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I'm Bipolar? A Journal of the Journey from Diagnosis Onward

In May of 1999 Marcia Purse, the About.com Bipolar Disorder Guide, was diagnosed as bipolar. Suddenly a whole new truckload of medications - and their side effects - was thrown at her. Travel with the me as my doctor and I try to find the right combination of meds to control my symptoms without causing me to continue to gain weight, as had already begun from taking psychotropic drugs.
  1. I'm Bipolar - Meds History (5)

What? ME? I'm Bipolar? - Newly Diagnosed, Day One - 5/20/99
Today I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, when all this time I thought I just had clinical depression. The clues are in my mental health history. Now I'm wondering what this diagnosis and the new medications mean for my future.

Oh, Those Meds! - 6/2/99
Part 2 in our series following the experiences of a person newly diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (manic depression). This week: side effects!

Emotionally Precarious - 6/20/99
Part 3 in an ongoing series tracking Marcia's life after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.

Mood Swings - and Swings - and Swings - 7/2/99
Part 4 in an ongoing series tracking one person's life after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This week: rapid cycling and anger.

Creativity Returns - But Sociability is Gone - 7/18/99
Part 5 in an ongoing series tracking one person's life after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This week: creativity returns - make the world go away!

Medication Change - Taking Stock - 8/12/99
Part 6 in an ongoing series tracking one person's life after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This week: more med changes, and taking stock.

Mood Cycles Downward - 8/25/99
Part 7 in an ongoing series tracking my life after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This week: mood is VERY bad.

Meds Made Me Fat - 8/25/99
My depressive episode is focused on the amount of weight I've gained since taking medications for depression and bipolar disorder.

"Round and Round and Round She Goes" - 9/10/99
Part 8 in an ongoing series tracking one person's life after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This week: still fighting with medications.

Hot, Hot, Hot - 9/30/99
Part 9 in an ongoing series tracking one person's life after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. In this installment, the author's meds appear to be causing profuse sweating and hot flashes.

Diagnosis in Doubt - 10/20/99
Part 10 in an ongoing series tracking Marcia's life after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This week: diagnosis in doubt.

On the Medication Carousel - 11/21/99
In Part 11 of this series Marcia is still depressed and medication changes are frequent. Wellbutrin - Celexa - Trazodone - Zyprexa - gosh it's a poem!

Bah, Humbug! Seasonal Affective Disorder - Bipolar Journal 12/99
Seasonal Affective Disorder now rears its ugly head, worsened in my case by the approaching Christmas holiday, which is always a difficult time for me.

Taking Action Toward Health - 2/25/00 (Part 1)
In Part 11 of the series Marcia has been taking action to improve physical and mental health and decides to try exercise for medication-induced weight gain.

Setting Fitness Goals - 2/25/00 (Part 2)
In this installment of the series tracking life since diagnosis, Marcia joins a fitness program in her continuing struggle to lose weight.

Disastrous Medication Changes - 10/23/00
Don't try this at home! Changing medication dosage without a doctor's permission can result in serious problems, as this experience demonstrates.

Sidelined from Exercise - 6/14/00 (Part 1)
Part 13 in a series tracking one person's life after being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Events and injury sidetrack fitness goals as medication juggling continues.

Serzone Key Medication for My Bipolar Depression? - 6/14/00 (Part 2)
The diet medication Ionamin was a disaster, but Serzone may be the key to defeating a lasting bipolar depression!

Plugging Energy Drains - 6/14/00 (Part 3)
Plugging energy drains is another key to controlling depression. Here's one blue-ribbon method.

Medication Roller Coaster 8/16/00
The effects of a medication combination that initially produced hypomania.

Struggles Continue - 10/17/00
More serious medication issues have arisen in my battle to find combination of prescription drugs that will stabilize my mood in a good place AND allow me to lose the weight gained over the years from Prozac.

Changes Without Change - 8/18/02
Catching up my online bipolar journal after a break of almost two years.

Lexapro and Go Go GO! - October 2002 (Part 1)
Switching from Celexa to Lexapro has brought on a mixed episode that is not over yet - the latest installment in an online journal that began when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Half a Lexapro Is Better Than None - October 2002 (Part 2)
After switching from Celexa to Lexapro I experienced mixed mania with severe agitation and back pain. This follow-up article is made up of journal entries from the week after the doctor cut the Lexapro dosage in half.

Clutter, Christmas, and Mixed States: A Recipe for Exhaustion - 12/29/02
In this installment of the 'I'm Bipolar' series, the author looks at the last several months and the Christmas season in terms of bipolar depression - a mixed condition with some serious physical and behavioral consequences.

