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Mental health Bipolar disorder

At first, Erin's mother Sherrie Reddick thought her daughter was just misbehaving a lot. She didn't understand why Erin's moods changed so quickly from a temper tantrum to seeming very happy. "She would stay in a tantrum for hours," Sherrie says, "and then all of a sudden, it would be over with and everything would be fine."

As Erin's moods went up and down, her behavior changed too. "I would do really stupid things," she says. "Pull knives, try to jump out windows, or lash out at people for no reason."

Erin was in third grade when her parents sought help. Finding the right doctor who matched the right diagnosis with the right treatment took time.

"Erin had more than simple depression," Dr. Linda Zamvil, Erin's physician, says. "There were periods when she was up and down in her moods, irritable and aggressive. She wanted to hurt herself and others."

Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Erin felt ashamed. "I didn't want to be different," she says. "I thought I was going to be, like, a 'retard.' I refused my medicine at times." But as Erin grew older, she began to accept herself. With the support of her family and her doctor, she came to understand that having bipolar disorder was like having diabetes: it wasn't her fault.

Erin doubts she would be alive, had she not gotten help. Now when she struggles, she can get through it. "Getting help is a must," she says. "You could end up having really bad things happen."

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