INTERVIEW: BIPOLAR DISORDER AND ALCOHOLISM
ON BIPOLAR DISORDER AND ALCOHOLISM
Bill – “I’m an alcoholic, and I have bipolar mood disorder. Those are the two things that have influenced my life.”
“I started smoking pot around thirteen, and then fifteen was when I first drank. To start with it was recreational, just with friends. But with booze it was always to excess. When I was young I was a smaller guy, shorter and skinnier than my friends, I didn’t have my final growth spurt until I was eighteen, nineteen. So I didn’t need a lot to get me really drunk. The first time was at a friend’s place, we raided his parents’ liquor cabinet, had some vodka, then walked downtown to see a movie.
Second time, still fifteen, we had a backpack full of wine coolers at my buddy’s house, his parents were out. Then we walked down to one of the schools in town, everybody was converging there, about twenty of us fifteen-year-olds. So I’d probably drank three or four of those strong coolers, my buddy had some Jack Daniels (whiskey), there were some joints going around. I got pretty drunk pretty fast, passed out in the field.
Then the cops came. Everybody took off, they’re all throwing beer bottles at the cops. My buddy hauled me behind a curb, trying to hide me, but of course the cops saw the whole thing. I was just gunned, so I was left there to fend for myself. The cops picked me up, put me in their car. I was lucid enough to tell them my address, so they took me home.
My dad laid right into me. My dad was always kind of ‘bad cop’, my mom was ‘good cop’, more sympathetic to me. So I got yelled at by my dad, then went to my bedroom. My mom was good, she got me set up with a bowl in case I got sick. She slept in my bedroom that night because she was worried I might throw up, choke on my own puke.
Drinking was always just recreational, socially with friends, at parties. I never drank alone, until I got into my early twenties.”
BIG DRINKING SUMMER
“My birthday was in April, and after I turned nineteen was when it kind of came to a head. It was legal for me to drink, and it was a really big summer. I had finished my first year of Forestry at BCIT (a local learning institution), then came back home for the summer. My friend and I were tree planting for the summer, and I was living at my parents’ place.
A lot of my buddies were back for the summer too, so it was a big party summer. Lots of drinking, smoking pot, doing mushrooms, a lot of late nights. It wasn’t that hard though, you have a late night then you’re up early tree planting in the hills, you walk it off during work.
I was meeting lots of new people, going to the bars, pubs, nightclubs, drinking a lot. Summertime, right? Turning nineteen and you can finally go to the bar legally. Met a girl that summer, met all her friends.”
SHOULD HAVE KEPT TURNING LEFT
“It finally came to a head one night. We met up with some friends at about 3pm, smoking some joints, went to friends’ houses for more drinks. My girlfriend’s friend was making us some fancy tropical drinks. Then we moved to the pub and had a ton of beer there. And all this time I was driving us around. I had a Toyota Land Cruiser, kind of like a Jeep, with the top off. My dad gave it to me at fifteen, just an old beat-up Land Cruiser. We spent two summers restoring it at my dad’s friend’s auto body shop. We probably put about two thousand hours into it. That was my baby, it was a really nice truck.
So it was maybe 11:00, 11:30 at night, I’d been driving us all around to these places, and my girlfriend’s friend had to go home and then we were going to pick my buddy up at the Greyhound bus depot. I was driving, my girlfriend’s in the back seat with another girl and my male buddy, and another girl is in the seat beside me. They started joking, like, ‘Oh, look out, Billy’s had some drinks, put on your seat belts’. The reason being, I was kind of a crazy driver, drove pretty dangerously, on the edge. I’d been four-by-fouring a lot, we’d go up in the hills and rip around. I’d drive (offroad) through parks. I didn’t have much respect for other people’s property. A pretty reckless young guy.
On the way to drop off my girlfriend’s friend we went over one area of road, no pavement, just gravel because they were working on it. I was fishtailing through there, playing around. Then we come to a stop sign and I have my blinker on to turn left.
