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I am feeling very confused and looking for some advice. I'm

Hello, I am feeling very...
Hello, I am feeling very confused and looking for some advice. I'm a 26 year old male and have been struggling with periods of depression for the last 10 years. This (I think) started at the age of 16 where I was a heavy user of cannabis over a 3 or 4 month period (where I was smoking up to around 12 joints a day just to feel 'normal') which lead to a psychotic breakdown and a couple of years on various anti depressants and anti psychotics which didn't seem to help. I slowly recovered though, and have some how managed to do quite well for myself in my career (a graphic designer). However I frequently dip in and out of periods of depression which makes it very difficult to maintain a normal life and keep friendships.
A couple of months ago, when I was working on a project where I had a lot of responsibility, I went through a 2 or 3 week period where I felt absolutely incredible. More so than I have ever done, I felt high.. continuously. Having lots of great ideas, very creative, interested in everything and everyone, constantly thinking about how great I feel and how great my life is... it got to the point where I felt so good I was actually getting nervous that something bad was going to happen to ruin it, and I started to feel extremely restless. This built up towards the deadline of the project I was working on - where I started working up to 14 hours a day. When the work finished, I crashed and spent a couple of weeks in a very severe depressive state, hardly leaving my apartment. For the first time this made me question the nature of my depression and I have been reading about bipolar type II... I'm not sure if I have it or not, but I can certainly identity with many of the symptoms and experiences that bipolar people have. I know I suffer from depression, no question about it. But now I look back on my life and I can identify periods where I have been excessively energetic and creative - worked obsessively on projects, and over achieved for 2 or 3 month periods, and every time a period like this has been followed by a 5 or 6 month depression, where I struggle to even think straight. I have so many unfinished projects and abandoned ideas because of this. Perhaps even the cannabis abuse at 16 was some form of hypomanic episode, without me knowing. I remember feeling on top of the world, like I was at the centre of a film - but this was probably the cannabis, it's hard to tell if it was an episode or just the drug.
Bipolar or not... For the last month or so I have been feeling very empty and blank.. I find myself staring into space and struggling to involve myself in activities - and yet I am seemingly doing very well in my career and on the surface must seem quite content to other people. But I feel hollow. It is such a stark contrast to how I felt just a couple of months ago, and it saddens me to think that I couldn't maintain that happiness. I thought I had overcome my problems once and for all and could start a new life. But here I am again... I just can't seem to shake off this emptiness. Life just doesn't seem to have any meaning. I don't know how much longer I can keep it up. I would like get help... or at least talk to someone about it. But I just don't know who to ask or what to tell them... should I try to see someone for a diagnosis of bipolar? I am afraid my doctor might just say it's depression and give me anti-depressants again.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Thank you.
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Answered in 13 minutes by:
8/2/2013
TherapistMarryAnn
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5,897
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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Hello, I'd like to help you with your question.
You describe your symptoms very well. It sounds very much like you might have Bipolar disorder, possibly Type II. That is because you are having periods of extreme highs and periods of extreme lows. You need at least one of those to qualify for Bipolar, Type II. Type I Bipolar only requires that you experience the extreme high. You can have depression, but it is usually not that severe and may not happen at all. And Cyclothymia is mild highs and mild lows.
The best way to diagnose Bipolar is to see a mental health professional. While doctors can help with some initial information and medications, a mental health professional is trained to screen for all possible disorders, including Bipolar and the type you may have. So seeking an evaluation can help you find out what you are dealing with. The therapist can also provide you with the best treatment options for your situation. Ask your doctor for a referral to a mental health professional with either a Master's degree or a Ph.D.
The best treatment for Bipolar is medication and the most prescribed medications for Bipolar is Lithium. You can also take Depakote as well. If the medication your doctor put you on is an anti depressant, that may not help. Anti depressants are questionable to use with Bipolar. The right medication helps to stabilize the imbalance of chemicals in your brain so your mood becomes more fluid rather than the ups and downs you experience.
While the drugs you took in your teens may have influenced your symptoms and may even have triggered them, it is best to see a Neurologist for a full screening to be sure. Drugs can affect your mental health, but the effects vary so much that it is a good idea to be evaluated to be sure if you were affected or not. But even if you were, the treatment would remain the same if you do have Bipolar.
There are other things you can do to help yourself. Here are some links to help you:
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/bipolar_disorder_medications.htm
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/bipolar_disorder_diagnosis_treatmen t.htm
http://www.helpguide.org/mental/bipolar_disorder_self_help.htm
http://psychcentral.com/lib/2007/self-help-strategies-for-bipolar-disorder/
Also, consider support groups either on line or in person. Talking to others who have the same symptoms as you can help you feel less alone and provide much needed support.
I hope this has helped you,
Kate
May I please request that if you find the service I provided helpful at all that you rate me with three or above? Your rating is the only way I am reimbursed for my answer. Thank you so much!
TherapistMarryAnn
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5,897
Experience: Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues.
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I hope my answer was helpful to you. If you have any more questions, please let me know.
Kate
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

Thanks Kate, I just sent a reply but I don't think it worked (apologies if you get this twice).

I will see my doctor and ask for a referral. It's difficult - I go from really identifying with the symptoms of bipolar, to then thinking it's all stupid that I'm even thinking about it and actually I'm just normal like everyone else and experience the same ups and downs that we all face... It's hard to gauge what is normal and what isn't when you start looking into these things.

I haven't thought about seeing a neurologist before - something that frustrates me is my memory, it's awful and seems to be getting worse. Trouble focusing on one thing and especially reading is very difficult for me as well. May I ask what is involved in a neurological screening? What would be achieved / what would be the outcome? And how I might go about getting one?

I am sorry I did not get your first response. Sometimes that happens on Just Answer. I apologize that you have to send it again.
It is normal for someone with Bipolar to feel as you do. There are going to be times you feel that nothing is wrong. That is also common with the manic phase as well. But getting it checked out is only going to help you. You will either know you have Bipolar, another disorder or nothing at all. In any case, you will at least know what you are dealing with.
I am not sure exactly what goes on in a neurological exam (it's not in my area of expertise and it also may vary from doctor to doctor) but your own doctor might be able to give you specifics about what to expect. And you may also be able to find the information on line, through a reputable site.
You can ask your doctor about referring you to a neurologist. He/she can help you find one and be able to share records so you have the best care possible.
Kate
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