Now, at 53 years old, Mathews is in control of her bipolar I. She encourages those who’ve recently been diagnosed to stay patient—and stick to treatment. “If you have an episode, lay low, take care of yourself for a couple of days, and it will pass,” she explains. “If you can just hang in there, you get more comfortable with it.”
“It felt like someone else was controlling my mind and body.”
In 2021, Inga Lukosius was having serious delusions—a common psychosis-related symptom that people with bipolar disorder can experience, especially during manic episodes.1 “I was completely out of this world. I was hearing and seeing things,” she tells SELF. “I thought I was a millionaire and my money would never end. I maxed out my credit cards and got into $50,000 [worth of] debt.” Lukosius says she stole from stores, skipped paying at restaurants, and slept at bus stops. “It felt like someone else was controlling my mind and body” before she found help, she says.
When she did seek help, her doctor misdiagnosed her with depression—an issue many people with bipolar I encounter.2 The antidepressants she was prescribed at the time worsened her mania.3
During a hospital visit in 2022, Lukosius finally received effective care: a mood stabilizer and antipsychotic medication. Though she and her psychiatrist are “still trying to find a perfect fit” with her treatment plan, Lukosius is hopeful. “I am happy that I got the help that I needed. [My doctors] brought me back to reality.”
“I was finally able to regulate my emotions.”
As a teenager, Felisha Lord was particularly hotheaded. “I got enraged and angry,” she tells SELF. “I would break things in the house.”
Just as quickly as her rage bubbled up, it dipped into depression. “I couldn’t figure out what I was feeling and why,” she recalls, adding that she struggled with self-harm.
Those highs and lows stayed with Lord throughout her 20s and 30s and came to a head when she was 36. After Lord got into a physical fight with her then fiancé, he gave her an ultimatum: Get help or leave.
She eventually found a therapist who diagnosed her with bipolar I “right away,” which she had mixed feelings about. “I was relieved that I knew what was [affecting my mood] after all these years, but a part of me resented that I would need to take a pill for the rest of my life,” Lord says.
But once she started taking an antipsychotic medication, she realized how great the right treatment could make her feel. “It made me mellow,” Lord explains. “I was finally able to regulate my emotions.”
Though she’s had to work with her doctors to find the right balance of medications, overall Lord is happy with the track she’s on. “My relationships are better,” she says. “It’s all so much better.”
“There is life and stability beyond the diagnosis.”
Tabitha Connelly George was diagnosed with bipolar I in 1997 when she was in middle school. “I was off the wall,” she tells SELF, adding that she frequently picked fights with classmates and got into trouble for “bad” behaviors. “By the time I was 15, I had been expelled from school twice,” she says.