If I tell them, they’ll think less of me. Even I have a hard time believing it happened. But it’s the truth. It’s my truth. And after holding it in for nearly a year I’m ready to tell it. My story is worthy of being told.
I got sick last year. Not the kind of sick you’re thinking about. Not a fever or a stomach virus. No, not that kind. And not the kind of sick that is widely accepted in our society such as cancer or diabetes or even a broken bone.
I’ve made no secret on this blog that I am diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. My life has been a constant struggle of trying to stay well and, let’s be honest, a functional member of society.
But here is what has unfolded in the last three years . . .
When I learned I was pregnant with Sawyer in June 2013, I immediately went off all of my medicines that helped control my illness. I stayed off of them for the duration of my pregnancy. And then when she was born I continued unmedicated for another entire year while I breastfed her.
So, doing the math, I was unmedicated for almost two years. A bipolar person with no meds and hormone fluctuations all over the place. This does not make for a well-adjusted, functional person.
By May of last year, I was an emotional disaster. I couldn’t concentrate or focus on anything. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was in a full-on manic episode, which actually began right after I stopped breastfeeding Sawyer in January. It was bad. Really bad. I didn’t know which way was up or down. But oh, that roller coaster was fun at the time. My thoughts were all over the place. It was like the tilt-a-whirl in my brain.
Think of a movie on fast forward mode. That was my life. My mind racing at all times. I couldn’t shut it off. It was SO LOUD in my head. I was tired but I couldn’t sleep. I would stay up way too late writing, many times I was drinking at night. A glass of wine (or two or three) was the only thing that slowed my brain down long enough for me to breathe and sleep.
I was seeing a new therapist and had gone to my psychiatrist begging for medicines because I knew something was wrong. But it was too late. I had waited too long and the medicines weren’t working anyway because of the drinking.
I started running every other day even though I hate running. I lost weight due to my exercise routine and not eating as much. I didn’t need food. I was surviving on how thrilling life was. I’m not sure how much weight I lost but I remember being really excited when the scale read a number that I had last seen when I was in college.
At times I felt invincible, on top of the world. Other times I dropped to my knees, utterly exhausted by my own energy.
I spent a lot of money that I shouldn’t have spent. I made really bad decisions but believe me when I tell you, they felt so right at the time. It doesn’t excuse my behavior. But it does explain it. Read up on bipolar manic episodes. A lot of people think they would be fun. But the aftermath tells a different story. It was a textbook manic episode as I had every symptom. Weight loss, not sleeping, racing thoughts, overspending, obsessing over a certain task (running, in my case), abusing a substance, and some other ones that I won’t even discuss because . . . ugh. I just won’t.
In early June I was hospitalized for the first time. After coming down off of my manic with severe depression I was hospitalized a second time in early September. And while everyone else was partying it up for New Year’s Eve, I was once again in the hospital. It was the worst depressive episode I’ve ever had. Going from a manic episode directly into a depressive episode. Oh God. I’m not sure how I’m still here.
I’m finally writing this, at the urging of my husband and my best friend, because they know what I’ve known for awhile. I haven’t been able to write on my blog because not writing about this was like having a huge pink elephant in the sidebar! I have always been honest on my blog. I’ve always shared what’s going on in my life. But this time, I was deeply ashamed and stayed quiet to please everyone. It is now clear that hiding this has been to my detriment as I have lost something I dearly love . . . writing. Since I was sixteen it has been a sort of therapy for me. Writing and sharing my struggle and all the while still being hopeful. It helps me.
But this . . . I wasn’t sure about telling the world about this. I am scared – no – TERRIFIED, to put this out there. What will people think of me? Will they think less of me? Will they betray me after learning the truth of what has happened over the last year. Will they stop talking to me or wanting to be my friend?
I know I have nothing to be ashamed of. This illness is not something I chose. This illness is not who I am as a person.
The reason I have chosen to be open about this is because I want others who are going through this to know that they are not alone. You are not alone. And if we hide it, try to sweep it under the rug, well that serves no one.
I thought about my kids. I thought about if they, God forbid, have an illness such as mine, would I want them to feel ashamed? Would I want them to stay quiet and go through their struggle alone? The answer is NO. I wouldn’t want that for them. I would want them to feel safe telling me anything. Life is hard enough. I would want them to be open with me and feel free to live their life out loud. Because that is the definition of bravery and hope. Standing up and saying, hey, I’m hurting but I’m not giving in.
This illness haunts me like a ghost. It follows me wherever I go. But I fight it. I fight hard. I turn around and punch depression in the face on a daily basis. I tell it where it can go.
And that’s what I’ve been doing the past year. I’ve been fighting. I’ve been in so much pain and confusion I can’t even explain it. Just know that it is an absolute miracle I am sitting here today, writing this for you to read.
At times, death was a very real possibility. I didn’t know if I would make it to my 37th birthday. (I did so it’s okay!)
I’m not really even sure how to end this blog post. I didn’t know how to start it either. I mean, what do you say anyway . . . “Hi! Oh, you know, I’ve been good. I went to a psychiatric hospital three times! The food was bad. So what’s going on with you?”
I will hopefully be able to share more details as time passes. But it was eating me up inside not to share this part of me with those who have been reading for so long.
There’s nothing wrong with me. I didn’t fail. I’m not “less than” someone else because of this. But I still have to tell myself that every single day in order to believe it. Some nights the shame is too much to bear.
But somehow, I still find hope.