I wasn't sure I wanted to write about this. At all. Like, ever. It's difficult to talk about. Hell, it's difficult to think about these days. But here's the thing- I have Bipolar Disorder.

After more than ten years of mis-diagnosing, mis-managing, and mis-medicating, I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder in December of 2006 (I made the switch into Bipolar I after my first psychotic manic episode in 2010). At the time I was diagnosed, I was engaged to be married, preparing to be a step-mom, living with two of my best friends, and still struggling (as always) to hold my life together. Not two months later, my fiancee broke up with me, I never got to say goodbye to the two amazing boys I was preparing to be a step-mom to, I was going through the highs and lows of trying to find the right medication (which took the better part of a year) and my life and brain fell massively and spectacularly to pieces. Ever the scholar, I took my new diagnosis to heart and decided to become an excellent student of my own condition. I read books, I researched online, I found people (just a few) with the same disorder and soaked up their experiences. I wanted to become an expert. 

Instead, I was accused of being addicted to my disorder. Not by people truly close to me, people who shared my life with me and witnessed first hand the cost of what I was going through. But by people who saw me struggling and thought they had the right answer for me. People who wanted to help, but instead made it vastly more difficult for me to be able to draw the line between what was me and what was the Bipolar. It's something that still challenges me every day, to be honest. But I feel I'm closer to it now than I ever have been. In those days, it wasn't so clear. In fact, it was a huge fog of pain, confusion, and not knowing what was real or what was in my head. My intention was to own my disorder, so it didn't own me. What ended up happening was that I internalized it to the point where I couldn't distinguish who I was anymore. People who wanted to fix me advised me not to acknowledge it, to put it far from mind and from peering eyes. That didn't seem to help either. I was lost.

I would have periods of hypo-mania and think that I could conquer the world- everything was sparkly, magical, imbued with secret meanings just for me. Then I would crash or have a major depressive (God forbid, even a psychotic or suicidal) episode and promptly lose my job/ fail out of school/ push friendships to the brink with my excessive neediness/ anxiety/ craziness. I would get just terrible episodes of social anxiety and not be able to leave my house for weeks- even for parties, concerts, events long planned and very happily anticipated. I would sit at home, longing to go out and spend time with my friends and cry for hours because I just couldn't make myself go. I would drive to work or to some other engagement and look for ways to crash my car without hurting anyone else, just so I would have a reason not to be there. I'm telling you, there were times I was all the way outside of my damn mind.

Finally in February of 2010, I had a true psychotically manic episode, complete with spontaneous hallucinations, which were so vivid, I was convinced that someone had somehow sneaked a hit of acid into my drink while I wasn't looking... until the hallucinations and paranoia lasted for days. Then a week. Not consistently, but over and over. I was convinced that my life was imaginary- that I'd been hypnotized in the past and the last few years were nothing but an elaborate hypnotic trick. I had elaborate visual hallucinations- saw myself in a rainforest when I was really in bed, felt tiny men (I called them "dozers") digging through my abdomen and down into my mattress. It was terrifying.

After the episode ended, I started to get serious about my condition again- found a new doctor, stopped drinking with friends, got on a regular cycle with my medication, joined online support groups and generally started taking my mental health seriously. Still, I struggled seriously. And at any mention of my disorder or its affects (what I called being self-aware and taking responsibility for my own mental health), I was accused of using my diagnosis as a crutch. And again, I would take on too many projects trying to prove myself (even small projects), push myself too hard, and have major depressive/ suicidal breaks. There are episodes that are still too scary and too painful to discuss. So I won't for now.

I used to speak openly and freely about my diagnosis, hoping that if people knew what they were getting into right up front, they wouldn't be scared away later when they encountered my darker side. Then I got scared to talk about it at all. 

Then... finally, after an extreme episode near the beginning of 2011, I had a pretty good year. Even after my life fell apart earlier this year, I didn't have an episode- either manic or depressive. I didn't lose my mind. I just waded through the pain until it receded. I slowly rebuilt and put the pieces of my life back together. I got myself a job, got myself together, and began to prove to myself that I could really live "normally." And I had a really good month. After over a year with no major incidents (just what I think of as "normal" highs and lows), I honestly thought to myself-

"I'm cured. That Bipolar part of my life? That's over now. Now I get to be normal like everyone else, and never have to worry about the really scary stuff. It's over!"

And then I broke. The other week, after days of building pressure and anxiety, my brain just... broke on me. And I had another episode. It was scary, and I won't talk about the details yet. Even more than the incident itself, I felt betrayed by my brain for not functioning "normally" the way I wanted it to. For reverting back into the scary Bipolar stuff when I least expected it to. For going "crazy" yet again, when I was hoping to never have that experience again.

