Fort Myers woman details 20-year journey with bipolar disorder

Reporter: Taylor Petras Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:
Cristina Johansson. Courtesy photo

One Southwest Florida woman is sharing her 20-year journey with bipolar disorder and how she finally got help.

Cristina Johansson was in high school when she noticed her sadness was more than teenage angst.

“I couldn’t get over being sad,” Johansson said. “Anything that happened was the worst thing that happened ever. It felt so dramatic and it was like the end.”

Johansson went on with her adult life struggling with a range of moods and energy levels, though a doctor did diagnose her at one point with bipolar disorder.

“I just really didn’t want to be on medication—I really didn’t want to be diagnosed as anything,” Johansson said. “I was either, ‘Go, go, go’ until I couldn’t, or I was sobbing. And by now, it had been 20 years of sobbing and it was, ‘What’s wrong with me?'”

That’s when she got help at Elite DNA Therapy Services and received her final diagnosis of bipolar 1 with psychotic features.

“Bipolar disorder is contrasted by having low mood but then periods of really, really high mood,” said Mary Curtis, a certified physician’s assistant at Elite DNA Therapy. “What we call sometimes, like, euphoria, maybe a lot of impulsivity, risky behaviors.”

Curtis says those high moods of mania are not pleasant.

“It’s actually very uncomfortable and scary for a lot of patients,” Curtis said. “They feel really out of control of what’s going on.”

“If we have money in the bank, I’m going to spend it all and take out a credit card,” Johansson said. “If I’m driving somewhere, 70 miles on the highway is a suggestion. And it’s not a conscious decision. I’m just… it just is. It’s just, ‘go.'”

Johansson now has a hold on her diagnosis and her life, thanks in part to a great support system of family, friends and medical professionals. She hopes her story inspires people who are struggling to get help, too.

“If you’re ashamed of something and you hide it, you’re going to feel ashamed as a person, so don’t,” Johansson said. “Talk about it, make sure that you’re open when you need to be, want to be. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Johsansson wants to also break the stigma around bipolar disorder. She’s not aggressive and she’s never hurt anyone. With proper treatment, Johansson and the nearly 3% of people in the U.S. diagnosed with bipolar disorder live healthy, normal lives. The National Institute of Mental Health has a lot of information about bipolar disorder, including ways to get help.

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