from DBSA December 2015 e-update
Life Unlimited Stories
by Jack Reeves
There is nothing quite like cooling your heals in the psychiatric wing of your local hospital to make you realize that something isn’t quite right. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a series of very poor life decisions and self-destructive behavior back in 2001 at the ripe old age of 23ish. Taking stock of my situation, I began to understand that things hadn’t been “quite right” for some time when I was able to connect the dots of aberrant behavior and wild mood swings back to my early teenage years. If I didn’t get help back then, I probably wouldn’t be here telling you my story today.
The years after my diagnosis weren’t much of an improvement. I gained over 100 pounds and could not hold a job for more than seven or eight months at a time and moved more times than I can remember. Overdrawn accounts, broken leases, and a couple stints being homeless also didn’t help much. To be honest, I also didn’t stick to any medication regimen for long either. I tried fish oils and other “remedies” but saw no improvement. It wasn’t until my first child was born in 2005 that I decided to stick with my prescribed medication treatment for the long haul. After a few months, I had finally found a modicum of stability. It was because of this newfound inner peace that I was able to handle the series of tests that came next.
The years that followed saw a steady stream of tragedies in my family. My wife was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 when we were expecting our second child. My wife survived treatment but we lost the child who was to be our second daughter. In 2009 my child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. In 2013 we had another daughter, but she was born with a congenital spinal defect that required a spinal fusion surgery on her first birthday. There was more, but I will stop there.
You see, while my family and I did experience one tragedy after another, it was religiously sticking with my treatment that made it far easier to bear. From every incident, I learned a new skill or life perspective. From my wife’s cancer, I learned to be proactive. The best way to deal with a problem is to face it head-on, resolve it, and file it away for future reference. From my daughter’s diabetes, I learned to take better care of my health to set an example for her. I ate right and became active, eventually losing over 130 pounds in two years.
Let me take a moment here to provide a bit of insight. While prescribed medication was helpful in a number of ways, it was very important to be mindful of how I felt and work with my doctor to make adjustments accordingly. While losing weight, the drug regimen I was on became toxic. I was scared to switch medications, but given my state at the time, I was open to anything. I’m glad I made that decision because the new regimen has brought me stability, clarity of thought, and razor sharp focus.
There’s much more to my story. I’ll probably write a book about it someday. It’ll have to wait, though, because with my new lease on life, I have been extremely busy in school. I finally graduated from college and am now completing a master’s program. Next year I plan on continuing my education in another graduate program to get my PhD in public health (you can guess what my inspiration was), and despite the health issues that plague my family, we are happy and looking forward to the future.
We all walk our own paths with our mood disorders. What I hope you take away from this is the knowledge that no matter how hard something is, you can always learn from it and apply that lesson to your life. Know your limits, know your strengths, and, most importantly, know thyself. It is through the hardships you face that you will grow and learn to overcome anything life throws at you. Bipolar disorder may seem like a life sentence, but you have the power to not let it be so.