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Re: Terrified of Next Step + Life

Posted by blueboy on June 29, 2008, at 11:15:56

In reply to Terrified of Next Step + Life, posted by NOS Patient on June 25, 2008, at 23:58:37

Hi, "NOS". Wow, I am so sorry for your misery. I had very similar problems all my life except, I think, not so severe. It is just horribly frustrating to have lots of talent and ambition, and keep getting knocked off your horse like that.

One symptom sounds very typically bipolar to me. That is, several periods of excellent achievement at school, followed by what I have decided to call (in my own case) "nervous breakdowns" -- it's just a lot easier to say than "disabling long cycles of bipolar depression and mixed states".

I have had about a two year cycle, sometimes longer. I also have a daily cycle and cycles of roughly four days and three months. Keeping a daily log is a big help in understanding cycles. I did an elaborate one on an Excel spreadsheet during a bout of hypomania, then added a simplified single entry one that is all I can handle on bad days.

Life stressors definitely have tended to initiate the bad periods of my life. You call your periods PTSD, while I call mine "bipolar triggers". These may or may not be different, or maybe they are the same thing but different in degree. I went to Vietnam and have had a couple of painful family deaths (father and sister).

This can also be a compounding factor. Like having to drop out of school or failing classes, due to a bipolar cycle, just makes the breakdown worse. Well, that's me, I don't know if it's a helpful way to look at your situation or not.

My problems started at age 14 (I'm 59 now, and in 1963 nobody had a clue about giving me any drugs. Probably just as well.) I had very high academic talent and suddenly, for no reason, I failed 8th grade science one period. I just couldn't manage to do the assignements. Then, in the middle of sophomore year, the same thing happened when I suddenly started getting failing grades in chemistry and honors English.

When I graduated from high school and went to college (like you, I got admitted to a very good school), I completely fell apart and had to drop out after eight weeks. I went back three years later and managed to graduate in four straight years. Two of those years my grades were good; the other two years I had to take minimal coursework, do a lot of academically dishonest things, take "gut" courses, etc. My whole life has been like that.

I had terrible problems with alcoholism that just got worse and worse and worse, in cycles. Some years I could drink one beer at night and be happy, but then every time the heavy drinking came back, it was worse than before. I finally got into AA for good and have managed to stay sober, for which I am extremely thankful.

If you were diagnosed BP I, I assume you must have had psychotic breaks, which I never had.

I did manage to have a decent career by being self-employed (I was a plaintiffs' lawyer, mostly employment discrimination and other civil rights type things, where I could make a lot of money by winning cases.) I'd make enough money during the good times to tide me over in the bad times.

So, one suggestion I might make to you would be to look into some kind of freelance work. I have done freelance writing when I just couldn't face the stress of practicing law. I recently learned some web programming languages (PHP/MySQL/javascript, plus the basic ones like HTML and CSS) and have been freelancing webpage work.

I'm guessing med school might be too much for you. So very sorry for my opinion but I'm trying to give you the best advice I can. Med school involves so much stress for such a prolonged period (6 years minimum). I did manage law school (3 years), by attending a school way below my credentials (I got an 800 on the law boards) where I could coast sometimes. My father died at the end of my third year, but I managed to graduate even though I didn't even take two of my exams.

But I was unable to work for almost a year after graduating from law school. I never would have been able to do med school.

Anyway, consider some sort of freelance career. Scientific/health writers with credentials, for example, have a steady and strong demand and the pay isn't bad at all. You can drop out of the market fairly quickly and get back in a year or two later.

I'd think twice before I took a benzo every day. In my own case, with my alcoholism, I limit benzo use to twice per week (although I take triple the recommended dose, i.e. 3mg of Klonopin/clonazepam -- it's great for putting the brakes on mixed states, which I get on a cycle of like 3 days to two weeks.) I take generic Ambien for insomnia if I'm not feeling crazy.

I am skeptical about ADHD, if you have managed to get A's and B's in college for periods of time. That sounds very bipolar to me.

In my humble opinion, GAD/social anxiety, while not a lot of fun, is a lot less serious than the bipolar problem. At least, in my case. Thank heaven for the internet, which allows you to make a living and communicate with people while staying at home.

I went through some "partying" phases with some sexual acting out, lots of drinking and drugs, etc. I finally managed to get and stay married, by marrying a woman with a very conventional, stable personality, and communicating my problems openly. (I spent over twenty years in relationships lasting three months to two years.) Staying sober is a big plus in that regard.

I just can't give you any feedback about problems with hospitalization and the expense. I've managed to stay out of mental hospitals. The worst I've done is to drop a huge amount of money in the stock market during a manic phase. I did have phases where I would have sex with any woman who'd say "yes", but I think that is a bigger problem for women and gay men than for hetero men (since it's way easier to find a casual sex partner). Thank heaven the police never found me when I was walking around the neighborhood naked!

If you can, you might consider finding a third party, like a parent, to control part of your finances and your credit. So you don't throw money away and get into debt during a manic episode. I had a good friend, 20 years older, when I was growing up. He put his house and assets into his wife's name and had a small business that other people could keep going when he went to the hospital.

Regarding credit -- one of a bp's worst potential enemies -- I'd suggest you work something out during your life, like get a credit card with a low limit ($500 or $1000). You may not be earning money or have any credit now, but hopefully, you will at some point, and you don't want to throw it all away.

I, like you, find it very hard to be nonfunctional during down periods. That's the most painful thing for me about my condition. You don't want to just "give up", but beating yourself up about it just makes it worse.

I actually managed to make partner in a big law firm, and then hit a brick wall. I absolutely could not do one bit of work. I think of this as "manic stupor", a term I encountered on some website (can't remember the URL) about a theory of cycles in bipolar. My periods have been full of panic, pain, guilt, and frustration.

Here's a good link to a lot of sites that might be helpful:

Anyway, we are only "NOS" to the blockheads who do the DSM. I think there are a fair number of people with symptoms in this general area, including a lot of famous people in the creative arts -- the manic phases support enormous and creative output, which can be crazy and still good in artistic areas, and they can also handle long periods of nonfunction during depressive or mixed states, since they don't have ongoing responsibilities.

I also have a lot of secondary OCD problems, including counting, bulimia (the binge/purge type, not anorexia), sex obsessions, etc. They are moderate enough that I can cope with them.

I also have some degree of agoraphobia, social phobia, and what appears to be some GAD (although that is very hard to distinguish from bipolar mixed states). Unfortunately, these are treatable with alcohol, which has the side effect of physical and mental breakdown, resulting in a grisly death. Not to mention other possible side effects like prison, killing someone, destruction of all healthy relationships, etc.

Sometimes when I'm going out to dinner or something, I'll take a "normal" dose of Klonopin, 1mg, which really helps. But since I keep such a disciplined limit on Klonopin usage, I have had to limit my social life.

Also, I hope you will watch out for suicide. I have found having people I love, and realizing how horrible it would be for them, helps me out. My death would devastate my mother. Also, AA meetings are a huge help for me.

Well, that's a lot of babbling, LOL. I hope some of it might give you some ideas. I can't actually give you any advice about medication, since I've never found one that helped. However, there is a lot you can do to manage and live with the disease. I have sure had a lot of fun and had some solid production during my non-depressed periods.




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