While I had always had a few problems sleeping and occasional bouts of depression growing up, I was on the whole a happy and energetic individual. However, when I was nineteen, one particularly bad episode of depression/insomnia left me immobilized—spending my days in bed crying and my nights wide awake. I visited my doctor and was diagnosed with rapid-cycling bi-polar disorder (manic depression), which was said to be inadvertently causing the insomnia.
At first, I was taken aback. Me? Bi-polar? But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense. After all, it explained why sometimes I was happy and energetic and other times I was down in the dumps. Maybe all those happy times weren’t authentic but simply manifestations of mania. I spent the next nine months on a cocktail of prescription drugs ranging from anti-depressants to mood-stabilizers to sleeping pills to anti-anxiety medication, but my mental health seemed to be deteriorating rapidly.
The drugs left me with frequent headaches and an overall “stoned” feeling that was so severe that I was unable to hold down my job. My family and friends grew concerned that I was becoming so spacey. My pupils weren’t even the same size! While on medication, I noticed that I was never depressed, but I was never really that happy either. My creativity and sense of humour were slowly slipping away, and even my sex life was being negatively affected. At the time, I wrote it off as a small price to pay to “cure” what could inevitably be a crippling and potentially fatal disorder.
My doctor said that I would most likely be on medication for the rest of my life. However, not quite a year had gone by when I discovered an alarming pattern beginning to emerge: each of the various pills would wear off. I found myself bouncing from prescription drug to prescription drug and doubling my doses, and it painted a bleak portrait of a future dependent on a snowballing amount of brightly colored pills. That scared me more than the disorder itself, and I decided enough was enough. But after stopping all medications cold-turkey, I hit rock bottom. I got into bed and drew the blinds, refusing to eat, shower or talk to anyone for over a week. By the time I wound up in Marie’s office, I was on the verge of a complete mental breakdown, if not suicide.
She asked questions to clarify and I felt that she really understood where I was coming from. In addition to that, she was extremely compassionate and sensitive to my issues. The first milestone we tackled during therapy was that of being diagnosed with bi-polar. I realized that as soon as I had been labeled, I began acting accordingly.
Every time I was in a good mood, I assumed it was just the mania and that soon a crash would ensue. Sure enough, within a matter of hours or days, I’d feel down. And since I was told it was a chemical imbalance that I had no control over, I gave into my emotions and allowed myself to become reclusive in my bedroom because that’s what I thought bi-polar people did. The more I believed to be bi-polar, the more bi-polar I acted, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Marie helped me realize that I was “Susan first” and any sort of diagnosis came second, and in no way defined me. In fact, I began wondering if I’d ever been bi-polar to begin with. As the sessions went on, I strongly felt that the depression stemmed from the insomnia not vice versa. Along with energy balancing and counseling, we came up with some lifestyle changes such as set bedtimes and wake-up times, regular exercise and a steadier work schedule. She also educated me on the dangers of stopping my anti-depressants so abruptly and that the severe depression that followed was most likely a result of withdrawal.
With each session I made massive strides, and by the time I stopped seeing her I was happier and sleeping better than I had in an entire year—without the need of any medication. In a very short time, I found that my life had returned to “normal”, and I’m even anticipating university in the fall—something which I didn’t previously believe I’d be capable of. My family and I are truly floored by the results I’ve achieved with Marie. I now feel that if depression and insomnia should ever return in small doses, I will be able to deal with them better than ever before. I get chills looking back and thinking of how close I came to losing it all. Marie gave me my life back, simple as that.
Susan B., age 20
North York, Ontario