My Story

As a freshman at UCLA, I fell into a deep depression, believing that my parents, my sister, the whole world would be better off without me alive. I saw a UCLA psychologist whose cognitive therapy helped me with my suicidal thoughts. Still, my underlying mental illness remained, and I ended up quitting UCLA. Eventually I transferred to UC Berkeley. During my junior year at Berkeley, my mother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and my maternal grandfather died. I was devastated.

The death of my grandfather hit me particularly hard. On my way home from his funeral while driving over the Bay Bridge, I fell into a trance state and had an out-of-body experience, which in retrospect I understand as the beginning of a manic episode. Given my history of depression, I knew if I went to a mental health professional and described my experiences, which I considered mystic, they would diagnose me with a mental illness. But I found them spiritually meaningful and did not want the meaning dismissed. I interpreted them as God calling me to the ordained ministry.

Years later, at the age of thirty I had a complete psychiatric breakdown. I was literally unable to get up out of bed and had to stop working. I turned for the first time to my medical doctor for medication, up until then I had managed my depression with psychotherapy. First my internist prescribed Prozac which overstimulated me and made me want to jump out of my skin. Then my doctor added Trazodone to take the edge off the Prozac side effects. I sought a second opinion from a psychiatrist who put me on a tricyclic antidepressant which led to manic ramping and rapid cycling. I ended up spending a week awake, thinking simultaneously at rapid speed in binary (in zeroes and ones), about chaos theory (which I had never studied), and about Christian mystics, with whom I still strongly identify. At the time, I wished that there had been a way to record my thoughts so that later I (and a computer) could decipher them and see if any made sense. The content involved topics with which I had some basic knowledge and interest, but the experience was that of channeling information beyond my comprehension.

That week of mania was my first and only full-blown psychotic episode. I wasn’t sure whether I was bipolar, for the episode was likely precipitated by the tricyclic. I was not put on a mood stabilizer. My psychiatrist prescribed a three-day regime of antipsychotics which stopped the racing thoughts in their tracks and allowed me to sleep. At that point, I simply couldn’t function on my own. I would fall asleep driving to my temporary job. When at the job, I couldn’t even read. The words were all jumbled. I appeared competent. No one could see that I, a highly educated and articulate former professional woman, COULD NOT EVEN READ A SENTENCE.

So I returned to my parents’ home. They were tremendously supportive and encouraged my recovery by giving me work to do and charging me room and board. Once I was up for it, I got outside employment, starting as a temporary file clerk. I continued my pattern of overdoing it, working long hours and neglecting myself, leading to repeated burn out and cyclical depression. As a result, my résumé which you can find on LinkedIn lists numerous short stints at various jobs and in multiple career areas.

Soon after moving back in with my parents, I met my future husband, a civil engineer who didn’t own a car, just three motorcycles and a small plane. Not your average engineer. Interesting. Complex. He even spoke Mandarin. Three years after we met, we married and later had a son. Since both my son and husband are very private, I hesitate to write much of my life as wife and mother. I can say, though, that I found being home with an infant difficult. At the same time, I found being at work, away from my son, heart-breaking. After childbirth and a pregnancy that kept me bedridden for five weeks, I returned to the workplace on a part-time basis. My job, as always, grew, consuming more and more of me, while my son needed me home with him. When I worked first two then three days a week, my sister and my husband would care for my son. By the time that my responsibilities demanded that I work four days a week until 7pm, I put my son in a loving home-based childcare setting. Every time I would leave my son at childcare, he would cry for a good one and a half hours. I visited him during my lunch hour, which meant that he we would cry again after lunch. It broke my heart. Finally I decided to quit work and stay home with him full-time.

Finally, at the age of thirty-nine, I realized that once again I was experiencing the symptoms of mania. I sought psychiatric treatment and medication for bipolar disorder, put my son in daycare where I thought he would receive better care than at home with me, and I returned to work part-time. Working part-time while struggling with cycling moods didn’t last long. Eventually I had myself voluntarily hospitalized, spent two weeks in the hospital and months in partial hospitalization. Since then, I’ve been home full-time on disability. I look much like the other mothers in the neighborhood, but life remains a precarious balancing act. I can get easily overwhelmed. My moods shift given change in weather, season, and life events.

Now in my fifties, I write. I communicate with mental health advocates, bloggers, poets, and writers. I have overcome my self-imposed isolation. I reclaim my life. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a mental health advocate, a writer, a blogger. I live with bipolar disorder. I do my best. Who knows what the future has in store for me?

162 thoughts on “My Story

  1. lisa July 14, 2018 / 11:28 am

    All of these symptoms are DEFINATELY Lyme disease….. I study this subject daily….the only way to get properly diagnosed is through a naturpath doctor that knows about Lyme. Trust me…..all of this is Lyme. I will save you lots of time and money.

