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.
In writing my posts and bringing the pain back to the surface I’ve come to notice that at some point in my life, somewhere during one of my traumatic events I stopped living. With each post I’ve cried my eyes out feeling the anguish from each tear. Knowing that these feelings are still running so deep in my body I realized that I’m frozen in time. Letting my abusers and ex husband dictate how I live my life. I held on to the pain, to the negativity, to the hurt and only ended up hurting myself over and over again. If I had said “screw you”, I’m worth it, I’m going to be something great, my life would look a lot different. Till this day I still live in fear of being unloved, unlike and not good enough to be happy. I don’t know how but I need to break the cycle, release their hold on me and start living the life I was destined to live before they cracked my clean slate. Throughout my adult life I’ve taken the safe road. Not risking it because I was a failure and nothing good could come out of me. This might feel true on some levels but the unconditional love of my amazing boys is untouchable. As long as I have them I will understand and feel true love. But it’s time for change, it’s time for me, it’s time that happiness knocked on my door and I welcomed it in because I, yes, I, deserve it!!!! I will no longer settle for second best and I will no longer live my life based on others approval. If I don’t trust you or you’ve harmed me in some way I’m going to remember it, but forgive you and move on!! For Me, Not For You!! I’ve wasted enough of my life, it’s time to take it back.
It feel great to have my eyes wide open but there was so much more I experienced. Stay along for the ride, it gets a little bumpy.
Before I move forward I think it’s only right to let you know that I was no stranger to depression. I can remember seeing my first counselor and being prescribed Prozac for my depression. It’s no wonder that I suffered from depression due to my childhood, not to mention that I wasn’t the pretty girl in school or the thinnest. So I fell prey to teasing from an early age but something was starkly different with my post break-up behavior. I started to feel this battle within myself and the dramatic changes in my mood. For the most part I was feeling severe depression from the traumatic events of my separation. My parents were rays of hope but for some reason no matter how much they supported me, a change was coming and it would forever stay.
One night when I was all alone, and my parents were sleeping due to their work schedules, I started to have these battles within. No matter how much I tried to distract myself with TV, movies and just hanging outside alone on the porch with a divine cigarette. (They were my “drug” of choice.) I couldn’t fight the internal dialogue that was telling me to end it all. Finish it. Stop the pain. After hours off fighting, I finally gave up. I wanted to stop the pain. I wanted to disappear from this earthly existence that seemed to get worse instead of better.
That night the struggle within continued non-stop, and I decided to give in. That night I took a handful of Vicodin, left from a tooth pulling. I laid in my bed and took a sharp knife to cut both my wrists. I watched the blood come pouring out and felt bliss, it’s going to be over soon. This was my time, by morning I would be dead and the pain would be forever gone. Unfortunately I was awakened by my mother who discovered my attempt. She called my family doctor and I was immediately admitted to the local hospital.
At the hospital, I was admitted to the psychiatric ward. There were two parts of the ward you could be admitted to. For me, since I attempted suicide I was admitted to the portion that was totally restricted. In this unit there were empty rooms with only a mattress and a camera for the staff to watch. This was a required stay for at least 24-48 hours since I tried to kill myself. It was a very sterile and sad place. Lonely but watched at every move. I couldn’t even take a shower without a staff member in the room. I felt exposed and vulnerable. In the common area of this unit I meet a resident that claimed to be Jesus and he was going to rape me. He started to scream and shout, not making much sense. So a team of large men came in, dragged him to his sterile room, and held him down while the nurse gave him an injection. This scared me terribly because of my childhood experience. I would lay in my empty room with a mattress and camera and wonder how did this happen to me. I was supposed to be dead. I was supposed to be pain-free. After one very long day and night in the confined unit I was cleared to be admitted to the regular psychiatric ward. I had a room with another girl. I’m not sure what her diagnosis was but she was very intense in her hand washing and repeating her tasks over and over. Almost like OCD. She kept me up at night washing her hands non- stop. In this unit we had a regular schedule. We woke at 7am and started our days with breakfast, therapy, psychiatrists, and crafts. Occasionally we were allowed to make and receive calls and watch movies in the common room. I met a lot of people who seemed just like me. I took comfort in their presence unlike Jesus in the other unit. I exchanged information with some of the other patients. After several days of a ritualistic schedule and doctors appointment I was diagnosed, the words still ring in my head, “You are Bipolar.” They tried to explain this new word to me but everything was still very confusing and foggy. They started me on a regiment of drugs and it was a lot. I couldn’t feel sadness, happiness or anything for that matter when the medicine kicked in. I just functioned as a robot trying to understand what was going on and what happened to my life. Little did I know that there was so much to learn about my new friend.
