Diagnosis: Bipolar I

I had been to a therapist my senior year in high school, because I had been depressed. I only remember going once, though I could have had a few visits. I didn't really understand therapy at the time, and I don't really think it helped, but my depression eventually subsided. I had a good summer after graduating from high school, working, spending time with friends, and spending a lot of time at the pool.

By the time I was ready to start college, I was relaxed, ready, and very excited. I lived in a beautiful Gothic limestone dorm, and was surrounded by creative and intelligent people. I enjoyed meeting people, and eagerly attended my classes. I also played soccer with the women's soccer team and spent a lot of time practicing and traveling to games.

During the winter, I slowed down and felt disconnected and disoriented at times, but I didn't really have a full-blown depression. I kept going, and by February it had subsided. My mood gradually escalated and I began sleeping only about 3 or 4 hours a night and I felt really restless. I had experienced this kind of shift while living at home, and had also stayed up late at night, but I would stay up late reading alone in my room. In college, I was free to leave my room whenever I wanted, so I started going out at night and staying out until the early morning with friends from my dorm, going to parties and hanging out in 24 hour diners, but I was still waking up at 6:00 in the morning, going to classes, and going to soccer practice.

I felt like I was exhausting myself, but I also felt like I couldn't slow down. I went to the student health center and asked to speak with someone about my overabundance of energy, and I ended up speaking to a therapist who advised me to meditate and eat yogurt, because, as she explained, yogurt was a calming food. I tried those things, and they didn't work, but I didn't go back to the health center, because I felt that I really hadn't been taken seriously. So, I just kept going. 

That summer, I decided to live in my college town and work and take classes. Around July, I became extremely depressed. In fact, I started to feel like a ghost and I wasn't sure if I were dead or alive. I quit talking to people, so they quit talking to me. I remember sitting in a class one day and feeling invisible. No one looked at me or spoke to me, and when I walked back to my apartment, I also felt as if I weren't really alive. I spoke to my roommates, but not much. Everyone seemed preoccupied and busy, and our unairconditioned apartment was unbearably hot.

I started keeping a serrated knife on the table next to my bed, and at night, I would try to cut my wrists, but I could never bring myself to press down hard enough to draw blood. I did this for several weeks until I decided to buy some sleeping pills and chase them down with vodka, as a less painful way of ending my life. I went to different stores buying sleeping pills until I had what seemed like enough to kill myself. I really had no idea. This was before the era of the world wide web, and it was harder to find this kind of information.

One night, I took the pills and the vodka and fell asleep. Instead of dying, I woke up and started hallucinating. I had an out of body experience. I rose out of my body and looked down at myself and saw a disgusting cockroach lying in bed, dying from poison. I knew that I must get up. I stumbled into my roommate's bedroom and woke her up in the very early morning. I told her what I had done. She told me to eat bread to soak up the poison and then she called the ambulance.

When the paramedics came, they took my pulse and it was around 40. They asked me if I worked out a lot and I said I did. I guess then they worried less about my low pulse. They asked me why I had done this, and I said, "Because I want to die." They took me to the hospital where nurses worked a tube down my throat and into my stomach which they filled with  activated carbon to absorb the poison. Then they told me I had to stay in the psychiatric unit of the hospital because I had attempted suicide.

I stayed in bed for a couple of days, recovering from my suicide attempt and the activated carbon antidote. A psychiatrist came to talk to me and determined that I was depressed and then he prescribed Prozac. Within a few days, I became hypomanic. I was out of my bed and all over the unit. I was talking to the other patients, pacing the halls, playing ping pong, and doing whatever I could do in the hospital, which wasn't much. But the switch in my mood and activity level was extreme enough that my psychiatrist took me off of Prozac, which should not be prescribed to people with a history of mania, and started me on lithium, and after talking to him and telling him more about my life, I was diagnosed with Bipolar I, which I didn't really understand at the time, but I now have no doubt is the correct diagnosis. If you are unfamiliar with Bipolar I, here is an article from Web MD that explains its symptoms and treatments:  Bipolar I Disorder .


  1. Vicky Summers10/19/2011

    Andrea I enjoyed your blog and reading about your experiences with bipolar, Vicky

  2. Thanks. I enjoyed reading your too.