Garrett Campbell- Bipolar

Prior to July 8th, 2014, everything in my life seemed to be on track. I had recently graduated from the pharmacy program at Dalhousie University, was promoted to Lieutenant in the Canadian Armed Forces, and finished writing my National licensing exam. Leading up to this date, my girlfriend started to notice a change in my behavior. The changes she noticed were subtle so she didn't think much of it. For about two weeks, I had been staying up later than usual, getting up earlier, and constantly working on side projects that seemed out of the ordinary compared to my usual interests. These behaviors became more intense as time went on. On the weekend surrounding July 8th, I traveled home to visit my family at my cottage. My girlfriend called them as I made the drive to ask if they would keep an eye on me as her concerns were growing. Over the weekend, my relatives agreed that I didn't seem like myself. Several of them approached me to voice their concerns but each time, I became more and more irritable and aggressively told them to leave me alone. On the morning of July 7th, my licensing exam results were posted and I received the unfortunate news that I was unsuccessful with one of the two portions of the exam. My family found it odd that the results didn't phase me. My optimism was over the top.


The next morning, I was woken up by my aunt who wanted to check on me. I became overly frustrated and told her to get out of my room. Her concerns grew and my uncle and cousin were sent over to talk to me. I cut them off as they tried to explain their concerns and my irritability got the better of me causing me to raise my voice. I'm about 6'4" and 245lbs so it was quite intimidating for them to see me acting out in this way. My family decided that I needed to be assessed by a physician but they knew I would mostly likely disagree based on my behavior. They made the decision to phone the police to have them take me to the Cape Breton Regional. When the police arrived, I cooperated completely and after a discussion, they decided that my family could bring me in to the emergency room. After speaking with several physicians, the decision was made for me to be admitted. I was experiencing a manic episode and was subsequently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Looking back, this was 100% the correct call but I can remember at the time thinking that it was unnecessary and was angry with my family; I also thought the diagnosis was ridiculous.


I was hospitalized for about 30 days and then upon release, I made my way back to Halifax where I would speak with the medical staff at the military base. During my discussions, I was given the news that based on my diagnosis and military policy, I would most likely be released from the Canadian Forces. As this set in over the next few months, I fell in the bout of depression. I began to debate in my mind if people would be better off without me around and started having suicidal thoughts. I never made a plan to cause myself any harm, but the thoughts kept emerging. I can recall a vicious cycle where I was too hungry to sleep but too tired & weak to get up and make food. If it wasn't for the support of my girlfriend, I still don't know how I would have gotten through it. Prior to experiencing depression personally, I had no idea just how debilitating it could be; it can totally take control of you. Due to my depression, I made the decision along with my physician to postpone rewriting my licensing exam has there was no way I could focus on studying. 


After coming out of the depression, I made my way back to full time employment and prepared for the exam. I rewrote in May of 2015 and was successful. I received my pharmacy license in July and things were looking up. I was then informed that due to my diagnosis and pending release, I could not be promoted to Captain as all other pharmacists are in the CF. Since a medical release from the forces takes time, this meant that I would have to work for a year without being compensated as a pharmacist. This news caused a perfect storm. First off, a couple months prior to hearing this decision, I stopped taking my medication due to side effects and partially because I was in denial about my diagnosis. As the months went on, I became increasingly concerned with the lack of appropriate pay and tried to take action to have it corrected. After hitting road block after road block, I broke down during a physician appointment. I was given a couple days of stress leave but during the days off, I began to show signs of mania again and ended up in the hospital for another four weeks. Similar to my first episode, I experienced another bout of depression shortly after my hospitalization. I made the decision to just work as potentially the lowest paid pharmacist in Canada because I was unsure if I could handle the stress of pursuing it to be corrected. I was released in July, 2016


Shortly after my release, I made the poor decision of stopping my medication again. It's very common with this diagnosis to question it and to stop medication when one feels fine. This decision would eventually lead to my third (and hopefully last) hospitalization in March of 2017. 


Through all of this I've learned that it's incredibly important to trust the process and be open to recommendations by the experts. Three episodes is enough for me to realize that this diagnosis is real and that I need to treat it as such. I'm currently on the gold standard of medications and will stay on it indefinitely. This decision isn't just for myself. I don't want my girlfriend and family to continue to have to support me during my stay in the hospital or during bouts of depression; it truly disrupts everyone's life around me. If you share this or a similar diagnosis, my best piece of advice would be to keep your physicians informed of your decisions and do your best to follow their advice. It's my belief that support is the most crucial part of recovery so it's an honor to share a bit of my story with a support group such as Shattered Silence. Always remember that "this to shall pass."


Garrett Campbell

Shattered Silence