The Monster in My Head
I have bipolar disorder. My moods shift from high energy and euphoria to low energy and deep feelings of despair. I began having symptoms when I was thirteen. I have had a problematic life, with its ups and downs, but God blessed me with good people and experiences.
High school was challenging, especially my sophomore year, when I dealt with my first feelings of depression. I had a few close friends, for which I am grateful, but I was often unhappy. I often felt like a wicked person.
The disease really flared when I was in college at BYU. The first semester of college went well. I was excited to be on the campus of Brigham Young University. It was a high for me, my first mania.
In that mindset I became convinced that I was supposed to marry a certain young man. We dated for a couple of months, and I was living in a dream world. Then one night after spring break, he broke up with me. He could sense my desire to get married, and it had scared him away. My world had fallen apart. My first major depression hit, and I couldn’t shake it for months.
I went home, A psychiatrist diagnosed me with paranoid-schizophrenia. It was a common diagnosis back then. With electro-convulsive shock therapy, I eventually overcame the depression.
About a year later, mania swept into my life. It was the worst I’ve ever experienced. I had a decreased need for sleep, and I talked too fast and too much. I did things too fast. I remember taking a French class, in which the professor was concerned about how rapidly I went through a test. She tried to get me to slow down, but I just couldn’t. I was on a roll and felt I couldn’t do anything wrong.
Naturally, all the mania came crashing down into depression during the following summer. I decided to take a Gregg shorthand, but my depressed mind just couldn’t hold onto anything long enough to memorize it. I stopped going to class. Instead, I would go buy pizza at a nearby restaurant. I would consume the whole thing in one sitting. The weight I lost from being manic began to creep back on. I felt my life was just a big failure.
My doctor then decided I was bipolar and put me on lithium to stabilize my moods. It caused nausea and vomiting, so I quit the medication. The doctor said there was nothing else he could do for me. This was in the fall of 1974, and I lived without medications for the next twelve years.
In the spring of 1975, I met my husband at a square dance. We got along great and started dating. I again started cycling into mania. At first it was great. I thought of clever ways to spend more time with him. It was so much fun. We kept dating and two months later got engaged, but the engagement was often stormy. My moods were erratic, but Wayne stuck it out and married me.
The next five years or so were rough, but symptoms of bipolar became more severe after the birth of my fourth child. I experienced mania, depression, and anxiety. My husband, not having any idea of what was going on, thought I just had a bad attitude. He blamed my inability to sleep on the simple fact that I worried too much about getting to sleep. He basically kept telling me to buck up–a common attitude among people who have never experienced it.
It was a dark time. I had difficulty making decisions that summer. I recall my encounter with the children’s sock sale at a local department store. A large table covered with pairs of socks of all sorts of colors and designs was overwhelming sight.
However, I improved and did well. After the birth of our sixth and last child, I experienced severe postpartum depression, a condition that worsened with the birth of each of my children. My OB doctor referred me to a new psychiatrist. He was great, and I have been seeing him as a patient ever since
He diagnosed me with bipolar disorder and prescribed some medications. I couldn’t believe the difference in my quality of life. I actually felt happy. It took about 20 years to get the right combination to get me stable, though. Now I am, and I enjoy the peace.
Wayne came into the marriage knowing I had depression problems, but didn’t know what kind of ride he was in for. He had never known its difficulties until I came along. I am so grateful for his mental and emotional stability that has passed on to most of my children. For the most part, I enjoyed being a mom.
Sometimes I experienced really sad days where I had no joy nor energy. On one of those days, I answered the door and found some friends there who had come to clean my house. I had really let things go, and it felt good to know they cared.
My whole family was appreciative of friends who were there for me. The family was greatly affected by my illness, but my children are doing well for the most part. Half of them, though, do suffer from anxiety and depression.
Fortunately, a lot of good things happened in the family due to my illness. The children were strengthened as they saw me work through my illness. They learned that they too could handle hard things. They also learned compassion as they showed me so much of it.
I would never want to live my life over. It has been tough. I wish I could be cured and not have to rely on medications for the rest of my life. The drugs are great but do have their side effects, such as weight gain and restless leg syndrome. However, I am grateful they are available to me.
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I was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho on September 22, 1952 to Jack and JoAnn Taylor. I went to Bonneville High School in Ogden. After graduation I attended Brigham Young University in Provo, UT for 3 semester, Later, I attended Stephens Henagar Business College and Weber State College, both in Ogden, UT. Because of my mental health issues, I didn’t get a bachelor’s degree.
I married Wayne Kartchner in 1975. We have now been married for nearly 40 years. We have six children and 18 grandchildren, with one on the way. My husband and I live in Farmington, UT. In 1999, I started going back to school at Weber State University. After eight years, I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2007. I studied French, technical writing, and health promotion. Presently, I am a substitute teacher for my local school district. I sub in French and English classes, but my love is special education.
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