Anxiety came on late in life for me. A lot of people with Bipolar experience anxiety and depression before the onset of bipolar symptoms.
I suffered from depression, rage, and guilt most of my childhood, and I was probably suffering from bipolar symptoms for a couple years before I was diagnosed at 17. Outside of racing thoughts and sleepless nights I was barely manic back then. But depression always hit me hard. Moodiness was always a problem. Anger and rage were huge issues of mine that I received counseling for as a child.
But I never really experienced any kind of anxiety until I was 28, and prepping for my wedding.
I’ve told the story in this space before about my first panic attack and how I came to find out I had anxiety, so I won’t do that again. But I will tell you that it was my anxiety that sent me back to therapy after 6 years away, and back to a psychiatrist after 9 years away.
I could handle the depression, the mood swings, the agitation, the racing thoughts. I had been doing it for years, although it was all about to become much worse than it had been in years. What I couldn’t handle any longer were the panic attacks, the sleep paralysis, the restless legs. I felt like I was going crazy.
So I go back to a shrink and he immediately gives me a diagnosis of anxiety disorder, and starts me on klonopin. He also puts me on a sleeping pill to help with the sleep paralysis and hopes the restless leg syndrome will go away on its own.
Not a month later I had requested a medical leave from work. Not a week later I had a suicide attempt that ended with my father, wife and I in the emergency room. I was placed in a daycare program since it was ruled my anxiety might become unmanageable in an inpatient environment, but I had to be under 24 hour surveillance by my family. It was there that I was given my first Bipolar Type I diagnosis, something my shrink then was working towards but wouldn’t commit to, but my shrink now calls a “slam dunk diagnosis”. When I was a teen I was diagnosed Type II.
That lasted a little beyond a month before I was placed back in the care of my regular shrink who kept me out of work for the next 8 months, mostly due to my anxiety problems. I was getting anxiety doing or even just thinking about doing anything; everything from being at work, or in a large social setting, to cutting the grass and making the bed. This led him to increase my klonopin, as well as try other meds but we came back to klonopin, to where I was taking a new one every couple of hours every day.
At a certain point in late August with little improvement since March I decided to stop all of my medications and to stop seeing my doctor. This was a hellish couple of nights as everything I was on was habit forming. Cold sweats, shakes, vomiting, the works.
And as soon as I came off of my meds I felt a ton better, and my family noticed and told me I was doing much better. It didn’t last. I started doing poorly again by the end of September but now I refused to go back on medication. I white knuckled it through the rest of the year and once my baby came at the end of December I decided to go back to a doctor.
Now my meds work alright for me. I take my klonopin only as needed, which isn’t even daily anymore. The rest of my meds keep me from getting too far on one side or the other. They don’t stop the mania or depression, but the substantially lessen them.
I hated begin on medication my whole life, but now I take them for my daughter. I want to be a normal parent with normal behavior for her. And while I will never again be free of anxiety, I can attempt to control it, with my mood. But I know I need my medication for that.