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When did your bipolar start?


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I'm just wondering because the more I think about it, the more I think my bipolar started in my teen years. I first became severely depressed at age 15. Since then, I've become depressed every three years like clockwork at 15, 18, 21 (I'm almost 22) and I think I was having milder hypomanias throughout my high school years until I had a long and big hypomania at age 20. I've read that the early twenties is when depression and bipolar start to show themselves. My sister has bipolar I and she was diagnosed at age 13 though.

Anyway, I'm interested to hear when other people's bipolar started to make itself known. Long and complicated stories are more than welcome. :P

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I'm thinking it "officially" made it's presence known when I was 12 in the form of my first depressive episode around Christmas time (which has subsequently ruined any Christmas/holiday spirit I might have had in the future...) but I do recall some earlier signs, as early as age 7 or 8ish, though not with actual episodes. Didn't get diagnosed until around age 17/18 when I switched to a new pdoc though because my then pdoc refused to acknowledge symptoms other than depression. I am diagnosed with Bipolar I.

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Guest Vapourware

I think it started in my teens for me as well. I remember feeling very depressed and suicidal when I was around 13, and then I had various episodes where I felt my mood go up and down. I wasn't diagnosed until I was in my mid-20s, though.

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In retrospect, I had my first depressive episode when I was 16. I was fairly functional, although I toyed with bulimia.

When I was 17 I was hypomanic through the roof. We were only supposed to take 5 courses, max, and I was enrolled in 7. I competed for two gymnastics teams (not even remotely close to what you see in the olympics). I played in three honors orchestras, and the local training orchestra (which was the feeder for the youth symphony). I ran props in the Fall play, and was in the Winter play and the Spring musical. I was in choir, president of the film club, the performing arts club, the French club, etc. My friends were always bitching at me for being so cheerful.

Then I went to college when I was 18, and had my first really severe depression, kicked off by mono. That episode lasted until I was almost 20. My college years were decimated by depression, pretty much. I was hypo when I was 20, and made deans' list both semesters. But then I was back on academic probation by my last semester.

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As far as I can tell, I had suffered from depression from the time I was 12 and anxiety for as long as I can remember.

I can't REALLY be sure, but I think having my baby at 21 kick started the bipolar symptoms. I don't know WHAT was wrong with me then, just that I was more insane than I had EVER been in my entire life. Wasn't sleeping, eating or doing much but crying and wishing I was dead. Not that I hadn't cried and wished I was dead before, just never that intensely. That was some crazy shit. Typically when I was depressed, I was used to sleeping all the time. This time was. . . very different. I was obviously irritable to the point of almost wrecking my relationship with SO.

The first manic episode I can define happened when I was about 23. A little while after that I crashed HARD and landed my ass in the hospital.

I'm new to this diagnosis, so I really am having a hard time coming up with answers to questions like these, but it helps to think about it, I guess.

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My bipolar started leaking in during my teenage years, probably starting out about the time I was 16, when I started having what in retrospect were clearly hypomanias in alternation with what were mostly mild and short depressed moods and normal moods. During my hypomanias I got all kinds of work done coding-wise and managed to be involved significantly in local activism, and I slided along in school without even trying (and despite barely sleeping at night and sleeping much of the day in class).

Then the summer that I turned 18 and before I went off to college I had a depression that lasted about three months, but this was still mild.

Almost immediately as soon as I arrived at college, though, I shot into a much more pronounced hypomania than before, which lasted half the semester. Unlike in previous hypomanias I did start getting some delusional content, and at least once actually acted on it, with embarrassing results. Over time, though, this faded away into a depression that, while still mild all things considered, was also more pronounced than my previous depressions had been.

Then when I came back home for winter break I shot up into a shortlived but intense hypomania, and right before I left to go back to school started crashing back down. By the time I came back to school I was in my first severe depression. It was at this time I, barricaded in my dorm room and bored as hell, read An Unquiet Mind (a text of my roommate's for Intro Psych) and started to have some idea as to what was going on, slowly becoming convinced that I likely was bipolar (despite not wanting to be, knowing it would mean being on meds indefinitely). Not too long later a friend convinced me to see the student mental health services, where I was actually diagnosed as bipolar.

