This is my story about living with anxiety and bipolar disorder. I would encourage you, the reader to submit your own experience if you've ever been affected by this illness. I will add your testimony (with your permission) to mine and link it in a separate page so that you too could possibly help someone else as they cope with it. For privacy I will only include your first name. There will be link to submitted testimonies at the bottom of this page. To be honest, it felt great putting it down on paper. Let the recovery begin.
My real life struggle with Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder
Personally, I believe my disorders are genetic. My real father died at age 31 after combining alcohol with strong pain relievers. He passed away while talking to his sister on the telephone. Additionally, I lost my sister to an apparent suicide in 1996. Patty had been in a manic state for more than a year prior to that fateful day. Bipolar disorder used to be called Manic depression and I believe with recognition and treatment at the time that her life would have been spared. Read more about her in the "For Patty" link in this site.
My own tale begins April 22, 2000. That's right, I remember the exact date because it was that much of a significant event in my life.
I was on my way to the golf course. Bear in mind that I had retired from the Air Force in January 2000 so my life had changed dramatically recently. I had also recently been asked to resign from the Plant City Police Department where I had been hired as a 911 dispatcher. The police chief felt with my type A personality (putting it mildly) that it simply wasn't a good environment for me to be in. I begrudgingly went along with it. This was the first time I had ever been fired (which is how it felt) in my life.
Getting back to the episode, I was on my way to the Plant City Golf Club for a pickup round of golf. As I was driving I began feeling this odd tingling in my hands and feet. Suddenly my heart began racing and I began to hyperventilate. I pulled of the road with my elbows on the wheel because I could not feel my hands. I thought I was having a heart attack. Finally I flagged a homeowner in the area and had him call 911.
He called, they responded and told me that it was nothing, probably just had a Panic Attack. Irregardless, they transported me to the hospital and I was thoroughly checked over. They told me that there was nothing wrong with my heart, just probably had a Panic Attack.
Well, I'll tell you that it was frightening enough that I will never, ever forget the feeling, ever.
Over the course of the next couple months, I experienced several more while driving. I have learned that most people who experience a first panic attack always end up in the emergency room because it really feels as if your life is slipping away. It gets your attention, let me tell you.
I tried changing my diet but nothing seemed to help stop them from occurring. My doctor at the VA clinic ultimately prescribed PAXIL and I am taking this drug every day. The panic attacks are less intense nowadays and sometimes I go for over six months without one.
Just when I thought my life was getting back to normal, I experienced another episode but this one was different. I was sitting in my mobile home in November 2002. I awoke from a nap with what seemed to be a deja vu. I felt fantastic, the movie that was on my television was "Chariots of Fire". It all seemed so familiar to me. The movie is a Christian classic as one of the key actors sits out his Olympic final because it was to be held on the Sabbath.
Well, the day continued to be so uncannily familiar to me that it was getting uncomfortable. I felt as though the television was talking to me (not literally) and all the programs seemed like the perfect thing for me to be watching at the time. It went on like that for three days. It felt great and at the same time felt uncomfortable. On day four I actually saw my neighbor kill my sister (I was hallucinating) on the television. I went out of my home, went across the street to confront him. He wasn't home and in a rare fit of rage, I picked up a mailbox post and threw it through his window.
Those events led to an arrest (first one ever) for criminal mischief (less than $200) misdemeanor. Still, everything seemed so familiar to me at the time that I wasn't afraid and chatted up a storm to the police officers on the way to the Hillsborough County jail. Even the night I spent in jail seemed familiar and not uncomfortable at all.
I got out that following morning and offered to pay for the broken window as I felt sorry for what I had done. I could not explain to him the reason why because it seemed like nonsense to a rational mind.
The charges were later dropped and life returned to normal.
Great news came later that year as I was hired into the Civil Service as a GS-5 Administrative Technician. My job would be at Charleston AFB, South Carolina. I longed to get back into the Air Force, in any manner and this was perfect. I eagerly prepared for the 9 hour drive, said my goodbyes to friends and family and headed north.