My girlfriend’s friend – who I’d just met that night – said, ‘Oh, I thought you were going to show us something dangerous.’ So even though her house is just a block away, I think, ‘Okay, this is a challenge.’ So instead I drive into the hockey arena’s parking lot. My truck didn’t have enough power to do burnouts, donuts, so I just drove really fast in big circles, everyone was having fun, like a carnival ride.”
“So we’re done, and there’s two curbs by the exit and I cranked it, figured I’d fishtail it on the way out but I was going too fast, something kind of grabbed and I felt like the truck was going to flip, so I corrected. But then it swung around too far the other way and two tires grabbed on one side and we flipped.
We did a full flip, smashed onto the rollbar on a curb, bounced back up. So we did a full flip, plus a one-eighty, so when we came back up we were facing the opposite way, facing the way we came.
As we were rolling… it was a near-death experience. At that moment I thought I was going to die. Everybody in the truck just said ‘FUCK!’ as loud as they could. My truck had no top, just a roll bar. Everyone had seat belts on except for my girlfriend in the middle backseat. She flipped out of the truck, landed in bark mulch – thankfully – that was between the curbs there. She did catch her head on the edge of the curb, so her ear got gashed.
When we landed I just looked around at them. When we’d flipped, the metal windshield had folded down and caught my friend beside me in the hairline of her forehead, so she had blood coming down her face. I look back, the other girl gets out, she’s smashed her teeth on the rollbar so she’s missing her four front teeth. She was walking around in shock, looking for her teeth.
Everyone was totally in shock. My buddy in the backseat, his hip got jammed and he couldn’t get out of the seat belt. It was scary because there was the smell of gas, we were worried about fire, but we had to leave him in the seat until the ambulance came.
I just got a little road rash on my hand and a little bit on the side of my head.
I went over to my girlfriend, she was just lying there. I asked if she could move her legs, she said she could. That was a relief, as I thought she was paralyzed.”
“There was a group of people partying in the house across from the parking lot, they’d watched it all. They came over. People were yelling at me. I remember one guy yelling, ‘You’re a piece of shit!’ I’m like, ‘Look, these are my friends. Lay off.’
Another buddy of mine and his friend were just driving up the street and they saw the whole thing too, saw me flip. So they pulled over, came over. I was ready to bolt, flee, because I’d been drinking all night. I said, ‘I’ve got to get out of here, I’ve been drinking’. My friend said, ‘No. You’ve got to stay. It’ll be better, just stay.’ He grabbed me. I said, ‘Okay.’
Two cop cars arrive, two ambulances, a fire truck. Sirens, a lot of chaos. At one point a cop puts his hand on my shoulder, ‘Son, you have to come with me.’ They did the breathalyzer, read me my rights, put me in the cop car, took me to the police station. They interviewed me, told me to phone a lawyer. I said I was going to talk to my parents first. He said no, I had to call a lawyer. He gave me a telephone book and left the room.
I phoned my mom. She came to pick me up, took me to the hospital. I went to see how my friends were, they were all getting stitched up. We were at the hospital for a couple hours. My girlfriend got her ear stitched, her friend got her forehead stitched. The other girl lost four of her front teeth, she was the worst of everyone. But there wasn’t really any anger there, they were fine towards me. A friend’s uncle was at the hospital, though, he was yelling at me, saying I’m an idiot.
They didn’t do that good of a job at the hospital, either. They didn’t clean the dirt out of my friends’ wounds. They stitched everyone up, then we went to my girlfriend’s and got the first aid kit out, cleaned the dirt out of our road rashes.
I apologized to everyone.”
THE FALLOUT: DESCENT INTO GUILT AND HARDER DRUGS
“I’d only been seeing my girlfriend for about two months before that. So our relationship became strained because of the accident. It changed everything, so we soon stopped dating. Then I became a full-on recluse. The accident had really floored me, I just went inward, retreated. I still hung out with my friends, but that incident kind of started my first real depression.
