It’s been way too long since I wrote and I’ve missed it. Which made me look within myself and ask, “Why haven’t you written? What are you feeling? That’s what made me realize that I need to write even though I’m struggling in so many ways, from multiple directions. I’m naturally a sensitive, caring , people pleasing, nurturer and you add that with my Bipolar disorder and it can become the perfect storm. I also believe that my history contributes to my sensitivity of what people think and how that reflects my past questioning of being lovable. I can’t say for certain that this is related to my Bipolar because I can only speak to how I feel but for some reason it seems that I feel things deeper, stronger and more painfully to fix it or believe that I’m never good enough and I can’t make people happy.
I’ve been married for 12 years and have two amazing boys. Due to my husbands physical disability the decision had to be made that I stay home with our kids. This was a hard decision because I was just out of nursing school and I had hardly dipped my toe in the profession. But sacrifices had to be made. I just didn’t realize what the effect of this decision would do to me. I gave it my all as a stay at home mom even when I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed but I knew that these little ones needed me and I had to push past my Bipolar and care for them. In many ways I felt the need to over compensate as a mother because of the abuse I experienced as a child. I COULDN’T let that happen to my boys and I certainly wasn’t going to visit my disorder on them, so it was my job to be the very best mother I could be and do my very best to struggle in private. As the years went by I lived this life, I sacrificed and I carried the load of our family all the while hold back the symptoms of my Bipolar to the best of my ability. Which brings me to the struggles I’m having as a wife, mother and individual. Unfortunately like most couples in the world my husband and I faced our ups and downs but when you put our personal struggles into the equation we’ve failed to maintain our marriage. The weight I struggled to carry for this family and my husbands neglect to contribute more created a consistent deterioration. Now we face the uphill battle of trying to repair the damage if at all possible and start over, learning who we are and what it means to be spouses to one another. To top it off this is the first school year that my boys are both in school full day. This has been crushing to my purpose in life. It’s a great thing that there healthy, happy and confident enough to be successful in school and I try to remember that I helped in that process but now there just a sense of emptiness. But little do they know that their mother struggles with the fear of them going out into the world and being victimized because that seed has been planned into my mind since my abuse. The noise is gone in the house and the busy work of keeping them entertained and feed are missing during my days. I guess for some moms this is a great opportunity to do busy work, volunteer or just enjoy the fruits of your labor during this down time, but for me, the nurturer that will care for every single person in my life but not myself is deafening and proving to be extremely difficult. I feel lost. I just don’t know what to do. I think and think, trying to find that path for me and it just doesn’t come. I just don’t know what to do and how to process this big change in my life.
I’ve also been struggling with individuals and family members in my life that leave me scratching my head. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not what they want me to be but it feels like one personal attack after another which really confuses me because I’m a people pleaser and want others to like me so why would I hurt people? I am who I am and I wish it was clear to me what I’ve done so wrong to have multiple people attack me and make claims that are unexplained. It makes me sick to my stomach really. If these individuals can express themselves so that the issue can be clear and hopefully solved then I’m left to let the hamster spin on the wheel in my head, torturing myself. But I refuse to be blamed for other people’s actions or misinterpretation. It’s hard to allow these people into my life because they have the power to spin things out of control for me. Questioning my ability to trust them enough to have a healthy relationship. I can’t handle the unknown or the inability to read peoples mind because they don’t want to address the issue.
With all that said, all these struggles trigger most often a depressive state which scares me the most. It hurts my heart when things are uncertain or I feel like people are holding things over my head. This pile of struggles seem to be impossible to climb out of. There’s so much turmoil in my life that it’s no wonder each day has been almost impossible to bare. No wonder I’ve fallen into a depressive state and haven’t written in so long. One thing I know for sure, I’m nowhere near where I want to be in my life and can only hope I can somehow pull myself out of this depression with all this crap piling up around me.
