Jessica: Bipolar II in Midlife

Posted February 23, 2013

I was diagnosed bipolar II in my mid-40s. The signs had been there for years, but no one had ever put it all together.

In my 20s, I started therapy and took the occasional medication for anxiety and/or depression. The treatment gave me some peace and insight into my painful childhood and who I’d become, but the depression and anxiety remained.

In my 30s, marriage followed and we tried to get pregnant. Sadly, my husband and I struggled with infertility, and the depression loomed even larger. Again, therapy was helpful but didn’t ultimately solve my issues. I was afraid to take medication in case I did get pregnant. I cried oceans of tears, and my marriage didn’t survive.

When I look back over my adulthood to try to see when bipolar II behavior began, I see some instances of unbelievable energy and productivity, alternating with heavy depression and lethargy.

I’ve also always struggled with blurting things out, which has made succeeding in the corporate world more difficult. This impulse control issue is one way hypomania affected me. Another aspect of how hypomania affects me is my obsessive nature. I get hung up on things, such as hobbies, and pursue them obsessively to the exclusion of almost everything else. In my 30s, after an exhausting 10-hour day in the office, I worked out excessively for 2 hours a day and then did 2 hours of housework, then stayed up quite late – then did it all over again and again. I can also shop until I almost literally drop.

It all hit the fan in my early 40s, in my 2nd marriage. A perfect storm of life circumstances caused a heavy depression that led me to a psychiatrist for medication again, and ultimately the bipolar II diagnosis. Over the next 5 years, my doctors and I experimented with a mix of medications that had the most effectiveness and the least side effects. Currently, I take Effexor, Buspar and fish oil supplement. I will be adding Abilify to the mix soon to address my anxiety and help boost the impact of my antidepressant.

At this stage in my life, the depression is what still bothers me, but I keep hoping it will get better. I’m grateful for what is working: I’ve always been able to build and sustain a strong network of friends and family, I have 2 dogs who mean the world to me, and regardless of how I feel emotionally – for the past 4 years I’ve always been able to function at work, thanks to the medications.

I hate being labeled bipolar II. I really wish it was called something else, as it’s such a different illness from bipolar I. There is a huge stigma associated with being bipolar, and I’ve chosen to keep my diagnosis private except to family and close friends.


  1. i wonder why it is stigma?

    • i have been diagosed bi polar for 9 years and it is terrible

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