David: - Hi this is David Oliver from bipolarcentral.com, I have Brenda on the line with me.  Brenda is going to be talking about her experience with Bipolar Disorder and what she has done to be successful, what she is currently doing, what programs she is following and really all the tricks she is using to actually stay stable.  And she is going to have a pretty shocking interview because she is not actually taking traditional medications for Bipolar Disorder so we are going to be asking her some hard questions, she is going to have some very good answers and it is going to make a great interview.


David: - Brenda are you with us?


Brenda: - I am.


David: - Okay great.  Brenda if you could tell us, we like to hear from people how old they are, where they’re located in the country and that way people can get a feel for who they are and their age and everything.


Brenda: - Okay, uh, I am 47 years old, I live in West Jordan Utah, which is a suburb of Salt Lake not too far out of Salt Lake where it is freezing cold right now, um, I am married, I’ve been married for almost 28 years and have 6 kids, 5 boys and a girl. 


David: - Okay great, so what was your first experience with Bipolar Disorder?


Brenda: - The first episode or when I...


David: - I guess when did something happen that you relate back as being Bipolar Disorder?  You might not have been diagnosed.


Brenda: - When I was a teenager I was kind of sad all the time.  If I kept active, like in the summer time I was okay because I had a swimming pool, I rode my bike, went square dancing, did whatever and if I exercised I felt all right.  But in the wintertime when I couldn’t do anything then I found I got real moody and real depressed um, but we moved into this house where my bedroom had been the sewing room so the whole ceiling was lights and I spent the majority of my time in there and when I look back I realize that’s what helped me function through that time um, because I had all the lights there that worked out for me.  Then I moved to Utah in 1980 (I used to live in California) and um, I seemed to do okay for a little while but I can remember um, it probably wasn’t until I moved here about 2 or 3 months I got really really depressed and I attributed it to home sickness but that was probably the first real depressive episode I had was back then.


David: - Okay now what did you do and what did your parents do?


Brenda: - I moved here by myself, I was living with my grandma and they didn’t do anything, I just got through it.  After a couple of weeks it kind of lifted, I got a job, I got busy and as time went on, I seemed to do okay until I started having kids and then um, with each child I got more depressed.  I had Postpartum Depression and so with each one it got worse, and worse, and worse until the 90’s.  At first I was diagnosed with regular depression and they gave me anti-depressants and that just...


David: - For people who don’t know what is Postpartum Depression?


Brenda: - Well Postpartum Depression, after you have had a baby your whole hormones flatten and drop completely, they go away completely, and your body builds up hormones while you are pregnant and as soon as you have your baby it just completely depletes of those hormones and women, you get the baby blues and that is normal, you feel a little depressed, your body builds back up but with Postpartum Depression you don’t replenish and you get into a full blown depressive state that does not go away on its own and requires medication, you cant help it, you don’t want to be depressed, you’ve got this new baby, you are so excited and don’t understand why you are so sad or angry or you can’t function, you don’t understand that.  It is like having depression I guess but right after having a baby and it is even worse, like when I had my daughter, I had 3 boys and then a daughter and I was so excited to have her and when I went into the Postpartum Depression I thought for sure it wasn’t going to happen this time and then when it did I ended up having a full blown nervous breakdown and I ended up in the Psych Ward for a weekend.


David: - Okay how old were you?


Brenda: - That was 1990 so I was almost 30.  I was married at the time.


David: - What did your husband do?


Brenda: - He took care of the kids, at that time it was a really hard time in our marriage, it was just before I was diagnosed properly and I remember him saying one night “I don’t think I love you anymore”.  That was really hard because I couldn’t help what I was feeling, I didn’t know what was going on, I didn’t understand it and it kind of was, what do you want me to do?  And finally I went to a psychiatrist, I had been trying to get help and when you go to a doctor they don’t really know anything, you really have to go to someone who knows what they are doing when it comes to brain disorders and that is what it took for me.  To find a professional who knew what they were doing, to do the right tests to determine what the issue was.


David: - What did you think it was?  What did your husband think it was?


Brenda: - I don’t think he had any clue what it was.  I suspected it was Bipolar by that time.


David: - Why?


Brenda: - I did some research on it and when I looked at the different symptoms of it, like the mania and then the depressive I would be really energetic and no control over money, spending money I shouldn’t be spending and then I would feel better but then I would feel guilty for spending that money so I would drop down then up and down and up and down and figured that just wasn’t normal, there had to be something more to it than a depression where you just stay sad all the time and I wasn’t sad all the time.  There were times where I was absolutely giddy, even after I was diagnosed and during the time they were trying to regulate my medication I decided that I could roller blade.  Mind you I was 300lbs at the time and I was completely out of shape but I thought I’m on top of the world I want to roller-blade and have my kids with me, I was home schooling at the time and I stuck these roller-blades on and I ended up breaking my ankle and had to have surgery so good gosh what was I thinking but I wasn’t in my right mind.


David: - Right okay.  So you went to a psychiatrist...so you wanted to go to the psychiatrist?


Brenda: - Yeah I knew I needed help, I knew something was wrong I knew I needed help and medication I just didn’t know what I needed at the time and it took a long time to get regulated, probably 2 years to find the right medication and the right dosage, it takes along time.


David: - Okay so you found that, and what was going on with your husband?