The thing is, I might. It's difficult to talk about, because I was hoping that it was a part of my past, and not something I would ever have to discuss in the present tense. But the truth is that I have Bipolar Disorder, and so far, it hasn't gone away. It might always be a part of me. But it's only a PART. It's part of my challenges, and part of my blessings, and I must keep that in mind. It doesn't define me. But that doesn't mean that it's disappeared. It only means that I must work harder to manage the symptoms and to take care of myself and take responsibility for my psychological well-being.

The truth is that I'm a beautiful, powerful goddess of infinite love and light, and this happens to be part of my story. If it's part of your story or someone you know, please try to know with your heart that you are not alone. I write about this here so you will know that you have a friend, that you have support, that you are deserving of all the love and amazing things that life has to offer. It will get better. It will be difficult too, but you are strong enough to handle it. You are much stronger than you know. And with all the love in my heart, I am sending you hope and blessings right now just for reading this and keeping an open mind. You are loved. I may not know you, but I love you. I am strong enough to love you just the way you are, just for being you. Without knowing it, you are still shining your light in the world, just by being glorious YOU, and that is a beautiful thing. 

If you have something you'd like to say, please leave it in the comments below. I heard someone say once that stories are powerful, and that someone might need to hear yours in order to heal. I sincerely write this with the hope that we heal together. We can be who we are and still be deserving of love and beauty. I know that I face dark times ahead, but I believe with my heart that I have the strength to see them through, even if things get rocky. I want you to know that I believe that for you too. We will make it through. We WILL.

With love, compassion, and renewed hope,

Lindsay
 


Comments

06/28/2012 8:22am

I love this: "The truth is that I'm a beautiful, powerful goddess of infinite love and light, and this happens to be part of my story."
Thank you for sharing your story. Big LOVE to you.

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06/28/2012 9:09am

I do not have bipolar disorder, but I do have chronic depression, and there is a lot of symptomology that we share. You are brave and honest, and this is NOT going to get the best of you, I am certain. :-)

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06/28/2012 9:48am

I don't have BPD, but I do have postpartum depression and anxiety, and this 3rd child around, it feels as if italy not go away. I have never had a lot of the symptoms you've had, asy diagnosis is not exactly the same, nor as severe. But anyone with emotional/mental disorders knows, the empathy is huge. Thanks for sharing this.

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Mike
06/28/2012 11:07am

Another great post Lindz. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts so eloquently on a very tough subject. Although I don't suffer from bipolar disorder - I have seen its effects. It is a disease. My heart goes out to those who are suffering from the disease and to the family members and friends who are trying to understand and assist in any way they can. You are a very intelligent and strong individual and I know that through your words you will inspire many to understand and cope with this. I love you Lindsay!

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06/28/2012 11:46am

Thank you for sharing your story. I can relate a lot to what you say. You are very brave!

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06/28/2012 11:48am

Thank you for the love, Lindsay. And thank you for sharing your healing journey so generously. You are very brave. Lots of Love, Lisa

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06/28/2012 6:48pm

Hi Lindsay - your story is very moving. There is mental illness in my family (depression, and I believe other undiagnosed disorders, present generation and at least two generations back). And growing up in an environment with alcoholism takes a huge toll on children. So I have always found myself attracted to stories and information in this area to try and understand the underlying causes. I want to encourage you on your healing journey.

One book that I have found helpful for understanding the role of stress in mental health is Wired for Joy by Laurel Mellin. Laurel is a clinical professor at San Francisco School of Medicine. She introduces the reader to the five basic brain states that range from Joy to out-of-control Stressed Out. The profound insight for me was that every brain state that is not Joy has to do with the degree of stress that we are
experiencing. And stress is seen to be the underlying cause of all disease. Her book discusses how we get wired at a particular “set point,” familiarizes us with each brain state, and then shows us how to use the tools to get to a better brain state. Thought I would share in case you would find it helpful.

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06/30/2012 3:41pm

Lindsay, this post took some serious guts and I admire the hell out of you for posting it. Stories do indeed heal us, and for anyone suffering in any way, knowing you're not alone is powerful, powerful medicine. Kudos to you for writing and sharing this part of yourself.

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07/02/2012 7:57pm

I was so blown away by your courage that I apparently hied off to tell a friend without telling you I really admire you for this. Sorry!

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07/03/2012 3:02am

Wow Lindsay, what courage you have shown to share those vulnerable parts of your self with the world. We all have them, however they might manifest, so we need brave souls like you in the world who will stand up and own ALL that they are so that others might feel able to do the same. Xxx

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