I started therapy in January 2016. I was hypomanic at the time and frustrated that my husband suggested therapy, I was fine! Nope, I was broken. Here’s my greatly abridged story from age 30+, we will get to the younger stuff later. This is about my psychotic break and the events leading up to it.
My daughter was born in 2010, a couple months after that I was tired, crying, losing my hair, and gaining weight despite my efforts. There were doctors, blood tests, and some research. We found that I had hypopituitarism, low thyroid hormones, low TSH, and low cortisol. Cortisol is key in the regulation of stress, it’s very hard to handle positive & negative stressors without cortisol, to the point that if you have none, you’re likely dead. I began medication for my thyroid and cortisol and the adventure began. I immediately had a ton of energy, I felt high. Life was good, I gained weight as a side effect but I didn’t care, I was able to do everything for my daughter with little help. This lasted for a few years with brief times of exhaustion, but only a week or two. Any odd behaviors, symptoms, problems were explained away with the pituitary issue.
This lasted until 2013 when I started to spiral: our home had toxic mold underneath the siding. We had to move out. Hanna was receiving services from the county so it was 3 days living in a neighbor’s basement & 4 days with my parents. We also started the wonderful war of IEP’s.
In 2014, I put on a gala with little support and we found a new house.
Hanna had a tonsil & adenoid removal, after which we were stuck at the hospital for 11 days. At first, it was because she wouldn’t eat or drink, but then it turned into trauma. The head nurse ignored Dr’s orders to partially sedate H before giving an IV. I had to hold her down for the IV and it was more than she or I could handle. The next day she was hiding her arm and herself from visitors she was happy with before, not sleeping well, & crying a lot. This lasted until she needed another IV and we found an anesthesiologist who gave her Ketamine. When she woke up she was a totally different child. She ate hot dogs & ice cream and drank water with joy. (This made me believe the claims that Ketamine can reduce trauma)
2015 came with a healthy dose of F You: It started with me doing another gala for Hanna’s school, another hypomanic go, followed by an irritable spell, only to find out that her school was abusive: locking her in the bathroom, forcing all other kids to ignore her, pantsing her, etc. I took her out and we began IEP war #2 (don’t worry, she wound up in an amazing school and is doing well).
Two months later we had to move out of a toxic mold house again, this time throwing away nearly all we owned. The landlord hid a leak with drywall. we had it tested because I had a sinus infection for 10 months and my mental state was clearly deteriorating over the course of the year, into chaos. We lived with a few different family members for 3 months before finding a new place to live. Enter the first fully manic episode to memory. In December 2015 I was the fattest I’ve ever been but convinced I was the sexiest woman in the whole world, the expert at sex that everyone was looking at because they should. I got my husband and I into BDSM because that’s what all men want right? I wanted sex every day of the week, and then I started craving the pain that made emotional pain go away. I even sat on one of those acupressure pads at work. This lasted through to November 2016.
2016 was the time. I started therapy in June when I felt that the chaos and the pain weren’t a cortisol issue like we thought for years. Then July happened.
I will never forget it in my life. We were at a family picnic when a cousin’s dog (unneutered grrr) lept at Hanna and tore the left side of her face open, inside and out. I held her in the car, I could see her cheek gaping open and tried to hold it closed with the ice pack. When we got to the children’s hospital I told them that she was getting ketamine and they said that was their standard practice, some relief. We had to wait about an hour for the surgeon to arrive and she laid on my stomach the whole time. They made me take a break while she was getting 100 stitches, I wanted to stay, I didn’t want her out of my sight. I went outside with my sister in law and could not stop yelling, the tension in my body making me explode. We went back in and I wanted to give that surgeon everything I owned in gratitude. What was a 2″ x 2″ triangle became under an inch of stitches.
We came home and I went to therapy a few more weeks before cutting it all off. I quit therapy, hydrocortisone, gabapentin, and a couple others, only keeping my thyroid meds and Xanax. Don’t do this without medical help, I had a seizure and electrolyte balance issues that were dangerous. I was so tired I could barely get off the sofa, much less handle my responsibilities. I started coming out of it a bit so I returned to work only to have my first mixed/dysphoric episode. The pain was everywhere, I couldn’t handle
any stressors, my mind was spinning, my skin was crawling, phones that didn’t exist rang all the time, people were in the room until I turned around.
I was retreating further & further into myself and becoming child-like.
One day in November I felt a presence in my head, a child who did not talk but made herself known. Sometimes it felt like she was just chilling and watching, other times she’s yelling without language. As it went on, she wanted to start taking control. I tried to let her be free: I listened to guided meditations that were to help you feel like a child, I tried kicking her out until I just let her stay. She had many opinions and I could feel her emotions. I named her Senfi. At one point I was laying on the floor giggling because I didn’t have to worry about anything, I was a child.
In January 2017 I left my office job, taking on responsibilities I could handle at home, but I couldn’t stand to be home, alone. I worked out of a coworking space where I could be anonymous but kept a journal of all my “Princess Points” for doing work & life-related activities. Shortly after that I was at my GP with complaints of PMDD & anxiety, and she prescribed Wellbutrin, and then Cymbalta on top of it. That went manic fast. One time I called my husband screaming for him to stay on the line because my mind was telling me to run my car into the median. During this time I had gone back to my therapist. We had to figure out Senfi. I had to stay alive.
At first, we looked at DID, I had heard voices as a teenager, but guided meditation worked to send Senfi away. Then, since all the people in the world were judging me I must have been a terrible person. I looked up a bunch of stuff and became convinced I was borderline, even though I’m not an angry person, my therapist said bipolar. I didn’t believe her; I didn’t know that bipolar was serious enough to cause my problems. Family members had it, but they were judged. I didn’t realize psychosis was a part of it
Despite my feelings I agreed to start medication for psychosis, I agreed that is what I was experiencing, I hit all of the criteria. That turned into Seroquel & Lamictal with many increases. I held the same dose for 7 months until I entered another mixed episode. My psychiatrist visit was memorable, during this time of crap memory, I kept yelling “but the numbers!”, bawling my eyes out, pulling on my sleeves so all the energy in my arms would calm down. Soon after my Seroquel was nearly doubled. It helped, but barely. I was miserable, uncomfortable in my body, and dealing with non-stop hallucinations.
Since August: We’ve been increasing my Lithium for the last few months and aren’t at therapeutic levels yet, but the benefit is obvious inside & to others. My hallucinations reduced greatly, my mood is within acceptable limits 80% of the time, and I’m able to have conversations that don’t center around my illness. I’m thinking less about how sick I am and am slowly accepting that I am Bipolar 1 and that comes with a lot of issues in or out of an episode, that there are things that are just me now, that these side effects are not going away and part of my experience now. If I get stressed I do hallucinate or get muddled/frozen, but it’s nowhere near like before.
TL:DR We had total crap events happen yearly since our child was born. I got so stressed my bipolar graduated to 1, I thought a child was in my head and nearly became one, and I months of being in a nightmare. Now I have new meds that are helping so far.
PS Notes on Hanna:
IV – We and her Dr. raised hell and now that hospital assigns an advocate to special needs families
Dog – She’s not afraid of dogs and loves her’s very much. Most of the little scars are gone, the left side is still visible, but not easily.
School – After about 7 months in an awesome therapeutic school’s Pre-K programme, she got herself into their main school, no waitlist.