In 2007 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. As a child, people called me “spastic,” and “hyper.” In my pre-teen and teenage years I would feel depressed from time to time. As a young adult the depression would be so deep that I felt I could hardly breathe sometimes.
But it was only when I was 36 that I was diagnosed. Did I suspect before then that I had a serious problem. YES. I have kept journals since I was in the 8th grade and I had an English teacher who required that we do so. It’s impossible to journal on a regular basis and not eventually notice a pattern in your moods. And yet, every time the cloud would lift, I had the insane idea that I would never again feel so much like killing myself. Can you believe I thought that EVERY SINGLE TIME?
Then my husband cheated on me. And left me and my four sons to live in the church that he used to pastor. And then I took him back after a year of praying to God to PLEASE send him back. [Yes, in retrospect I do realize just how insane I had to be.] And then I realized I’d made a mistake in taking him back and the depressive phases would last much longer. And then I decided to stay with him until I could finish college and enter the work force so that I could leave his ass. But then, years later while I was working on my Master’s Degree–which is enough to drive anyone batty all by itself–he left me for the second time.
What I’m trying to demonstrate is that I was never sure that it was ME who had the problem. I just thought my LIFE was extremely problematic. I sincerely thought that the trauma of my life (having been molested as a child; experiencing teenage pregnancy, the homesickness of living in Europe for 2 years, the poverty associated with marrying young, having four sons and being uneducated and jobless, having a husband who was a preacher, liar, and adulterer, the stresses associated with maintaining a 4.0 average in college and grad school as an adult and as a sometimes-single-parent) were causing me to be…well, you know, “up and down.”
If it had not been for the fact that I was nominated for the only full-ride scholarship and stipend given annually in the department where I was to do grad studies, I may never have even sought psychiatric evaluation and psychological therapy, much less been able to afford them. Indeed, if I had not forced by the dean to stop breaking down in the bathroom in uncontrollable crying and screaming fits, I guess I would have just continued the silent suffering that had become my life story. I would never have put myself into the category of people who have a “chemical imbalance.”
And the good times were no longer just good; they were AMAZING beyond belief. I began to feel high on life whenever I wasn’t in the black pit. And once my husband had left me I was free to experience all the “life” that I had given up after high school in order to marry him. And even more incredible was the fact that I was taking 5 classes at a time, and learning other languages and producing some the best academic writing I have ever done. I was a freaking GENIUS. All while I was losing my mind.
And then came the meds.