This journey starts long before I was diagnosed. As a teenager, I had always felt off. Not bad or crazy - just off. I felt like I was on the outskirts of society. Friends did not come easy to me. I didn't seem to be able to communicate well. It was like my mind and my mouth just wouldn't line up. I had so many emotions all the time. Anxiety, depression, paranoia. I couldn't seem to distinguish them. All my emotions would hit me at once. I just didn't know how to handle them. This sensation continued throughout high school and past graduation. Even though I had trouble with friends, I enjoyed a very close relationship with my family. I am the oldest of four children and have two wonderful parents. So when I graduated, I decided to attend college close to my home. I thought that life would be different at college. I was sure I would "find myself". Things were different but just not how I had thought. I had a wonderful roommate and it seemed my luck with friends was changing. So I felt that I could do anything because I now had friends. Now what I found out was my roommate had connections....connections to parties. So I started drinking. At first it was just for fun. Then I realized that drinking numbed my thoughts and emotions. I didn't have to fight my feelings when I was drinking. So it became a lifestyle. I would start the day with beer and end it with shots. I didn't realize I was becoming an alcoholic. Then drinking led to other things. Smoking, drugs and eventually petty theft. (I am not saying that all drinking is bad, nor am I saying that drinking always leads to more. This is just what happened to me in the mental state I was in.) I thought this was great. I was enjoying myself and not fighting my emotions. The thing was, deep inside, I knew something was wrong. I started distancing myself from my family. I wasn't attending any of my classes. So started the spiral. I didn't like what I was doing but I couldn't stop. If I stopped drinking and getting high, then I would have to fight all the thoughts and emotions flying through my head. So I kept going with this lifestyle but started to not enjoy it. I started hating myself and everything I did. I....just....couldn't.....stop. Then came the night it all fell apart. I was laying in bed, in the dark, crying. Nothing was right. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where to go. My parents could have helped but I had completely alienated them. So I thought I found the answer. A dull razor blade. I laid there trying to cut myself with an old razor blade. Then my roommate came in. She saw what I was doing and ran to find someone to help. When she left, I ran. I went out a back door of the dorm and ran. Unfortunately it was raining and I was in my pajamas. I heard police sirens coming and decided I needed to hide. I thought if I just hid for a while, everyone would forget about me and leave. I obviously was not thinking straight. I had also lost the blade in my rush to leave. I found a small back porch on one of the dorms. It was wooden slats with a small staircase. It didn't keep the rain off of me completely but at least it was somewhere to hide. I spent most of that night under those stairs in the mud. I couldn't even end my life successfully. As it was nearing dawn, things seemed to quiet down. I took a look around and couldn't see any people or police cars. So I made my way back to my dorm. As I entered the lobby it was very quiet. I thought I was safe now. I could go back to my dorm and act like nothing happened. Then off to my right I saw movement. It was my roommate and a police officer. There was nowhere to go. I was too tired to run again and just didn't have any fight left in me. They took me to the hospital to be evaluated. Once it was determined I was okay, I thought this was the end of it and I could go back. Like I said my mind was out of control at this point. They gave me two options. They would either admit my to the psychiatric hospital, or I could call my parents and go home with them. This was a very difficult decision. Obviously I did not want to go into a hospital but I had distanced myself from my family. In the end, I always knew I could go home. So I called my Dad. I just told him I was okay but needed to be picked up at the hospital. So he came. I couldn't say anything, I just showed him my wrist. He cried and hugged me. It was obvious that he didn't know what to say or do. He drove me home and the ride was very quiet. He must have been embarrassed somewhat because he didn't tell my Mom what happened. I went to bed and He told my Mom I was sick. Later that week my parents went back to the dorm and got all my things. I spent a week in bed. I just slept. This is the beginning of my journey but it is not the end. This was the first time I tried to end my life but it would not be the last.......
When I was a child, I was extremely happy and energetic. My mom and grandmother will tell you that I bounced all over the place. I loved to read, I loved to play, and I loved watching and helping my grandmother in the kitchen. I had my ups and downs, but who doesn’t? Nothing ever seemed out of the ordinary. In middle school, though, things seemed to change a little bit. I went to a different school than my friends, and these new kids were not as nice or as kind to me. The way I had made friends in the past didn’t seem to work as well as it had before. It threw me for a loop, but I kept working and getting good grades.