When I was diagnosed with Bipolar there were all these terms thrown at me and I could barely understand what was going on and how it applied to me. It was overwhelming and I think that’s why it was easier for me to shut down and stay in denial. I don’t know exactly when it happened but I know that I started to accept my diagnosis as being true when I was able to identify these symptoms and sometimes even predict them in my daily life. Till this day I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse that I can predict certain mood swings. It makes it hard on one hand because if a downward depressive spiral was coming then I felt this sense of doom and worry but when I noticed the highs starting I would relish in the sun like a cat sunbathing knowing that this state won’t last long and it’s far more pleasant than the lows.
To better understand Bipolar and how it relates to me specifically I thought I would share some common terms. First off I’m Bipolar II. Which means I have more depressive moods then manic. When I talk about the highs I’m referring to the Mania, which is a heightened state. At this time you can have a lot of energy, feel like you don’t need sleep or become reckless. This time is dangerous because you don’t always make the best judgement calls. It could be simple like starting a project that you’ll never finish or going on a binder of risky behavior. Now the lows I think are even more dangerous. This is known as depression but for me I have Major Depressive Disorder so I spend a lot more of my time in a depressive state. This is generally feeling down, worthless, no energy, wanting to sleep a lot, not taking care of yourself or having a purpose. These dark times are when I feel at my worst. It feels like I’m in a deep dark hole with no light in sight. I often feel like this state will last forever and despair will settle in. Unfortunately this takes me to even darker places of self-mutilation and even suicidal thoughts. As a person suffering from Bipolar I swing from one state to another, changing moods and behavior. If I’m “stable” which I use that term loosely that’s when I’m not swinging but just hanging there. Not really having strong feelings in either direction. The medications that I take are meant to stabilize my moods but it’s not a perfect solution. It can sometimes lessen the intensity of the mood but not fully prevent it.
Normally I spend a lot of this time in my head. Thinking about my life, over and over again in my hamster wheel and waiting for the next swing to come. Which one will it be? How bad will it be? Can I cushion the blow and effect on my family? This is when my favorite term comes to mind, PEACE. I never really free to let go. I’m constantly in my head. There are days I wish I could turn it all off and just feel nothing. Just hear silence. Just feel at peace!
There’s really no preparing yourself to learn what being Bipolar means. They tell you things like, people are typically diagnosed with Bipolar in their early 20’s after a traumatic event. Everyone’s experience with Bipolar is different, and treatment is tricky because you need to find the right cocktails of medicine. I was diagnosed in 2000 during my hospitalization but it wasn’t until the last 10 years that I’ve started to accept, predict and sometimes understand my Bipolar. But in that time I saw doctor after doctor, drugs after drugs, therapist after therapist, but to no avail did I feel better or understood. I had so many doctors throwing drugs at me that I could barely function as a person. I would just lay around without any care to even bathe. The numbness would spread into my happy thoughts and times, I couldn’t feel those either. I can remember this one doctor that had this messy large office with a massive wooden desk in the middle of it. I sat across from him while he made notes of how I was feeling, and it wasn’t good, and then without even looking up once he handed me a prescription and I was dismissed. I walked out of that office feeling like the lowest human being on the plant and maybe I wasn’t even worthy to be called a human being. Somehow I was led by my insurance to my current doctor. I’ve been seeing him for more than 12 years. At first I went into it with negative feelings obviously tainted from the past experiences. Here we go again, but he was different; younger, kinder, and a listener. He didn’t care about the clock. If he asked me a question and I responded, he would ask more questions because he wanted to understand. This was new! He and I worked hard as a team to put a plan together to get my medicine under control and NOT feel like a zombie. Over the years it took some adjustments but I trusted him and right now I’m comfortable with my current treatment. His office staff isn’t that great but I keep going because he’s worth it. A doctor that cared and wanted to understand what I was experiencing. But something else I learned about my Bipolar was that there’s no cure, there’s really no stopping it. I think that was the hardest part for me to understand. I thought if I took my medicine and follow doctors