll in pharmacy school.
In pharmacy school she did fairly well up until her last semester at which time she became severely depressed and the suicidal thoughts returned. She talked with her family physician, who suggested she increase her antidepressant dose, which she did. At first, things were better. She enthusiastically finished her final semester and took her first job as a pharmacist at a local pharmacy. As she continued on the higher dose of her antidepressant, she became increasingly energized. She found that she could sleep 2-3 hours a night and feel fine the next day. She poured herself into her work and, at first, found it very rewarding. However, after a few weeks of not sleeping much at all and working 60-70 hours a week, she became increasingly agitated and impulsive. She bought a house on a whim, which was outside of her price range and then racked up a considerable amount of credit card debt furnishing her new place. She broke up with her boyfriend of 3 years although she didn’t really know why and started going on dates with different people 5-6 nights a week. When she was fired from her job for filling an incorrect prescription, which caused serious harm to a customer, everything came crashing down. She sunk back into an intense depression and was plagued with thoughts of suicide almost constantly. That’s when she came to see me.
I explained to June that the drastic mood swings she’d experienced for the past several years were due to bipolar disorder and that her antidepressant, while helpful at first, was actually making her drastic mood swings much worse. With proper medication called mood stabilizers, June was able to gain lasting mood stability. She now knows the triggers that induce mood swings for her (alcohol, lack of sleep, working excessively, taking antidepressants only) and has worked carefully to maintain balance while being mindful of these triggers. At our last meeting she proudly told me that she hasn’t had a suicidal thought in many months and is getting married next month to someone she’s been in a stable relationship with for over a year.
What WellPsyche Patients Are Saying
“I thought I was a terrible person for years. I would be so dedicated to my school, my job, my relationships and then, all of a sudden, I would just lose interest in whatever it was. I wouldn’t show up for class or for the job, I’d ghost the person I’d been in love with days earlier. I would go from having so much energy and excitement about life to sleeping all day and night and hating myself. I’m so glad I finally got help. It was such a relief to understand what was happening. It’s not been easy but I’m finally on a path to being who I’ve always wanted to be.”
Jonathan, age 33
“I had heard of bipolar disorder but I never thought it applied to me because I didn’t do crazy things like charge $10,000 on a weekend in Vegas or stay awake for days. I had no idea you could have bipolar disorder that’s much less extreme. For me, bipolar disorder looks more like being a moody person. I’m up one day, down the next. I never know how I’m going to feel when I wake up. I have a brain that never stops thinking and I get easily overwhelmed. Deciding to try a medication to stabilize my mood and thoughts was the best decision I’ve ever made. My mind is actually quiet sometimes and most days, I feel like myself now.”
Kim, age 26
Did You Know?
MANY famous and highly successful people have been diagnosed in the Bipolar Spectrum including Mariah Carey, American Singer, Carrie Fisher, Actress, Demi Lovato, Actress, Russell Brand, Actor, Brian Wilson, Singer and Song Writer, Ernest Hemingway, Author, Ted Turner, Founder of CNN, just to name a few.