I am a hostage.
I was diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder during a 36 day stay in rehab for drug addiction. That was over 10 years ago in 2009 and I will say that only now am I really learning about what Bi Polar is and what it means for me. I mean, for the first time, my parents are also starting to understand what it looks like in their adult daughter. I have never really blogged about my experiences with Bi Polar exactly but I have talked a great deal about it in the last year and so many things have come to light. And I mean, if you know me and know how crazy my life has been, you know a lot more about Bi Polar then maybe you think.
I don’t want to talk about how Bi Polar is said to be started, whether its genetics or from childhood trauma, that doesn’t really matter today. Surviving is what matters today.
Growing up I was a difficult child in terms of emotional and coping issues. I was very emotional, very outspoken, and pretty awkward. I was not liked by many of my classmates and was not liked by myself either. I had major issues coming to a head and was put on Paxil at 14 years old and then became fixated on self-mutilation and spent a lot of time cutting myself, which I believe was directly caused by the Paxil and being 14 years old. I spent many years with disordered eating and image issues. As a teenager I was reckless with sex specifically and was incredibly promiscuous. That decreased as I got a little older and found drugs, then it was drugs first and sex next or sometimes both simultaneously. All of this morphed into major drug addiction for a few years in adulthood before I got pregnant, which helped to halt the drug use and the extremely unstable lifestyle I was living. The story continues from there, but today I will just use this as a preface to my Bi Polar discussion.
Every day that I have been a live I have been at war with myself.
Having Bi Polar Disorder is different for everybody, a person might be very manic, or very depressed, or hypomanic (which is me). I will say that I am fortunate that my Bi Polar isn’t as bad as many others. When I was in rehab, this 55 year old woman crack head, nicest lady ever, would be up doing thousands of crunches on the bedroom floor at 3am for hours, and she would walk laps around the yard of the rehab every day anytime that we were outside. IDK where she is now and it’s been years but when she got out, I am just assuming she likely ran right back to crack if she did not find a medication to subdue her mania. I understand for sure.
So Bi Polar 1 is having at least 1 manic episode, and the mania can be quite severe. With Bi Polar 2, a person will have hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes and with Bi Polar 2 the episodes last longer than with 1 but are less severe. I have Bi Polar 2. So others experience depression so badly that they cannot get out of bed for weeks, they don’t shower for weeks, they feel nothing for weeks, or maybe months. I have had several depressive episodes in my life, probably one every 2 years or so, my last one was last summer. I was just very depressed, had major suicidal ideation every day, wanted to stay in bed and cry for a week or so, and for my new boyfriend at the time- this was a whole new world! Sometimes I feel like I am possessed by some dark energy or something, it sucks. I did go through a period where I did not shower or care about my hygiene and stuff, but I was on drugs for those handful of years and that actually doesn’t give an accurate view of my Bi Polar as I have come to find out over the last few years. Accurate Bi Polar symptoms can only be gauged when you are sober. Alcohol and drugs fuel depression and mania, obviously. My symptoms are WAY out of check when I am drinking or using drugs, which I don’t really drink anymore and don’t use any drugs. I do have a medical card and use medical marijuana for the pain of my autoimmune diseases and it sometimes slightly contributes to my depression and mania for sure, however, I am able to write and get productive and get a 3.8 GPA in college because it helps me to focus. It’s bittersweet!
For me, being hypomanic means I am usually not on the farthest end of mania, which I am grateful for but to have that ‘crunches at 3am’ energy would be nice because I could lose some weight for sure. If you know me this means I talk… A LOT all the time anyways but if I am having some hypomania, I can hardly keep up with my words. A part of me sits inside going “ok, shut up, turn off your mouth, that’s enough” that’s my light side right brain, and we will get to that later. I also interrupt, I randomly blurt out words while you are speaking because I can’t wait. This is partly my ADHD also but still, I feel and look like a fool when I do it and that part of me inside is like “just wait, shhhh, hold on, wait your turn” and the words just continue to fall out of my face. My college professors probably LOATHE me for this!
Which leads me to the next part of my Bi Polar regarding language and that is, I apparently can’t help myself from saying incredibly awkward things sometimes. I won’t get into many details here, I’ll save those for my someday memoir, but yes I have said many ‘face palm’ type things that did not go near any filter at all, before leaving my fucking face. I remember like 6 years ago, I was talking with a woman whose daughters I cheered with in high school. She said her daughter’s asshole ex-boyfriend didn’t like her, and I said “well of course he doesn’t, you’re a bitch!” And I totally meant she was one of the toughest and scariest women I knew and anybody should already know that she would rock your world over her kids…. And I never was able to redeem that and I still feel anxiety over it to this today. And I can’t just message her and say “hey remember that one time I said you were a bitch, I meant it in a badass, you won’t deal with anybody who hurts your kids kind of way”. I doubt she will ever read this, but if she does.. IM SORRY IM SO AWKWARD!
I think my family is also really learning, now in my 32 years of life, that all of these things is what Bi Polar looks like in me. Especially when a few years ago I hugged my mom and aunt who both have MS, and told them “I was joining the autoimmune disease club”. And that’s just another comment that I regret along the way. And my brain will never let them go—- which brings me to my next struggle….