Being bipolar can be challenging. For me it’s partly because my mind refuses to shut off. When I’m not doing much and just being around the house, I find myself doing the one thing that makes most people break into anxiety: overthinking. It’s one of the quickest ways to find yourself in depression.
Bipolar disorder can have many co-occurring diagnoses. Today I am going to discuss just two of my co-occurring diagnoses and give you an example of each of them and how they would have affected my friendships, if I wasn’t open about having bipolar disorder with my friends. I think you will agree with me that the fact that I am open about having bipolar disorder with my close friends is something that has benefited me on my path to recovery for mental health.
The need to be desired, it is a topic many women will avoid. They think it shows weakness to express the need to have a man find them attractive. I don’t. Maybe it was the many years of being overweight, but I love when I get hit on by a man. Being bipolar I admit that my need for a man to flirt with me takes on a life of its own. I love it! I crave the attention, and don’t feel as good about myself when it isn’t happening on a regular basis. Being told I am pretty, sexy, hot all makes me feel wanted and, after feeling like the ugly duckling for most of my life, I find nothing more thrilling.
Recently a friend texted me upset because a family member wasn’t being understanding of the complications due to her autoimmune disease. My friend was very distraught as this had her in tears because she was being expected to do something that she knew she was not capable of handling and I was reminded of my own situation and how many times I have had to learn to say no to someone in order to put my own well being and illness first.
There are people on this earth who swear they really know me. They’ve known me for at least 5 years or more and they’ve partied with me a majority of those years. Partying with me means drinking. Drinking with me means seeing the best (inebriated) version of me and that’s the one that keeps people around. My Bipolar disorder has been a part of my life for the past 19 years. I have three friends who have known me that long and those relationships haven’t been consistent. My relationships/friendships have always been on and off. My disorder is a disastrously loud and openly hidden part of my life. No one has been around long enough to attempt to understand it. I don’t mean around as in a duration of time but around as in around me, physically. I’ve spent more time than I should alone. I also accept that that is in part to me not trusting anyone and not wanting to show that side of myself.
In all of our lives, we are faced with obstacles that seem to come when we least expect it. I’ve been through a lot during my life, from the time I was a young child. For the most part, I feel as though I have made it through pretty well. That is, I’m still functioning with what I would like to still think of as an optimistic attitude. However, inside I feel what I don’t share with others, and that is the scars that have collected through it all. Many times I hold up a smile to mask the tears behind it. I write to let my feelings out a bit, and now, I share those feelings with you.
What started out as a misdiagnosis in my teens slowly turned into a nightmare. I went from an outgoing energetic person to a miserable shut in who never left the house except for work and necessities. I had no desire to be around friends and family, isolating myself from everyone except online interactions. I was on my last string of fighting off my demons before I finally asked for help from my family.
My father is bipolar (BP), he goes through periods where he calls me so excited he can barely contain himself. He tells me he has the best new idea to make him millions. He anxiously describes the stories he is writing. When I see him in person he is clean, shaven, and a healthy weight. I cannot smell the remnants of alcohol on his breath. He smiles, he laughs from the pit of his stomach, and he is kind to me. Other times, I cannot get a hold of my father for weeks, when I stop by his house to make sure he is alive - the house is trashed, he has not eaten, or showered in days. He is unable to return any calls and empty alcohol bottles riddle the floor. So it goes, a constant cycle. Growing up I assumed he just did not care, when he did not show to pick me up on his scheduled days; I assumed he had more important things to do. The cruel reality is my father’s genetic makeup controls his life. When he is manic, he is ecstatic, he is responsible and present. Comparatively, when he is depressed, I watch him slip slowly away into the abyss.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder about 14 years ago and I must admit, it was a relief to know there was something wrong with me, something tangible I could label, a way to understand the inner turmoil; it felt good to know other people were like me too, it felt good to know there was a reason (chemical imbalance I was told). Before the diagnosis, I just thought I was fucking crazy and was too scared to tell people the real truth, the ups and downs and sometimes the daily mood swings which totally controlled me. I hid it all out of fear. Fear that people would not understand. I knew something from quite a young age; I knew I was different in some way.