Wow, the mood swings I had! I am not talking about one mood change per month, or even one per week. I am talking about actually timing them at one per half an hour! I knew something wasn’t right, because I was up and down all day long.
So back to the doctor I went. He gave me another antidepressant and told me to give it a couple of months. I trusted this doctor, so I did.
Of course, I eventually got fired. The human resources person said it was for “patient complaints”. However, the week before I had actually received the highest patient satisfaction scores out of all the hospital employees for the month. So….
I could no longer afford the medication, and was still having mood swings, so I stopped taking it when I ran out.
Problem was, my mood swings didn’t stop. I knew there was something wrong but as my stress level went down, I didn’t have so many, so I just figured stress was the key to handling my moods.
Eventually I got a job in Memphis, a job I absolutely loved, working for a place that had reasonable, professional people working there. I did well, had no problems with anyone, but my mood…
Too elevated. I felt good though, so what? Maybe I was just happy, for once. I was doing well, career-wise, and loved going to work every day. I had a lot of friends at that hospital.
The only down side was, since I was contract PRN (prn means, “as needed”), I didn’t have health insurance. And, unbeknownst to me, had a 9 mm kidney stone that was becoming symptomatic as severe back pain – I thought I just threw my back out or something.
I mention that because it was one of the (weak) reasons I gave for moving to PA – I needed medical care and at that time Tennessee didn’t provide it for working people without small children – this was before the ACA.
But there were clues. People were telling me to slow down when I spoke, or telling me they couldn’t follow my train of thought (pressured speech, flight of ideas). I wasn’t sleeping much.
And, though I loved my job, I quit so I could move to PA. For the guy who eventually beat me up. Incredibly bad judgment on my part. But of course I wouldn’t listen, because I thought it was such a romantic thing to do, to move to be with this guy. Some others did too. The ones who didn’t, well…I just didn’t listen to them.
That’s another symptom of mania – bad judgment, or doing things that are risky. Ummm yeah. And I continued to swing from really down, to really up, and as the relationship became more abusive, I couldn’t concentrate on my job.
My new employer, who was the director of an Altoona substance abuse outpatient treatment facility (which will remain nameless for now), was not sympathetic. She told me that “as therapists, we have to at least pretend we have our shit together more than the clients do.”
She said that to me because I came to work one morning with a black eye (which I had tried, not too successfully apparently, to cover up). Without even so much as a “what happened?” or “how are you?”
What business would it be of the client’s? As a therapist, you don’t disclose that kind of stuff unless you can use it therapeutically. Normally, the client won’t even ask but if they do, you just redirect.
I knew that, and she should have, too. But she runs an agency where the therapists routinely inappropriately self-disclose to clients, so perhaps she isn’t real clear on boundaries. And I don’t know why she said, “we”, when referring to therapists, because she isn’t one.
Which, unfortunately, is also typical in this field. Because the bottom line is profit, not patient care.
So I went to see a psychiatrist, and of course I moved to the shelter. The psychiatrist diagnosed me as having PTSD, which I expected, and bipolar disorder, which shocked me. So, in her wisdom (that’s sarcasm), she prescribed…
The mood swings got very bad, I was in tears a lot, but she just kept prescribing more meds. Meds for the depression, then meds for the mania that was caused by the antidepressants, and on top of that, an anticonvulsant that supposedly works as a “mood stabilizer.”
When it “mysteriously” got out at work that I had bipolar disorder, I had one client go to the director and demand a new therapist, because she “didn’t want to deal with a nut case.”
Wow. A woman who just gave birth to a drug-addicted baby because she can’t stay clean is judging me for having a mental illness. As if she herself does not have one. Yes, it is called “borderline personality disorder”, it is common in drug addicts, and they are an entitled, judgmental bunch.
The director apologised to Ms. Perfect “Used-To-Be-A-Prom-Queen-Until-I-Got-Addicted-To-Heroin”, then reasigned her. And, not too long after that, fired me. For “job performance”.
Do I sound bitter? Yeah, because I am. Not a fair call, at all. But all too common in this field.
So that’s the backstory of my bipolar diagnosis, what I think caused it, and the aftermath of being medicated for it. It’s a cautionary tale for those of you who may suspect the same thing has happened to you…
1. Medication can and does cause bipolar disorder, in some cases.
2. People in the mental healthcare field can be just as ignorant, judgmental, and uneducated as anyone else.
3. People in the mental healthcare field very often do not get help when they have a mental illness issue, because there is such a huge stigma attached to it and because you can get fired for it.
4. The implication, scary as it is, is that there are quite a few…
…mentally ill therapists
…mentally ill nurses
…mentally ill doctors
…mentally ill techs
…mentally ill hospital or clinic administrators
all on the job today. Who will not get the help they need. And who are damaging patients and staff alike.
What is the next move, for someone like me, when I become recovered enough to work again?
What chance does anyone, at 58 and with a diagnosis of mental illness, have to ever work again as a therapist?
I loved my work. But I don’t think I will ever be able to do it again.
The usual blog post, weird news, and recommendations on Wednesday, as usual.
Be good, and be kind.