Too bad the meds did not work, and despite going through all kinds of meds, my college years were from there on dominated by depression, even though I did also have periods of hypomania, probably SSRI-induced ultradian cycling, and a very nasty, lamotrigine-induced mixed episode. Regardless, I only started to get stabilized at all towards the very end of college. Except at the very start and very end of college, my grades suffered, and even with a better period at the very end I still only barely managed to graduate.

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My first strong depressive episode occured when I was 17, my senior year in high school. I was down to suicidal ideation. I told no one. I spent the next two decades swinging between depression, hypomania and normal. Because of hypomania, I managed to be quite successful in school and career. Somehow, the drama of my late teens and all of my 20s and early 30s - parent's divorce, career building, getting married and starting a family - all of that I used to explain my mood swings. Then it wasn't so easily explained anymore as I realized that my life had calmed down into a nice routine, but I was still swinging in between moods. It wasn't until I had my last major depression that lasted two years and resulted in strong suicidal ideation that I finally did some research and sought help. Would that I had done it sooner.

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i can definitely say i started cycling in my sophomore year of high school, but i had depressive (and possible hypomanic?) episodes before that, i just didn't know what i was looking for. i remember in elementary school being the odd on out, not to say i was diagnosable with anything at the time, but i definitely felt off.

bipolar was first mentioned to me at 18 by my college's psychologist, but i wasn't officially diagnosed until i was 22 - even then i didn't believe it (long story, but i was in an area with really bad healthcare and involved with an even worse psychiatry practice who basically stopped returning my phone calls). i was re-diagnosed at 26 or 27 (can't remember). i have bipolar I.

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I had my first bout of depression and SI at 14. I was depressed on and off for long chunks of time from there. The day after my wedding I was manic, and convinced my hubby to change our wedding plans and drive 1200 miles to Las Vegas and stay with his two best friends from childhood. We had $250 to our names, told no one what we were doing, not even the friends we were going to see and stay with. Nice, huh? I was 18 when we went, and thankfully the casinos weren't as strict about id'ing underage people in the casinos as they are now.

Did I mention that we ran out of money and gas 80 miles from home and conned a grocery store manager into cashing a personal check at 9 on a Sunday night. It bounced, of course!

Anyway, I did crazy stuff on and off until I was diagnosed at 32.

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I *think* mine started in early 20s (officially), but it was so gradual over my life it is hard to pin down a time frame. I do remember at age 5, I remember that day and what I was wearing, thinking to myself "I need to see a psychologist" ... thing is, I'd never heard of that term used. I knew what one was somehow (as someone to talk to), yet I'd never heard that word used, and afterwards thought "how did I know that?". I just knew what one was. I never saw one until I was about 15 years old, 1988, when the anorexia was in full force. But even then I only saw the pdoc 2 times because I knew one of my parents wasn't that "talkative" and was getting mad I had to see one. So I stopped until about 1990 when I was for some reason forced into it with another pdoc. But I don't know exactly when because I was in the hospital so much, when I might have been diagnosed.

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The depression started well before any of the -manias happened. I'm hesitant to pick a specific time where I knew, for myself, that I was depressed, I think I kind of knew something was wrong all along but didn't have a name for it. I know that when looking back, with evidence to back it up, I was an unhappy child from eight years old onward. At either thirteen or fourteen my high school at the time sent home a letter recommending that I speak with someone at the local mental health centre, but my mum refused. Around that same time I downed what I later came to realize was an insignificant amount of ibuprofen; no hospital, mum never knew, life just kept going. For the next two years I was an intolerable and uncontrollable teenager hanging out with the wrong crowd, I'd been expelled from one high school and dropped out of the next, my mum would suffer physically in her attempts to keep me from leaving home; I have a lot of trouble remembering that time well enough to say what sort of state(s) of mind I was in. Afterwards though, it was definitely constant depression, finally being diagnosed with MDD at 17. The only med that relieved it was bupropion, and I ended up having an allergic reaction to it. When escitalopram was finally covered by pharmacare we put me on it and it relieved the depression enough that I could function a little better, and then about six months later it just stopped working out of nowhere. I ended up impulsively attempting suicide.

