After years of being misdiagnosed, a young woman gets the help she needs from an HSC psychiatrist
“You are enough.” “Everything will be okay.” “You are not alone in anything.” These are the mantras Amelia* taped to her mirror and repeated to herself each morning. Even after reciting these words of affirmation, in 2016 Amelia had never felt so alone.
After suffering bouts of depression growing up, 28-year-old Amelia wasn’t a stranger to feeling alone—but it never felt like this. Amelia was covered in a cold sweat, trembling, and moodier than ever before. Thankfully, Amelia was able to push through this cloud of foreign feelings and know that these feelings were worth it—they meant that she was detoxing from her antidepressants and finally on the path to finding the right diagnosis, and the right medicine.
Shortly after turning 20, Amelia told her then-family doctor about episodes of depression, for which her doctor prescribed a common antidepressant. For years, Amelia managed with this prescription and regular cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)—until she entered her mid-twenties.
“While nearing the end of my university degree, I felt an awful wave of depression emerge. I knew the signs; I began seeking additional CBT and had my antidepressant dosage increased,” recalls Amelia.
Unfortunately, increasing her dosage in an attempt to stabilize her mental health only made matters worse.
“At first, I felt euphoric—I was confident, I hardly slept. This was a complete turnaround from not being able to get out of bed,” says Amelia.
The euphoria morphed into rapid-fire, unrealistic ambitions and reckless behaviour, such as blowing through her student loan at an alarming rate, something that Amelia would never otherwise do.
“I was obsessed with shopping. I would fixate on an item and had to purchase multiple copies of the same item to satisfy myself,” says Amelia. “I remember one lunch break I lied to my classmates and went shopping for water bottles—that was my current fixation. I returned to class hiding my backpack that was brimming with water bottles.”
Despite this peculiar behaviour, Amelia didn’t seek help until she felt such extreme irritation one day in class that she worried she would hurt someone. “I immediately went to the clinic on campus for help, who connected me with Dr. Louis Ludwig, a psychiatrist at HSC Winnipeg,” notes Amelia.
Dr. Ludwig diagnosed Amelia with bipolar II, a psychiatric disorder that cycles between depressive and hypomanic episodes. It turns out that increasing Amelia’s antidepressant sent her into a manic episode when what she needed all along was a mood stabilizer.
Thanks to Amelia’s work before her recent bout of depression, she had secured a job that began immediately after classes ended. Dr. Ludwig had under two weeks to taper her off her antidepressant—which was notorious for having bad withdrawal side effects—and start her on a new prescription before her first day on the job.
“I was in a bad mental state and even though Dr. Ludwig had to act fast, he took the time to talk to me and read notes from my therapist to discover the best prescription for me,” says Amelia.
Amelia cites this period in her life as being among the darkest times, but ultimately proved necessary to discover the correct psychiatric care.
“Ask questions about your prescription, get second—even third—opinions, and keep a notebook to track your moods,” says Amelia. “I am forever grateful that I was directed to the expertise of Dr. Ludwig. I have kept on top of CBT, my prescription, and appointments, and have felt better ever since.”
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*Name changed at patient’s request.
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