My name is Steve. I am 40 years old, a son, a husband and a father. DBSA is an essential part of my personal health plan - enabling me to live a healthy, productive life with bipolar disorder. My grandfather, three uncles and my sister had or have bipolar disorder. Others in my family suffer from chronic depression. Many self medicate with alcohol. For years I kept the disorder and any conversations about it at arm’s length. I thought that if I indeed had “it”, I would simply “pull myself up by my bootstraps.” Now I can laugh at the sheer folly that I could diagnose and treat myself like a trained physician. But at the time, I firmly believed I could change my thoughts and actions by sheer willpower.
Throughout my high school and college years and later in my career my mood swings greatly affected my behavior. In my manic phases, I was very productive but much too aggressive toward my colleagues and felt that I was always right and greatly resented it when someone suggested I was not. I often changed jobs if I felt I was being treated “unfairly”. When depressed, life had no “color” and it was all I could do to get out of bed and go to work. I was even more sluggish at night, despite trying to smile and spend time with my family.
In 2004 my depression manifested itself as unprovoked anger and I began seeing a therapist. Suspecting bipolar disorder due to my family history, my therapist suggested I speak with a psychiatrist who then misdiagnosed me with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The prescribed medication then sent me into extreme mania - an episode like no other. After the correct diagnosis I spent two weeks in outpatient therapy at Intracare Hospital - learning about bipolar disorder, coping skills and how to change my life going forward. My counselors made me aware of DBSA and I began to attend weekly meetings at the hospital.
Fearing that I would be judged, it took a lot of courage to attend my first meeting. Of course, the opposite was true and I found people with whom I could share my experiences in a warm, loving environment - people who had walked a mile in my shoes. I was so relieved to find other people like me. I truly needed to learn about others success stories, to see that light at the end of the tunnel. I read all the suggested books and devoured the DBSA brochures. While it was initially disappointing to learn there is no “magic bullet” to cure bipolar, it was not hard to see that the people who improved the most came to group regularly, saw a therapist and a psychiatrist, and took their medications as prescribed.
As part of my treatment plan, my wife and I made a contract that I would take my medications religiously, see my therapist and psychiatrist, and attend DBSA meetings. With God, my wife, my parents, my in-laws and my friends I have a very fulfilling life and have not had a manic episode since 2004, although I have been depressed a few times. The difference now is I know how to cope and I have a team of people supporting me, especially those in my DBSA group.
Because of the impact DBSA has had on my life, I have become a volunteer facilitator. It is one of the most rewarding things I do as I look forward to helping others each week. One of the most inspiring things is to see family members and friends come to meetings to learn more about the disorders and to support their loved ones in their journey toward recovery.