orders that I would be the old me again, the Bipolar would lie dormant and peace would be part of my life. But that’s not true, no amount of medicine is going to fix me. I had to listen to my mind. I had to see how it was influencing my life. I had to learn to cope. Learn to live with it. You can do all the research you want but being Bipolar is unpredictable, everyone that has Bipolar is different and for me there’s never a break from it. The only way I can explain the true feeling of living with Bipolar is the example of that squirrel you drive up on and it can’t decide what direction to go, frantically thinking about ALL the options over and over again. I’ve also referred to my Bipolar as the hamster wheel in my head. It just keeps going, around in a circle, never stopping. I often ask myself if I’ll ever really get peace of mind. Will I truly hear the quiet of my own mind so that it too can rest too. When the highs are high it’s amazing, I’m so energetic and productive, starting projects and making plans which most will fall to the side when the high leaves. When the lows are low, I barely get out of bed, the black thoughts sink in and that’s where things get scary. There’s a reason that people with Bipolar have a 50% suicide rate. It gets dark and ugly. If your lucky you’ll escape this time with little damage. In my case self-mutilation may happen. I have all the scars to prove it. For some sick twisted way in that moment you see the red blood that makes you a human being again and allows you to visually see the pain that is going on in your mind. I hate this about me. Not at the time but after, when the black curtain has been lifted and I’m left caring for my wounds and above all, hiding them. But the other times you learn to function as the hamster spins in your head, never stopping for just a moment of peace.
The years between my divorce and meeting my soon to be husband in 2005 was difficult. As you may have remembered I spent years searching for any “kind” of love, any attention, even the negative kind from men. Just to fill that hole inside my chest that my ex husband placed there. And then I spent a couple of years just focusing on me. But a time came when loneliness was apparent in my daily life so eharmony was my next step. After several matches I meet a guy that was different. Seemed more mature and connected with his emotions. He also had a struggle that he faced daily. Mine might be mental but his was physical. This helped us to connect and relate on a deeper level.
Scott and I started officially dating, as in seeing each other in person around late June 2005. Because of my past experience with my ex husband I was looking for the complete opposite. Not only did I want him to be completely opposite of my ex but I wanted our relationship to develop differently. I wasn’t looking to waste my time so I made that clear. Along with the fact that I didn’t want to hide my dirty little secret if this was going to be “The One.” So I went into this full force. As it turned out he was approaching this relationship in the same way. Wanting to find “The One,” not wasting time if it wasn’t a good match. I’m not entirely sure if that was a recipe for bliss or a disaster.
It was only weeks after we started dating that we got engaged. It was so romantic. A scavenger hunt of sorts that lasted most of the day and ended with a proposal and a ring. It was creative and romantic, everything a girl wanted. I was on cloud nine and again we didn’t want to waste time. Because I was previously married I didn’t want to do the traditional wedding because I did that with my ex. It didn’t take long for us to agree on a beach wedding in the Caribbean. At this time, I knew that Scott had a big family and didn’t realize how much a destination wedding would be received, but nothing was said and plans moved forward. We did invite our parents and siblings. We settled on Jamaica. My parents were so excited for us and jumped right on board. There was little we had to do except give the resort details of what we wanted for our special day, get passports and pick our wedding attire. It was so stress free and it allowed us to just focus on us.
I must say that it wasn’t all roses during this process.. We had differences and we had fights but they seemed to fade in the background as we pushed forward and our special day arrived. We were on our way to Montego Bay, Jamaica with high hopes for the most romantic and exciting first trip of our lives. And that’s what happened. On December 31st, 2005 we had the most amazing wedding, we were finally husband and wife. I believe the only thing we truly regretted was that we didn’t stay longer after our wedding day.
Off we were, two completely different people with their own struggles that knew each other for 6 months, starting their lives together and filled with dreams and hopes.
Would this finally be my “Happily Ever After?” Could he be the man to fill the hole my ex made and restore my trust in men? Am I lovable? Had I found, “The Ones?” Did we realize the difficulties that our individual struggles would create?