Name That Episode! Three Mixed-Up Months - 5/11/03
What do you call an episode that has elements of hypomania but is characterized by exhaustion at the end of each day?

Overcommitment = Stress Squared - 6/1/03
A demonstration of how the hypomania of a mixed episode can create stress and anxiety that last after the hypomania is gone.

Lose Weight - That's an Order! - July 2003
My blood pressure is up. I am not losing any weight. Exercise doesn't help. My doctors and I are making medication changes and I am finally going on a diet.

The South Beach Diet - August 2003
After several years of trying to lose weight via exercise of various kinds, I'm on a diet - the South Beach Diet. I had good reasons for choosing this program, although implementing it has not been the easiest thing in the world. But I'm sticking with it, and here's why.

Approaching Lung Surgery - 8/13/03
In just a week I will be having surgery on my right lung. I will not know until I wake up whether part of the lung was removed because of cancer. All this and bipolar disorder too!

Of Course It's Depression - October 2003
Yes, I'm depressed. A look at specific symptoms and behaviors I recognize in myself that indicate I am suffering from depression.

Medicating Upward - 11/13/03
From bipolar depression upward toward positive stability via medications - five medication changes in eight weeks - here is the story week by week of the changes and their results.

Brain Fog - 4/9/04
In 'Letter to Joey,' I talks about the worries of living with my elderly mother and how months of struggling to complete routine tasks and projects that should have been enjoyable led me to realize I was suffering from bad side effects from Topamax.

Weight Loss Failure - What Now? 7/16/04
I feel shocked and numb since the latest blow to my hopes of losing weight. I want to go back in time to a point before I gained all this weight, but I can't do that. So now - trash my meds?

Starting Over - NOT - 7/22/04
Quitting Gabitril was a prescription for disaster!

As Different as Night and Day - 11/27/04
Normal during the work day, depressed at all other times - it doesn't make sense. Or does it? It took me a long, long time to figure it out. Having to help put on a large charity event didn't make it any easier. What a year it has been!

All Bent Out of Shape - November 2004
When you care about something as passionately as I cared about the 2004 United States Presidential election, and it doesn't go the way you wanted it to - and you have a mental illness along with fibromyalgia - a lot more can go wrong that you might think.

Jekyll and Hide - An Allegory ... 3/9/05
Imagine the opposite of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In our story, Dr. Grace Jekyll, a pharmacist, is cheerful, productive and pleasant at work, but by night she becomes a pathetic, depressed and miserable shadow of herself - Ms. Hide. What can be causing this terrible change to occur?

What's Up, Doc? - April 2005
In this installment of Marcia's 'I'm Bipolar' series, she takes a sometimes pungent look at what's been going on in her life - physical, mental, medicinal and avocational - with the help of Bugs Bunny, Tom Lehrer and a mere fraction of the botanical names that will grace her garden this year.

Crying for the Birds - 4/28/05
Not everything that hurts a lot is a life event. It can be something that seems small to others - when it is more important to you than anyone else realizes.

Looking back at my life - a turbulent journey - 5/26/05
A memory triggered led me through a brief retrospective of my bipolar life - most of it undiagnosed - from high school through multiple colleges and jobs - from therapists and lovers to withdrawal and finally to today.

The changing thoughts of a rough evening - 6/15/05
I hadn't felt well all day; after work I'd come home to the same plaguing chaos of house and garden that has been getting steadily worse for months. A 2-week heat wave had finally broken; the misty evening was deliciously cool - paradise for someone with more than 600 plants yet to plant. But I was worn out and in pain, so instead I sat down...

Going Off Meds - Part 1 - They aren't working anyway ... July 2005
From June to late August of 2005 I tapered off all of my bipolar disorder medications - Zyprexa, Topamax, Trazodone, Prozac / Celexa, Ativan, Gabitril and Wellbutrin. This is the first of three articles telling why I decided to do this and how the process unfolded through an episode of agitated depression coupled with serious back pain.

Going Off Meds - Part 2: You Need to Feel Needed - July/August 2005
The second phase of dropping my bipolar medications was to taper off Celexa, an SSRI antidepressant. This can be problematic, but thanks to my friend Kim's timely suggestion, I spent the days of tapering thinking about something other than myself for a change, and loving it - or rather, them. Page 1 of 2

Going Off Meds - Part 3 - Benzodiazepine Withdrawal - August 2005
I had just 3 medications left to get out of my system - Wellbutrin, Gabitril and Ativan - generic name Lorazepam. So far the process hadn't been too difficult, but when I cut my Ativan dose down, it was like being run over by a truck.

