By an amazing anonymous friend with Bipolar Disorder, 2/12/18
“It was very frustrating attempting to socialize anyway, and I felt I was torn between the spaces of adulthood and childish imagination. Escapism, as well as idealism were the grand exits from a world that seemed cruel, unloving, and isolated. I was always a curious one, and full of a stubborn spirit that longed for the truth, as well as justice.”
Being bipolar is one of those conditions in life which I have no control, thus my initial reactions to circumstance are because my brain’s chemistry harbors an imbalance. It is my choice to allow them to last, as well as overcome the stability in my life. I can control my focus, and ability to hold resolve, a freedom of which has helped me go beyond the boundary of what I thought I was capable. I remember my mistakes from impulse, the error of my agitation, followed by an ultimate dread of being alive. Those struggles are shared with much difficulty, but nonetheless, I shall try to express some of them here as best I can.
Abuse from my parents is something I consider as most contributing to my darkened mood states. Dad was a tyrannical tsunami of screaming madness and mom was a mere echo of her former self. Both seemed to abhor my existence, which judging by the toxic level within the relationship, I offer them no blame. I had bonded them together, but how they reacted to one another was their own doing. The response of my father to having a family was one of absolute power. We had to believe the same way, and could never do anything to break his rules or we would suffer the wrath of his moods, violence, and insanity.
A short list of things not allowed by Kim Jong-dad:
-Family outside our trinity
I was socially awkward and rather tomboyish. It was very frustrating attempting to socialize anyway, and I felt I was torn between the spaces of adulthood and childish imagination. Escapism, as well as idealism were the grand exits from a world that seemed cruel, unloving, and isolated. I was always a curious one, and full of a stubborn spirit that longed for the truth, as well as justice. So naturally when I was around the age of ten, I began to explore places that were against the regime. Freedom through music called to me, and rebellion ensued in its wake. Dad continued in his ways, and I would often criticize his actions.
He would do things like choke my mom, despite my pleas for him to stop. The lying, manipulative nature dad offered, coupled with a passive demeanor from my mother was more than I could bear.
It became a goal of mine to get mom and I out of that situation. I made my position quite clear, much to my own demise. When he yelled, I faced him without fear. Needless to say, this made him even more angry, so he increased his efforts, only to strengthen my resolve.
In the meantime, he seemed to be losing his grip on reality. He would obsess over things, and ask us whether we saw and heard things that clearly were not there. Radio signals, helicopters, and symbols hidden in crystals when he shined the projector light on them. Yeah, he was quite the paranoid, interesting character to live with. Though he was never officially diagnosed, I suspect he had bipolar as well.
At long last, I finally convinced mom to leave him upon the eve of my thirteenth year. She went wild, as did I, but all of that freedom we enjoyed was flighty; doing nothing to fill that gnawing void I felt inside. Mom began spending lots of time at the bar, and with male companions.
She wasn’t very attentive, so during my time of puberty, I had next to no guidance. Mom was more and more absent, which made me wonder if either one of my parents truly loved me. By fourteen, suicidal thoughts began to creep in. I told mom I needed her help, so she took me to the doctor, but only after a couple more years of denial.
With the emotional soreness of dad’s abuse still lingering, I was off to the dating scene. Relationships tended to invoke feelings of wariness, but more than anything, trustworthiness was what I was longing for. Lots of mistakes were made, and I’m quite sure that most people who knew me at this time considered my behavior odd.
At seventeen, I ran off with a man I had only known for about three months. By my eighteenth birthday, we were married – a relationship that lasted a daunting eight months. He ended up being a lot like dad – abusive, controlling, and toxic, so I ran back to mom’s unattached, but ultimately welcoming arms.
The divorce wasn’t even final before I met another suitor, one with a depth and intelligence that I still hold dear. We would talk for hours, never tiring of each other’s company. We married, and were together for around three years before things got sour, and I returned home, once again to mom.
By this time, I had been freshly diagnosed as having Bipolar II, and began taking a mood stabilizer. It didn’t seem to curb my impulsivity very much, but it did hold off the depressive states. So now that I thought I had things under control, I started thinking about my future, and college was in the cards. The first semester was an intellectual delight, and I found myself surrounded by such interesting people. Being freshly divorced gave me a little extra flirty flare.
