What I want people to know about living with bipolar disorder
My journey to mental health began when I was eleven years old. It was 1991, and Kurt Cobain hadn’t yet stepped up to the microphone to sing “All Apologies.” He didn’t smash one guitar out of rage in public. He hadn’t yet dyed his hair purple in a fit of mania for all to see.
At eleven, I was supposed to be chewing gum and board games. I ride my bike and laugh with my friends.
Instead, I spent most of my days stuck in a sort of purgatory between the rush of teenage hormones and something more sinister simmering beneath the surface.
When the psychiatrist finally said the word “bipolar” to my mother and suggested she take a dose of lithium, she freaked out. Mental health was not a buzzword. The diagnosis was a stigma and a hint that my mother had done something wrong.
So we moved on.
Throughout my teenage years, we kept switching to new therapists. Tried talk therapy, only to find out there were some secrets my mom didn’t want to share. Try different drug cocktails. Maybe Zoloft. Maybe Ritalin. Perhaps the new wonder drug of the time, Prozac.
None of them worked. Everything just made my world even more foggy and confusing.
By the time I reached my “rebellious” teenage years, I was crawling out of my skin. I couldn’t run away from myself, so I started self-medicating. Weed and booze were my drugs of choice, and I spent a lot of time experimenting with different concoctions to see which one would take me further beyond myself. Of course, this only made my mood swings more erratic and severe, and I suppressed my true emotions until I became a shell of myself.
In my 20s, I hit rock bottom. I was torn between sorority president and passed out drunk. During my ascension, I was an honors student, made the Dean’s List, and planned food drives for battered women’s shelters. In my downs, I would drink and wake up on the frat floor wondering where my friends had gone and what I had done to make them leave me.