In January of 2005, five years after my divorce, I started the nursing program to become a LPN. Before I started school I was very worried about my ability to do it and be a success so I wrote myself a long commitment letter. I read that letter all the time. I’m sure I still have it somewhere. The nursing program was a year-long with three semesters. It started out as two separate large classrooms. I knew that this was going to be hard but it was important to me and I wanted to make a difference. That was my nature. The program was so hard that by the end of the first semester we had lost almost half the total students so it was combined into one class. Amazingly to me I passed the first semester but I had a slight edge. Because I worked as a CNA and Medical Assistant I had some background knowledge into this field. By the second semester I was getting into unknown territory and it was hard. The hardest thing, at this point that I ever attempted. The classes were all day Monday through Friday and then I spent hours at night reading chapters in massive books with as many as 30-40 pages per chapter. Most of the time I had to read and reread the chapters because of my dyslexia and reading comprehension issues, but I did it and I stuck with it. Many days I would read that commitment letter and give myself a pep talk because at times it was hard to get out of bed and keep going. When they tell you that this program will consume your life and take all your dedication was an understatement. I didn’t only complete the program but I got high grades and excelled at the clinical aspect of my learning process. I can remember graduating right before Christmas and thinking, “Did I really do this?” It wasn’t easy but I was proud of such an accomplishment. Even with my dirty little secret I overcame the struggle of my own mind and didn’t let it drag me down. It got me thinking that maybe I can do this. I can live a great life even if I was Bipolar.
Halfway through nursing school I was feeling lonely. I wasn’t meeting anyone worth my time at the bars and clubs so online dating was suggested to me. At the time this was a new way to meet people and hopefully get to know someone on a deeper level. I signed up with eharmony for a three-month period and had several matches. Of course it took a couple of guys to find one that sounded like a good possibility. He had struggles and I had struggles. We were both looking for someone to accept one another and have a deeper connection with this as a common thread. We wrote back and forth for a while before we talked and then met up at an Issac’s near his home for our first meeting. I don’t know what it was but for some reason we kicked it off and our world wind relationship took off.
At the time I thought I had it all. I became a nurse!! I meet someone!! And all the while fighting my Bipolar!!
I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write again. I was faced with some emotional turmoil that threw me off my course of standing my ground to tell my story openly. But here’s where things led after what I would call a Positive Turning Point in my life.
After a long period of time working for Cardiac Consultants I decided to move out of my parents home and into my very own one bedroom apartment. I wasn’t alone really, I had my cat Chloe. My ex husband and I had gotten her during our marriage and she came with me to my parents, and now we were on our own journey as sidekicks. She truly was the best friend a girl could have. I worked hard, and I focused on keeping my schedule regular. I loved what I was doing and I managed to build some friendships that will always be remembered as the new friends. Of course these new friends didn’t know about my dirty little secret that I was still in denial but I regularly went to the doctor and kept on my medicine. This seemed to help and I was growing as a person, my own person. I had a great place, my adoring cat, some meaningful friendships and of course the support of my loving parents. Even though I worked hard and spent most of my weeknight making dinner for one and sitting with Chloe while watching TV, I also started to venture out into the world and go clubbing (I was old enough now). And I was smarter now, I didn’t give myself freely to any male predators but stay true to respecting myself and just having fun. After being in my first apartment for a year, they raised the rent, a lot. So I moved into this beautiful old house that had an amazing second floor apartment. I loved it there too. It was a little noisier then the first place because it was on the main road but it was perfect and I enjoyed coming home night after night. But there was something growing inside me. I wanted more. I wanted to progress. So I made the hard decision to leave my freedom, my beautiful apartment, resign from my job that I loved and move back in with my parents to attend nursing school. This was a big decision for me because I struggled in school. I wasn’t stupid but I had to work twice as hard as the other students. My early diagnosis of dyslexia made things harder and I worried that my secret would hold me back and destroy the life I was dreaming of. But I went for it. Again, the best parents on the earth welcomed me home again and helped me start a new chapter in my life. Supporting me the whole way. My parents have done amazing things for me my entire life, and as far as I’m concerned they deserve a gold metal. It didn’t stop there, they have been there for me every step of the way. And still till this day they are my biggest cheerleaders no matter what I might’ve done, or how I might’ve acted or how defective I was. Their love was never wavering. It seemed like at this point I could managed my life as a single women, take care of me and worry just about me. That might’ve been the reason for this positive turning point.
