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My Bipolar Disorder Journey and How Therapy and Medication Help Me Navigate

“I wish I knew that I was worthy of the treatment and that everything I felt was valid. Because it is, no one is the same. Even with the same condition, we are all different. I was scared of what was happening to me. I was full of hatred, sadness, guilt, disappointment in the world, etc., but sometimes I still am! And that’s valid.”

Hello! Who are you?

Hi, I’m Julijana, I live in the Balkan region of Europe. I’m 22 years old, and I’m currently employed by a foreign company. It’s a good job, which allowed me to become self-sufficient at 20.

But the night shift sucks. I don’t have a specific job position, but you can compare it to that of a coordinator. I have been in a very happy relationship for 4 years.

I love that we are growing up together and learning about life and how to be adults. It makes you feel less lonely when you can share your journey with someone. I have also adopted a kitty named Sushi.

She was a garbage cat, and now she is fat and fluffy. I’m also a full-time student, so I cannot commit to a lot of hobbies, but I’m working on finding something that makes me happy.

I have a feeling that I am constantly in a state of transition and searching, whether for a better job, hobby, myself, etc.

I would not consider myself to be a happy person. I am a very worried person, and that affects my everyday life a lot, but I do consider myself grateful for everything I have. I am working on being more of a happy person.

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What is your struggle and when did it start?

Around the age of 13, I started having a lot of mood swings that were attributed to puberty, but as they grew bigger and bigger, I realized I needed to reach out for help. In the beginning, it was only small mood swings, but eventually, it grew to be a much larger issue.

Around 14, I started having episodes of what I didn’t know was mania. I started getting super hypersexual, and I started spending a lot of my money. I also started to steal from my family members, and every time I did it, I didn’t know why exactly. I just liked the high I got from stealing, and I liked the high of spending that money.

There were a couple of times I went through an episode that endangered my life. Once, I decided to walk on the edge of a bridge ledge, thinking I couldn’t die because I was invincible.

No one really attributed this to something more going on, all of my friends liked it and called me crazy. Crazy and cool are used synonymously in middle and high school.

Later on, around 16, I started having deep depression episodes. Before that, there were times I would get sad, but not like this. Those episodes turned into a lot of guilt and sadness, and I needed to punish myself for something, but I didn’t know what. I had a need to punish myself, so I did.

I started self-harming around that time. I remember everyone asking me where I had seen it and why I was copying people on the internet, but all I wanted was to punish myself. I hid it really well.

This time is a blur. All I remember is going from thinking that my dead grandparent was sending me signals to trying to commit suicide.

After that, I got hospitalized of my own free will. I was there for 2 weeks, and it didn’t help me; it actually left a very bad impression. All they did was secure mentally unstable people not to harm themselves or others, but nothing was done to help anyone.

Around 17, I got hospitalized again, this time for 33 days. I was put on multiple medications that led me to gain a huge amount of weight. It is hard to diagnose bipolar disorder in minors, but finally, at 17, I got the diagnosis. After finding the right combo of meds, I became stable again.

I finished school, enrolled in college, and also found a job.

I’m not cured, I still have episodes, but due to using Lamictal, they are way less severe, and finally, I’m a functional human!

How did this struggle make you feel at your worst moments?

No one really noticed I was struggling. At 16, I myself reached out for help to my school counselor. She then helped me get into treatment. My parents didn’t notice before I told them, as they were occupied with my younger siblings.

My friends didn’t really notice either, everything I did was considered cool and not something to be concerned about. The self-harm was not evident because I tried to hide it very well.

After everything, I still feel guilty. Some of the feelings cannot be shaken off. For some reason, I still hate myself without an actual reason. I guess this is a journey.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Share your story: Help thousands of people around the world by sharing your own story. We would love to publish your interview and have a positive impact on the world together. Learn more here.

Was there a moment when you started to turn things around?

I don’t remember when it started to get better. There wasn’t anything I did. I think that as time went on, I just got tired of hate, guilt, and sadness. I don’t know how I stopped self-harm. I just remember my mindset changing and thinking that even if I hate myself, I shouldn’t harm my body.

It took years to stop and practice. I didn’t just drop it. I stopped doing it every day, then every week. It was a struggle, and I still get the urge to do it on a bad day. It became like an impulse, but I managed to control it after a few years.

I have been clean for 3 years now. I “relapsed” 3 years ago, but I got back on track quickly. I know meds helped, but it just took time, talk, therapy, a change of mindset, and everything else that you can think of. I had to change everything I knew so I could get better.

I still don’t know how I did it.

Loving the man I love also helped me. I felt worthy for the first time. Getting into college made me feel worthy. Getting my first job and moving out made me feel worthy.

Not happy 100%, because with all this comes the worry, but it did make me happy enough to start appreciating myself from time to time.

What steps did you take to overcome your struggle?

Therapy, therapy, therapy. That’s the best thing I can recommend. But before therapy, you must get the right diagnosis, which is hard. Finding the right doctor might also be a challenge, but I think there is no right answer to getting better.

Therapy helped me feel acknowledged and not crazy. It helped me understand my condition, how to manage it, and how to try to control it.

Have you shared any of this with people around you in real life?

I have shared everything only after it happened, after hospitalization. During that time, I wasn’t even able to explain what was going on, so I was afraid to open up to anyone, fearing they wouldn’t understand. Not everyone reacted positively to my story, a lot of judgment occurred but that was to be expected.

I live in a small country in Europe, and mental health is still stigmatized here. I found it way easier to use the sentence “I’m working on some stuff” than to actually explain your problems.

Even now, I hide my scars from my co-workers because it’s easier to explain. I have worked for the same company for almost 3 years, and no one knows about my illness, so I plan for it to stay that way.

If you could give a single piece of advice to someone else that struggles, what would that be?

I wish I knew that I was worthy of the treatment and that everything I felt was valid. Because it is, no one is the same. Even with the same condition, we are all different.

I was scared of what was happening to me. I was full of hatred, sadness, guilt, disappointment in the world, etc., but sometimes I still am! And that’s valid.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, YouTube channels, or other resources for you?

Nothing in particular.

Where can we go to learn more about you?

Not comfortable sharing.

๐Ÿ’ก By the way: If you want to start feeling better and more productive, I’ve condensed the information of 100’s of our articles into a 10-step mental health cheat sheet here. ๐Ÿ‘‡

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This Cheat Sheet Will Help You Be Happier and More Productive

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Hugo Huijer AuthorLinkedIn Logo

Founder of Tracking Happiness, with over 100 interviews and a focus on practical advice, our content extends beyond happiness tracking. Hailing from the Netherlands, I’m a skateboarding enthusiast, marathon runner, and a dedicated data junkie, tracking my happiness for over a decade.

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