Through a 12-step program, I tried coping with my new, clean life. But I was still consumed with self-loathing, insecurities, imaginary judgments, and panic attacks. At the same time, I had lofty thoughts and philosophies, grand plans and delusions. I was right back in the kind of spiraling bipolar episode I’d been bandaging for more than seven years.
I arrived at the state hospital not as a novice any longer, but with approximately five years of direct clinical work under my belt as a psychiatric social worker. I had worked with families with issues involving mental illness and / or substance abuse related problems in a variety of contexts. However, I also realized very quickly that I was far from an expert in my field, and that there was much to learn in order to better assist my patients.
When I say I like to be prepared, it is an immense understatement. I take pride in being prepared for the known, and the unknown. I obsessively play the tape through every possible scenario knowing that being fully equipped for each one will boost my mood up a notch. But in all actuality, I obsess over having to know what to expect at every turn, from hour to hour and day to day. My routine and planning consumes my thoughts. So while I feel I cannot rest until I am prepared for every task, every day, every adventure…I never really feel prepared. Never at rest. There is always something tugging at my nerves.
After years with my previous therapist, it is strange navigating a new therapeutic relationship. Firstly, it stings a little, breaking up with an old therapist. My internalized shame told me that I hadn’t tried hard enough. My shame told me I was unfixable. My shame told me my trauma was too ugly to be examined. I know, intellectually, that these things aren’t true, but trauma loves shame. Secondly, working with someone new comes with its own set of baggage. It is always a little bit unnerving, unzipping yourself and showing a relative stranger all your complicated clockwork parts: your past, your broken pieces, your hurts and bruises.
It never seems to be my fault no matter what. At least that is the lie I tell myself. I either blame the disorder, or too often, the other person. So I have been trying to really recognize whether my behavior is simply a flawed, but unique, personality trait. Or whether I need to find more direct ways to master my illness’s distinct idiosyncrasies.
We can get through the next few months staying healthy. Please indulge in reading the BC2M website if you do feel alone. Post your feelings. It helps to reach out. I no longer isolate from depression. My symptoms are managed well. Writing to all of you helps me enormously so I say THANK YOU and we’ll get through this holiday season together, alive.
Fourteen years ago when I was 24 years old, I was diagnosed with bipolar I, and it saved my life. Slowly, the pieces came together and the many years before that came into focus. There was a reason for all of the madness and the pain and confusion. And there was finally a reason to want to get better. Finding out I had bipolar was the first time I felt like I wasn’t crazy, if that makes any sense.
I encourage everyone who has been victimized to seek help and not carry a burden that seems insurmountable.
After all the facts I now know, I can happily say I’m adjusting well to my new life as an advocate for change. I learned I am NOT my illness, I am NOT my past and I am NOT a victim. I am an overcomer and if this story helps another person, which I hope it does, I’ve succeeded in one mission in life.