Before 2014, Amanda Yancy didn’t have any indications she had bipolar disorder. She was 30 years old and leaving full-time work to go back to school, beginning a part-time job in the evenings.
Then she started having panic attacks, one so bad that she ran from her job screaming.
“I remember not being able to see, hearing screaming but not realizing it was my own,” Amanda said. “I was unable to feel my body. I had no idea what was going on.”
After being taken to the hospital, Amanda complained of neck pain, but the scans were clear. In the weeks that followed, Amanda couldn’t sleep. She attributed it to a possible head injury. Later, she experienced an episode of psychosis. She called the police, convinced there was something wrong with her husband, Patrick.
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But when the police showed up, she started hallucinating. She bit an officer, was handcuffed and spent a stint in the hospital. By January 2015, Amanda thought she had put the episodes behind her. She went back to school but felt an overwhelming feeling of failure.
She went home and ingested as many pills as she could. The quick response of emergency medical services saved her life, but she was told she may have permanent brain damage.
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“Even though it may seem like I had a textbook diagnosis for bipolar, we still attributed everything to an enormous amount of stress and a possible head injury,” Amanda said.
She had another manic episode in summer 2015, which led to 3 1/2 weeks in a mental health facility in Cherokee, Iowa, three hours away from Ankeny and her family. But that was the help Amanda needed.
“If it hadn’t been for the crisis-trained officers that helped me and working with my family, my story could have been very different."
The Cherokee staff worked with Amanda’s family to set her up for success. They kept her well beyond treatment with a goal of stabilization, making sure that, once released, she would be able to go back to “normal” life. She was officially diagnosed with bipolar, which is characterized by powerful fluctuations of energy, mood, and thinking patterns, and started a regiment of medication, which Amanda calls “the biggest key to my success.”
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She found it’s important for her to make sleep a priority. She also pays close attention to ensure she doesn’t juggle too many tasks at once. When Amanda started the medication and became stable in her mood swings, she had to learn to manage within a much smaller range of emotions.
“This left me feeling flat, and ultimately severely depressed for many months after stabilization,” Amanda said.
Amanda credits the Ankeny Police Department with their trained, even responses. She mentioned the officer she bit could’ve pressed charges, but they understood she was having a mental health episode. And in their response in summer 2015, the officers knew she was experiencing a manic mood swing.
“If it hadn’t been for the crisis-trained officers that helped me and working with my family, my story could have been very different,” Amanda said.
Make It OK is community campaign to reduce stigma by starting conversations and increasing understanding about mental illness. Start by learning what a mental illness really is. Then, find out what to say and not to say when someone opens up to you. You can also help others by sharing your own story to help people know they aren’t alone. Learn more about how you can get involved at MakeItOK.org/Iowa.