This is when I met The Other Side of Me.
Right after he made his grand announcement that he didn’t love me anymore I didn’t know what to do next. My parents happen to be hours away on vacation and I couldn’t stand to be in the same house as him. I got in my dream car, which didn’t seem so shiny and new anymore, and drove around. I don’t know how long I drove but I drove through tear soaked eyes. Once I physically exhausted myself I pulled over in a nearby neighborhood and slept in the backseat of my car. It took another day for my parents to get back home to comfort me. So I slept in my car for two days. Crying so hard that my whole body would shake. I think these initial days were spent in shock because I remember very little except the tears and confinement of this used to be beautiful car but now another symbol of my broken dreams.
I just couldn’t believe what was going on. I gave this man everything. I supported him. I trusted him. I loved him with my whole being which I never thought was possible. And he ripped my heart out and took me back to my painful childhood. A time that I thought he had healed. A time I thought I would never revisit or feel that way again. A time that planted the seed that I was unlovable. And now it was true. I was unlovable. I was damaged. I was worthless. And now I was broken forever.
My parents returned early from their vacation and I started living there. In the coming weeks I had to try to wrap my head around what was happening. I was desperate for things to go back to the way they were but he was gone. There was no hope for a reconciliation so we had to meet and split our property. While I was there I discovered girls closing hanging in the bathroom. Just like that she had replaced me. In his heart and in my home. With every crushing blow I felt myself breaking into more pieces and losing grip on life. I would spend my days at my parents house, sleeping a lot and smoking outside on the porch. At night it would get unbearable. I couldn’t sleep and if I could I had to fall sleep to the sound of the TV. And my mind became my worst enemy. I literally fight with my own thoughts and at times would hear a voice in my head telling me awful things, breaking me down more and more. At this point I was so far gone in my own pain that no one could help me.
She thought she was his fairest of all. She gave her new husband all she could. Resuming their lives in the real world. Working during the week and hanging out with friends on the weekend. Since he was older than her he would enjoy an evening out at a night club with older mutual friends and she was more than fine with that. She never wanted to hold him back or nag him into submission so that she was comfortable. During their world wind 10 months of marriage they kept things spicy and continued to feel the passion. In her eyes he still completed her and she trusted him. It was rather nice to settle in to normal life and put the struggles behind them. But something changed and she couldn’t see it at first but there love-making had lessen and she saw a different, more withdrawn lover before her. One night near July 4th 2000, she remembers this because they just got her dream car, a Toyota Celica. They celebrated but something was under the surface. She eventually approached him and after a heated argument he said “I don’t love you anymore.” Really?!?! After 10 months of marriage, what had changed, what did she do wrong. But it wasn’t anything she could fix, it was him, he met someone during his club outings. Cheating, that’s what it was, and it was happening to her. He didn’t only fall for this scarlet, he cared enough for her to give up on their love. To destroy what they built and planned. But not only did she feel that utter pain and blackness of his cheating but she discovered that her friends who accompanied him to these clubs, knew. I don’t know how much they knew but they knew and didn’t say a word. The pain that came with this news was heart wrenching but little did she know that this betrayal would change her life forever. It wasn’t only a break up, a divorce, it was a scar that would keep ripping her open over and over again. This experience would cause an astonishing ripple effect and take her on a path in her life that no one would’ve predicted.