    Like

    • Kitt O'Malley July 14, 2018 / 3:56 pm

      I do not have Lyme. Family history of mental illness and alcoholism.

      Like

      • Anonymous July 15, 2018 / 5:33 am

        I was in denial too…Its all Lyme disease. Have to go to naturpath that knows about this to get properly diagnosed. It can be passed down through the pregnancy and breast feeding as well so that could explain family history. Just trying to help those who are receptive.

        Like

        • Kitt O'Malley July 15, 2018 / 5:20 pm

          I receive excellent medical care and am stable on the medications I now take. It does not help people when you diagnose them online. Please don’t do so.

          Like

          • lisa July 16, 2018 / 5:59 am

            Im glad you are doing well keep up your medications. I was only saying that i have been reading a lot about that lately and that was some symptoms, thats all. I certainly wasnt ‘diagnosing’ by any means that’s for sure. It was an opinion. I was just sharing MY experience with a lot of material I have read. I meant well. Sorry it got misunderstood or I typed it to lead that way. I didnt know how much space in this box I had to type so I thought I needed to type it short. My apologies. Take care.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Kitt O'Malley July 16, 2018 / 7:19 pm

            No problem. I understand that you’re sharing your own experience. Unfortunately, many of us living with mental illness are told that e don’t have mental illness. It’s frustrating

            Like

      • lisa July 15, 2018 / 5:34 am

        Kitt, if you would email me your email address i can send you some info…..

        Like

  2. Berni August 8, 2016 / 5:08 am

    My problem is anxiety and insomnia and most shrinks prescribe anti-deppressants, which make me bipolar. It’s terribly painful for me, too.

    People think I’m intentionally giving them hell. People tend to misunderstand bipolars.

    I hope more shrinks will learn correct diagnoses, correct drug and correct dose.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kitt O'Malley August 8, 2016 / 8:32 am

      You must communicate clearly with your psychiatrist, letting them know how antidepressants trigger bipolar manic it hypomanic symptoms and that you may need mood stabilizer or antipsychotic for those symptoms.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Berni August 8, 2016 / 8:49 am

        “you may need mood stabilizer or
        antipsychotic for those symptoms”.

        Ah! Now I understand why some 4 shrinks prescribed antipsychotics despite my strong objections!

        You’re such a good, honest advisor! That’s why I believe in women: they have no evil in them.

        My evil male psychiatrists just won’t listen to my objections so I started giving hell to the 4th evil and he agreed to put me on an anti-convulsive for some time but I ran away with that prescription and never returned.

        That was in Sep 2009 and since then, I’m using that anti-convulsant & feeling perfect.

        Anti-psychotics used to make me psychotic, hearing voices, suspecting people, or feeling neausiatic and a little bit idiot.

        Evil shrinks. Cursed above all the beasts and animals!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kitt O'Malley August 10, 2016 / 8:03 am

          Psychiatrists are not evil. Medical science currently requires trial and error to find the right medication combination for each individual. Science progresses, though, so someday we will have a more exact method of treating all illnesses including mental illnesses.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Berni August 7, 2016 / 1:49 pm

    You are doing good by blogging. It’s therapeutic.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Berni August 7, 2016 / 1:46 pm

    You’ve got a scary story that made me feel good about my less-scary story. I believe in the superiority of women.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kitt O'Malley August 7, 2016 / 10:01 pm

      I’m glad that my story brought you comfort. Nice to know that you are not alone in your fear, in your pain or in your sorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sue Suddenly March 15, 2016 / 2:32 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I have been through so much in my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Now in my 50’s I am looking at a more mellow life. I have three kids, and with each one I got post partuim depression. I think my hardest challenge is caring for my son who has depression. He is 19. I might share more privately, I currently work two jobs and am close to burn out. I worked as a missionary over seas in my mid 20’s. I had many religious experiences and I used to get so excited after going to church that I could hardly sleep.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Kitt O'Malley March 16, 2016 / 8:51 am

      I know the challenge of caring for a son struggling with a neuro-atypical brain. My son struggles with migraines, depression and anxiety. I can relate to how church overstimulates you. You may very well be struggling with some hypomania that is triggered when you go to church. I believe that God is with us in both sickness and in health. Take care of yourself, for both your sake and your son’s.

      Like

  6. kevincameronartist February 26, 2016 / 5:15 am

    Hi Kitt. You have an amazing story! Wow. I have struggled with social anxiety disorder my whole life and never discovered what it was until later in life. I thought it was just the way things were. Thank you for sharing your story and I will continue reading your blog.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Kitt O'Malley February 27, 2016 / 7:04 pm

      Both my mother and my son struggle with it. It’s tough, without doubt.

      Like

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