Screening Visit for Seroquel Study - 8/30/05
After many weeks of tapering off a variety of bipolar disorder medications, I finally had my first visit with the Seroquel study coordinator. I'd hoped to get medication right away, but instead I had to read and sign long forms, fill out questionnaires, answer a lot of questions and have laboratory tests done.

Seroquel Clinical Study - Week 1 - 9/14/05
I received my first 8 days of medication for the Seroquel / Paxil / Placebo clinical study on September 6, 2005. The pills made a big difference right away. It doesn't seem possible that I'm taking nothing but placebos ... judge for yourself.

Seroquel Clinical Study - Week 2 - balance tests and rages - 9/21/05
From sleep to creativity to temper tantrums - the second week of the Seroquel / Paxil clinical study was filled with contrasts. These pills, whatever they are, are definitely making a difference!

Seroquel Clinical Study - Weeks 3 and 4 - Brainstorms - 10/7/05
During the third and fourth weeks on the study medications, I didn't recognize what was going on while it was happening. I just enjoyed it ... until cracks started to show.

During the Seroquel Study - Week 5 - Mother's Illness Takes Over - 10/14/05
During my fifth week of participation in the Seroquel clinical study for bipolar depression, my mother became seriously ill. Each doctor had a different opinion, depending on his area of expertise - the gastroenterologist, the cardiologist, the surgeon - we were bombarded with information but none of it told us what to DO.

PTSD, Rage, Hypomania - 10/17/07
Both my psychiatrist and the hospice social worker say that after caring for my mother for six months as she descended into Alzheimer's, I may have post-traumatic stress disorder -- PTSD.

During the Seroquel Study - Weeks 6-8 - Mother has colon surgery - 11/4/05
Once it was apparent that my mother's large intestine was going to continue to twist over on itself even when she had not been eating, we were out of options. They scheduled her to have colostomy surgery on October 17th.

Seroquel Study Ends - 12/8/05
At the end of the first eight weeks of the Seroquel clinical study for bipolar depression, participants may or may not start taking pills containing something different from what they took during the acute phase. It certainly seemed that this had happened in my case.

Want Some Pain With Your Stress? - 5/16/06
Medication changes. Mom got embolisms in her toes and required more surgery. Stress. Pain. Even though I was finally sleeping well on Seroquel, it wasn't enough to cope with the events of December 2005 and January 2006.

Alone in the House on New Meds - 6/21/06
After living with my mother for almost 9 years, I found myself alone in the house while she recovered from surgery just at the time I had a major medication change. In addition to Seroquel I began taking Cymbalta, a new drug for me. The results were remarkable!

Medications Put to the Test - 7/1/06
When my mother came home after four months in the hospital and rehabilitation center, it was quite an adjustment for me to have two other people in the house after being by myself for so long. I had to increase my dosage of both my medications, Cymbalta and Seroquel, to cope.

Mom Has Multiple Surgeries - 7/5/06
My mother is a high-risk patient for major surgery, but when her colostomy began turning inside out several times a day, we weren't left with many options. After a minor surgical procedure failed to solve the problem, my family was faced with tough decisions. What would we need to do to give her the best chance of surviving long, invasive surgery?

Three Moods in One - 8/7/06
My mother has come through six surgeries better than when she started, and I'm caring for her at home. Overall I'm doing well - yet in my behavior I see indications of hypomania, stability AND depression. I'm not sure whether I need to worry about this.

A Good Day - 8/27/06
I've written a great deal about difficult times in my battle with bipolar disorder, so I thought readers might find it interesting to know what I consider a good day. In a nutshell, good days are days when I accomplish a lot.

But the Days Grow Short ... 10/21/06
After a summer that glowed with good mental health, my mood has darkened as the days have shortened. Some of it has to be Seasonal Affective Disorder, but there are other factors that have contributed to the growing depression. It's not serious yet, but the changes themselves are depressing when I compare my days now to what they were like not...

Time for a Change - 11/8/06
Mood, behavior and weight changes all indicate that it's time for me to make some kind of change in my medications. My psychiatrist and I discussed Seroquel, Geodon and Lamictal in the treatment of bipolar depression and came up with a plan of action.

Call Me Irresponsible - 12/12/06
You'd think after all these years of living with a mood disorder that I'd be able to put a label to my current mood easily at any given time. Yet right now, even though I can look at my behaviors and say yes, these definitely signify depression, I don't FEEL depressed.

