Hi! I recently found your forum and have been lurking for a few days now. Thought I'd come out of the woodwork and introduce myself...
I was diagnosed with BPII (rapid cycler) when I was 24. The 2 1/2 years after the BP dx were hell, but I had an amazing psychiatrist who finally found the right cocktail (Wellbutrin, Depakote and Clonazapam to help me sleep). My pdoc also subtley put me through cognitive behavioural therapy (I was very resistant to it), until I just automatically began to use the coping skills he was teaching me. It wasn't until a few years later that I realized that I had been snookered and had been undergoing c-b therapy all the while, but by that time, the therapy, the cocktail and talk therapy had stabilized me to such a degree that I was considered "in remission." I went to graduate school, I met my fiance, I stopped abusing drugs and alcohol, and I discovered horseback riding as amazing additional therapy. And, I began to file my manic depression away as something that I had once been through, but not something that was a part of my life now. Sure, I had a number of depressive flair-ups, but none were truly disabling and they passed quickly. (Looking back now, I realize that I also had manic flair-ups, which were actually terribly destructive, but didn't know it at the time. Just figured they were "character flaws" that I'd better deal with. Denial--marvelous, isn't it?)
Well, my seemingly happy ending came crashing down around me around a month and a half ago. I finally figured out that I had gained so much weight because of the Depakote and I wanted off the drug. Yes, I know--don't mess with a good cocktail, but I had grown to hate my body--I didn't recognize it anymore, I couldn't dress it, even Large sizes didn't fit (I had always been very thin), no amount of exercise was helping and I felt horribly unattractive. And to me, who had banished my dx to my distant past, changing meds didn't seem that big a deal; since I was fine, I didn't actually believe the drugs really *did* anything, so I truly didn't believe that going off the Epival would cause any problems.
Man, was I wrong. Almost immediately I crashed into a bad depression. But it didn't last long and I soon began the new drug--Topamax. Turns out it had no effect and I began to cycle, sometimes in the course of a few hours. Then came the mixed episodes. This is actually how we found your forum; my fiance and I wanted to know more about this Topamax and were astonished by what we found out (Stupamax!?!). That and the glaucoma-causing headaches (I thought they were just allergies...) got me off the drug real fast. The doc switched me over to Lamictal, which I started 2 days ago. So far, my mood seems to have leveled out, although I still feel the hypomania lurking around. I know that the obvious answer would have been to go back on the Epival, but I want to give this drug a chance before condemning myself to a life of obesity.
I'm sorry--this is turning into a novel, but I don't have anyone to talk to who has been through this. I find it so terribly strange (and sad, and horrifying) that I'm back here again after five or six years of remission. I feel stupid that I thought it was over, but I really wanted it to be over! I'm cancelling things again because I'm too sick to make it, and I can't say why. I'm acting strange at my new job (I recently quit graduate school, but not for medical reasons), talking too fast and too much, random thoughts popping out of my mouth, having "energy like a teenager! Are you sure you're 33?", not understanding instructions. It's utterly embarrassing. And I feel like I'm failing everyone again; you can only say "no, I can't do it" or "I thought I could, but I can't" or "I really don't feel like going out/having people in" so many times. I can't focus on anything, which means I can't read, and reading has always been my saving grace when I've been sick. Everything upsets me and I flip into depression at the drop of a hat. I'm not hungry, so I don't feed myself properly, sabotaging my physical health. And I'm so tired from all the cycling (and the insomnia doesn't help either).
And I'm also so friggin' tired of telling those close to me that I'm going to be fine, it's just a meds problem, I'll be back to normal soon, please don't worry. Yes, it's the truth, but it sure doesn't feel that way.
And finally, this recurrence has raised so many questions about my future (which I will post in another thread), that I've become very scared. I don't really know how to live with this illness because I've been in some sort of stupid fantasy world for so long believing that it would never come back. I guess that's at the heart of this post--the main reason I'm writing this: I'm scared. I'm really, really scared. And I needed to tell someone instead of reassuring everyone all the time that I'm going to be fine.
Thanks for taking the time to read this through.