After nearly a decade of taking antidepressants, Shannon V., 30, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder II in 2018. She tried several different medications in addition to therapy, but nothing ever fully addressed her symptoms.
Bipolar disorder causes extreme shifts in mood, energy, concentration levels, and generally affects your ability to function. 1 With bipolar II disorder, you may have depressive episodes and feel hopeless, in addition to experiencing hypomania, a less intense version of mania (which makes you feel extremely energized). People with bipolar disorder often have anxiety disorders2 too, which can exacerbate bipolar disorder symptoms.
Shannon was also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, which can make her feel extremely worried and lead to panic attacks during the depressive episodes she is prone to. For years she tried to minimize her symptoms and blamed work for her intense anxiety and depression. When the pandemic forced her to work remotely, Shannon realized that work wasn’t the cause of her panic attacks. Slowly, Shannon realized that she needed to accept that her bipolar disorder was the reason she was having a hard time and decided to find a bipolar disorder treatment that worked for her. (Keep in mind that your treatment options may change over time based on new research and newly available therapies. Make sure you have ongoing conversations with your doctor about which treatment options may be best for you.) Here’s Shannon's story.
I turned 30 on May 1, 2021, and three weeks later I found myself sitting in a psychiatric hospital. I’d finally accepted that I needed help to treat my bipolar disorder symptoms. I’d been experiencing periods of intense depression and anxiety for several years, but up until recently, I’d been living in a state of denial. I finally acknowledged that this wasn’t just an issue with my work-life balance and that I needed to start addressing my bipolar disorder.
During my first semester of college in 2010, I went to my university mental health clinic and was prescribed various medications, but none really helped my depression and anxiety. In 2018, based on my family history and patterns in how I was feeling, I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.
With my new diagnosis I started trying different medications. But part of me couldn’t believe the doctors. I thought that my moods were really caused by my stressful job as an IT project manager at a startup.
I was stressed out by more than the work itself. Having to get up and dress up every day, organize my lunch, commute to and from work, and try to remember to take breaks during the day were really overstimulating. I experienced really high highs and really low lows, which was exhausting. Other people worked demanding jobs, so why couldn’t I?
When the pandemic hit, my company—like many others—switched to working remotely. At first I thought this would help with what I still described as work stress. Being at home allowed me to do things at a much slower pace than when I went to an office. I thought that without the extra stressors, I would feel better. I didn’t.
Even though the pandemic eliminated many aspects of my job that contributed to my anxiety, I was still working 60 to 70 hours a week. We were helping big-name clients set up disaster recovery plans and were busier than ever.
I had also switched to virtual therapy, and at first, I found it useful. I liked that I could reach out to a therapist on my phone to talk about my feelings the moment they happened, instead of having to wait for my next session. But after a while, I concluded that it wasn’t as therapeutic for me as in-person therapy had been.
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