Renee, age 40, bipolar disorder type II, with husband, Gary

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Renee's family was the first to recognize she wasn't acting like herself. "I was isolating myself. My husband Gary and my kids told me they were losing me. It was extremely hard because I didn't want to admit I had a problem," says Renee.

 

Gary worked with their pastor to convince Renee she needed medical help. "I was skeptical when Gary said I wasn’t well," says Renee. "But when my pastor and Gary said I had withdrawn and was sad and negative, I agreed to see a doctor."

However even after seeing a psychiatrist, Renee was misdiagnosed with depression instead of bipolar disorder because she did not see that her mood changes were unusual. "When the psychiatrist asked me about mood and energy swings, I would say I didn’t have them," says Renee. "I didn’t think my feelings and behaviors were unusual, even though I went from doing a lot of dinner entertaining with friends and heading many church committees to completing withdrawing from these people and activities."

Without the right medication, Renee got worse and was finally hospitalized. Her doctor asked her entire family, including her mother and estranged father, to come to a series of family meetings so they could help Renee. Through these family discussions, Renee found out that her father had signs of bipolar disorder and it runs in families. "My father abandoned my family when I was sixteen, without any warning," explains Renee. Renee was finally correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

"A tool like the Mental Health Family Tree, which helps you map out your family history, would have been invaluable to me and my family. I could have gotten diagnosed quicker," says Renee. "We all would have clearly seen that bipolar disorder is a medical condition that runs in my family."

What works

Renee credits her family and church with helping her through her recovery. "My family is so important," says Renee. "They let me know when I started having bipolar symptoms — like taking on a million projects at once but not sleeping or spending a lot of money — and they are also allowed to speak with my doctors about my treatment."

"I want people to know there doesn't have to be a stigma associated with bipolar disorder. I am managing my symptoms, and now that I've been correctly diagnosed and treated, I'm living a healthy and normal life," says Renee.

alt Listen to an interview with Renee and Dr. Raymond Depaulo about Helping a Family Member Receive Treatment
WCTC Listen to the WCTC radio interview with Renee and Dr. Eric Youngstrom about bipolar disorder