“If people have seen the movie Thelma and Louise, and at the end of the movie, they drive their car right off the cliff. That’s what it’s like for me at times”, says Carolyn Crawford. “When I know I’m going into a manic state, I have to stop and say ‘Wait a Minute’, and pull back from the cliff. That’s how it affects me. But I really didn’t know what it was”, Crawford said.
What it was, and still is for Carolyn Crawford: Bipolar Disorder, also known as Manic Depression. Bipolar Disorder is a condition for which there is no known cause or cure, and according to the National Institute on Mental Health, affects close to 6 million Americans every year.
Carolyn Crawford is a recent resident of Springfield Missouri having moved here from Branson West, but Crawford’s lived in Oklahoma, Texas and California too. Hoping to help others by coming forward with her story, Carolyn Crawford is with us today on KSMU for Making a Difference: Let’s Talk About It! Normalizing Mental Health Conversations.
“And I don’t need to be anonymous, I’m more than happy to tell you who I am”, said Carolyn Crawford. “And I’m also thinking, people should know I’m 76 years old. I decided it was important to tell people that”, she said.
“Starting out, there are several things I found in my life that basically could be identified as this situation called Bipolar Illness or Manic Depression, in the past”, Carolyn Crawford says. “One that I found is very inappropriate sexual behavior, which was there most of my life. Then later I found it was spending lots of money, like on clothes. If one was good, 8 was better”, she said.
Carolyn Crawford describes a feeling of “Flying Around” when in a manic state: “It was so seductive to be up in the manic state”, she says. “It’s like, wow this is great! And this is where I want to be, because it’s so much fun”, said Crawford.
Crawford also reports some difficulty with sleep, while in a manic state. “It wasn’t like I was awake for days. It was never like that for me. I suspect what I have experienced is a less intense form of this condition. I’ve never had the Depression part” said Carolyn Crawford.
“So this is how it’s affected me” said Crawford. “It was very seductive to be up in the manic state, but it was very hard to deal with the symptoms and side effects that I found for me” she said.
Going through life, Carolyn Crawford Put on a Good Face, but her self-awareness told her something wasn’t right and she sought help from counselors in the places she’s lived.
“I think I’ve hidden things pretty well”, says Carolyn Crawford. “Most people have seen me as a person who seems balanced on the outside. But on the inside, it was a combination of several different things that made me realize something wasn’t right. I mean, I’ve seen counselors in 4 different states”, Crawford said.
In 3 of those states, Carolyn Crawford was incorrectly diagnosed with and treated for, Depression.
“Late 80’s-early 90’s, I started being put on anti-depressants”, said Crawford. “What happens with anti-depressant for someone is Bipolar is it throws you up into a manic state. It does not help”, Crawford says.
In early 2002, Carolyn Crawford moved to California. “So I went to see this really great psychiatrist there”, she says. “He asked me some questions, and told me I was Bipolar. I said ‘Oh really, so that’s what it is’, and he put me on some medications, and I was able to feel balanced for the first time in my life. But I was in my 60’s at that point”, said Crawford.
Carolyn Crawford says she feels fortunate to have a correct diagnosis of her condition, and the correct medications to treat her Bipolar illness. She also says it’s helpful to be in environments which are healing in nature: “I try to be with people I like being with”, she says. “I love all the kinds of cultural and artistic activities Springfield provides”, said Crawford.
Carolyn Crawford has specific reasons for going public about her bipolar condition: “I’ve been thinking about it”, she said. “What is it about what wanted to let people know about me as a human being; what I’ve experienced, what I’ve gone through, so maybe somebody else who’s feeling out of whack, not knowing what’s going on, that they then go, and try to get some help. “I know that could be a major thing for some, because mental health issues are hard for a lot of people to deal with”, says Carolyn Crawford.
“Periodically, I still hear someone say ‘Well I’m not Crazy’, said Crawford. “And it’s too bad people feel that way, because that’s not the word to describe it at all, it isn’t that”, she says. “I think it’s no different than saying ‘I have cancer’ or ‘I have a broken leg’. It isn’t any different”, Crawford says.
“I think that if what I’ve said today could help one person feel more balanced, then that’s something I want to do”, said Crawford. “And I’m hoping not only is this helping others, I can think of at least one group where I would like to share this and say ‘This is Who I Am.’ So it’s not only helping others, but this was for me too. To say who I am, and go on the record, so to speak”, said Carolyn Crawford.
On KMSU, support for Making a Difference; Let’s Talk About it! Normalizing Mental Health Conversations, comes from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, www.cfozarks.org. in cooperation with the Missouri Foundation for Health, www.mffh.org and Burrell Behavioral Health www.burrellcenter.com and the Springfield Greene County Health Department www.springfieldmo.gov/health