Bipolar Life-Bipolar Beginnings

We all start at the same place-the beginning.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic, or lifelong, condition. This fact haunted me when diagnosed, my shock and denial while an inpatient was expected. After taking one too many sleeping pills, I was unable to communicate effectively. They assumed I took more than I did (literally one more), which required the stomach pumping, and an M-1 hold for a mental health evaluation.

Once admitted into the psych facility, I instantly heard Bipolar Disorder. Characterized by extreme mood swings, from mania (highs, euphoric rhythms, and irritability) to severe and dangerous lows (hopelessness- that can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions), bipolar disorder is complex. I knew I only took those three little pills, so I refused to accept their diagnosis.

I am a hard head and can be quite opposing at times.

Unfortunately, as I considered the many years of depression and choices that fall under the ‘high’ category, I knew the professionals were correct. In January 2002, I accepted I have a chronic mental illness, and a journey began. I experienced a myriad of emotions at the time, such as anger, disappointment, fear, and a mild case of feeling sorry for myself!

I replayed the past in my mind. This led to a deeper understanding of me. Amazingly, this understanding brought comfort to a chaotic time. My high-risk choices were especially understandable. I cannot justify certain things, but I can freely admit my inability at the time to control the mania I was experiencing.

Here is a list of basic facts relating to Bipolar Disorder (BD):

  • BD may affect as many as 60 million men and women worldwide.
  • The typical age at onset of symptoms is 15-25. (That’s me!)
  • There is NO cure.
  • Some patients may experience additional mental disorders.
  • The degree and length of mood swings is unpredictable. (The entire disorder is unpredictable if you ask me)

Initially, the struggle in living with BD was overwhelming. I entered inpatient care following a manic episode, but the depression that followed required intensive care. Unprepared for the severity of hopelessness I encountered, I longed to be back in the hospital. I thought I had multiple personalities, as BP is truly two of you in one. It took years to gain a sense of self-awareness and to establish some sort of normalcy.

“Except you cannot outrun insanity, anymore than you can outrun your own shadow.” – Alyssa Reyans, Letters from a Bipolar Mother

After challenging one therapist after another, I decided to add my faith into the equation. This strategy would be the game changer of my life.

I feared the truth of my BD within the community of believers around me. The stigma was more than I could bear. I longed to be normal. Unfortunately, this world, especially the church, did not consider mental illness as normal. I had to trust in the love I knew, and slowly I began to share the reality I hid so well.

Pleasantly surprised by the warm and accepting reception I received, I felt at ease. Moreover, in bringing light to the topic of BD, many others felt comfortable enough to come forward and share their stories as well. With this revelation came the idea to keep talking about BD and mental health issues, and to share my experiences with others in the church. The one place we should be confident to share and receive love and encouragement is our places of faith- for me this is the Christian church.

It is now 20 years since my formal diagnosis. Since that time, I have grown in my ability to handle BD. Gone are the fears of mania and depression. I no longer stumble clumsily through anxiety. I know the triggers and early symptoms. I have plans in place to care for myself and know the exact point to seek assistance from family and professionals. If you ask anyone who knows me personally, how I am, you will hear, “She’s got this!”

That is the beginning. We all started this course at the beginning. The important part is taking the step to move beyond that point and find peace as you navigate each step along the way.

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