53 Year Old Bipolar Woman Seeks To Regain Self Respect And Earn A Living
by Linda C.
(Lakewood, California, USA)
My grandchildren and me
I have been bipolar all my life. I refused to believe it because of the wording "manic depressive bipolar."
I did not think of it as being depressed when I was younger. I called it "crashing and burning."
I thought of myself as very hyper. I would take on any task and succeed, working literally 16 hours a day.
By the time I was 25 I was running companies as accountant, then assistant controller and controller by the age of 30.
I bought my own home and took care of my daughter completely on my own. as I was divorced. (I have been married three times and divorced.)
In retrospect... I of course would have days I could not get out of bed (crashing and burning), but I told myself I was exhausted from my "non stop" life, both work and social.
By the time I was 35 I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which no one had heard of almost 20 years ago.
My oldest daughter is now 33 with two children of her own. My grandchildren are my world. I was with my daughter for the birth of both my granddaughters who will be 13 in a couple of weeks and my grandson who will be 7 in September.
Our biggest disagreement, the grandchildren and I, is who loves who more!
My youngest, my stepdaughter from my third marriage is now 25.
They used to look at me like I was the most amazing person on earth. They knew I would always take care of them and anything that came our way.
Bless them. They try to understand but I have two illnesses, neither of which can be seen, so people forget.
I have lost friendships of 25 years because I was no longer the same take-charge, do-it-all woman.
I am in pain every moment of every day and I rapid cycle (now I know the terms) to the point of insanity.
My doctors have told me I seem to have a rare form of Manic Depressive Bipolar Disorder, as my rapid cycling is such they have not seen before.
I was told at 35 I could no longer work, but again back then no one knew of fibromyalgia (I had lived with the bipolar).
So I felt after a few years of physical therapy (I lost all use of my left side which is what led to my diagnosis of Fibromyalgia) and the aid of painkillers I could and had to continue working. I was only 35 after all.
But I digress. My oldest daughter has become frustrated with me and long gone are the looks of admiration. Now it is more avoidance.
It breaks my heart. But I can't even look at myself.
I can no longer keep a job. I start out strong but the pain comes much faster and stronger now.
I am 53 and at present being evicted from my current residence, which is renting a room from my first ex-husband. How did I get here?
I was diagnosed as manic-depressive bipolar by the time I was 15. Along with my family, I decided I was just "moody" and therefore never sought treatment.
I did however "self medicate" as a teenager I took what were called "downers" because I was always so "hyper," then "uppers" on those few days I could not get out of bed. I now know this as rapid cycling.
Bipolar does run very strongly in my family. For years I really thought of it as a "good" thing. I felt it was why I was so ambitious and motivated.
So how could it be bad? I see now how very destructive the rapid cycling was, is.
I grew bored of things and people, hence three marriages and divorces.
Where I had all the patience in the world for my girls, I had NO tolerance for "stupid" unmotivated people.
The bipolar started taking its toll in my early thirties. I have never slept well. I just thought it was me and I did not need it.
But the "sometimes" going days without sleep became my reality and I "sometimes" slept for a day or two a month.
Then one morning I woke up and could not lift my head, left arm or leg and I thought I would die from the pain, and many times since have wanted to.
I was fortunate to have a doctor who recognized this as Fibromyalgia right away. My doctor however was not fortunate in having a patient who refused to believe this agonizing pain could not be "fixed."
I wanted something solid -- a slipped disc, scoliosis, anything but another invisible illness.
He informed me that the bipolar and fibromyalgia together would feed off each other making my pain and "mood swings" that much worse.
He was not exaggerating. It has been downhill since.
I have been denied SSI disability several times, even when the State ordered doctors have strongly agreed I cannot work.
That is the problem with an "invisible" illness. Nothing shows up on any x-ray.
I rarely sleep. The pain is unbearable and yet I will put on a brave face and act when I see my grandchildren.
I probably have been my own worst enemy by hiding all of this as much as possible over the years.
No wonder my daughters have a hard time understanding how their mom went from wonder woman to homeless.
I lost my home in 1998, a few years after the fibromyalgia was diagnosed and I could not work for about a year.
My father had retired and moved from the east coast to California to live with me, as we had always planned, just 5 months before I lost my home and livelihood.
I still carry guilt that I failed him too. I worked when I could. I tried to hang onto a few business associates as clients, doing the bookkeeping and taxes.
I was taking Prozac and alternating between Xanax and Valium for the bipolar. I alternated between Codeine, vicodine, flexeril and soma for the fibromyalgia.
Before I knew it I was down to a size one (The only UP side) and living on handfuls of pills each day.
This eventually took its toll and my concentration, memory and overall life became a big haze.
Clients I had worked with for years started giving me less and less work until they had no choice but to find another accountant, as I could not be depended on to be in any given place at any given time.
I was living day to day, depending on my pain level and if I had slept.
After the work ran out so did my medical and now I was working as a bartender, anything I could find to keep going.
After losing my home I went from friend to friend for a place to stay. I was still deluding myself that I would be "me" again. I just needed to keep going.
It became difficult to appeal SSI as I was never in one place very long, and after a few years in and out of court I could not take it anymore.
I became involved with a man I spent the next eight years with because I had nowhere else to go.
It was a mentally abusive relationship and I finally left. Again I went to friends and my daughter until I finally found a great job as accountant with a mortgage company.
I rented a studio apartment and started over from scratch at 50, and was happy for the first time in years.
But this time it took only 4 months before I started missing work because I wasn't sleeping. My pain was flaring up because I was working.
Then my mother passed away and my youngest was diagnosed with cancer.
The company "laid" me off while I was in Florida attending services for my mother.
My world was again falling apart. But I tried to look at it as being able to be home with my stepdaughter when she had chemo and take some of the burden off her natural mother (now very much part of our lives).
I was able to keep my apartment for another six months and was packed and moving out when I was offered a job with a debt consolidation company as accountant.
I unpacked, only to pack again after being fired 5 months later. Once again I had started missing work due to pain and exhaustion.
My oldest daughter started passing out and couldn't sleep. So again I kept busy taking her to doctors and watching my grandchildren.
It was thought to be heart problems, as she has always had a murmur. After several doctors, tests and medications, we still do not know exactly what caused those blackouts and sleepless nights.
She is doing much better and it was almost said as a joke that maybe I could rent a room from her dad. I had to force him to remain in my daughter's life.
He did not pay child support (which is a story for another day) so I thought why not ask to stay for a few months during which time I would apply and fight SSI disability.
Things very quickly became very ugly and he has given me a 3-day notice and wants to sue me for $600 a month times four as well as court costs. California law states he can sue me for three times the amount he "states" I owe him! It just does not get any better.
I am most definitely looking for an SSI Lawyer or help in that arena as well as medical to continue my medication.
I now also have high blood pressure.
While I am always physically in pain, my mind needs to be busy or I will just "shut down."
It is harder and harder to find a reason to go on.
I would very much like to apply for a grant to get into counseling for troubled teens, or people who have lost themselves such as I so easily could if I were not so stubborn and still want to believe that there is a reason I have gone through all this.
If I could just get the support and understanding and someone to help me for a change, I would be happy.
I can still be productive and help others as well as regain my self-worth. I hope I have expressed myself the way I want and need to be heard.
But into only the first paragraph, my pain has been so bad, it is by sheer will of having found this wonderful forum that I continued to type.
Thank you for your time.
I have many ideas regarding opening a home for troubled youth; however, as I stated I can barely bend my fingers and continue to type at this point.