Deja vu by the late great Teena Marie
BIPOLAR PRESENTED BY BRITTANY DAY
written by Brittany Day
I was twelve years old when they finally figured it out. I had been dragged through various placements in the Foster Care System from the time I was five, and through various assessments and psychoanalysis throughout my life, I had already been diagnosed with ADHD, Insomnia, OCD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, and who knows what else. But they missed one…a really big one that would affect my life more than all the others combined…I have Bipolar Disorder.
It all started when I was at my fourth official foster home and seventh placement. I would wake up completely crazy with delirious happiness and by the end of the day, I was sobbing my eyes out like the world was ending. Not just once or twice, but several times a week. As time progressed and I was put on medication, the highs and lows came further apart, but they were always there, making me feel out of control and completely helpless.
When I was thirteen, I got into a fight with my fifth foster parent. I decided I couldn’t live this way anymore. The feeling that I was worthless and that nobody wanted me anyways was overwhelming. I began to sink lower and lower. I not only contemplated, but planned to commit suicide. I would have died that night if I hadn’t been caught and an intervention staged. I won’t even say that’s the lowest I’ve been, because suicidal thoughts still came after that day when I hit the low points in my Bipolar cycle, and when I was about 19, I began to have panic attacks on top of the feelings of utter hopelessness and worthlessness.
As I grew older and life’s circumstances changed, so did my Bipolar. It’s still there, but now I have learned to recognize it, and I know what I need to do to get through it. I can always tell when I’m going into a Manic phase in the cycle because colors seem brighter, sunrises are more brilliant, I can literally go days on about two hours of sleep a night, and my mind races so much that I am incapable of doing quiet tasks like reading or sitting still to admire the petals on a flower. I have to be moving and accomplishing things. These are the times when I really get a lot done. I have learned to make my Bipolar work for me by accomplishing three times as much as the average human in the space of about 3 days on about 6 hours of sleep…total.
Immediately after or before my Manic phase, I come face to face with Depression. It feels like I’m in a fog. I can almost feel the cloud covering my mind, and I can feel when it lifts. The simplest tasks, like making tea, feel completely overwhelming. My whole body feels like lead and it takes all my energy to get off the couch and feed myself and my family. I feel completely exhausted and begin to question why I even bother. Projects that I’ve been looking forward to, like scrapbooking or reading a book, feel like major tasks that I just don’t want to do anymore. I look heavier in the mirror and I see no beauty in anything. Life is gray. I have learned to cope by talking myself through it. I tell myself it will only be a couple of days and then I will be OK. I purpose to put before myself pictures of my family so I know that there are people who love me….their pictures hang on the wall at all times for just that reason. I obligate myself to them so I don’t do anything stupid. I pamper myself by always keeping chocolate on hand for these times. I give myself a break.
I’ve seen claims that mental disorders aren’t real…that they can be fixed with diet or exercise or by changing life circumstances. But I am living proof that they are real and not something you can just get rid of by taking a magical pill. You can’t run or hide from Bipolar. It’s not something you can get away from. It’s real, and you simply have to learn to live in the balance. The best way I can think of to describe Bipolar is with a short analogy I wrote while in a Depressed state a few years ago.
The most valuable advice I can offer when struggling with Bipolar Disorder is to learn to ride the waves. Tell your loved ones when you are coming into a high or low so that they can be prepared to take on extra responsibilities or talk you down from buying the entirety of Hobby Lobby (I buy a lot of stuff when I’m in a Manic Phase). Lean on the people who are there for you and learn to ride those waves.
We hope you are enjoying the presentations and gaining an understanding of mental illness. – Kendall F. Person