For all my fellow mood-disorder equipped friends.
As most know, bipolar disorder has quite the stigma surrounding itself. As if the word, bipolar, is a derogatory label slapped on the backs of those who feel the world a bit differently. Everyone with BPD experiences the effects differently and as a matter of fact they have now set it on a spectrum. Well, it’s a start, right?
I was diagnosed with BPD November 2010. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t bother looking into it, just slapped the label on and took the pills. That was it. As I got older, I started wondering why I do certain things the way I do. For example, drugs, alcohol, risky sexual behaviors, risky behaviors in general, wearing clothing to match my moods, not sleeping, sleeping too much, obsessive behavior, and the manic rage. All of these things I had thought were part of my personality which implied there was something fundamentally wrong with me, deep down. BUT- as all with BPD (hopefully) know, that isn’t the case. I got to the point where I needed to dig deep and find out how to even the playing field with bipolar as my opponent.
I am in an upswing right now- not yet manic but can feel it rolling in like a light and fluffy cloud sprinkled with glitter. Now, the fact that I am mentally aware of that is a feat in itself. Getting to that point took some time, though. I think those with BPD wonder how many times did a manic or depressive episode change the course of their entire life. I know mine did. I think I’m ready to tell my full story, and hopefully it will inspire others to do the same.
I was 17 years old when I started cycling my moods. My mother brought me to therapy, but wouldn’t explore the possibility that there may be something else going on. So I was labelled as a bad kid, a risk taking teenager-but more so than your average bear. I was with my boyfriend at the time, crazy in love, and yet- I slept with his roommate during a manic episode. Did I want to? Not at all. I felt as if my hand was being pushed toward a direction my body didn’t want to go. That night changed my entire life. It’s funny how mania has that capability. Everyone tends to worry more about the down swings with respect to safety, but the real killer is the mania. Anyways, back to my story. So, with said roommate, I shortly thereafter fell pregnant, as I was full blown manic off and on. I was pressured into marrying him by his family and himself- so I went with the flow hoping it would be better. It never got better- it got worse. Several psych-ward stays, a multitude of tests, treatment facilities, and a purposely failed marriage later- I started to understand that this wasn’t going away. This is something I have to harness. It can be quite empowering, taking your mental health in your own hands. I encourage all to do so- whether it be through support groups, meetings, one on one with doctors or another type of provider. Once I learned why I do the things I do, and how to manage it- my real life became visible.
While I did start to understand more of my disorder, in my early 20s I still engaged in all the same behavior. Which, of course, we all do at that point in life. With mine however, it went a little bit sideways. I finally reconnected with the love of my life and lost it within a matter of months. I started drinking myself to death in hopes that I wouldn’t have to feel the pain anymore. I didn’t want the person of whom I wanted to spend forever with to see or know about my BPD. That alone is what ended it. I couldn’t be real- instead I people-pleased. With the stigma that surrounds it, or surrounded it at the time, I kept it in. Hidden and locked.
After that, I became homeless, with my daughter. We ended up working really hard to obtain housing at the time, only to let a very dangerous man live with me. While I thought it was for a few days, he refused to leave. (This part of the story I never tell. It’s hidden deep down with all my lies and secrets surrounded by iron-rod thorns.) Truthfully, I knew he dealt drugs. I just didn’t realize it was heavy drugs. I didn’t know that his “friends” were all in the Latin Kings. I didn’t realize what I let in- the devil himself. The man had the blackest eyes I have ever seen. So again, I drank to hopefully walk out of this world-not seeking treatment or taking medication of any kind. In the end, I was vulnerable and alone- and he took that and ran with it. Even now, as I type, my hands are shaking at the thought of his face. Images of the rape flood back to my brain, allowing myself to feel and heal. I know there is a lot of talk about why women don’t report and I think it’s important that we address that. For me, I didn’t call the police because I was in absolute shock. I had a ring of black bruises around my neck left from strangulation and from the pressure of his hands on my throat, I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t sit down, wear any thing tight fitting or even begin to grasp what had happened to me. So here it is; a meth dealer anally raped, degraded and strangled me. I said it. It happened. I am tired of hearing that women feel they need to sugar coat it or make it sound “pretty.” What happened was NOT pretty, and it’s okay to get it out.
After about three weeks of lying on the couch and staring out the window, I finally called the cops. I don’t know what prompted it, but I am so glad I did. I also reached out to the man I love, hoping to tell him what had happened and get support. So, I went to him- and nothing would come out. I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t say that the woman he loved was just vandalized from the inside out. Because of that, I left. I actually found reprieve with my ex-husband and got sober. While the relationship didn’t last, my zest for life did. In 2011, my ex-husband attempted to injure or kill me on several occasions. The last and final one included a large knife, and tons of cops. During his arrest, I filed for divorce and was ready to move on. I started dialectic behavioral therapy every day, started med-trials to figure out how to be in control of my own health, and got sober. This led me back once again to the man I have been madly in love with since I was fifteen years old. I went back in hopes of a healthy relationship- but he had found someone else. It’s not like I expected him to wait for me… however, I had never thought there would be someone that could take him from me. I realized he wasn’t mine to keep or give away and I moved on, quite literally and metaphorically. I started a relationship similar to the one I wanted with him with someone else, unhappily giving in to life on life’s terms. While it was manageable and I found times to try to be happy, I wondered if the man I love would ever return to my life. I worked hard to remain sober, working on myself every step of the way. For nearly 7 years, I waited in hopes that the life I dreamed of would become attainable. I became hardened and sad- letting BPD rule my life so I didn’t have to think about it anymore. I stopped caring about pretty much everything, gained weight and just coasted. The person I was in the relationship with didn’t want marriage, kids or any of the same goals as I did. I knew after one year that this wasn’t what I wanted or needed- but had no way out. It was the last straw when he started screaming at my daughter about anything she would do, or pick on her about various things. I said no more.
Which brings everyone almost up to speed. I moved out, asked a friend to be a roommate for a few months and finally, the man I was in love with all these years came back into my life. The man that has literally been in every one of my dreams for over 10 years was right here, next to me. Now, back to the reason I am putting this all out there- mental health. While I still experience the upswings and downswings, they are manageable with medication and with having open conversations about what I am experiencing. I let him in about all of it and it feels great to be so open about it.
Hopefully I inspire others to open up about bipolar disorder, or realistically any mental health issues. Until we understand and love ourselves, we cannot love anyone else.