It wasn't until shortly after that attempt, at 27, that I experienced a bout of hypomania (I'd say drug-induced), and at 28 my thus far only bout with mania (again, I'd say drug-induced) where I once again ended up in hospital and was given the label of Bipolar I. I fought the diagnosis, I still don't feel like it really fits, and initially my current psychiatrist agreed and switched to a diagnosis of Dysthymia, then for reasons unknown to me switched it back to Bipolar I. Looking back I don't see anything that I can recall being similar to those two experiences and neither does my mum, so I can only assume that those are the only ups I've had.

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I got worse over the years, although I had a good period as a young adult when I had a low-stress but interesting job.

Sad at 13, 18, 21(near breakdown), 25 (big time/near total breakdown), 36 (total breakdown).

Hypo at 21, 23/24, 33-36(escalating)

Manic at 36, 38, 40

Cycling 36-40

Childbirth at 30 and 33 was not what you'd expect. First time, six-week baby blues; second time, Hypomania City.

In other words, marked up-to-down cycles at 21, 25, 36 and 40, pretty must constant chaos of increasing intensity from 36 to 40. I think I got a break in my late 20s/early 30s because my life was so manageable. I had brief contact with antidepressants at 36 when first suicidal and that was Not a Good Idea.

Sorry to be brief, my chart is packed somewhere and I was supposed to be off the computer some time ago.

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I had my first real depressive episode when i was 14. In high school my teacher commented to me that I was showing signs of being bipolar (out of concern) and I was like whaaat? I don't think so...I always felt there was something wrong with me, i just didn't think it could be that. I would come to school some days all made up and smiley, and other days I couldn't focus, looked like hell and was depressed. I just didn't make the connection. I put up with it until I bottomed out at 35, with a major depression, only to swing into hypomania after being put on wellbutrin. Hello BP II!

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I had chronic mild depression as a teenager and had my first major depressive episode at 19, followed by several bouts of severe depression and very mild hypomanias that went undiagnosed and then when I was 25 I had my first manic episode and was diagnosed with Bipolar shortly after

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Though I didn't know I had a bipolar type illness at the time, my bipolar symptoms began at the age of 15 when depression was starting to settle.in. My depression continued till I was 17 and diagnosed with a mental illness (I don't know which one at that time). I was started on Zoloft, and I had irritability from the drug (which looking back was probably an unknown hypo). I wasn't officially diagnosed with bipolar till I was either 18 or 19 when I was hospitalized because of severe mood swings. My dx has changed to schizoaffective - bipolar type back in 2010, because I have had psychosis in addition to the mood swings. The diagnosis did assist to my treatment to help keep me out of the hospital, and I've been out of the hospital for over a year and a half now.

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I had major depression I was hospitalized for a month for at age 15. At age 17 I had this great idea to drive from MA to NJ with my SO to visit relatives, who I surprised in the middle of the night. We only had penny rolls and the turnpike let us on with those, and we had to steal gas in Patterson, NJ, which is a place you never want to be. My poor aunt had to give us enough money to get back. So that was probably my first mania.

My symptoms got worse after I had each of my kids, and I spent most of my 20's hypomanic and being supermom. I finally went to see GP, who prescribed me celexa, went insane manic on it, and ended up at couny mental health at age 29 when I was finally diagnosed.

I do see a lot of signs now that I was probably born BP. Time magazine had a great article out many years ago that described childhood BP symptoms, and I had a lot of them.

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Probably when I was around 10. I was always a moody child, and I've been having mood swings for as long as I can remember. I was diagnosed and medicated at 14.

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My dad said that he thought I was bipolar when I was fairly young; about 8 or 9.

I clearly remember bouncing off the walls, needing no sleep, and being super sociable for periods of time; while at other times I slept way too much, was extremely subdued, paranoid, and antisocial. But, those times never lasted super long, and since had no idea that MI ran in our family, I thought I was totally normal.

So, I ignored my early symptoms and eventually went into a severe depression when I was 14. I saw a tdoc for the first time then, but she was batshit crazy and wanted to put me in a hospital. Fuck that. I stopped going to see her and remained depressed with short periods of hypomania until I realized that I needed help for my depression at age 20. I was finally diagnosed this year at 21.

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It's interesting to hear that most people started in their late teens and early twenties, but what's even more compelling is how many had bipolar symptoms in childhood. I've actually thought I had bipolar symptoms in childhood, mainly mild depression and mild hypomanias, impulsivity, and short attention span. From what I understand, isn't it kind of controversial to label kids as bipolar? Not that many of you were, but it's interesting given that many of you began to show signs in childhood.