The drive went excellent but a very strange thing happened when I arrived in North Charleston. As if on cue, North Charleston suffered a power blackout just as I neared my destination. Radio Delilah went off the air, my cell phone would not work and all the street lights went off. I knew that they wouldn't let me on the base because I hadn't registered my vehicle with them and all I had was my retiree ID card.
Unbelievably, I saw a light coming from a building less than 500 yards from the main gate. I drove over to the light and it was a church. Lovely Mountain Baptist Church to be exact. I went inside, fell in love with the congregation and it became my church home.
Things were going great. The job was in the Mental Health unit of the base hospital. I was to be the hub between clients and the doctors and technicians onboard. I was loving it.
Fast forward to December 2002. I woke up one morning and that deja vu feeling had returned. Same great feeling, same familiarity with everything around me. I drove to the base and stopped in at the golf course where the Marines were having a Toys for Tots charity golf tournament. I felt like I knew everyone there (I didn't) and I swear I saw someone wearing a Medal of Honor (our Nation's highest military decoration).
Later that day I was preparing for our unit's Christmas Party. I drove to the base again and looked at the flashing marquee as I entered base property. I swear it was welcoming Gus Grissom to Charleston. (Gus Grissom died in the 60's in an accidental fire at Cape Kennedy). I still know what I saw and it was a bit unnerving.
I drove back home and was distracted by several things and decided not to go to the Christmas party. I felt compelled to walk around the neighborhood and get some fresh air. I needed to call my boss and let him know I would not be attending the Christmas party and I bumped into a man in an apartment complex in my neighborhood. This wasn't an ordinary man, he looked like he came straight out of the Civil War. I swear he looked like an old southern rebel soldier, complete with the regalia. (This was another hallucination)
I asked if I could use his phone and he invited me in to use the phone. Guess what happened next?
Suddenly, in burst 2 Charleston police officers and they took me out of the apartment and placed me into their car. (I had walked in on a family who had their door opened - there wasn't a man at all) I wasn't afraid of anything at that point. They took me to the Trident hospital and ran blood work and a cat scan. I hadn't had anything to drink (alcohol) for nine months and have never been a drug abuser so the tests all came out negative and the cat scan showed no problems in the old noodle.
Next, I remember getting back into the police car and from then on things get fuzzy.
I woke up the next day (it was actually 2 days later) and I was in a hospital. I had actually been transported to Columbia South Carolina and admitted into a mental health facility. They diagnosed bipolar disorder and I spent a week there.
Imagine that? I'm working in the Charleston AFB mental health unit and now I'm spending a week in a mental health facility myself.
After the week of therapy and medication, my boss came and picked me up. Things were never the same back in the office and I voluntarily resigned my position. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do.
I returned to Plant City, checked in with the VA, and have been treated with the prescription drug Olanzapine ever since.
I have had no recurrences of the bipolar episodes. I have had infrequent feelings of fear related to the panic disorder but have found ways of coping with it.
I have found that caffeine sends me through the roof. Once, after taking Excedrin, I got that awful feeling. After checking the label I was shocked to read that Excedrin contained caffeine. I have stopped drinking soda, coffee and now only take regular aspirin should I need it.
I have learned a deep breathing technique when that anxious feeling comes around and it helps a lot. I breath in as much air as I can to fill my lungs, hold it, and let it out with pursed lips. It works!
Sometimes I recite the Lord's Prayer over and over and that calms me too.
I hope I haven't bored you too much with this and I hope by sharing my testimony I may touch your life. Those that knew me in a past life (the Air Force) would probably tell you that I had a drinking problem. Well, I did. You see, many of those with bipolar disorder self-medicate with alcohol. I used to drink so I would fall asleep as it seemed like I could never get my brain to shut down.
These days, I'm sober and glad of it. I feel like the Lord has blessed me and has something important for me to accomplish. I live every day to achieve his will, not mine.
I hope this website is a step in that direction. I think my recovery depends on my ability to share this and not hide it.
If you suffer from either anxiety (panic) disorder or bipolar disorder please email me
at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me what has worked for you when dealing with the unpleasantries associated with it. With your permission I will link it at the bottom of this page so that others may learn from your experiences.
I would like to help and please sign in to the prayer book and post a prayer request. I am reviewing it every night for inclusion into my own personal prayers.