My Journey Through Life with Bipolar Disorder

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is my story of life with bipolar disorder. Detailing my struggles with the disorder before being treated, and what life has been like since proper treatment. Touches on substance abuse, self-harm, suicide, and trauma.

From the outside, it would’ve appeared that my childhood was average. My parents divorced when I was 1, and while not ideal, that was the only apparent “issue” in the family. I grew up constantly being fed the message that something was wrong with me. I was too fat, too loud, too rude, too reactive, too defiant. Looking back, this is the kind of behavior one could expect from a child starved for love. This resulted in the negative core beliefs that I’m not good enough and that I’m unlovable, which followed me into adulthood. Beginning when I was 8, my mother started toting me to and from psychiatrists, where I was given extensive testing and various psychiatric medications. At one point, it was suggested I was brain damaged from falling off a horse, but that one didn’t stick. No one could provide a clear diagnosis.

 

Around the age of 10, I started feeling truly unloved and unwanted, which is where the first signs of mental illness came into play. I came to rely on my older brother for support and love, and he was easily the most influential person in my life. When I was 11, my world came crashing down on a cold February morning, when the police showed up bearing the news that my favorite person had been taken from me by a drunk driver. Feeling more alone than I had ever felt in my life, my depression took a turn for the worse and I began self-harming. I didn’t quite understand the concept of suicide, but obsessive thoughts of dying plagued my mind starting at a very young age.

 

In middle school, I was sexually assaulted by an older boy who claimed he was interested in me romantically. I remember staring in the mirror day after day, hating myself with every fiber of my being. Wishing I could be anyone but me or live someone else’s life. My symptoms continued to worsen, and it seemed no one wanted to acknowledge that I really did need help at this point. I finally got into therapy and was put on antidepressants when I was 13, but it didn’t seem to do any good.

 

One night, my mom walked in on me with a pair of bloody scissors in my hand. I was taken to a psychiatric hospital for the first time and ended up being referred to a long term residential adolescent program. The diagnosis at this point was borderline personality disorder and depression. I was put on a cocktail of antidepressants and stimulants, which didn’t have much of an effect on me. Unfortunately, the program did more harm than good. I was the youngest resident there and listened in awe to the older girls’ stories of their sexual endeavors and glorified drug abuse, which I had never partaken in before.

 

It took 4 short months after graduating that program to end up hospitalized again, after what I believe to be my first hypomanic episode. I had been experimenting with sex and drugs and thought I was having the time of my life. The day treatment program I was referred to for DUAL diagnosis did nothing but expose me to harder drugs and dangerous influences. At the age of 14, I was snorting Percocet at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with a boy from my treatment program, thinking I was finally one of the cool kids. I didn’t see anything wrong with my behavior and was simply relieved to not feel so depressed anymore.

 

During my high school years, I became an overachiever, taking all advanced placement and honors classes and acing them all. Everyone could see how bright I was but couldn’t see that I was in a deep depression. I’d leave class for bathroom breaks, which was my excuse to get away and cry, and self-harm with the blades I always kept handy in my backpack. I continued seeing therapists who would express concern for my safety, but within a few days or weeks I would be feeling peachy and ready to tackle the world and all its challenges. I graduated high school as an AP scholar with honors and thought this was where my future began. I was always told how bright my future was and fully expected it to be that way, until my bipolar depression truly took hold. I got into my dream university and failed out after the first year. The effort and motivation to even get out of bed and go to class was too much for me and I only attended about 10 classes total the entire year.