I seemed to struggle with memory during this time, attributed to the meds I was taking. So when final exams were imminent, I decided not to take these for about a week. When finals were over, the darkest depression came over me. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to die, and that ultimately if I did, it wouldn’t really matter to anyone. I missed having the company of my ex-husband, of being in class, and the feeling of someone giving a damn.
My human drive seemed to drain completely from me, so it seemed the only choice I had was to end it. I took a handful of my anxiety medication. The next few days were a completely blur, but I survived, and still, no one seemed to care.
Trudging onward, I found a job at a local gas station. After about three weeks, I caught what I thought was a stomach bug, and had to see the doctor, who congratulated me on my pregnancy. I was absolutely stunned!
Apparently I would have to get my head in working order so I could take care of my child. I made appointments to see a therapist, as well as planned parenthood, where I got prenatal care.
They decided I should stay on a low dose of my medication, which made me function just enough to watch reruns of “Friends” while eating fried chicken. Isolation was a survival tactic during pregnancy: I didn’t take calls from friends, continued school online, but could not work.
All I kept thinking of was how much I had wanted someone to love, especially a child. She was the only beacon of light in a world of wounded darkness, so I had to maintain my course toward betterment for her sake. Adjustments had to be made in my lifestyle, many of which I discussed in therapy. My counsellor was very sweet, and a great listener, but I can say that I did crave a bit more guidance than just someone to hear me yammer.
After having my beautiful baby, I started juggling work and school as best I could, a feat that could have worked out well if not for the ups and downs of relationships, as well as my moods.
I kept going to the psychiatrist, informing them about my issues with moods. We tried different medications, some of which didn’t seem to work at all, many made me dizzy, and one made me forget who I was while driving my car.
Stress was not something I could handle very well, so when my mom died just before my daughter’s third birthday, I married the man I had been dating for the past few months, and completely shut down for a while. No meds, no doc, no therapist, no friends or family really checking up on me. I had this feeling that mom was still with me somehow, so it made grief difficult to pass, but this did not stifle time, nor my responsibilities.
We had endured so much together, so losing her was just too much to bear. I went into a daze of taking care of my baby, working, getting pregnant again, and a marriage falling apart because my husband was spending time in jail. I lost my house, and all the stuff in it because I couldn’t pay bills on my fast food income, so I had to stay with friends while being pregnant with a jail bird’s baby. Such good times!
After having my second child, I got into a relationship with one of my friend’s cousins. We were together for quite a few years, most of which I worked my butt off while he watched the kids, a big help when child care is so expensive, but still, I couldn’t afford the bills. In the meantime, I went back to the psychiatrist to see about getting back on meds so it would be less of an effort to drag my sore ass out of bed in the morning. It seemed to work ok most times, but when I tried to do any overtime, I would get sick as a dog. I ignored my illness once, which was a big mistake…
One day, during a bout of overtime at work, I was in the kitchen managing a line of workers, when I hallucinated my mother walking through the front door. I ran into the back to cry and gather my faculties, completed the day, and took some time off to get help. The doctor told me I had bipolar I disorder with psychosis and PTSD, suggesting I begin taking lithium, as well as seeing a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist. Great.
The Lithium was a complete bust, since it essentially reduced me to a borg drone. I had lost all personality and drive. My boss sure took notice of this, and insisted I ask the doctor about it, a request which I granted. We discontinued that, and began new meds, which took the edge off, but I was still hearing footsteps that weren’t there, and some strange buzzing that interfered with my sleep. The therapy was key in helping my development, and seemed to offer the guidance I had long craved. It became a habit of mine to question things, and often it went too far, and I forgot for a while that feelings aren’t always to be trusted. I did seem to deal with stress a lot better than before, if only life would stop shelling it out.
