Today was a difficult day for me. I started my morning, just like any other, with a shower, getting dressed, making my coffee and going to work. Once I got to work, I turned on my computer and started to read my emails. I started to feel slightly overwhelmed, while reading and responding, but didn’t dwell on the feeling. After a few minutes, I got up from my desk to go to the restroom, and as I stood I felt dizzy and faint. When I came back to my desk, I started to feel shaky as well, in my hands and legs. I had shortness of breath and trouble concentrating. I started to file documents, which was the task that I needed to get done for the day. I began to feel worse as I was filing. Since I had been seen at urgent care, the previous week for the same issues, I felt I should go back to urgent care to follow up. I left work and went down the street to urgent care.
After seeing the doctor, and having some blood tests done, it was determined that I was having an anxiety attack. I thought this was odd, since I take medication to relieve my anxiety, and since I was only filing at work, a task which shouldn’t cause anxiety or stress. The doctor asked me if I was stressed out. I let her know, that I was stressed from starting a new job, and that I suffer from Bipolar 1 Disorder and anxiety. I told her that I was feeling slightly overwhelmed at work, but didn’t think it was anything major. The doctor said that the symptoms I had were all symptoms of an anxiety attack. My eyes began to well up with tears.
I’m currently 35 years old. I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder in my early 20’s. I have been steadily employed since I was 16 years old, but after my diagnosis, I have had times when I have been so ill, from my disorder that I could not work. Let me explain what I mean by “ill.”
Since my diagnosis of Bipolar 1 Disorder, I have been having issues with anxiety, depression and mania. They don’t always occur at the same time, but I rarely have a day where I feel completely “normal” or stable. The first episode of my disorder happened at a time in my life when I was experimenting with drugs and alcohol, which is common for people with this disorder to indulge in. I tried smoking crystal meth, with some “friends,” and after four days of partying, I stopped smoking the drug, and it started coming out of my system. I remember this day, like it was yesterday, because it happened on a significant day in American History. It was September 11, 2001. This was the day of my first manic episode.
When I get manic, it’s like I have all the energy in the world and nothing can stop me from doing what I think I want or need to do. I get anxious and easily irritated. I have a euphoric feeling in my body. I don’t feel the need to sleep; I speak rapidly and don’t stop, I have delusions of grandeur and spend like I’m a millionaire. At this time I was renting a room from a woman and her daughter. I felt so guilty about the drugs, and scared, that I told the woman what I had done. Later that night I tried to sleep off the drugs. I had the television on and I thought the people on the television were talking to me. It scared me, so I turned it off. Right when I turned it off, I started to hear people screaming. I thought it was real, so I put the blankets over my head out of fear.
Finally I got up the courage, to get up and go to the woman’s room, who I was renting from. I was so frightened, that I asked her if I could sleep in her room. She let me stay. The next morning was September 11, 2001. I looked over in the bed, and the woman’s face looked evil and demonic, so I got out of the bed and left the room.
The next couple days were a blur. I was in college at the time, and I remember going to school even though I knew something may be wrong with me. My father and mother both took turns driving to and from school. I know my mom came over to the place I was living, and she took my car keys from me so I wouldn’t drive. I also remember hitchhiking to and from school, since my keys were taken. I found out what happened on September 11th, while in one of the cars that I hitchhiked in. Because I was manic and coming off of drugs, I thought that I had caused the incidents on that tragic day to happen. I thought I had caused it, with my mind. I believed, at the time, that that was why I heard the screaming voices.
I started to go to a treatment center a few days after all of this happened. I was going only for the drug and alcohol abuse, since I was still unaware of my Bipolar 1 diagnosis. After going to the meetings at the treatment center and outside of the center, I had a major meltdown at my mom’s house, and my family realized that I needed further help. My mom, brother, and my mom’s best friend took me to the emergency room. When I got there, I was sent to the “psych ward,” which they now call behavioral health units. Honestly, I thought I was dead when I got there. Not figuratively, but literally. I thought I had died, and that I was going to heaven to meet my maker and those who had passed before me.
Obviously, I was wrong. I was admitted to the psych ward, and told them I was Dave Chappelle, who happened to be a famous popular comedian, one that was a favorite of mine. When I was admitted, I got really scared, once I realized I was not in heaven and not Dave Chappelle. I tried to run away from the nursing staff. They caught me, and then tied me down to a bed in the ward. I was strapped down, and they needed me to sleep. I had not slept at all in 4-5 days. They gave me a sleeping pill, and it didn’t work. Then they asked me if I wanted another pill or an injection. For some reason, I chose the injection. They injected me with the sleeping medication, and I slept for a day and a half.
I say all of this, so it’s understood, why my eyes welled up with tears, when the doctor told me I was having an anxiety attack. My anxiety, in the past, is usually coupled with a manic episode or depressive episode. So, when I’m told that I’m anxious, it scares me into thinking that there is something wrong with my chemical balance in my head again. In the past, I have had both manic and depressive episodes, with anxiety, that have interrupted my life, both in my job and personal relationships.
Right now, I’m contemplating, whether or not I can keep working at my job. I have gone on disability and quit jobs in the past due to my disorder. I have been struggling with keeping a job, ever since I was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder. I get easily overwhelmed and stressed while working. Stress is a major trigger for the episodes that I have. It seems like an easy decision then, right? Remove the stressor and I’ll be fine. It sounds so simple, but it’s not. I have financial responsibilities, and a husband, who relies partially on my income to pay the bills. And, I like working and contributing to society in this way. I’m also driven by money, and removing this job, and going on disability would remove a big chunk of my money.
I have a lot of thinking to do, but in the meantime, the next step for me, is to see my psychiatrist and let him know what’s going on with me psychologically. This way, I can get my medication adjusted, if need be. I see my psychiatrist tomorrow. I hope that seeing him, will help me with the decision I am faced with.