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A Journey of Discovery and Hope

By Kaitlyn R.

Learning you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder is not easy for anyone especially a young, beautiful and creative college freshman in the prime of her life.  But, that is exactly what Kaitlyn Reid heard after being admitted to a psychiatric emergency room following a frightening manic episode.  Kaitlyn remembers thinking nothing was wrong.  In fact, she thought she was having the time of her life—and believed she felt better than she had ever felt before!  So how could this hardworking, successful and well-liked young woman with no known family history of the disease be diagnosed with such a devastating disorder?

It all began one summer while Kaitlyn was home from college.  Her behavior and mannerisms seemed very out of character.  While she didn’t notice her heightened awareness, paranoia, and elated behavior, her family started to become concerned.  Kaitlyn remembers constantly feeling as if she were on a scavenger hunt, continuously searching for clues that might lead her somewhere.  However, blinded by the disease, Kaitlyn didn’t realize that her behavior was abnormal.  The turning point for Kaitlyn was when she unexpectedly left work one day only to find herself being questioned by the police.  Her elated and euphoric behavior created suspicions by the police and she was taken to the psychiatric inpatient unit at the University of Michigan Hospital. 

Kaitlyn is one of the 5.7 million Americans affected by bipolar disorder every year, a disease that still baffles the best clinicians and researchers.  However, the mystery behind bipolar disorder is beginning to evaporate with the research being completed at the University of Michigan Depression Center, and the steadfast support of Waltraud “Wally” Prechter and the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund.  The Fund is raising valuable research dollars to study patients with bipolar disorder as well as healthy controls to better understand the illness that robs many individuals and their loved ones of the best years of their lives.

An alarming aspect of bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, consists of an unhealthy and dangerous euphoria that tricks the mind and body into thinking it is fine—sometimes better than fine.  Kaitlyn experienced intense episodes of mania, eventually leading her to act out and ultimately be placed in the hospital.  Fortunately, her illness was caught in time before something much worse could have happened.  Many people suffering from bipolar disorder experience devastating lows that manifest in an extremely debilitating depression, which can imprison patients into a kind of despair so powerful that it causes many to end their own lives.

While Kaitlyn was recently diagnosed and is just beginning her journey toward a healthy treatment regimen, she is unwavering in her desire to speak out about bipolar disorder in the hopes that her story can help other young people dealing with an illness that is often very difficult to discuss.  She admits that as a young woman she thought bipolar disorder and the people who have it were to be feared.  However, experiencing the disorder firsthand has changed her initial impression.  She cautions others to show compassion and understanding for those with bipolar disorder, and most importantly, she wants others to know that you can lead a happy and productive life despite this debilitating diagnosis.

 

Next > Run Against the Wind by Joyce L.