I had a lot of guilt. I’m a pretty sensitive person, and to know that I caused all those injuries, hurt my friends… that really ate at me. And it wasn’t just about the guilt, there were other pressures. I got my driver’s license taken away for a year, got probation for a year. ICBC (the local insurance corporation) came after me for the damages for my friends’ injuries. I was in the courts for a while, and about six months after the accident they sent me a bill for $40,000.
Because I was a student, not earning any income, they weren’t making me pay it right away. But having this $40,000 debt hanging over my head… for me, that felt like my life was over. When you’re nineteen, twenty, how are you going to pay off $40,000? So all this stress and guilt led to more alcoholism, a lot of drinking, smoking pot.
After that summer I returned to BCIT for my second year, and I was living in a house with friends. All my roommates smoked pot so it was always around. I pretty much smoked pot regularly from thirteen right through to about twenty-five. So with that and drinking, I started missing classes, sleeping in, not going to school.
I discovered hard drugs after that. There were a lot of rave parties in the city, we were going to those a lot. I discovered Ecstasy. Ecstasy is an amazing drug, you feel this amazing euphoria. Phenomenal happiness. It causes your brain to release about a month’s supply of serotonin into your system over four hours, you just feel so happy. Touch, hugging someone, feels like the best thing in the world. Life is great. Sometimes the Ecstasy is cut with crystal meth, so you get the euphoric happiness and then the meth gives you intense energy. So it allows you to dance for hours and hours and party all night until the sun comes up.
I escaped into that, the drinking, the pot, hard drugs, raves. I wouldn’t say I was fully addicted to the drugs; it was an escape, but not all the time. For the first year after the accident, I did the most drinking and drugs, this is in my second year at BCIT. The next year I went to UBC (another learning institution), I was still doing drugs, but not as frequently as the previous year.”
DEPRESSION AND DRUGS LEAD TO FAILING
“After you take the drugs (Ecstasy) then your body has to regenerate all this serotonin. You’re depleted for two or three days after, you just feel like crap, miserable, then you come back to some normalcy. But after using it regularly, a lot, you sink down into a pit, where life is just the worst.
I sank into a depression that second year at BCIT and then next year at UBC. For the first semester at UBC I went to most of the classes, but as winter approached I went less and less. Then coming into the new year I would stay up late, download music, burn CDs, play video games, smoke pot with my roommate, then sleep all the next day.
My parents had no clue what was going on. We kept in phone contact but they had no idea how depressed I was, how big of a hole I was in. That was when depression really reared its head for the first time.
I didn’t go to enough classes, never wrote any of my final exams, so I basically failed out of school. So I moved back home for the next summer, lived with some buddies.”
ANOTHER MOVE, ANOTHER TRY
“My mom wanted me to have a fresh start, continue going to school in the fall, so she suggested I finish off my degree at the University of Edmonton, where she’d found some good classes. So my grandparents drove me there with all my stuff. My parents were supporting me, paying rent, school. At that point I was twenty-one. I went there with big hopes and expectations, I hadn’t done hard drugs for six months since leaving UBC, just a bit of pot, drinking.
I was living in a house right on campus with some other students going to school there. I didn’t know anybody. I was there for a week and a half before school started, just cruised around, checking out the places. I was feeling very good. Went down by the river, cruised trails on my mountain bike, checked out the shops.”
A NEW ‘FRIEND’, AND STARTING TO LOSE TOUCH…
“At one point I met this guy from Ontario. When I met him, just chatting, I asked if he wanted to smoke a joint, so we went to a park, did that. He was a traveler, didn’t have much money… but I had all this money from my parents for tuition, rent. So he just became my ‘buddy’, we hung out, went to pubs, played pool, drank.
