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.
I can’t miss a single day of medication, or else I spiral into darkness. Is it worth it? Definitely. Life is so beautifully complex, and without the darkness I would not appreciate the sunlight. Sometimes I feel like my emotional dial is turned all the way up. I feel things so much more powerfully, my world is a prismatic collage of sharply vibrant colors, some intensely dark, some pulsating with life and light, and everyday is a new challenge, learning how to navigate through a sea of torrid emotions. I am grateful for my life.
Often, I treat the bed as if it were a life raft, and the floor an ocean, teaming with sharks. It is laughable how safe the world I create really is. My little life raft. I line up my meds, my remote control, my phone, my laptop and my coffee on the night side table. This way, I am only an arm’s reach away from my survival gear. This is not the way I always live, but it is my default-mode when depression is particularly strong.
So sure, it’s okay now that people are open now about being depressed, or bipolar or having any mental illness. As long as we don’t discuss the details that could make other people uncomfortable. Most companies are required to provide the necessary legal measures for people with mental illness. While friends and family hold your hand when you cry and understand you don’t want to see them for months at a time when you’ve locked yourself in your house. But nobody wants to hear the true details of the horrors behind the illness. And everybody with a mental illness has a book chock-full of these details from the depths of depression to the pure insanity of mania and everything in between.
As far back as I can remember I struggled with highs and lows. I wish I had gotten treatment much earlier but I didn’t want a mental illness. It was a sign of weakness. Of course I could be well if I tried harder. Worked harder. Prayed harder.
I like so many others didn’t believe it was a sickness.
My life has improved since I got on a program to help me with this unbelievably difficult disease. Although, I have had troubles with substances and ended up in a rehabilitation facility for a pain program after I ended up addicted to pain killers and Cocaine last year. This year has been extremely difficult and still need help.
This disease (both of them) has ruined my opportunities in life, but I’m still here and am not quitting the fight to just survive.
Shame can be as bitter as any pill prescribed to heal. Shame, and the ugly things we tell ourselves to feed that shame, are so destructive. I will have to remember to talk with my therapist about this. I will have to write down what I am feeling and thinking today, so that when the memory of this fades, my treatment can still be effective.
When I finally went to the hospital and was diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder I was relieved that there was a reason for my lousy behavior but, I still felt ashamed. It’s difficult to live a life permeated with bad behavior and then all of a sudden be told that you have a brain disorder. WHAT?? No, that was ME who made those decisions! Why has it taken so long to figure this out? What is me and what is my disorder?
On the bright side, although I continue to cycle through depression, mania and mixed states, for the last year I have been consistenly happier than I can ever remember and am very optimistic about what the future holds. I have rediscovered my spiritual beliefs, made significant positive improvement in family relations which have been horribly, but not irrevocably damaged.
This has been a classic American Tragedy and I hope my experiences educate, and, hopefully, help someone else who is struggling. Even If no one reads this, it has been very helpful to publicly acknowledge my condition and continue to move forward with my life.