Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Part 3-Diagnosis

Part 3
It was soon after I graduated from college, we had our second anniversary and moved for the 6th time since our marriage. It was the peak of the worst. I knew something had to change and since I didn't know what else to do, I went to our sweet, Christian marriage counselor (who we had starting going to a few months before). Previously, in all our meetings we had focused on past family experiences, and little normal marital tiffs. This time I went to her by myself and just started with.
"Something is the matter with me and I have no idea what it is. I cannot control myself and I am hurting my husband and I don't know how to stop. I need help."

It was shocking. I had never admitted the evil that had been going on in myself and in our marriage .

I told her exactly how I was acting and feeling. No warming up to it, sugar coating it. Raw. Ugly. Awful...laid out for her in a matter of minutes.
After I spoke, I expected her to say something like, "Well you need to pray more, or No Helen Joy, you are a happy person. I know it's just a sin problem."

Instead, she took out a text book and read to me the symptoms of bi polar disorder. I got chills as she repeated back to me the exact things I had just told her.
A weight started lifting off my shoulders as I realized that maybe there was something that could help me get control.
Within the week, I was referred to a psychologist who diagnosed me right away with bipolar disorder.
I had to take a quiz. If you had 7 of the 13 symptoms, you were bipolar. I had 12 of the 13...the only thing I didn't have was inability to sleep. Just reading through the quiz I was shocked at the random things it asked that were so prevalent in my life...my whole life. Things I never though were connected.
The psychiatrist talked to me about our plan as far as medication. I told her I wanted to be on the least amount of medicine and also that I wanted to be able to start a family in the near future. She looked at me over her glasses when I said that. And then jotted stuff down.
I immediately started taking Lamictal. I was worried about so much:
Would I completely loose myself?
Would the fun, energetic, artistic me be gone forever?
Would I be a robot?
Would I react bad to the medicine and go even more crazy?
Almost everything I read about bipolar disorder had so much drama about medicine and how it changed people...
It was scary. But not nearly as scary as just letting things go on as they were.
I started on the lowest lowest dose of lamictal. The trial start packet. I went up a little every week for three weeks and then I was on the lowest dose you could continually take.
My life changed.
Within the 1st week, I felt like a new person. Little things that had previously sent me into a raging, self mutilating rage went by almost unnoticed. And the kicker...I didn't even feel like I had to try to control myself. It came as second nature.
I felt present. My heart didn't beat fast, the adrenaline didn't send me up over my body. I was able to calmly think and react. It was a miracle!
To go from thinking I might kill myself, to having a nice normal life...in a weeks time is mind blowing.
Our "problems" were shown at how minimal they really were.
I was so thrilled that I wanted to share the good news with anyone who would listen.
Unfortunately, people didn't take it well.
Almost everyone I told, who knew me just could not believe what was coming out of my mouth. Even my closest friend in all the world had no clue about the struggle I had with myself. Response after response was,
"I don't believe you. You're so joyful. I just can't believe you were like that."
I felt so sad that no one truly knew me. And because no one but Noah knew me, I felt like most people didn't think it was that big of a deal. They trivialized it and made me question myself a lot.
Then there were people close to me who basically chastised me for believing that I needed medication. They said it was an excuse for my behavior. They said that that sort of stuff was just bull.
I remember telling one friend about it and before I could even get through a sentence, he said, "That stuff is such lies. There's nothing wrong with you." Just like that. He had decided he knew me well enough to decide that it was all a lie. This made me question my decisions to accept my diagnosis so easily and to start on medication. Despite the good results I was having.

I started talking myself out of it. I was on the lowest dosage. What if it had quickly corrected the imbalance in my head and I would be OK from now on? What if everything was in my head? What if I wasn't that bad to begin with? It's so easy to forget how bad things were. It was as if it was another life time ago.
But everything I read warned about how Bi polar patients always try to convince themselves to get off medicine and then...things get worse and worse.
So I stayed on it, enjoyed life, enjoyed my marriage, and started the healing process of forgiving myself.
For the first time, I was looking forward to life and not viewing every day as a struggle to get through.
What a blessing it was!


  1. This is truly an AMAZING story...I know God allowed you (and Noah) to go through this for a reason, perhaps so you can minister to someone who is going through the same thing some time in the future. I'm so grateful for God's provision of modern medicine which can help situations like this! Thank you so much for sharing...more people ought to bare their souls- it makes us vulnerable, but it also makes us closer to each other. Love you!

  2. Wow, Helen Joy, it's incredible that God placed in the right time and moment with someone that could help you and not judge you. I'm so glad that God was able to give you a solution that worked well for you and was able to give you a hope. I can really see His hand at work in this.

    Thanks for sharing!


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