Fixations and obsessions is another piece of Bi Polar for me. Ever see me stuck on Facebook? If I have nothing going on in my life and my kids are busy with their own things, I will get stuck on social media. I have to pry myself off of it and deactivate it ever so often. An extension of that is being mindful of what I am exposing myself to. Having Bi Polar Disorder means exposure to certain stimuli can leave me in a world of fucked up so I try to watch what I am seeing on social media, but lately everything is depressing as hell so it’s a lose lose. I don’t watch t.v. or movies anymore because of how they may affect me (I also don’t have time). Certain gruesome horror films have left me paralyzed in fear for weeks, as my brain stays obsessed with the most horrific parts of it and replays them over and over in my mind. The last awful movie I watched that really scarred me, was at the theater with my neighbor (we were like seniors in high school, so 2006ish), it was the first Hostle movie. I could not drive home afterwards and he had to because I was shaking so much! I had my brother sleep on my bedroom floor for about a week afterwards. The eyeball scene still replays in my mind as I write this. *vomit* Now having lived through some abuse at various points in my life, the PTSD is real and it totally fuels the Bi Polar fixations on memories as well.
The light and the dark is my best way to describe it and I refer them to as “right-brain” and “left-brain”. On the right side is where I feel light and positive energy and on the left side is where I feel all the negative thoughts, ideation, banter, etc comes from. It is an epic battle constantly. Demi Lovato does a great job in her “I Love Me” music video where she shows herself in white and herself in black and she fights herself in black and wins. But this could not be more spot on.
Every single day it is a battle. Part of my brain guiding me and loving me and reassuring me, that part of my brain is encouraging and understanding and gentle. The other part of my brain is the dark side, the left side, and that’s where the shit show happens. I deal with awful thoughts, constantly. My light side is always working overtime just to shut down the words of the dark side. My left brain fixates on suicidal ideation and death no matter what I do. I could be happier than any time ever and my left brain will still be telling me to kill myself and that nobody loves me or likes me and that the world would be better off without me alive. I am not suicidal; I just deal with suicidal ideation every single day, no matter what. I remember sitting in my genetics class and all of a sudden I was plagued with the thoughts and idea of my kids being murdered at school, and I had to keep it together while right brain talked us all off the edge of a cliff while my professor had no idea of the battle happening in the front row, in my brain. This is only the tip of the iceberg on that. I am constantly in a state of pure exhaustion because my brain parts are always at war.
Paranoia is another big symptom of mine. It’s wild how irrational it is sometimes. My ex-boyfriend really tried hard to show me that he loved me and that I could trust him, but my brain just kept coming up with reasons why it wasn’t true. Some of the reasons were totally unfounded. My marriage did a lot to instill trust issues and I know my brain runs with that and drapes it over every aspect of my life. And I would say, well considering they were bullshit relationships that DID happen to involve lies and mistrust, which may be partially true but then when I look at other parts of my life it doesn’t make sense. Sometimes I will believe that my best friend of like 20 years actually hates me. Thank god she’s a psychologist and is quick to reassure me with reality, but this shit is hard as hell to live with. When I am working I am nervous my co-workers actually don’t like me, but many of my classmates growing up actually didn’t. I feel like many of my classmates now don’t actually like me, but truth is, they look up to me and love me and come to me for help and guidance. And at any rate, along the way in life I learned to not need anybody. Especially now that I have my children, I only really need them (and my cats). And then my biggest fear is what if they don’t actually like me?!?!?! But I ask them a lot, and they do. *whew* I was afraid for several years that 3 different cars that I owned were going to randomly explode while I was driving; the anxiety made me a nervous wreck.
This paranoia and overthinking also leads to major Imposter Syndrome. It’s hard to believe that I have been successful at anything in my life. This thinking is rough especially while owning an all natural beauty and wellness company, writing a blog that has been viewed in over 30 countries, being a drug abuse and domestic violence survivor, and going back to school for like the 5th time and getting on the Dean’s list 4 semesters in a row. Like once I have my masters in mental health counseling, am I really gonna be able to help anybody, or will they know I am just as fucked up as they are? What makes me so special? I feel like I have come very very very far with my self-awarenes and my growth and I have to keep challinging these ideas or else I’ll never achieve my goals.
Now, I have been on so many medications for my mental health since I was like 14 and nothing has ever really worked, at all. A lot of them made my symptoms much worse and increased my manic parts and I would quickly be looking for sex, drugs, or stealing. So I got off all meds and have been using vitamins and supplements to keep things kind of at bay but overall still struggling. In the last year I was prescribed Neurontin or Gabapentin for my Sjogrens Syndrome neuropathy pain, and turns out, it doesn’t work that great for nerve pain BUT surprisingly it is one of the top medications for stabilizing mood. The best part of being on this, at 1200mg daily, that left brain voice is more quiet than it’s ever been. And that brings tears of happiness to my eyes. It has been such a long road.
How can one live a life when part of your brain is telling you to reject everything that you see, feel, and everybody that you know, and all the love that you receive… It is a lonely world. Many people do not like me because of who I am, but I am just mentally ill and I don’t even think I am that bad, and if you don’t like me for that reason then I think that makes you the asshole, friend!
I think I am pretty fucking cool and pretty fucking real and I care and love hard and make sure the ones I care for are taken care of. I light myself on fire to keep others warm as a habit, which I know I need to work on. I have grown a lot in the last few years and am VERY self-aware and I think that is an amazing thing that I have embraced to use for good, in order to help me grow. Many people don’t want to see themselves for who they truly are and what their issues really are, they keep blaming those around them, and wondering why things never change. News flash—sometimes YOU are the problem YOURSELF.
I survive by use of grounding exercises daily. I have to constantly remind myself of reality and I also need to flip the script on the negative thoughts always. I have to call them out and laugh in their face and take away their power. The road I am on is lonely and I know I will die with Bi Polar Disorder, but I will not die because of Bi Polar Disorder! Too many people lose the fight with Bi Polar Disorder to suicide and as hard as it is still every single day, I refuse to let it take my life.
I am a hostage, but I still have power.