In honor of Bipolar Disorder Awareness Day, I was going to talk a little about my experience with Bipolar I Disorder. Instead, I want to write about my experiences before I was diagnosed. These are some of the precursors of my mental illness. Always remember that not everyone is the same.
My brain has never been quite right. I knew there was something very wrong with me by the time I was about ten. It was undeniable. But no one could know, I had to be perfect. Not because it was demanded or expected of me, but because I expected it from myself. I made it until I was 12 years old before I started losing control of my emotions.
I experienced my first serious depression. It was confusing. I looked around at the other kids and they were different than me. I didn’t give a fuck about anything anymore. I wanted to be alone, except for my best friend, Amy. She kept me as stable as was possible from another 12/13 year old.
Things didn’t get better. I fluctuated between wanting to hurt myself and hurting someone else. I was reckless and impulsive. There wasn’t a dare I wouldn’t take, a drug I wasn’t interested in, or a person I wouldn’t hit if I had to. I wanted to die so desperately. Or I felt invincible. There was never enough stability in my moods.
Sometimes I saw myself cross the line. I had a beloved teacher in 8th grade. I liked him so much, I talked to him all the time. All I wanted was for him to like me and listen to me, and he did those things. But I was a punk. I went out of my way to torment him, making up names, taunting him in front of other kids.
Every Friday he went roller skating (it was the 80s, okay?). Amy and I were at the rink that day, along with her brother and parents and lots of kids from school. It might have been someone’s birthday. Most of that afternoon is a vague cloud of a memory. Something bad happened in the restroom. I might have started some shit with another girl? There’s only one clear memory.
I was way too cool to roller skate. Because what if I fell? Sometime I’ll write about Erving Goffman’s theories about embarrassment in social psychology. I couldn’t tolerate people mocking me in any way. I avoided it happening at all costs.
I went up to the wall and my teacher skated over with a smile on his face. I can’t remember what he said to me. I was looking him in the eyes and he said something to tease me. I punched him in the face. It all went wrong. He grabbed me and started pulling me over the wall to get me in better position to kick my ass, I guess. Amy’s parents rushed over and broke it up. We were out of breath, pissed. Everyone was stunned.
We were herded over to a table to sit and talk things out. My abdomen hurt from him trying to pull me over the wall. It would be bruised for weeks.
Why had I done it? I had no good answer. I was sorry, I was so very sorry. I cared so much about him, I never wanted to hit him. I couldn’t cry no matter how much I wanted to. Still my chin was quivering, I was upset. My teacher was upset, too. Why? Why had this happened?
I knew. Because there was something wrong with me. Something dark. The thing that made me cut on my arms. That led me to sometimes scare people with my out of control behavior. I’d get high to escape, and end up doing or saying things to kids I’d been friends with for years that would frighten them. They would back away from me, or look at me with shock. Who was I? What was I becoming?
I could go on and on with stories, but again, they can be found in the first chapter of the book. It’s totally free, no strings attached. http://www.christianewells.com/ch1
In high school things were all wrong in other ways. I was out of control. Writing poems about killing myself. And killing other people. Buying knives whenever I could. Stockpiling them in my room, my knife collection. Which would later be used to cut my arms up, scars that are on me more than 20 years later.
Then, after a period of sobriety of a few months I had my first manic episode. I didn’t see a doctor, and the episode lasted for weeks. Then there was another. And a depression. And I said the hell with sobriety. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was the beginning of a descent to depths no people should have to experience.
Be aware. But know that we are all different. We all have unique stories. Bipolar disorder stole years away from my life. There were times when it looked like I would never get better. That I would spend my entire life in and out of mental hospitals. I’d never get off Social Security (I’m still on it).
Things changed. I didn’t change overnight, and I made changes in my own way. Be aware that there is hope. You can have a life. A real life with a husband/wife/partner, children, pets, a house, it is all here for you. Don’t ever give up. Ever. Find people who won’t give up on you and let them carry you when you need that.
Bipolar Disorder is no joke. It’s one of the most severe types of mental illness. Whether you are dealing with Bipolar I or Bipolar II, this is not easy and it never will be. But it can get better. There is hope.