I was paying his way. And he didn’t have a place to stay so I asked him over to my place, said he could crash in the basement. My roommates were like, ‘Who’s this guy?’ I was just, ‘Oh, he’s an old friend,’ whatever. He hung out with me for a couple days. We went to clubs, drank a lot, I paid his way, and I started spending lots of money. Lots of school money.
I wasn’t in a good head space, now. I was starting to lose touch with reality and my responsibilities. I had all these grand visions, like I was going to become a deejay, deejay house parties. I bought tons of music. Running out of money wasn’t even a thought.
One day we hopped on a bus, went to West Edmonton Mall. When we came back my bicycle had been stolen from where I’d locked it up. All of a sudden, everything that had been so good – switched. It flipped. I got so angry. I threw my skateboard into a tree, I freaked out. Then with me snapping… shortly after that my buddy left. He stole my big bag of weed and took off.”
THE BIKE MISSION
“Then I went on a mission to find my bike. I scoured the campus, hiked around the trails. About two days later I found my bike, locked to a rack in front of this coffee shop near my house.
I got so mad. I went in, sat down and had a coffee. I looked around, thinking ‘Who stole my bike?’ Looked around at a dozen people, trying to figure it out in my head. I zoned in on this guy playing chess with his girlfriend. I went up to him and said, ‘Is that your bike out there?’ He said, ‘Why?’ I said, ‘That’s my bike. You stole it.’ He said, ‘Well, maybe you’d better keep a better eye on your bike next time.’
That triggered me. I just got so angry, I was going to rip this guy apart. Then I figured… I’ve just got to leave this situation. So I went to my house, called the cops. We went back to the shop, of course the bike’s gone. If I’d been thinking straight, I would have just waited outside, watched to see who came out and unlocked the bike.”
“So that triggered the next steps in me. I was going into a psychosis. I got home, lying in bed… thoughts were racing through my mind. Like this guy stole my bike, maybe he saw me walk to my house, he knows where I live now. Maybe he’s connected to the Hell’s Angels. I heard helicopters fly over my house (to the hospital nearby) so I thought they were police helicopters protecting my house from the Hell’s Angels. I thought the H.A. were going to shoot up my house with AK-47’s (machine guns).
I just lost touch with reality and got totally freaked out. My whole spine felt like it was burning up, my whole body was starting to have these strange feelings. I’d seen a report on spinal meningitis on the news earlier, so I thought that’s what was happening with my spine. So I called an ambulance, it came and took me to the hospital, at two in the morning.
Doctors checked me out, said I didn’t have spinal meningitis, sent me on my way. I walked around the campus more, maybe until around five in the morning and it was starting to get light outside. Vans were driving by, I thought they were connected to the Hell’s Angels, coming for me, I got really scared.
I was walking past the Cancer Society building, went into the security booth, and just lost it. I started crying, said there were people after me, trying to get me. I said I have to call this guy who stole my bike. I was just freaking out. They called a security car and it took me back to the hospital, same one I’d been released from earlier.
Then, the doctors really were asking what was going on. They had me in an isolation room, asked all these questions. Obviously I wasn’t making much sense. I started thinking the hospital was full of aliens, they weren’t real people, they could read my mind. I just went… psychotic.
The doctors talked to me; I would say, ‘You don’t need to talk to me. You can read my mind, so you can just figure it out from that.’ I totally lost touch. They let me phone my mom. I was like (conspiratorially), ‘Mom. They know what’s going on.’
So, she could tell something was up with me. So my parents flew out to Edmonton. I was in the hospital, the psych ward, for three weeks. They put me on good doses of medications, but it still took me quite a while to ‘come down’, I was still believing pretty outlandish things, aliens. It took me a while but eventually the meds did bring me back to reality.
My folks stayed the whole time, got a hotel. I got to see them regularly, and my grandparents came out too.”
MORE LOSSES, AND CHANGES
“School was gone, then. No chance of going back, with my mental state.
