Editor’s Note: This was the first installment of what will hopefully be many posts from someone with an inside perspective into life with bipolar disorder. The author’s name is being withheld.
Here it is, my first post for Route 60. I’ve been kicking this around in my head for months; procrastinating, planning, and thinking. Then, I just decided, what the hell, I’ll spill it to mostly a bunch of strangers. In the last two years I’ve gone from keeping secrets to sharing my life with so many people. Little by little, word by word. I felt like I’d recovered from a terrible cold, I could breathe, I didn’t have to concoct some bizarre story to explain my sometimes erratic behavior. I could finally say the awful word. I could say it, defend it, and maybe champion a cause. When I first heard the word come out of a doctor’s mouth, I felt that gut punch, a panic, and a sentence to a difficult-at-best life. A life where I would be labeled and judged, treated with a polite, stand-off-ish manner and treated like Frankenstein’s monster.
At the beginning of my recovery journey, I couldn’t say it. I refused. I was encouraged to share my diagnoses with my friends. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I called my closest friends and told them I needed to tell them something. Summoning 30 seconds of unbridled courage, I muttered that damn word. I have bipolar disorder.
There were no negative words spoken from my friends. They weren’t shocked. I am quite certain I was the last to know. No, I knew. In the back of my mind and deep in my heart, I knew there was something monumentally dysfunctional about me. But, like most difficult things in life, I avoided it. I pretended it wasn’t true. I ran from it. It always followed.
The pain was overwhelming, both physically and emotionally.
Eighteen months ago, for whatever unknown exact reason, my well rehearsed guise of healthiness came to a screeching, glass breaking, explosive, near death experience, halt. I describe it often as the moment my brain said, “hey, I’m done with you. We ain’t talking until you get your shit together.” On all the doctor reports, it is called a psychotic break. I don’t remember much of it, what I do recall seems like it happened to someone else and I was just a curious observer. I do remember how much it hurt. The pain was overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. In hindsight, that day was one of the best days of my life. It was the day, that after 30 plus years of living erratically, I chose to heal. I chose to be brave and be tough and plan a battle. I am going to live. I’m not going to hide and run and make excuses. I promised I’d do anything I was asked to do. I’d swallow faithfully those medicines that before, sent me into panic attacks and many, many trips to the emergency room, absolutely certain I was dying from taking just one. I was terrified of taking pills. Any pills. Yet, I was determined to go through the process to recover.
So, that’s the point of this blog? I’m going to share this adventure I’ve been on now for nearly two years. I want desperately for others to try to understand something of mental illnesses and what those who suffer go through. I want even more for anyone who hides in enormous pain to know they aren’t alone, and to encourage them to seek help.
I exhibit a twisted sense of humor and a great appreciation for the art of sarcasm. I can find good in pretty much everything in life. Even in my illnesses, I see many gifts. Gifts that I feel are there to ease the exhaustion I experience often from just managing a day, a simple task, my life.
Please have an open mind. Realize that my disorder may have the same name as yours, your cousin, your child, whoever; yet we do not experience the same things. That’s the hard part about treating mental illness, I think. No one is exactly the same. One medicine may work wonders for one person, but be a nightmare for another. One counselor could be the right fit for her, but someone else may think they are a whack job. Don’t diagnose yourself. I have no professional experience or education or any of that stuff. I have a few decades of experience in being a patient. I’m pretty good at that though. I want people to ask questions, comment, learn. If you’re mean, I’ll probably answer you really snarky and mean back. I try not to, but some people just aren’t going to change their minds and that’s cool with me.
I say crazy a lot. I don’t use bipolar to describe anyone or anything. That, is just being a gigantic jerkwad, and I’ll call anyone out on it. Crazy doesn’t bother me. I’m not crazy, but my disease sure is. I realize that some of you will have a relative or friend that completely drug you through hell with their illness. I know that you hurt and probably are pretty angry. I’m never going to say what someone mentally ill does is acceptable behavior. I’m not making excuses. I just want others to understand through my experience, why that behavior happens and what it feels like from this side of the border.
So, if you will entertain my ramblings now and then, I think that this shall be a wonderful adventure. Word by word, I’ll give you a view into my life. There will be wonderful, inspiration moments that I long to write about. There will be some days that are less than understandable.
I have a wonderful story to tell. I hope you’ll be here to listen.