It was one of the highest highs that Joanna had ever felt.
“You basically feel on top of the world,” she explains. “Like you have some kind of special purpose or role. So, I thought my purpose was spreading happiness. I started to believe that I had this special code.”
What Joanna didn’t know at the time, was that she had bipolar disorder, and that it had progressed. “I have bipolar type 1, so I actually became delusional. I was afraid people were going to come after me to get this code,” she says.
Bipolar disorder affects people’s mood and causes them to experience episodes of depression and mania.
Before her diagnosis, Joanna was a medical student who had everything going for her. “I was kind of excited for the future. I had plans for finishing med school and becoming a doctor. Everything was going great.”
Bipolar disorder changed that, “When I got sick, my first episode was really severe depression. And, all of a sudden, all those things you used you to be, like outgoing and happy and confident, are all of a sudden gone and you’re very different than the person you used to be.”
Fast-forward 10 years to present day, as Joanna balances her career as a psychiatrist alongside her role as a mother, and reflects on how far she has come.
“I never would have believed that I would finish medical school, get married, have a child, and have a successful career in medicine, when I experienced my first episode of the illness,” she says.
Experts say while bipolar disorder is a challenging mental illness to both diagnose and treat, continued research means patients will have more treatment options.