A Rainbow of Pills: A Personal Perspective


A patient, who prefers to remain anonymous, is a mental health professional and shares her experiences with Bipolar Disorder – extreme mood swings or states of emotional highs/mania and lows/depression (Mayo Clinic, 2015). To begin with, the patient’s medication is almost the center of her life. The vibrant hues of pills which she arranges by color every night before she takes them, is a constant reminder of her mental illness. Her nightly ritual, as well as her morning dosage, brings to reality her dependence on her “meds.”  This is her story:

She believes her illness began around her junior year although she was not diagnosed until she was 18. After her parents and sister left for the movies Saturday afternoons, she would distract herself by drinking alcohol. She used alcohol as a relief from her fears and from her inability to communicate. She could not tell anyone that she felt tortured by her mind. Her family, friends and teachers, all saw her behavior, but did not intervene.       

In college, she felt herself slipping and the feelings she had in high school grew stronger. It was her roommate that suggested she visit the Brown University’s mental hygiene clinic. Her therapist “was a nightmare” (Licinio, 2005) due to the therapist’s inexperience. She began to question “How could this happen to ME?” (Licinio, 2005). Her emotional pain was far greater than any physical pain.

When she went back home during the spring, she did not return to Brown. She found an empathetic doctor and later learned that the medication she was given, Prozac, induced her mixed states. This reflects the misdiagnosis that many Bipolar patients face (Singh & Rajput, 2006). She also learned that her illness is genealogical; her cousin had the same diagnosis and her father had treatment for depression. During her stay, her hospital experience at UCLA was surprisingly positive.

She shares and highlights something that many mental illness patients might encounter: disbelief. Her mother felt guilty after not being open to the idea of mental illness and for providing her with the genes that she was born with (although the inheritance came from her father’s side of the family). Her mother’s initial reaction during her enrollment at Brown was disbelief, however, after her return home her mother’s disbelief and anger turned into acceptance and never ending support. The pink rose that her mother brought to her one hospital stay will forever be in her memory.    

Two years after leaving Brown, she became stabilized on Clozaril, “the medication of last resort,” (Licinio, 2005) and enrolled at Pitzer College as a psychology major. She graduated with a PhD in Clinical Psychology in Los Angeles and believes that her experiences with mental illness allows her to better empathize with her patients.

She reflects on her fortunate support group that surrounds her – her parents, sister, husband and many others she encounters during her journey. She sees her “illness as a watercolor painting” (Licinio, 2005) having the vibrant colors of her medications express her state of being alive and her strength. Although she knows that she will have more episodes in the future, she sees light and hope radiating within.

References:

Licinio, J. (2005). The experience of bipolar disorder: a personal perspective on the impact of mood disorder symptoms.Molecular Psychiatry, 10(9), 827-830. http://www.nature.com/mp/journal/v10/n9/full/4001717a.html

Mayo Clinic. (2015). Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved February 28, 2016. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bipolar-disorder/basics/definition/con-20027544

Singh, T., & Rajput, M. (2006). Misdiagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 3(10), 57–63. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2945875/

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