This Is How I Rebuilt My Life

Feeling like you may have hit rock bottom? Here are steps to rebuild your life while dealing with bipolar disorder symptoms.

By Susie Johnson


As the New Year begins, I reflect on another new beginning 16 years ago.

I had hit rock bottom.

I’d moved to Virginia. With my bipolar 1 diagnosis, I needed a new psychiatrist and went to one recommended. To reach his office, I had to walk through another office for lactating mothers that looked like a set for “That 70’s Show!” I was creeped out.

At that time I took only antidepressants. My medicine ran out and I couldn’t reach the new doctor. So, instead of doing the adult thing – find a new doctor – I had the not-so-brilliant idea to just go off my meds. I was in my 20’s! What can I say? And I was on a manic high.

I had a new therapist as well. For years I’d seen a woman I just loved. She was simply the best! My new therapist was male and I did not click with him at all. I went to appointments but didn’t follow any of his advice, including finding a new doctor.   Therapy did me no good because I wasn’t willing to change my life.

I was a hot mess on this manic high.

On a whim I quit my job as a kindergarten aide and took an even harder job working split days – before and after school childcare. Some children were autistic making the job even more challenging.

I couldn’t sleep. Even though I wanted to, my brain wouldn’t stop. I took several Benadryl. Didn’t faze my body. Then I had an anxiety attack fearing I’d overdosed and would have to have my stomach pumped.

My relationship with my boyfriend was on the rocks too. We’d started as a one-night stand. I wasn’t proud of that because I’m not that type of girl. I depended on him but it was one of those immature relationships. We fought and yelled and one day, he let me out the car a short distance from home. I had to walk the rest of the way. My parents warned me, but I would not end the relationship.

I was on a crazy wheel and couldn’t jump off.

At that point I found a new psychiatrist, only he did not have my records. In denial about being bipolar, I just said I had anxiety. So he treated me for anxiety, and I took drugs that did nothing for me. I wasted away physically. People thought I had anorexia. I didn’t realize what I actually looked like or how unhealthy I was.

Then I got fired from 2 jobs. I had no medical insurance. I knew I couldn’t keep living that way and turned to my parents. My mom and dad rescued me. They brought me home with them to Las Vegas. Within four months with the help of a great psychiatrist and medication adjustments, I was good as new.

This is how I rebuilt my life:

  1. Found the best psychiatrist and therapist in town who cared 100% for my well-being and who were always just a phone call away.
  2. Joined a church.   The wonderful support of others’ faith and friendship anchored me.
  3. When healthy enough, found a job.  I hated it, working retail for minimum wage when I had a B.A. in Sociology. But the job brought me a routine I needed. I met coworkers, and I got to shop. I was also humbled by the experience.
  4. Sucked it up and moved back home. It was hard after being on my own for two years, but I was blessed with parents who took me in and just kept loving and supporting me.
  5. Joined a meet-up group. There are many groups to join. I found a hiking one.

Sixteen years ago I lost it all. Now I have rebuilt an even better life, filled with stability, a healthy marriage, and a job I love working in an elementary school. I am also an author and speaker, strong enough to share my memoir with the world.  Sometimes all you need is a new outlook and a new beginning.