Q&A with Alexis

Q: When and How were you diagnosed bipolar 1?

A: I was diagnosed bipolar 1 in 1996 after my first psychiatric hospitalization. I was 19- years-old and going into my sophomore year of college. I went from cutting myself in my bedroom to a psychotic mania after my parents took me to the hospital.

Q: What meds have you been on and which ones are you on now?

A: Meds work differently for everybody. Just because it worked or didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it might work or not work for you. There are also many treatments such as ECT and TMS that are non-medication treatment. I have not tried these yet. I have been on Depakote, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Celexa, Lamictal, that’s all I can remember and not necessarily in that order. Currently, I am on lithium and Abilify and have been for over ten years.

Q: How many psychiatric hospitalization have you had and for what?

A: I have had four for mania, one for a mixed episode, and one for depression.

Q: Is it true you were in the Mclean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts?

A: Yes. Spent eight days in college in a mixed episode.

Q: What is the difference between bipolar 1 and 2?

A: My understanding is bipolar 1, for which I have, is the severest form of the disorder. You have to have at least one manic episode to be considered bipolar 1. Bipolar 2 is also serious but most get hypomania, a milder form of mania, and tend to be on the depressive side.

Q: Is is true you abused alcohol to deal with your symptoms?

A: Yes, but only for a short time. I have been sober for over 16 years. I started drinking hard after college and only drank for roughly two years off and on with periods of sobriety in between. Since I tracked my mood episodes well with a mood journal, my drinking has almost always gone along with my mood episodes, which is why I say that it was self-medication. Even when I had been diagnosed, I still hadn’t accepted the disease yet, so I was not always good about taking medication properly.

Q: How long did it take you to accept your condition of bipolar 1?

A: I was in my mid-twenties. I had had several manic episodes and it wasn’t getting any better. So I just allowed my psychiatrist to medicate me because I was tired of living on edge. I lived on the wrong meds, over-medicated too, for a long time, before I found my latest psychiatrist who found the right combination of meds and the right dosages. Acceptance is a journey that takes courage, hope, and strength to fight for what you need and want out of life. You have to fight for the kind of life you need. Don’t stand for mediocrity from your doctors. Do the research and make sure your treatment plan is the best one possible.

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