What’s it like to be Bipolar?
I am 35 years old and I was diagnosed and started treatment for bipolar disorder after I was a college graduate and working as an aide or para-educator for special needs children. It was 2009 and I was 27 years old when I sought treatment for my depression. I didn’t know anything about bipolar disorder because I don’t think I had ever heard of it. I just thought I was severely depressed. And for months, I stayed in my bedroom, in my safe place, where I thought no one could touch me, no one could bother me or contact me. I was done with being hurt by people I loved and I was determined never to let anyone close to me again. “Just leave me alone!”
I was alone in my misery and that’s where I stayed. I slept as much as I could to avoid the world. I would go back and forth from laying on my bed to lying on the floor, whichever seemed the most comfortable at the time. Eyes open or eyes shut, whichever made me feel invisible. I had dug my own grave and staying in it for at least three months. It was like being buried alive. If I got up it was only to use the bathroom, take a shower or eat which felt like a chore and an inconvenience. I didn’t want to get up physically for anything.
I had to go to work or thought so. I had the choice not to show up but felt that people, the children I helped, were depending on me and if I wan’t there who would feed, change, assist and teach them. But I was burnt out. I have been at that same job for the fifth year and I was tired. I had no strength left in me to get up and go to work so I would hold up my arms, literally, and imagine my God pulling me up out of bed. And it worked.
When I was there working at the school, I was like a zombie or a robot, just going through the motions with no pleasure, not emotions or feelings except maybe torture because that is what working felt like. I lived in Birmingham, AL, where I am from and grew up and where I reside now. I was living in an apartment and had two female roommates and moved into “their” apartment in the third bedroom.
I moved back home the year before I moved into this apartment and was living with my mom, stepdad and sister in the house I grew up in most of my life and hated living there. Of course I needed to move out for my peace because I can’t live with my mother and be healthy, but that’s another story for another day…so back to my roommates. They were close friends and I felt like an “outsider” although I tried to be friends with them. I tend to become an outsider everywhere I go it seems to me. Maybe other “outsiders” can relate to what I am talking about, those that feel like they don’t belong anywhere. So we wander, aimlessly it seems at times looking for a place to belong.
Anyway, my roommates were the messiest girls I’ve ever known. There was stuff, “their shit,” crap, belongings whatever you want to call it everywhere! And when I say everywhere I mean everywhere, on top of the furniture, on the counter tops, the floor and their rooms were a disaster area. You could not even walk in them because clothes were piled up so much so that one of them had to sleep on the couch because you could not see her bed. She was a night owl and stayed up on her computer doing who knows what and was very intelligent. She was a professional and worked in a lab at UAB. The other girl was a teacher, a Kindergarten teacher I think and while I was living there she lost her teaching job and started working at Cheesecake Factory when she could not get another job. But enough about them, except that I was going to the same church as them, Church of the Highlands, which is how I met them. They were good girls, annoying at times and rude at times but at least they were around at the time of my first major depressive episode.
Well, I was walking down the street one afternoon after work. The street was near to my apartments and that street just happened to have a counseling center on it. I went inside and made an appointment with a psychiatrist. But…it was a month or so out so I had to wait longer before I could get some help or relief from depression. Well, I made it to that appointment, talked to the doctor about my past, present and future. She asked me about any mental health history which I was up front about. I had been hospitalized one time in a psychiatric unit when I was 20 years old…I’ll explain that nightmare later. The doctor prescribed me a little white pill, Lamictal. I had not heard of this drug before but I could not wait to start taking it, “the magic pill.” I took it the next morning before work and thereafter, just as it was prescribed to me and felt better almost automatically. I felt that I was coming out of the hole I fell into, depression, and thought that I was going to be okay.
About a month or so in treatment, I decided that I did not need to take medication anymore because I felt better. I had energy and I was happy. So, I called the psychiatrist one day at work and told her that I was better and wanted to stop taking the Lamictal. She told me how to wean off of it slowly and that how I did it. I told her over the phone about my “big plans” to move to Kansas City, MO, the “Show Me” state because I thought I had a special calling on my life, a spiritual mission so to speak that I had been chosen for and that only I could fulfill. Later, I found out that I was delusional but I will go into that more later. This plan did not happen overnight, it had been in the works for over a year and I had already made one trip, by myself to a conference in Kansas City in 2008. And, had come back, against my will only to be confronted by my mother, whom I had a falling out with and did not want to have anything to do with her anymore. She was the first person I had talked to about going to Kansas City, to a school of ministry there called IHOP (The International House of Prayer.) Her response to me was please wait a year, so I did. But, now since I was not longer depressed I was ready to go so I quit my job at the end of February, before the school year ended, packed up my car and left in the middle of the night. And boy did I Go.” Oh the laces I went or should I say fled to! Like a person running for their life, not sure what the hurry was, just felt compelled to go. I couldn’t stay in one place any longer, I had too much energy and more important things to do.
I was manic and did not know it. This was the first manic state I had ever experienced, after from using illegal drugs, which I have done in the past and will talk about later. So, I was manic and driving to Kansas City, and so the adventure begins….more to come. Stay tuned.