I am a teacher. There is nothing in this world that I would rather do. I love what I do, but it’s not easy. Every morning I step into the classroom I have the opportunity to better myself; to become something I never imagined I wanted to be. I’m constantly learning. I’m a student of the game. It’s humbling. I’m far from perfect. Some days I’m more the student than I am the teacher. I’d like to think that I’m good at what I do, but I’m still a rookie at this game. I hope it always stays that way.
I am also a wife, something new to me. Just eight months on my 33rd birthday next week. I never dreamed how much work marriage entails, but I’m learning. I’m a student of the game. I love my husband more than anything in the world. I can’t wait to come home to him at night and share everything that happened during the course of my day. I love what I’m doing, what I’m becoming. It’s nice to have someone depend on me the way that he does. It’s a different kind of life, one I never shared or experienced. This is who I am now. This is who I wasn’t just a short time ago.
I am also a mother. I have a seven year old son that refers to me as “Amy,” but if you ask him who his mom is he says me. He too is new in my life. If the truth be known, I fell in love with him first. I’m very new at this game. But I’m a student of the game. It’s not easy, but if feels real, and every day I get better at what I do; God has given me that opportunity.
I am also a basketball coach. Basketball has consumed nearly 16 years of my life, almost half of the time I’ve been on this earth. It’s been a blessing, more than most people could ever imagine. I’m good at what I do, but I’m still a student of the game. I still feel twelve when I walk into a gym. I still feel that rush of anxiety; still smell that sweet essence of childhood. Basketball blessed my life, but it was more than just a game. I love basketball. I’ve never met anyone who loves it more than I do, who sees and feels it the way I do. It was always the love that was different. That was the gift I was given. It wasn’t the way I could handle a ball, not the countless hours I would spend on the court, not the 1,000 points I scored in high school, or the eventual college scholarship I would earn that would place me at a Division I NCAA school. It was always the love.
I am bipolar. My life is different. It has always been different to some extent. When I was a teenager, I thought that all young girls my age stayed up until 1 AM playing basketball. I used to think it was out of dedication, out of the pure love for the game. Truly, it was because I couldn’t fall asleep. I’d play until my hands were raw, or until my parents bellowed one more time for me to come in. I thought I was just different – Different like most teenagers. At 16 I was diagnosed with A.D.D. and severe depression. That was my first psychiatrist, but far from my last. So for years I was treated as such and told, “You’ll probably grow out of the A.D.D.”
I went to college, took myself off any and all medications, after all, I was to grow out of it. I functioned (if that’s what you call it) for a short while. Then the late nights started again, or the days of not wanting to get out of bed. My thoughts were rapid, my speech even more rapid. I’d start to class, and then end up somewhere else. I couldn’t focus. Midway through my freshman year at Walsh I was given the opportunity to transfer to a bigger school (The University of Akron) to play basketball – To pursue a childhood dream. It wasn’t about the scholarship, not entirely, I wanted to know how good I could be. After all, I was a student of the game.
I was good for a few weeks at a time, but never consistent. My moods fluctuated. My grades dropped. They attributed it to the “newness” of it all. I just needed to work harder. When I read, nothing stuck. I couldn’t focus. At times I slept very little, or slept too much. I’d find myself late at night in the middle of the campus playing ball. Sometimes drunk people would come by and play H-O-R-S-E with me.
At the end of my junior year I was asked to take a NCAA mandatory drug test. Something I had done before. At that time I had been put back on medication for what was believed to be A.D.D. I was on a high dose of dexedrine, an amphetamine. When I took that drug test that morning I didn’t eat, I peed in a cup. It seemed to be an ordinary morning. A few days later my Coach called and said that my test had come back positive, which was no shock to me, I was on a high dose of amphetamines at the time. But what would happen after that would change the course of my life forever.
I was required to see our team physician who happened to be a retired pediatrician. Within a short time he told me he didn’t believe I was A.D.D. and that he was recommending I see a neurologist. He also told me that the Dexedrine which I was being treated with at the time had to go, that I couldn’t compete at the D-1 level on amphetamines. I quit taking the meds. A week later I saw the neurologist. The tests were inconclusive. From there I was sent to see yet another shrink. I was a mess.
I tried training that summer, after all, I was a D-1 athlete and I had to prepare for the upcoming season. I WAS IN LOVE WITH BASKETBALL. It was the only thing I knew up until that point in my life. If I was sad, I played ball. If I was angry, I played ball. If I had been hurt by someone, I played ball. When life didn’t make sense, I played ball. For that reason, I played basketball a lot. It was my saving grace. Little did I know then that basketball, by the grace of God, saved my life. If I hadn’t had ball growing up as a confused teenagers I probably would have gotten into drugs to self medicate, or worse, the suicides that I did attempt would have become more frequent. Maybe I would have succeeded.
“You are bipolar, manic depressive…” the Dr. told my mother and me. She inhaled, I exhaled. IT had a name. “It affects 1% of the population…” (I was never very lucky) “It’s genetic; families don’t like to talk about that sort of thing.” Moody is the word I most frequently heard. For my family it gave a mere name to something they had lived with all of their lives. You can’t take a blood test to decide if you are bipolar. And it’s not something you want to be labeled with necessarily. This was the first Dr. to tell me I was bipolar, but it wasn’t my last.
I went back to college after that long summer. I was out of shape, overweight (playing weight), and my life was out-of-control. I was taking lithium like aspirin as a friend constantly reminded me, “Its’ not like a headache, it’s just not going to go away.” She’s right. I’ll be bipolar all of my life.
I started playing basketball that year, but after a few practices, I stormed out. I was a wreck; emotionally, physically, spiritually. I felt broken, like shards of glass had ripped open my soul. Nothing made sense, not even basketball. So when my Coach called me into her office a few days later and asked me to quit, I agreed. She said what I couldn’t possibly say.
I remained at school for awhile, but in March late that year, just one day before my 22nd birthday I was admitted into the psych unit at Cuyahoga Falls General. For the first time in my life I truly wanted to die. Other attempts had been cries for help. That night, I really didn’t want to wake up. I wanted it to just all go away. I wanted it to stop. All the nightmares in my head, I wanted them to go away. I remained there for twenty days. I met some incredible people. The actual healing would take a long time. The accepting of the disorder would take longer; years. It was a first step
I’m going to be 33 next week. I celebrate another birthday, too. I’ve come along way since that night in March. I am still bipolar. Good days can be hard sometimes. Hard days can be even harder. My life is different from most, but not always. I recognize when I’m manic, or try to decipher a sad day from a bipolar day. I try to cut the cycles off before they begin. Sometimes I win, sometimes I don’t. My family is wonderful. God is even better. It is a gift, the way I see the world, the way I feel things. How easily I am inspired by the laughter of children, or the rain from a spring storm. Being bipolar, at times, has its perks.
I’m medicated. I will do this every day of my life except for when there comes the time my husband and I want to have a baby. I see my psychiatrist often, a counselor when needed. I do blood tests, I watch and monitor what I do as closely as I can, and when I’m not I have good friends who ask, “Are you manic today?” What are good friends for?
I am a teacher. I am a wife. I am a mother. I am a coach. And I am bipolar. But most of all, I am a student of this game we call life.