I have always lived with the ups and downs associated with Bipolar Disorder-the mania that makes my mind race in a thousand different directions with a shroud of confusion over everything I do, and the depression that makes me feel unworthy of anyone or anything. To curb the sadness and isolation I felt, I would act out in my mania to get the attention I so desperately thought I needed to feel whole. I didn’t want to seek counseling, because I was ashamed. I thought that admitting I needed help would mean I was weak; I didn’t understand that I was dealing with something that was beyond what I could control through will and determination. In 2017, I had my third child, and on my first night home from the hospital, I went through the scariest episode of my life to date. It was as if a switch suddenly flipped-I was no longer myself. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe, and I was suddenly standing in my driveway in the middle of winter in nothing but my pajamas and bare feet. I was terrified to hold my baby, because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Noises were too loud. Lights were too bright. Every frantic thought gave me such crippling anxiety that I completely retreated into myself. I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, separated from my family and brand new baby. I was broken, ashamed, and terrified that this was my new normal. Most of all, I felt an overwhelming guilt that my family had to cater to the shell of a person that I had become.
I still vividly remember my doctor frantically calling facilities that could help me, as I sat in his office sobbing while my mom rocked my sleeping baby. His look of frustration and sorrow when he walked back in the room to tell me I needed to go to the emergency room for a mental health evaluation is not a face I will ever forget-I could tell he wished he had a better option for me. I was referred to a wonderful counselor and psychiatrist; they formed a treatment plan involving some new medications and intense therapy. Gradually-and through a TON of hard work, and an endless amount of support from my family, I became myself again…but a better version. I was more self-aware, and so appreciative that I was able to get my strength from my family. They never let me give up hope-they were my light in a sea of darkness.
I live with my Bipolar Disorder every day. I take medication, attend counseling, and found different ways to cope when my mania or depression breaks through all of the barriers I have put up. The most important thing that I found is how important it is to talk about what I’m feeling. Depression feeds on shame and isolation-when I give it a voice, I take away its power a little bit at a time. I also volunteer to help others living with mental illness so they know that we are all in this together.