I Needed a Hero, so a Hero I Became

Editor's note: Thank you, Bipolar Barbie for sharing your story with Bipolar Disorder, and the challenges you went through finding appropriate treatment. 

Ten years is the average time frame it takes to diagnose Bipolar Disorder. After that, it can take another ten years to find effective treatments using  trial and error methods.

Our individual brain chemistry is unique despite having the same illness. That’s what makes treatment so hard.

I was in the middle of my law degree when I realized something was wrong. I sought help from my general practitioner (GP) who diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. I went back every week saying something was still wrong, as I wasn't finding any relief. They tried eight different antidepressants but nothing worked, and they only made me feel worse. 

The rapid swings between depression and mania made me drop out of law school, an unavoidable decision I still hate myself for. I then decided to go to art school because I blamed this weird feeling on everyone and everything. I went to art school and fell into the deepest depression of my life. It was so sad because I had such hope that doing something I loved so much would fix all my problems, but I stopped going to art school and saw GP after GP. I told them I was going to throw myself in front of a bus! They told me they didn't believe in medicating mental illness and I should see a counsellor in a month. 

After eight years of therapy at school and university, nothing worked. Finally after three years of wrong diagnoses and medications, I got referred to a psychiatrist. He made me answer ten questions, and when I was done he told me “You 100% have Bipolar Disorder.” He put me on lithium, a mood stabilizer, and took me off antidepressants. Still, it wasn't right. With each new medication, I both gained and lost something. Nothing felt right. I became manic, and then as the spring came around, my mood lifted and I was doing great. I was almost back in my usual cycle of working full time again until I became so depressed that I could no longer get out of bed -let alone work! I lost another job and my marriage fell apart. Every week I was at a GP or counsellor since  I couldn't afford to see my psychiatrist.

I learned that to realize you need help takes much insight, and to ask for help takes courage.

Not many people understand how difficult it can be to call a doctor and be told you have to go on a waiting list, and when you finally do get an appointment, you probably can't get yourself there, or if you can, it's sooooooo expensive you can't afford it.

I struggled so hard for so many years just to get in contact with the right healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, despite how desperately I sought them out, I never seemed to get the help I needed. It was difficult to find one willing to help me for more than the financial benefit to them, or even willing to take me seriously…

Why is it important for you to share your story and experiences with mental health and illness?

Because it never occurred to me not to!

- Bipolar Barbie
NSW Australia

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