I moved back with my parents again. It was a rough go, with the medication, I entered a pretty heavy depression, got suicidal at some points. My parents were good about it; the hard thing was, you know, where am I at in life? I’m twenty-one, living in my parents’ basement, I’ve got no future plans, can’t go to school, can’t work, on medication. Once again, just felt my life was over.
Shortly after I moved back the doctors from Edmonton, my psychiatrist, and my doctors in town here wrote letters to ICBC, said the debt was putting a crazy amount of stress on this guy, totally ruining his life and he can’t continue. So ICBC settled the debt for $1200, rather than the $40,000. It was dropped about four months after I’d left the hospital. That was a huge burden off me.
I lived with my parents until the next spring. Then a friend called me up, had a job in Forestry up in Kitimat. So I moved to Victoria, lived with my sister there, and did contract work, flying up to Kitimat to work for three weeks at a time. That was my first foray back into work. It was tough, working on meds, but eventually the meds got balanced out. I was pretty much always on an antidepressant and an anti-psychotic.”
A FEW YEARS GO BY…
“There were lots of ups and downs over the next years, and lots of periods of depression. I would still think about the things my accident triggered. I always wished I could press the pause button and rewind things and have that accident… not happen. That was constantly in my mind. Wanting to go back and delete that moment.”
Me: To keep turning left and drop that girl off, rather than going to the parking lot and speeding in circles.
“Exactly. Exactly. That was my stumbling block. I was always so happy, prior to the accident. I felt like it robbed me of my old self. And then being on the meds… I just didn’t feel like the same person any more.
Finally, when I was around twenty-four, I started to feel like I could move on. I started dating, started thinking of the future.”
There was an event that started it. I was always drinking a lot, always broke, spending all my money on booze, going to MoneyMart to get payday loans. I was in this vicious circle, never getting ahead. I’d be calling in sick from work because I was hung over.
I’m an introvert, so drinking helped me be ‘out’ socially, at parties or at the bar. It loosened me up, I didn’t stress as much. So it was kind of a crutch… but it never allowed me to be myself, get in touch with my true self. It was always just a mask, something false.
One night I was out drinking and playing pool with a buddy in downtown Vancouver, I believe it was a Monday. I had large credit card debts, two cards both maxed out. One card was linked to my bank account so they could see my transactions, see I wasn’t paying my credit card payments but I was out drinking. So they locked my account, locked my debit card too.
So that night I was using my other credit card. I remember there were a lot of panhandlers asking for money that night. It really upset me. I was yelling at them, you know, ‘I’m in so much debt, I can’t even give you 25 cents! Fuck off!’ I was really angry. This one young guy came up to me as we were walking up the street, said, ‘Hey, can I show you a card trick, buddy?’
I was like, ‘Fuck off, I’m sick of all you bums asking me for money, I don’t have any, I’m in debt.’ He yelled back, ‘I’m not a bum!’ I just said, ‘Get out of my face.’ He said, ‘You wanna go (fight)?’ I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ We got into a fist fight.
This guy was obviously a boxer or a good street fighter. I went to grab him once, he came in underneath and got me right on the chin with an uppercut. I flew back, landed on the back of my head. He got down on me, I struggled and got away. My buddy was really drunk too, just stood there watching. Then we both got away and took off.
This street guy… I guess he went and told this ‘roid monkey, huge Australian guy, that we’d stolen his wallet. The Australian guy came after us, like, ‘Oy! Give this guy back his wallet!’ These guys chased us, we ran into a 7-11 store. Called the copes, they came, took our statement. We took a cab home.
So my head was hurting for a couple days, my brain felt tight against my skull from hitting the ground. The second day I went to the hospital, they said I had a concussion. I went to work that day anyway. But something felt really off, just not right. So I phoned a good friend of mine, he was my counselor, told him I was freaked out, scared, I think I have to leave work. He said he’d call my manager for me, and told me to go home and pull the covers over myself, just go chill out.
