What i want you to know about living with bipolar disorder

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by an anonymous reader.Photobucket

What I want you to know is that I am a mother of two, a wife, a full-time employee, and oh yeah, I have Bipolar Disorder.

I was first diagnosed with it when I was 14 years old and a sophomore in High School. The initial diagnosis required me being hospitalized in a locked mental ward after running away from my parents on a Christmas trip to Las Vegas (what were my parents thinking taking a teen with problems to Las Vegas anyway?) That time of my life was really scary- I had spent that fall feeling alternately scared and hopeless, unable to concentrate on my school work, thinking that everyone hated me, worried about everything…then the next month suddenly feeling this insane burst of creativity, boundless energy, staying up writing novels until 2 or 3am on my computer, then waking up 2 or 3 hours later feeling completely rested and ready to ride my bike to the beach (a good 8 or 10 miles). I felt the need to talk incessantly to anyone who would listen, and I felt that everything I had to say was urgently important. If no one would listen, I had to write it down. When I exhausted my resources of biking and rollerblading and talking on the phone to everyone I knew, I turned to drinking cough syrup and wine coolers to try to calm down and go to sleep.

Being locked up in the hospital was the scariest and most traumatic thing that ever happened to me, but being diagnosed was actually a relief. Having an explanation for what I was feeling and had been going through relieved a lot of my fears and anxiety. My parents had actually at one point had some (possibly?) well-meaning friends from church come over to our house and tell me I was possessed with a demon, and proceed to throw away half the stuff in my room, including random things like a poster of a baby wearing a motorcycle jacket to look like a punk (it was meant to be funny) and a cheap costume jewelry ring on a necklace I had bought at Wet Seal that said Yes, Maybe, No, because “Yes was an evil band from the 70s who was demon possessed.”

What I want you to know is that now, 20 years later, I am in my 30s, and my Bipolar Disorder has been well controlled with medication for a long time. I had a really rough time in my late teens and early 20s when I decided to experiment with not taking my meds and self-medicating with alcohol and street drugs instead. I highly do not recommend this. Around age 25, I decided I wanted a more even-keel life and I went looking for something real and found it in God.

At 27, I had my first child, and have never since used illegal drugs or abused alcohol. Because I respect the responsibility of being a parent and take it very seriously, I have always been very careful to monitor my behavior carefully with a psychiatrist’s care since becoming a mother.

What I want you to know is that I do not “go crazy” if I miss a dose or two of medication. It would take me going off medication for some time to show any behavioral changes. Like probably a month or more. What I want you to know is that it angers me when I see a news report where some ranting, screaming person is holding up an airplane, and they report that it is because the person is Bipolar and “forgot to take their meds.” This is just not the way it is.

What I want you to know is that most people who know me have no idea that I have Bipolar disorder. Most people have no idea that I have a colored past that includes drug use, forced lockups in mental institutions, and even jail. Most people who know me, know a working mom of 2 young kids who is involved at church and likes to go on mission trips and is fairly conservative. Most would be fairly shocked if they knew my history.

What I want you to know is that it bothers me that I can’t share my story without fear that I could lose my job if people knew that I have Bipolar Disorder, or that I would severely embarrass my family. What I want you to know is that there are lots of people like me, who live completely normal lives amongst you, who are not crazy, who do not hijack airplanes if they forget to take their meds one day. I want you to know that a lot of people who live with mental illness suffer in silence because of the stigma associated with it. We have come a long way, but we still have a LONG way to go.

Another thing I want you to know is that if I have a bad day and get irritated at my husband, or snap at my kids because they ask me something three thousand times, please do not ask me if I have been taking my meds, or if I’m feeling OK. If I get hormonal and cry about someone being mean to me at work, it’s because I’m hormonal and someone was being mean to me at work. The WORST question you can ever ask me, if you are close to me and care about me, is if I am taking my meds. I care about my mental health and am careful about my medication. And even when I was younger and didn’t care and wasn’t careful, this question never helped.

What I want you to know is that I have normal emotions, good and bad, happy and sad. If I ever do get off balance, depression for me feels more like the inability to enjoy things I normally enjoy, the inability to concentrate or complete normal mental tasks like work or reading, or focus on what people are saying to me. It makes me unable to think. I feel sleepy and tired and zoned out. It’s not really about feeling sad, and it’s not related to any external stimuli. So please, don’t ask me if I’m taking my meds when something real in my life has caused me to be unusually excited or sad. That’s just real life.

I guess what I really want you to know is that mine is a story of triumph, not of shame. I am blessed and grateful to have had the support of a wonderful family, great friends, church, and medical professionals, and more than anything, a God who is full of grace, to get to where I am today. And that’s a great place to be

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