Something Tells Me I'm Bipolar
5.8.2006
2 doses of Lithium. Benztropine. Tripletal. Seroquel. Five pills I take a day. Every day, for the rest of my life. How did it come to this? 
I was 15 when my father died. At 17, I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder. A year later, after a six-week stay in a psychiatric hospital, I was re-diagnosed with manic depression, more commonly known today as “bipolar disorder”.
As researched by the National Institute for Mental Health, bipolar disorder alone affects “2.6% of the U.S. population of people 18 and older, in a given year”–“5.7 million adult Americans. On the whole, depression affects 9.5% of Americans annually. Worldwide, “an estimated 121 million people currently suffer from depression,” estimates the World Health Organization.
Many like to throw around terms like “bipolar” or “schizophrenic” with no genuine knowledge of what those words mean. They teach you about AIDS and other STDs in high school, but do they teach about mental illnesses that go beyond general depression? Mental illnesses are capable of destroying a person’s life repeatedly and to no end.
Yet, I’m not here to patronize, but simply to share what I know. Bipolar disorder is a biological disorder, resulting from the imbalance of key chemicals in the brain. It causes unusual, often times erratic, shifts “in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function” (NIMH).
Acceptance for me did not come easy. It assigned a term to every act I had ever committed, to every emotion I ever endured. At times, it made me wonder who I really was from day one of my life. Looking back to those two particular years prior to treatment, I’ll never truly know if it was me or my illness talking. The value of my actions and my decisions had become an indiscernible object that no one, not even I, could appraise.
Suddenly it was as if the two years of “healing” following my dad’s passing had formed on fragile stacks of wood, and now those stacks were being removed rapidly from beneath me. I tried to hold on to what I could, but ultimately, I found myself in another sea of devastation.
The devastation of knowing something was wrong…a feeling of complete and utter helplessness…I made numerous false connections between reality and delusion, making sense of the most absurd coincidences. I fostered hallucinations, like thinking everyone in every room I stepped in was looking and talking about me. I’d want to run from the room or pounce upon the “gossipers”, anything to make the voices stop. Nothing made sense. I didn’t know it was depression, and many don’t. It can be perceived as stress or simply human paranoia, and people do tend to brush it away.
Until a few years later when you find yourself in some psychiatric ward where all mirrors are made out of reflective metal, showers have no privacy, belts, scarves and shoelaces get snatched away. Your only breath of fresh air is a 20-minute trip to the 15 x 12 cement block with 50-foot high gates to the left of the building. You’re trapped inside a white-walled box with a bunch of strange people you’ve no desire to befriend, and when some start shouting uncontrollably and move around in seemingly epileptic convulsions, and others stare intently at invisible specks on the wall, you begin to wonder what the hell you have in common with these obviously deranged inmates.
If you refuse to take your meds or “misbehave”, you’re rewarded with a trip to a cramped, white, lifeless cell and an injection in your ass, while being held down by three grown men, and you’re far too furious to realize how embarrassing the whole incident is. My hospital didn’t have any grimy walls or soiled floors like that in Gothika, but it was still hell.
When all doors are locked, and your bedroom has no windows. When you’re instructed to do this, or do that, and are forced to give up every right to choose for yourself, you have nothing left to do but find yourself in a hole, with absolutely no way out.
Anything associated with those years chills me to the bone sometimes. I’ve severed many friendships because of my inability to believe I can redeem those two years of reckless, bizarre behavior that taints my past. My senior year of high school was lived by a brazen girl who wasn’t me at all. That’s the memory I left my unwitting classmates with.
It took me four emotionally and mentally arduous years to get where I am today. I sought help. I went to therapy. I leaned on my family whom I had previously turned on in all my frenzied paranoia. I take medication on a regular basis. I will have to stop if I want to have children, but I will take that hurtle when it comes…
Right now, I’m right where I want to be. Happy, healthy…a soon-to-be college grad.

Falling into the pit of depression may seem like the end of the world, the end of the line…the end to everything. I’m definitely not immune to falling again. And I most certainly don’t have all the answers. I am just one of millions of others…but…if anyone out there needs help, I’m here to give it.
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