A work friend was driving me home, and once again I had a breaking point, I broke down in tears, I was really scared about where my life was at. I asked her to take me to the hospital instead. I saw a psychiatrist there, explained my story, I thought it was maybe a meds problem.
She asked how much I was drinking. I told her, then she said no, it wasn’t my medication doing it. Because with all the alcohol I was drinking, she said I may as well not even be taking medications. She said, ‘You’re an alcoholic. You need to be going to a meeting’ (at Alcoholics Anonymous). She gave me a pamphlet, said to find where the closest meeting is, and go.’
And it finally ‘clicked’.”
“I’d been hearing it from doctors since I was twenty-one all the way up to twenty-six, that I needed to quit drinking, or at least moderate it. I always opted for the moderation… but I always wound up going to excess. I never had a shut-off switch, it was always all or nothing. I would drink drink drink until my money was gone. I had no control over it.
When this doctor finally told me I was an alcoholic, I wasn’t shocked. I knew it already. I had many books on alcoholism, I’d read a lot on it. And it ran in the family, many family members are alcoholic, including my aunt.
When I got home I called my aunt. I hadn’t even talked to her in three, four years. I said, ‘I’m going to a meeting. What should I expect?’ She said, ‘Billy, I’ve been waiting for this call for a long time.’ She said to go to the meeting with an open mind.
I went to that meeting, and it changed my life. I haven’t had a drink since. No, sorry, I had a few drinks about eight months after that, with my fiance. So my real sobriety date is from that one day with her. About seven years ago.
Quitting drinking has been one of the major and best changes in my life that allowed me to become me. To get in touch with my true self. That’s my main thing now: healthy living.”
BUT IT’S STILL WORK
“There are still periods where… you kind of flirt with it. Like in the summer, you think it would be great to go to the patio, have some beers with friends, loosen up a bit. Sometimes I feel like I’m wound too tight. I guess I miss the feeling of it, how it loosens you up socially, how it would be nice to go to a club, do some dancing, have drinks, let loose, party.
It’s such a huge thing in our society. Alcohol is just everywhere, pretty much everybody does it. I miss that social aspect. I have a few old friends, we don’t hang out as much now because maybe they feel like I’m judging them for drinking. Maybe they feel they can’t drink comfortably around me.
Like a bunch of friends go to Revelstoke each spring on the May long weekend. They all go to the lake, they have boats up there, they go fishing, they built outdoor hot tubs. It’s a gong show, they take a ton of beer and booze, just rip it up. I hang around them the rest of the year… but I can’t be a part of that, it’s a big drinking fest. I still wish they would include me because I think I’d have a good time.
I don’t go to AA regularly. If I’m having a bad time and it’s really getting to me, thinking of stopping at the cold beer & wine store, grabbing a six-pack… when I do get in that mode, then I’ll realize it’s time for a check-up. Then I’ll go to a meeting. But it’s been about eight months since I’ve felt like that.”
“I’ve had the same psychiatrist since I was twenty-one, and he didn’t really know I had bipolar until seven years later, when I was twenty-eight, I had my second really manic phase.
It was triggered when my doctor took me off my anti-psychotic meds and left me on the antidepressants. And with antidepressants, if you’re prone to bipolar they can actually push you to a manic phase. My break in Edmonton years ago, they deemed a drug-induced psychosis, but it really was my first psychotic episode in bipolar, I don’t believe it was drug-induced.
Those highs during bipolar, those manic highs, are like nothing you’ve ever experienced. When you’re in that phase, things are so good, you’re seeing things so brightly and clearly (at least, in your own perception). You don’t have to eat or sleep much, you feel like you’re on top of everything, so sharp.