I’d like to think that this was just the beginning of my Happy Ending but my life took turns left and right. At times it didn’t help that I still couldn’t cope with the reality of my secret. I was still firmly believing that it was wrong, that I was perfectly fine. I’m sad to say that wasn’t true. If I had accepted my diagnosis, kept up with the treatment and actually done my homework, I would’ve learned that just when you think your up, your down. Just when you think your happy-go-lucky, you find yourself in a deep depression that felt like a dark hole. This was my future, but I didn’t know it, or want to admit it.
After four days of being hospitalized and pumped full of medicines, the powers that be felt I wasn’t a threat to myself and ready to go home. They sent me home with instructions to see a psychiatrist to regulate my medication, a therapist to talk to and a two-week outpatient program at another hospital. My Mom took a week off of work to be home with me as I adjusted to all the change. I went home in a fog of confusion. They gave me medications so it would quiet my mind and keep my moods stable. I guess you could say that it worked because I felt nothing and I had no motivation to do anything. It’s like walking around as a zombie with no real purpose or feelings. I’m not sure what is worse, battling myself or feeling empty inside. At first I did what was instructed and even completed the outpatient program that was basically like the inpatient ward except we came for the day and went home to sleep. Because I felt so little inside, I didn’t do much. I would sleep all day, stay in my pajamas and only leave my room to eat, use the bathroom and smoke.
At some point I couldn’t handle being a zombie, I HAD to feel something, so I did what most Bipolar patients do, I stopped taking my medicine from time to time. I was still in denial that I had this terrible disorder after all. This sent me on a manic phase of euphoria. I felt unstoppable and free. I started to get into some risky business. Because the pain inside me was caused by some men in my life I was ready to try to fill the hole in my heart by hanging out at bars. Looking for trouble. More than once I found myself in unsafe situations but I didn’t care. I kept going. Trying to fill the hole, trying to be loved. My promiscuous behavior was scary for most but I was on a high and this was filling me, maybe with negative and false hopes but it was something I could hold on to and FEEL. I reached out to a couple of guys I met at the hospital and we would meet at random hotels. At times I would stay up for days because I refused to take my insomnia medicine. It amazes me, looking back, that I didn’t end up dead on the side of the road.
For 4 years I played chicken with my life by either following the rules and staying on my treatment plan or taking myself off my medicine and going on a manic bender. At the time I didn’t realize it but I was Bipolar, I was going through the highs and lows, the depression and the mania. My parents watched this train wreck for years. My Mom trying to be understanding but pushing me to live and get out of bed, and my Dad was confused and couldn’t understand why I didn’t just snap out of it.
I just can’t believe that I lost more years of my life. I remember some things but most of it is a blur. I wasn’t ready to admit that I was sick and that it was OK to admit it because it’s the same as a physical disorder, mine was just in my brain. But I was worried that people would see me differently, because I would see me differently. I may not have admitted to The Other Side of Me but for some reason after this roller coaster ride for 4 years I tried to turn things around. I found a doctor that wasn’t so heavy-handed on the drugs which allowed me to function, so I started working and I started living again. I was the receptionist for Cardiac Consultants, was employee of the quarter and worked my way up to the billing department. I was proud of myself for the first time in years. It would be years until I finally admitted to myself and the people who loved me the most that I was living with Bipolar but I wouldn’t dare tell others. This was my dirty little secret.