"I'll never forget the day when my doctor put his comforting hand on my shoulder and said the two words that cleared up a lifelong mystery:

"Bipolar disorder.

"Until then, I simply couldn't figure out why, like an out-of-control roller-coaster, I plunged into a downward spiral from extreme happiness to extreme depression, why I plummeted from such highs to such lows.

"Throughout my life, I'd experienced such incredible highs emotionally. I felt like I could do and accomplish anything. Just tell me, and I'd accomplish it.

"Or so I thought.

"I didn't need much sleep. My friends complained that I talked too quickly.

"I felt almost as if I were one of those tops that would spin uncontrollably when its string was yanked. I was spinning so fast that people around me seemed to move too slowly.

"Then, almost like turning off a light switch, I would plunge into the depths of depression and sadness. When I was a kid, I became such a prisoner of my down moods that I skipped school, simply because I just couldn't get out of bed.

"Later in life, my job was getting more stressful, and my 'up' and 'down' times became more frequent. Even my wife and friends said I acted very differently from my 'usual self.'

"I ignored them or told them to leave me alone.

"Suddenly, my world came crashing down: I simply couldn't keep my life together. I quit going to work. I stayed in bed, hunkered down in the covers, all the time, for days.

"My life had spiraled so low that at 3 o'clock one morning, as I retreated beneath the bedcovers, I concluded that my life wasn't worth living anymore. Frightened for my welfare, my wife made an appointment for me to see our doctor and she insisted that she go with me.

"Much to my surprise, my doctor referred me to a psychiatrist, a medical doctor trained to treat the kinds of problems I was having.

"A week later, the psychiatrist talked with me about my feelings and actions over the past six months. And we talked about how my grandfather had serious ups and downs like me.

"Then, he uttered two words that were unfamiliar to me: bipolar disorder.

"When he described the symptoms, he was describing the demons I had fought my entire life. Finally, I knew my ups and downs were actually periods of 'mania' and 'depression' caused by an illness that my psychiatrist could treat.

"I began taking prescription medication to stabilize my moods, and now I see my psychiatrist once a month and a psychologist for "talk" therapy, which helps me learn how to deal with my bipolar disorder in everyday life.

"I'm not saying I'm out of the woods. The first few weeks were the hardest in my life as I waited for the medicine to kick in and my talk therapy began working.

"There were times I thought I wouldn't make it, but my wife and friends kept pushing and supporting me.

"Now, my mood changes are much less severe and less frequent. I go to work each day, and I'm productive once I'm there.

"I'm enjoying life again. I'm enjoying my wife and kids again. Yes, indeed, life is good! Finally!

Source: National Institute of Mental Health