That’s the hard thing: to experience those highs, and then when you’re in a lower phase, depressed, you wish you can be back there where things are clicking and everything feels good. When I get into that high phase I need less sleep, less food. I become really passionate, Mr. Romantic, Mr. Sexual. I can talk so much, get really in-depth with people. But then I get caught in that pattern of spending lots of money again.
My doctor gives me free reign with my meds now. He knows that I know when I’m getting to a phase where I need to make a change, and that I know what to change with my meds to get me back down to level. But I still flirt with it when maybe I shouldn’t… like I’ll stay in a high (hyper) phase because it feels good.
For example, I went to Nelson recently with my girlfriend. Even prior to the trip I was buying all this camping gear that I didn’t really need. In Nelson I bought a bunch of shirts, records, stuff I didn’t need but I just wanted it. I was entering a manic phase but it felt so good that I probably left it a couple weeks longer than I should have, should have done a med change a little sooner. But when I got back here I made the change, bumped up my dosage. It’s been a little over two weeks since that change, and I’m starting to come down to level. It usually takes about two weeks. But with the increased dosage I’m also sleeping more, I’m not as alert. Just not as ‘on’.”
WRESTLING WITH IT
“That’s the nature of bipolar: manic and depressive. The last time I was really depressive was around five years ago. I was off work for over two months from it, very depressed. I moved in with my parents for that period, because being here on my own, sleeping in every day, was not going to work. And that in itself was depressing: ‘I’m living with my parents. Again.’
I went to a lot of AA meetings then, trying to keep things in check. And I did get to a point of being suicidal, just wanted to be… done with it. That’s a big thing with bipolar, I probably think of suicide… once a month. Sometimes it’s more. I had to go to the hospital that time. Very depressed. At my parents’ I actually went looking for my grandpa’s shotgun in the basement. I was pretty close. As close as I’ve ever come to wanting to end it. They admitted me, I talked to doctors. It was only for one night, then it was okay again. I haven’t been ‘there’ (in that ultra-low phase) since then.
But at those times you almost want it to end, because it can be so draining. You just want to be normal. You want to be someone who doesn’t have to take medications. I would just love it if I didn’t have to take medication. I would be more pleasant, feel things better. On medication, the food you eat doesn’t taste as good. You don’t smell flowers the same. Your vision… it numbs you, numbs you out. That part of it’s really frustrating. When you’re in the high phase everything’s so much more vivid, more clear, and when things are dull, you’re feeling down, depressed… it’s not a good place to be.
With bipolar it seems like you’re always fighting things. In a high phase you’re fighting to get it down, when you’re low you want to get back to a higher phase. So you’re always playing with where you want to be. And I probably over-analyze myself, but I think you have to, to keep things in check.”
“I’m currently on an anti-psychotic called Zyprexa, and a mood stabilizer called Lamotrigine. It’s actually a seizure medication but they use it for bipolar, it helps you from dipping too low in depression. I’ve been on Zyprexa since I was twenty-one, and various antidepressants since then, Lamotrigine for about the last three years. This combo seems to work. When I get into those high phases, I know how to alter the meds to bring myself down to level.
I can definitely catch myself sooner now, before it gets to a totally damaging place. Rather than going those long, extended times into the bad phases.
I still kind of toy with the idea of not being on medication… but it’s like the alcohol: I know I can’t have a drink again, because I know where that path leads. I’ve been down there and I don’t want to be there again. With bipolar, I understand I have to take meds. It’s a chemical imbalance, and the meds balance it out. It might be healthier to deal with things without medication… but at some point, you need it.”
“Now I focus on my health to keep me balanced. I try to get lots of exercise, like going to the gym, mountain biking, playing hockey, et cetera. That keeps me in a good head space. I also try to maintain a healthy diet and to keep busy socially by visiting friends, trying not to be too much of a homebody and isolating myself.
Overall, I’m looking forward to the future and I’m very grateful for all my past experiences, as they have shaped me into the person I am today. Now there’s no points in my life that I would want to press pause, rewind or delete.”