Today I have the privilege of sharing the story of Brianne’s personal experience with bipolar disorder.
The thing that is interesting about Brianne’s story is that she was adopted at a very young age, so her family history was a blank slate. There was no way for her to know that bipolar disorder would be a part of her story.
For many of us who live with bipolar disorder, we are aware that mental illness is in our family history. Although no one wants to believe that they could be mentally ill, when your family has an extensive history of it, it is not shocking when you receive your diagnosis.
For Brianne, her diagnosis came out of left field. Mental illness was not even on her radar, but, thankfully, her parents were proactive, and she received the professional help she needed.
So, without further ado, let’s look at the world of bipolar disorder through Brianne’s eyes.
Hi, my name is Brianne, and I am a writer and artist living in Northern California. I have been a creative my entire life.
My blog is called I Go by Brie, and I write about mental health, share other people’s stories, and have also written about faith, fitness, and photography. I have written about similar topics on Medium, and I am currently working on my first novel.
Photography is also a creative outlet for me. I use various techniques that help me create very impressionistic photos. I also shoot out of focus and do multiple exposures as well.
I have the sweetest little doggy, a chihuahua named Princess. She is my baby. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, social media, art, and yoga.
The Adoption Experience
I am mixed race—half black and half white, and I am adopted. Being adopted is interesting. I was adopted by a white family who I love. I don’t remember life before adoption because I was so young when I was adopted.
I know I always felt different. I never felt like I fit in with the crowd. That was true in life, school, and church.
But I had a good upbringing. I was homeschooled from kindergarten to the eighth grade. My sister was my best friend. We also had lots of friends when we were kids and big birthday parties at our house.
Identifying a Problem
I first became aware of my illness after experiencing a manic episode at school when I was 23 years old. My parents had never seen anything like this before and didn’t understand what was happening.
My parents sought the help of a psychiatrist who diagnosed me and started me on treatment.
Because I was adopted as a child, I did not know there was a family history of mental illness. I didn’t even know what mental illness was back then.
I wouldn’t have been able to get help on my own, so I’m grateful for the help of my immediate family.
The very first symptom I experienced was psychosis. That involves hallucinations and delusions or seeing and hearing things that aren’t there. It can also include having grandiose thoughts and ideas.
I remember wandering around the campus at my school, lost in my hallucinations. I could see faces in the trees and flowers. I heard voices like whispers telling me various things.
I don’t remember it being unpleasant at first. It was kind of like being lost in a dreamworld created by my mind.
Brianne’s Diagnosis and Reaction
My official diagnosis in 2004 was bipolar 1 disorder with psychosis. I had that diagnosis for 14 years.
In 2018, my current psychiatrist gave me a different diagnosis: schizoaffective disorder, which is mania, depression, and psychosis. It was basically the same diagnosis with a different label.
I decided to stick with my bipolar diagnosis, since I’ve had that one the longest. My original psychiatrist says he wouldn’t change my diagnosis, and I trust him.
In the beginning, I was in denial about my diagnosis. I kept trying to go off my medications, convinced I didn’t need them. Then my symptoms would come back.
After this happened three times, I finally realized bipolar disorder would be a lifelong struggle. It took a full six years before I could really accept my diagnosis and take it seriously.
Brianne’s Treatment Protocol
My drug regimen includes a combination of medication and supplements. I take an antidepressant, an antipsychotic, and a mood stabilizer. I also take vitamins, amino acids, and inositol. This combination works well for me and helps reduce the amount of medication I must take.
I am just finishing up transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy (TMS). It is a new therapy developed to ease the symptoms of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anxiety. It is a two-month treatment protocol that applies magnetic pulses to your brain. It is very gentle and has no side effects. Transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy (TMS) has improved my depression significantly.
Brianne’s Life Today
Overall, I have my ups and downs, but my life is pretty good. I’m consistent with my treatment, which allows me to live a full life. I am able to work, drive, and travel.
Travel has been very therapeutic for me. I have traveled extensively—to Mexico, Israel, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Hawaii, and New York. There are many places I still want to visit.
I must admit that for the last five years, working has been difficult for me—not because of my mental health—but because of physical symptoms I believe are related to a thyroid condition.
I am not working now, but I am hopeful that I will be able to find work in the mental health field.
What You Should Know
I wish people would understand that those who live with bipolar disorder are human beings, capable of anything we put our minds to with the proper treatment.
We are not monsters. We are not bad guys. We are living with a complicated illness that is manageable. One day, I would really like people to not be afraid of us.
Brianne’s Favorite Resources
I encourage anyone with bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, or depression to follow Julie Fast on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. She provides a wealth of information for both those struggling with their diagnosis and friends and family members who want to educate themselves to better understand their loved ones’ challenges.
For concrete information on mental health, check out these websites: Psych Central, Psychology Today, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Healthline, The Mighty, Mental Health America, and bpHope. They are all also on social media.
There are also several advocates online worth following: Hannah Blum, Jacob Moore, Brittney Moses, Matt Haig, Schizophrenic.NYC, Kati Morton, and Rwenshaun L. Miller.
Check out Brianne’s blog, I Go by Brie. You can also follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, and Tik Tok.
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