The key for people with Bipolar disorder is finding the right doctors. They help us succeed. Finding the right ones, though, is not always easy.
When I was nineteen I was dragged from California to the abyss of Iowa during a harsh winter. I had just been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. I didn’t want to move, but my parents gave me no choice. They were the ones who put food on the table and paid for college. So off I went, bipolar enraged, to begin my new life.
One of the first things we did was look for a psychiatrist and a psychologist. We found two, both highly recommended.
There I sat on an uncomfortable green couch in my new psychologist’s office. We began to discuss my family history of bipolar. My uncle has it. My grandmother had depression. My mom does as well. There was no denying my illness, not after my case of the blues in high school. Then there was the crazy cruise where I was high as a kite and the only thing that brought me back down from that weekend was Lithium.
Dr E. helped me navigate through my life as a college student who transferred to four different colleges. It was a rough six years trying to find myself, graduate college, and establish a young adult relationship with protective parents who loved me more than life.
Dr. E helped me while I dated many men, including a bull rider who drove a clunky Chevy truck. She was there for me in my several-year relationship with a geeky but big-hearted young man.
As I traveled the long and winding road of college, she taught me everything I needed to know about living with Bipolar. I needed to take my Lithium everyday at the same time. I needed eight hours of sleep every night. I had to exercise routinely. I had to eat a balanced diet. I had to create boundaries with my parents, and I needed God to be part of my life too.
[My psychologist] also gave me permission to forgive myself when I felt like I did not deserve it.
All this was overwhelming because, in truth, I was a hot mess most of the time. My depressions were deep and my highs kept coming. Dr. E kept me out of the hospital. Although there were two times that hospitalization was necessary, she also knew me. She knew if I were hospitalized, I would suffer even more because of my sensitive soul. Instead she saw me multiple times a week for therapy.
Dr. E taught me to keep fighting during my hellish depressions. She had to do some of the fighting for me because I could not do it alone. During the high times Dr. E encouraged me to use all that energy and hit the books. She was sure I could graduate college and kept pushing me to reach that goal. When I goofed up in life, she came down hard, reading me the riot act. That was hard to swallow, but necessary. She also gave me permission to forgive myself when I felt like I did not deserve it.
Finally, in 1999 I graduated from college. It was an amazing day, one that would never have occurred without her. She held my hand all those years and never let go.
After college I moved away. I wrote my book “Some Dreams Are Worth Keeping”. To my surprise, it was quickly published. I just had to share the book with her, so I tracked her down.
Recently she visited Las Vegas where I live and, after seventeen years, we were reunited. There we sat no longer in an office, but eating breakfast on the Strip. We talked about the past and cried together. Then laughs replaced tears, and I shared the success in my life as a stable woman living with Bipolar. A new friendship began.
I am sure I will never have another Dr. E in my life. It was no mistake that God put us together. I am forever grateful He did.
Susan Johnson graduated from Drake University with a BA in sociology. She is the author of Some Dreams Are Worth Keeping: A Memoir of My Bipolar Journey. Since her diagnosis of bipolar I in 1995, Susie's true passion in life is to help break the stigma of mental illness and to bring hope to those who live with one. An accomplished inspirational speaker and guest blogger at bpHope Blog, Susie was the subject of a “This Is Me” Q&A in bp Magazine in 2018. Her writing also appears in the Catholic Exchange, the Kingdom Revelator, and Las Vegas Pet Scene Magazine. Susie co-leads a mental health group at her church and currently works with special education students as an instructional assistant for a school district in Nevada. She will be speaking at TEDxTenayaPaseo in January 2021. And she enjoys hiking, baking, traveling, practicing yoga, spending time with her Goddaughter, and taking trips to Cancun. Originally from Thousand Oaks, CA, Susie now makes her home in fabulous Las Vegas with her husband, Gary, and Siberian cat, Angel-Ann. Visit her website, SJohnsonAuthor.com and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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