Some of you reading this might not know what a wonderful person the author of this blog is. She's kind, loving, intelligent and drop dead hilarious. I met her through my support group, and she is like a sister to me. The Bipolar Support Group has been a life changing and life saving experience for me. Finding that group and meeting and becoming so close to others in the group has been incredible. Having bipolar disorder can make you feel profoundly alone. It has been the one place where I have been able to feel understood, and it's the place where I have met the people I now consider to be like a second family to me. If you're suffering, check it out. You won't believe how it can feel to have the support of people who live what you are living.
I am a 41 year old single mother of two little boys who are the light of my life. I am an attorney and I own my own practice. My parents and brothers and sister are my best friends in the whole world. I am part of a truly amazing family and I'm thankful for them every day. After getting divorced at the age of 38, and having resolved to be alone, I accidentally met the love of my life at age 40. I have a wonderful psychiatrist who respects me, works with me and truly cares about me. I know so many people through my job, through living in a small town and through the two different universities I have graduated from, but the few people I listed above, and my second family at MDJunction are the only people who know me. For clients, judges, other attorneys, people in my community, people I volunteer with and on and on, I wear a mask and hide so much of who I am. It makes me sad to have to do that, but if I didn't, no one would hire me and I have two children to support, so wearing the mask is the high price I pay. It is exhausting.
For as long as I can remember, I have lived on the edge of a world everyone else seems to understand. I always thought that everyone else had the same feelings I do, but that they just understood how to handle them, whereas I did not. It was only after being diagnosed and finding the right combination of medications that I realized this wasn't true.
The rest of the world does not feel the way I do. I am a rapid cycler. I can go from manic to profoundly depressed in the course of a few weeks or a few days or a few hours. When I am manic, I don't sleep for days at a time. I have so many ideas that I can't keep up with my mind. I have so many different projects going on at the same time, but I often don't finish any of them. For some people with bipolar disorder, the manic phase is when they feel really great, but we are all different. When I am manic, I feel so anxious and out of control. I live in a state of fear. I cannot have a conversation with anyone because it feels as if they can't understand the desperate importance of my thoughts. During manic phases, I have said and done things to the people I love that are hurtful. I have made horrendous decisions and have spent money I didn't have.
Then comes the crash. It's a horrible, dark hole that is filled with a void. The void is hopelessness, self loathing, powerlessness, and fear. It is the feeling that I am such a bad person that I don't deserve the air that I breath. When I am depressed, I often feel as if I shouldn't be taking up space in the world, and I try to make myself smaller and smaller by talking less and less, leaving the house only when absolutely necessary and constantly believing the voice that tells me over and over and over again that I am less than, lower than and that I have done something unforgivable and so deserve to feel the pain. It is crying and crying and crying.
Whether depressed or manic, and even now that I am basically stable on medication, I always have racing and repetitive thoughts. A snippet of a song playing over and over, along with a fragmented to do list and "movies" my mind creates of past, present and future events, all at the same time. Even when I am asleep, I dream constantly and vividly. When my partner sleeps next to me, he tells me in the morning of the many conversations I have during the night. My mind doesn't rest very often.
For years before I was diagnosed, I punished myself through destructive behavior. I allowed myself to be used and abused, believing it was all I deserved. I self medicated my way through episodes, sometimes successfully but more often with consequences that just made life more difficult.
Through all those years before I was diagnosed, I wore a mask for the world. I wore a mask for family and friends and professors and bosses and anyone with whom I had any contact. No one ever knew me. No one could. It was exhausting to be me. I lived life in a constant state of fear, even during the good times.
I was diagnosed with depression after the birth of my first child eleven years ago. I was diagnosed as bipolar after the birth of my second child eight years ago. I was hospitalized twice because I wanted to die. I only accepted my diagnosis within the last two years, after several years of therapy and after years of being on one anti-depressant after another, which only ever made things worse.
I now take five different medications several times a day. It took months of trial and error to find the right combination of medications, but it was worth it. I still have ups and downs. My moods still swing from mania to depression. The medications make the swings less profound and more manageable. Logging on to MDJunction every day and getting the support I need from people who understand me is almost as important as the medications. Although the side effects of my medications can be difficult to live with and they unquestionably negatively affect my artistic creativity, it's still worth it. My world falls apart far less often now and I don't live in a constant state of fear. I know I will have to take medication for the rest of my life. That's ok.
For those of you who create the stigma surrounding mental illness through your ignorance, it's time for you to learn what it's all about. For those of you who suffer with this disorder in silence, know you're not alone. I can only hope that as more of us become willing to share our stories, there will be greater understanding and acceptance, and the stigma will slowly disappear. I am a good person. I am a good mother, daughter, sister, lawyer, friend and lover. I am sensitive and compassionate and smart and loving. The fact that I can say that and mean it on most days now is the best feeling, and holding those days in my mind and having people remind me of those things about myself helps me get through the other days when I still hate myself.
That's as much of my story as I can tell you. The rest is in my mind and my mind alone, and it really isn't something that can be explained. It's just me.
- Submitted by Anonymous