The road to being diagnosed as Bipolar 2 (now I don’t make that distinction, I just say Bipolar) was a long, rocky and painful one. For me it started in college. My greatest struggle has always been around impulse control, and the biggest painpoint has been money. Money, you bitch! But I love you, money. There. There’s my relationship with money in a nutshell.
I had ZERO control over how I spent my money. As a very young child, I took that ten cents and spent it all! And then I ate the candy in one fell swoop. In Elementary School, I spent that two dollars a week as soon as I got it and then tried to borrow more from my sisters. In High School, I babysat for money, which, can you guess? I spent almost before it was in my hands. In college, when I got my student loan money, it was just a spending binge until it was over. And then, always, remorse.
In college I went on my first antidepressant. It was a tricyclic, desipramine. I went to the doctor with the complaint that I was falling asleep in class, hard, like with dreams! ( I also was known to let out a honk or two when I really got snoozing. This was not my sexiest co-ed moment). Nobody at that time was diagnosing sleep apnea, which I had then and would have intense sleep attacks where I had to fall asleep immediately, no matter where I was. So, not asking the right questions, the doctor diagnosed me as depressed. Here, have a drug, he said. I said ok. I loved drugs!
So I went on my merry way with my new drug. About a year later, I developed the theory that I had Bipolar. THIS was the reason I couldn’t control my spending, which was getting worse and worse. I was having manic episodes! I didn’t know that “lack of impulse control” also fell under the classification of Bipolar, and that was my real problem.
In addition to the impulsive spending on shopping trips, I also was doing something else that was highly stimulation-seeking and impulsive on those same shopping trips: Shoplifting. It was always just one thing here and there, and I thought I was smart. Oftentimes I’d take it in plain sight, as if I was just forgetting to pay for it. I figured, who is going to accuse this white, upper middle class woman of taking anything? I know now that I was stupid, and lucky.
Eventually I was causing myself so much pain with my spending that I went back to the college’s student health center and saw a psychiatrist and conveyed my concerns and my suspicions that I was Bipolar. I must be really smart because the psychiatrist agreed and broke me off a prescription for Lithium, The Headache Giver. I started taking the Lithium and not only did it have zero impact on my impulsivity, it caused about a two-week-long headache. So, I quit the Lithium, thinking that was it for me and Bipolar. If only I knew…