Brenda: - He was really supportive by the time I got diagnosed.  He is still here, we have been married along time, he was very supportive, he took care of the kids, there was a time after I had the nervous breakdown that I ended up in the hospital, I couldn’t take care of myself, I honestly don’t remember a lot of that time.  When I got out of the hospital I went and lived with a cousin I am really close to and she took care of me, I honestly don’t know how long, several weeks I lived with her and here I had 6 babies at home.  She took care of me, I couldn’t take care of myself and my husband took care of the kids and I can’t imagine how hard that was for him to take over and not have me there.  Plus your mate, the person you are in love with to not be able to talk to them everyday and feel like just there is another person to take care of is very stressful I am sure for him.


David: - What do you think kept him there and he didn’t bail?


Brenda: - I don’t know.  He had to have been in love with me, crazy guy!!!  That is a really good question, I will have to ask him what kept him there, I don’t think I have ever asked him why he didn’t just bail, I wonder if the tables were turned, would I have stuck around and I think it would be very difficult and not fair to leave them for this reason or any other medical reason, but to at least try and do what you can to help them.  So I would hope I would do the same for him if it was the other way around.


David: - So you went to the psychiatrist, was that the first one?  Did you like that psychiatrist?


Brenda: - Yeah she was really good; I couldn’t afford to go to her all the time.  When you have got insurance and money issues I needed to get the diagnoses and once I got that I was able to go to someone a little less expensive that could just get me on the medication and regulate it.  Then she had also acted as a therapist so that was great, I loved her and went for years.


David: - And what were some of the things she taught you to do?


Brenda: - Um, the first thing is to always consult with her.  If I didn’t feel something was working right, if I could feel myself more depressed or more mania then I would need to check in with her so she could regulate and see what they needed to do to lower one medication or up another one to get it regulated and not try on my own was very important.  Coping skills and um, you know taught me to educate myself on brain disorders I took a 12 week course, I have 2 children you have schizoaffective disorder and when my older son was diagnosed I signed up for a free 12 weeks course at the local college and really educated myself on brain disorders and that was really informative and I think anyone who has any kind of medical issue, it's good to educate yourself and find out what you are dealing with and what you can do to deal with it.


David: - Right okay.  Now it took 2 years, what was going on in those 2 years and how were you doing?


Brenda: - There were ups and downs; it was hard.  There were some really tough times in there, there were days I just didn’t want to talk to anybody, I had 6 little kids who were 12 and under and I wasn’t keeping up with housework, I was working from home trying to contribute to the family finances and I can remember my brother and sister-in-law came and stayed with us for a little while and they left after a couple of days and then called to say they left because my health was too difficult so I was like okay come visit anytime!!!  You have kids and medical issues, that was really tough not to function the way I wanted to be functioning.  It was everyday wake up, get through the day, which is all you can do.  It wasn’t all bad, there were times the medication was kicking in and doing okay but it was a rough couple of years trying to get it regulated and I was like, I had to go to the hospital, I ended up with inflammation of the blood vessels in my legs, like an infection and I was in the hospital for 5 days and on the last day I had a major panic attack and I didn’t have my Bipolar meds with me because they don’t let you have anything with you in there and I couldn’t wait for them to get me released and they were taking their time and I just thought I was going to die before I could get home and take my meds so I could calm down.  I remember times like that when I was so grateful to have that medication where I knew it was going to help get me through and she gave me different things to try when you are having a panic attack so that was a new thing for me when panic attacks started, it was like “oh boy this is fun” because I hadn’t really had that before and I didn’t really know what it was.


David: - Right, wow, so it must have been real hard on your husband.


Brenda: - It had to have been, he is a real trooper, he has been through it all with me.  We got married in 1982, I got sick in mid to late 80s, I was diagnosed with arthritis in 1990 and Fibromyalgia, went downhill from there and so he has just been taking care of me for all that time, up until a year and half ago when I started getting healthy again.  He has just been taking care of me, I spent the better time if I wasn’t working I was in bed.


David: - Right, wow, amazing, yeah, amazing.  So what was the turning point with all this disarray with the bipolar, was it really, would you say, could you have lived never going to the psychiatrist, could you have continued on?


Brenda: - No, absolutely not.  The reason I ended up in the Psych Ward was because I overdosed on pain meds, I tried to kill myself.


David: - So was that on purpose?


Brenda: - Yeah.  That story.  I had horrendous headaches and I went to the neurologist who got me hooked on painkillers and at the time I told him I was getting more depressed and he said “try this one” and I had been on 5 different types of painkillers, one of which was Oxycontin and so I was in La La Land most of the time and it got to the point where I said “I don’t want to live like this anymore”.  The pain wouldn’t go away, he wasn’t trying to find out what was causing it; he was just trying to stick a band-aid on it.  He was basically just a glorified drug dealer.  I found myself just spending time finding out where he was and when I could get my next prescription, and finally one day I just went “enough I cant do this anymore” and I took all of what was left of the Oxycontin, it was about 5 20mg, which is for a drug addict probably nothing, I don’t know, but for somebody who isn’t used to a lot of pain medication it was enough to put me out for a while.  I had a really good friend who I think I called, and she could tell that something wasn’t right so came and checked on me and she took me to the emergency room.  They didn’t have to pump my stomach, I hadn’t taken enough for them to do that but it was a wake up call and they just took me right up to the Psych Ward and that was just the worst weekend of my life, like what am I doing?


David: - When did you go to the Psych Ward?


Brenda: - Just that one time.


David: - Okay so how many major bipolar episodes have you had?


Brenda: - You know, what do you consider a major bipolar episode?


To find out what else Brenda reveals, please check out Part Two of this amazing interview.