 

For years I continued to have hypomanic episodes where I would act recklessly by spending more money than I had, using excessive amounts of alcohol and drugs, having unprotected sex with strangers (even if I was in a relationship), and lying to myself and everyone around me about how I’d finally conquered mental illness. I’d feel on top of the world, unstoppable, and easily maneuver any obstacle in my way. I’d have those days or weeks of perceived clarity only to crash back down and be tormented with suicidal thoughts. I could barely move from my bed, would stop showering and taking care of myself, and spent every night lying awake weighing the pros and cons of ending my life. I’d quit jobs impulsively and have extended periods of unemployment, while living off of financial assistance from my parents and partners. After going through this cycle so many times, my sense of self was totally destroyed, and I began having periods of dissociation. I distinctly remember the time I stood in front of the mirror for an hour, trying and failing to recognize that the person staring back was myself. During these times, I’d self-harm. Not for the emotional release, but to bring myself back to reality. None of the many doctors I saw ever suggested bipolar disorder and continued to give me a cornucopia of antidepressants, to no avail.

 

After a traumatic domestic violence incident when I was 21, my mental health completely deteriorated, and I began drinking heavily. One of my primary morals in life was to never, ever drive under the influence under any circumstances. I found myself behind the wheel drunk numerous times, and eventually totaled my car. Thankfully, I didn’t injure anyone else when I easily could have. It broke me knowing that I took part in the same behavior that killed my brother. This led me to a residential rehab for alcoholism. Although I learned some helpful skills, I felt that the treatment of my mental health had taken a backseat in favor of focusing on substance use. Within a week of my graduation from the program, I attempted suicide.

 

Following my suicide attempt, I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder and put on an antipsychotic. I made the healthy decision to leave an abusive relationship and moved back in with my parents. However, I was on multiple other medications that seemed to interact with each other negatively. I stopped taking my medications completely after a few months because of this, and finally had a fully manic episode. I had paranoid delusions that my family was out to get me, had auditory hallucinations for the first time, and started behaving recklessly. I denied there was a problem and truly believed that my abuser was the only one who could help me. I ran away from my family, even after they made it clear they would cut me off if I left, and went back across the country to my ex.

 

Up until this point, the hypomania/mania had been a sweet reprieve and provided brief periods of clarity and productivity. This specific manic episode continued for 2 months, during which time I was arrested on multiple occasions for fighting. I had never been in trouble with the law before, and quickly went from having a clean record to having a not-so-short list of charges against me. This rattled me a bit and I started coming out of the manic haze. I realized the environment I was in was only fueling the fire, so I made the decision to leave my ex-partner for the second, and final time. These events caused a depressive episode so severe that I was absolutely certain I wouldn’t survive the next few days if I didn’t get help. I was unable to think about anything but suicide, and I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins every time I’d get close. Unless you’ve experienced a suicidal breakdown yourself, you could never truly understand the deep desperation to be released from this world, or how it feels like the voices in your head telling you to “end it all” will never stop until you listen to them.

 

I admitted myself to a psychiatric hospital, where they sorted out my medications and settled on the diagnosis of severe bipolar disorder II. Having the right combination of medications (an antipsychotic, a mood stabilizer, and a stimulant) and the correct diagnoses has been paramount to living a successful life for me. I’m finally receiving the treatment I need, and it’s allowed me to regain my independence and make sound decisions regarding my future. I recently started going back to school and have maintained a continuous full-time employment for over a year. I completed an intensive outpatient program for mental health and am now able to stop a crisis before it begins or get myself to a hospital as soon as any warning signs of a crisis arise. Coupled with my medications, receiving continuous mental healthcare through therapy has been extremely necessary. Recovery for bipolar disorder is an ongoing process, and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will most likely need medication and therapy for the rest of my life in order to manage it effectively. While I still experience symptoms, they’re significantly muted in comparison and I’m able to work through them.

 

Whether it was the genes, the trauma, or both, my bipolar disorder is a part of me and I’m not ashamed to claim it anymore. In a way, I’m grateful for it. It’s turned me into the strong and perseverant woman I am today. Having a mental illness and seeking help for it is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I believe it’s a true sign of strength and courage. I strongly encourage anyone who is struggling with their mental health to seek out help, and to not stop until they feel okay. I promise it will be worth it.

 

“Only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.


Submitted: March 31, 2021

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Eraser

Glad you found the help you needed.

Thu, April 1st, 2021 3:56pm

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