Revelation - 3/7/07
A radio program got me thinking about my behavior, playing computer games for hours on end while ignoring responsibilities like cleaning house and paying the bills. As I listened and thought, I came to an understanding of the cause of this behavior that was a real revelation to me.

Rock Bottom - 4/4/07
My mother's anxiety level has shot up. I am exhausted. My patience is gone. My strength is gone. My psychiatrist is seriously ill. A friend is now staying with us to act as my mother's companion and caregiver, but it is not helping as much as I had hoped. Our household has hit rock bottom.

Terrors and Screams - 4/26/07
My mother has been formally diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She's declining rapidly, having bouts of terror where she screams, and a nursing home is definitely in the future. Meanwhile, my psychiatrist is more worried about me than her.

A Room of My Own - 5/9/07
This chapter of my bipolar disorder journal tells about a conversation with my psychiatrist - what I told him about living with my mother's Alzheimer's disease, and what he advised to help me deal with it.

Fighting A Losing Battle - 6/11/07
Alzheimer's is a killer disease - for the family. Is it harder on me because of my bipolar disorder? I'll probably never know. But recent events show just how much I am crumbling under the strain.

When Meds Meet Stress, Who Wins? - 7/1/07
Everyone experiences stress. Stress can occur in situations ranging from noisy children, or problems on the job right on up to a death in the family. People who take medications for mental illnesses like bipolar disorder may find that they can cope better with small and even moderate stresses. But what happens when these medications come up...

In Mechanical Mode - 8/12/07
When it is just too hard to face emotional issues, a person can go into a state where everything is on the surface. Practical. Mechanical. That's where I am now, as my family deals with the hard realities of my mother's condition.

Lessons from Dark Days - 09/11/07
A four-day power outage sounds like pure hell - but for me, it wasn't at all, and out of it came lessons that have made a substantial difference in my daily life.

My Stomach Hurts - 12/14/07
After showing signs of what appeared to be stomach flu, my mother became gravely ill. Both the nursing home's doctor and the CNA from hospice told me Mom had at most a few days to live.

My Right Ear - 3/11/08
A few weeks after my mother died, a chorus began humming in my right ear every time I wasn't already listening to music or talking to someone. This quickly became very irritating. I had enough to deal with in planning a memorial service, dealing with the complexities of my mother's estate, and cleaning out the house my parents bought more than...

My Home - Past and Future - 5/20/08
Nine years to the day after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, my life is filled with stressors, but I am coping much better than in the past. I have to sell the home I live in and buy a new home. Difficult, exciting and stressful - but my new medication, Geodon, seems to be helping a LOT.

Mind and Body Overdrive - 6/20/08
The pressure put on me to get my mother's house, where I still live, ready for sale became greater and greater as the date of our garage sale, a photo shoot and the broker open house approached. Both my brothers and their wives came to help over a ten-day period, and there was a great deal of friction. I found my body and mind too restless to...

Living in Elation and Depression - June-August 2008
The effort of selling my mother's house after her death and looking for a new house caused mood switches between depression and elation. I was excited and happy, even euphoric, while house hunting, but deeply depressed the rest of the time. It was very confusing.

20 Down, 50 to Go - 8/7/08
I've lost 20 pounds in 11 months while taking Seroquel, one of the drugs that is notorious for causing weight gain. My experience proves that it is possible to lose weight and still take Seroquel or a similar pound-packing drug. My weight loss program is completely individual. I hope reading what is working for me will inspire others to find...

Flat Depressive Episode - 9/5/08
I'm in the worst depressive episode I've had since 1994. Then, all I could do was sit in a chair and worry. Now, all I do is sit on the couch and crochet. I've gone from hypomanic in June to depressed in August, and the best word to describe it is flat. Nothing is getting done, and this is going to cause real problems if I don't get out of this...

Frantic - October 2008
Situational depression is especially hard on people with bipolar disorder, and that's what I'm dealing with now. Good things are happening, but until the bad things are resolved, my good moods can only last a few hours. The experiences of selling a house and of buying a house were polar opposites. My life was 10% euphoria and 90% black depression.

The Stresses and Joys of Moving - October 2008 to April 2009
I had purchased my dream home. Now it remained to be seen whether the incredible stresses of moving would overwhelm the joy I felt about living in my new home and send me into bipolar mood swings. The final installment of my online Bipolar Journal.

Guide Marcia's New Home
Here are a few pictures showing some of the reasons why I love my new home.

I'm Bipolar - An Online Journal - Contents
A series of first-person articles beginning on the day the author was diagnosed as having Bipolar Disorder. Follow the trials, setbacks and triumphs as she goes through multiple medication and lifestyle changes.

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