Being bipolar is hard.
I was diagnosed when I was 16. My first boyfriend had just broken up with me, saying he couldn’t handle my angry outbursts and constant crying. He suggested I get professional help from a psychiatrist.
Hoping he’d get back together with me if I did, I went to a shrink for the first time in my life. I’d been to psychologists before, but I just hadn’t clicked with them and nothing came out of it. Deep down, though, I knew there was something going on with me.
Ever since I can remember, I’d cry over every little thing and have angry outbursts over every little thing as well. I had my first panic attack when I was in kindergarten, after I accidentally locked myself inside a bathroom stall and was stuck there for over half an hour before anyone came looking for me.
What I do remember the most about my childhood is sleeping. I’d sleep every chance I got. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was reading fantasy books, seeking to escape my reality. Books quickly became my best friends. I would devour at least two books a week, full-sized novels.
My parents weren’t supportive. They didn’t know there was something else going on with me. They thought they had the worst child, who cried or fought over everything and constantly lashed out at them. They abused me verbally when I started crying. My brother abused me verbally as well, calling me all sorts of horrible things. Back then, and I’m talking about the ’90s and early 2000s, mental health was still something that wasn’t widely discussed, especially so in a family like mine, where Dad was a hardcore Navy veteran who showed little emotion and my mom was just clueless.
I hated my life.
But then I went to a psychiatrist and he put a name to my outbursts and constant crying: bipolar disorder. Suddenly, everything clicked. My behavior had an explanation.
He put me on my first-ever medication, Risperdal. From that point onward, I’ve been on almost every medication there is to treat bipolar depression, bipolar mania, and a host of other related symptoms like anxiety, impulsive behavior, compulsive behavior, binge eating, and other symptoms associated with my condition.
My parents put a lot of effort into understanding my bipolar disorder. They bought books. They went to the psychiatrist I was seeing, both with me and without me, so they could better grasp how to deal with my condition. They explained it to my brother.
Change didn’t happen overnight, but eventually, my family learned that my “attitude” was not my fault, that I had a chemical imbalance in my brain, that I was living with severe depression, and that I would be on medication to treat that imbalance for the rest of my life.
When I was first diagnosed, I was full of hope for a better future. The doctor mentioned a lot of famous people who had bipolar disorder and were living a full life — politicians, celebrities, doctors, etc. But as the years passed and I went through different meds because of severe side effects or because for some reason the ones that did help me suddenly stopped working and I’d sink into a severe depression again, I started to lose hope.
The fact that I was dumped by every single boyfriend since the first one for the same reason — they couldn’t handle my depressive episodes — didn’t help matters either. My mom was now my rock and biggest support, driving me to my weekly shrink appointments, taking me to my university and waiting for me outside the classrooms, and bailing me out when I maxed out my credit card. But I was so lonely and sad.
I dropped out of college several times despite my mother’s support. I just couldn’t get up in the mornings. I felt like my body weighed me down. Like there was this weight inside my chest. It was hard to breathe. It was hard to stand up and stay standing up. I stopped reading for pleasure and slept most of the day and night. I had no job, no normal life. My parents supported me financially while I slept my life away.
At some point in my life, I got it into my head that I needed to complete my life’s mission because I was considering drastic measures to end the emotional pain. It came to me that I needed people to understand what my life was like, if only so I could help others in my position. I wanted caretakers and friends and family members of bipolar people to have a firsthand explanation of what a bipolar person went through, how they thought, how they rationalized things.
And that’s how Being Bipolar Living With Manic-Depressive Disorder: A Patient’s Firsthand Account was born. It offers an inside view into what I went through as a person with bipolar disorder. I wrote it in the hopes of demystifying this mental illness and helping others understand it better.
Since I wrote the book, life has changed drastically for me. I went back to university in 2015 and was eventually able to finish a degree in English literature and then get a postgraduate editing certificate. I couldn’t have done it without reasonable accommodation for my condition, though, because I still struggle with severe depression. I had to take things slow and play the long game, but eventually, I achieved my goals. I’m so proud of where I am today.
I’ve been on Latuda for several years and I’m feeling the best I ever have, but unfortunately, there’s no cure for bipolar disorder. I still sink into hopeless depressions, and my doctor has to play around with different meds to help me get back on track with my life, a process that takes anywhere from weeks to months and disrupts my life drastically.
I have accepted that these episodes will happen every few months, and I have given up on living a happy, “normal” life. Accepting that I may never be completely happy took a burden off me and has helped me breathe more freely. Instead of dreading sinking back into depression, I accept that it will happen and that I will pull through. The episode has to end sometime, right?
My advice to people living with mental illness? Show yourself grace. You will pull through. You’re stronger than you think. If you are suffering, please reach out to a supportive friend, family member, mentor, or doctor. Don’t suffer in silence.
Feel free to share my book with family and friends and anyone you think might gain something out of it. I hope it helps.