Editor’s Note: The clip below gives an excellent and brief description of Cognitive Behavioral Techniques, which are a crucial recovery tool for those with Bipolar Disorder
There were times when I disbelieved the whole of reality as a way to escape the cruelty and hardships of my life. After all, it all seemed too absurd anyway! My long-time boyfriend had cheated on me multiple times, each time paired with its own argument, as well as a deepening of my distrust of others. I began to care less and less about how I felt about him, and directed my focus on being better. I wanted to find answers about my illness, which led me to the online world, where a plethora of interesting “information” regarding bipolar and shamanism. Social media was buzzing with quantum woo, and held experience as the end all be all of spiritual truth. Having had my psychotic experiences in the past, this made me feel powerful, and confirmed the idea that mom was truly with me.
I stopped my meds, and bought a yoga mat. I was on a path toward enlightenment, aligning chakras, and chanting mantras. It felt as if I had found a way toward happiness, and it didn’t include being treated like crap, or holding on to anger of the past.
After being cheated on for years, I felt it was time to let go of my relationship, so we began having talks of breaking up. He wouldn’t have it though, and insisted that he would change. He never did, and inevitably it ended. One day, my second husband, whom I had loved so much sent me a message after nearly a decade of silence. It wasn’t long before an old flame was rekindled, and we went right back to talking nearly nonstop ever since.
I still held these strange beliefs about reality, refusing meds and thinking I could heal myself of my ailment, because fell for the “I am a powerful shaman. I may not even have bipolar – who knows?” way of thinking. This of course led to a deep sense of depression, though it was not like anything I had experienced before. There was little to no stress in my life. I felt loved, had a wonderful family, and a whole lot of friends, but there was still this void inside I couldn’t shake. I thought maybe I wasn’t meditating enough, misread my tarot, or manifesting my reality incorrectly. I had to work harder – after all, feeling bad was a choice, right?
The rituals and beliefs I held took up a lot of time, and only seemed to feed both extremes of my moods. When I was manic, I did all kinds of crazy spells, thinking I could change the world with my unique shamanism. When I was depressed, I felt absolutely nothing, sinking into the deepest pits of despair, and allowing it fully to occur, since I felt it was a necessary part of diving into my shadow to heal. When it didn’t work, I was ironically mystified. I started looking into the astrological aspects to see if maybe it was a planetary influence (of course, because somehow planets can both impact our lives directly, and be reasoned with to stop). This method didn’t work, either. I was at my wit’s end, and tired of doing all these things with no results. I fervently believed in their power, as well as my own, but it seemed shit all around me was crumbling down.
Donald Trump was elected, people were saying horrible things to each other, and I was having a difficult time maintaining positive thinking and ritual mysticism.
I didn’t even realize I was New Age until I started looking into more skeptical material online. One by one, as it was demonstrated to be false, I started tearing down the walls of supernatural belief. My boyfriend is a wonderful thinker, and a great support system to share my thoughts with. Our talks reminded me of my CBT training, and I realized being skeptical about things I read on the internet or conclusions I came to while in states of meditation may be a good start.
Doing this aided in keeping the delusions of grandeur at bay, which in turn helped guide me toward a more manageable viewpoint. I no longer was kept awake at night afraid that demons were trying to get me, and abandoned the idea that thinking a negative thought was going to manifest some kind of muck into my reality.
Reasonably, even if these negative entities were real, what good did it do me? Could I really control how my brain functions, and if not, what steps can I take to respond better to malfunctions in my mood? These were pertinent questions that led me back to taking medication, and ultimately away from New Age beliefs.
I have to continue on living, and do my best to combat the psychosis, impulsiveness, irritation, and deep depression that accompanies this illness. I can only face this condition one day at a time, and I do so on my own, and with the best of my ability.
Knowing that I have come this far, and having reminders of the drastic consequences of past mistakes really helps keep me grounded. There are still times when I think about death, but only with the intent of appreciating my life. I don’t have to harbor a grandiose concept of my own existence in order to find my time here worth while anymore.
Life is a beautiful, and while being bipolar is a struggle, it has offered me a unique perspective on just how important it is to be rational, as well as compassionate toward others. These ideas bring me a lot of happiness, and no matter what stress comes from my illness, knowing I have survived so much gives me the courage to face the moody rollercoaster-ride.