Thanks for your stories everyone, it's all very interesting!

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I think they just don't want to label kids with a "big" MI. I was a moody kid, and so is my middle child, who is on Lamictal. He's not labeled with it yet, just ADHD and aspergers.

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Unless there is a change in the current format of the DSM 5, the diagnosis of childhood bipolar illness is gone. Kids that used to fall under that umbrella will now be diagnosed as having Temper Dysregulation Disorder.

I truly think it is detrimental to diagnose children with BP illness before they have hit puberty. Now you get a Bipolar diagnosis for what may be a childhood disorder, and that is that. They don't diagnose PDs in children and teens, and I think it is an equally valid not to diagnose kids with BP.

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Unless there is a change in the current format of the DSM 5, the diagnosis of childhood bipolar illness is gone. Kids that used to fall under that umbrella will now be diagnosed as having Temper Dysregulation Disorder.

I truly think it is detrimental to diagnose children with BP illness before they have hit puberty. Now you get a Bipolar diagnosis for what may be a childhood disorder, and that is that. They don't diagnose PDs in children and teens, and I think it is an equally valid not to diagnose kids with BP.

Oh, I agree. There are SO many things that can cause mood swings, tantrums, etc. in kids and some of it they outgrow. For example, they could be acting out due to family problems, have ADHD, Autism

/Asperger's (like my kid) or even just be immature for their age. I see it all the time at work.

However, I think Temper Dysregulation Disorder is a silly/inaccurate diagnosis if the kid is truly bipolar. My son has definite highs and lows that aren't accounted for by anything else. It's not just his "temper".

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I remember my first symptoms were depression, at age 14 (1993). I thought it was just situational depression, because I'd just had to move halfway across the state unexpectedly, leaving behind my friends and starting at a new school mid-year when I didn't want to. It was bad. I rarely went to class... I don't see how I passed the 9th grade. That was the same year when I started having panic attacks too. My dad and I didn't know what they were so he took me to the emergency room, where they explained panic attacks to us, and gave me a paper bag to breathe in to calm my hyperventilation.

This was followed by, in retrospect, what would have probably been a brief hypomania in early 10th grade, followed again by depression. I wrote a suicide note, and told a friend about it, who in turn, told the school counselor and called my parents. I was put on suicide watch for 24 hours, and made to go see a therapist.

I was not diagnosed bipolar until my mid 20's, however. And from an early age, around 10 or 11 I started having these really terrible temper/rage fits. Breaking stuff, screaming, being irritable... you name it. Sounds like the temper dysregulation syndrome.

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My parents say they recognized symptoms of BP in me from early childhood. My siblings recount multitudes of their experiences with me "flipping out" on them when we were young. I asked my mother to get me psychological help when I was 12. I was acutely aware of differences in me and other kids. I had few friends, and the one I did have still made fun of me. In high school I was labeled "crazy girl" by the other students; they called me that to my face. I finally got a therapist when I started doing drugs as an adolescent. He diagnosed me as depressed (imagine that!). As I got older, into my twenties, friends would mention my mood fluctuations in conversation. A friend told me that my personality changed completely when I got pregnant with my first child. She said I was a different person.

My ex husband would say I lived in a bubble and that he couldn't communicate with me because I was so far gone. It didn't help that I had frequent migraines. In my thirties fellow teachers suggested I may be BP. My cycling intervals progressed from longer to shorter as the years have gone by. I cycled up and down every two weeks for eight years. I jumped from job to job for the three years preceding my diagnosis. It wasn't until I had a "break", aka mixed episode with a break from reality, and was hospitalized that I was diagnosed BP1, etc. three years ago.

I have been hospitalized for severe mixed episodes four times in the last three years. I am 56 and looking for a cocktail that works.

Honestly, I got used to being out of it in a BP way. I've made so many irreparable mistakes in my life, I am not aware of how to live like a regular person. I sometimes wish I had been diagnosed at an earlier age so that I wouldn't be living with BP as a personality flaw instead of an organic illness. However, in the days of my childhood I would likely have been permanently institutionalized instead of just heavily sedated.

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