Hello. My name is Savannah and I have Bipolar Disorder.
No, that does not mean I might turn on you at any moment. No, it is not like a light switch I can turn off and on when it is convenient for my life. It is, however, a constant uphill war where I occasionally lose battles. To explain this, I should probably start at my first extended manic episode…
When I was 19, my long-term boyfriend ripped my heart out suddenly without any cause that I could understand. I thought we were perfect, and our relationship was a fairytale. Cut to me ugly, sobbing on the floor in his apartment with tears and mascara streaming down my face. I was devastated and overwhelmed by a feeling that I was suddenly not myself.
For days I could not eat or sleep. This turned into weeks of malnutrition and restless nights, but what I remember most is that I do not actually remember any of it. I was experiencing an extended manic episode, though I did not know it at the time. When I look back at this frame of time, it plays like a grainy home movie that I was not actually in.
I bounced from extreme highs where I felt invincible (think Beyoncé) to extreme lows where I would not leave my bed for any reason including classes. Staying in bed to binge watch Breaking Bad inevitably led to failing two classes in one semester which was exactly the wakeup call I needed. It did not suddenly make me well, but it made it clear that I needed help. I made an appointment with a counselor who suggested I take a 300 question Personality Disorder Test.
Though this test was borderline painful to take, it led to my diagnosis: Bipolar I Disorder.
At first, this was easily the most painfully piece of information I had ever had bouncing around inside my brain. I felt like a monster; worse, like my father. My father was undiagnosed until his abuse hit a breaking point and remained unmedicated even longer than that. My father spent my entire childhood blacking out in fits of rage until he became the embodiment of the monster under my bed. I feared that I would instantly become the monster I knew in my childhood. It concerned me that I may be a flight risk to myself and the people around me simply because my problem had a name.
The first year post-diagnosis was very difficult because I attempted to find a medication that would work for me. I changed drugs five times before assessing that drugs were simply not for me. The medications were trapping me in a strange middle ground where I could not seem to experience high or low, only the middle. I was watching my life pass by me without even smiling or waving. During this time, I began to think about other times in my past when there were holes in my memories. It became obvious that this diagnosis was well overdue.
Over time, I adjusted to living with this disorder and learned that it was not a definition of my life or person, just an accessory to my character. I am not, nor have I ever been a monster because of my disorder.
Five years later, I still choose to remain unmedicated, but am diligent about every aspect of my life now. I work tirelessly to avoid known triggers and surround myself with people who have my best interest in mind. There is always a potential to enter a manic or depressive episode, but I know the signs and work to slow their effects. This is not always easy because I have found that it is very difficult to control everyone around me, but I can control myself. I can choose to take medication or not to. I can choose to avoid situations that may trigger an episode. I have a lifetime of choices that can help me manage this disorder, but it will never manage me.
About the Author: I am a Chiropractic student focused on how wellness can alter our mental health. My mission is to help others down a path of recovery and on to living healthier lives both mentally and physically. It is my hope that by sharing my story, other people will seek the help they may need.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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