A Peek Inside a Bipolar Life 

Posted: March 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

Several years ago I was a blogger. I wrote about many of the things I write about now- life, love, parenting- with the exception of being bipolar, as that was before my diagnosis. I gave up blogging because life simply got in the way. I was very busy with work, kids, marriage, my home, and writing. How much life has changed since then….. 

I now only work part time as that is all my disorder will allow me to work. If I didn’t have my current job, I am not sure I would be able to work at all. Thankfully, I stumbled upon this job and loved it.

My kids are much older now (12 and 16) and more independent. They need me less and less everyday it seems. Sometimes I am so thankful that this disorder didn’t hit it’s horrible peak until this stage in life. My children are old enough to understand and know that when Mom is cranky, it’s not their fault, or when she is in her pjs for days on end, it will get better. They know as much about this disorder as they can comprehend and are very understanding and supportive and I thank God for that, and for them, every day of my life. 

I no longer have my own home, or my marriage. As my marriage deteriorated over the years so did our home. It was a lemon from the start, but had it received the TLC needed it could have been beautiful. My marriage was, sadly, doomed from the start but that never kept me from trying. I gave until there was nothing left in me to give. I fought until I was completely exhausted mentally and emotionally. I kept the faith and never lost hope even when all seemed hopeless and lost. I never stopped loving him. How could I? He had been my first love, my best friend, and later the father of my son. He was as much a part of me as I was of myself. But none of that mattered when, after my diagnosis, when I needed him most, he checked out. After years and years of tolerating his drinking, of fighting, alone, to save our marriage despite his addiction, when I needed him most he wasn’t there. I wasn’t naive enough to believe that because I was ill his drinking would stop but I had believed that he would do less of it, and be at home more, and be there for me the way I had always been there for him. I was wrong. Just a couple of months after my diagnosis our marriage was over.

Writing has been a part of me, literally, almost my entire life. I began writing poems when I was 6. By the time I was 10 I was writing short stories and several poems weekly. It came naturally to me. I could sit down with a pen and paper and in seconds be off and running. I loved it, was good at it, and knew at a young age that it was what I wanted to do with my life. Life doesn’t always go as planned, and after becoming a mom just a year out of high school my plans to study journalism and become an author and reporter were packed away neatly in a little box of things I would someday like to do. After my first son was in school, and my baby boy came into the picture, I decided to try my hand at writing again. I took on a weekly community article for a local newspaper and begged and pleaded for some stories to cover and was given several, mainly human interest pieces which were what I liked best. I was enjoying this new writing experience and was obviously disappointed when the paper went under new management who believed that freelance writing was “extinct”. My drive for writing faded after that until eventually it was packed away, once again, in that little box. 

So much has changed since back then when I use to blog.  Now myself and my children live with my parents, I haven’t written anything significant in years and am just now beginning to write again, I only work part time, I am single and will soon be divorced, and I am battling this disorder on a daily basis. 

As part of the bipolar I deal with extreme anxiety, periods of depression and periods of mania, or “high phases”. These highs are my most productive times. I am very hyper and energetic and just want to go, go, go! This sounds great I am sure, and in many ways it is. However at the same time my mind races. My thoughts come faster than I am able to vocalize them, and this results in my talking too fast, and often getting frustrated that I unable to get my thoughts into words. I am unable to focus properly and tend to jump from one thing to the next, making completion of anything difficult at best. Sometimes a lot of the things I start don’t get finished at all before the “high” is over. I am unable to sleep during these phases and often forget to eat or shower and housework goes undone for days on end as I become completely engrossed in whatever projects I am working on. 

While not everything about the high phases is good I would take it over the depression phrases every day of the week and twice on Sunday. The depression is all consuming. It takes over my mind and my heart. I cry without reason or warning. I spend every moment that I am not caring for the kids in bed or lying on the couch. I spend days in my pajamas and I binge eat on junk food. While they are all horrible effects of the depression the worst is the tricks it plays on my mind and my emotions. I’m often filled with despair and hopelessness. I feel alone and scared. Thoughts of giving up creep into my mind. I feel worthless, and as if the world would be better off without me in it. 

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme highs and extreme lows but the disorder is a complicated one. In addition to the high and low phases, I also have rapidly changing moods and my highs and lows change more rapidly and last shorter periods of time. This can be frustrating for not just myself but everyone around me. 

I have known since I was a teenager that something wasn’t quite right. After being treated a few times for depression (I later learned this was the down phase of my bipolar) only to stop taking my meds when I felt I no longer needed them (this would be a high phase) I was finally diagnosed this past Spring when I had an emotional breakdown. That’s the moment when everything changed and my world was turned upside down!  Since that time I’ve tried to hold my life together as best I could but even the greatest efforts are sometimes not enough. 

At that period in time I had just finished doing a 2 year program in college and the only thing standing between me and my diploma was a 8 week on-the-job-training. I was just 2 weeks in when things started to unravel. Suddenly I found myself full of anxiety, on edge all the time, consumed with feelings of fear and doubt, and very depressed. The employee who was responsible for my training in that third week was horrible. She was rude, condescending, loud, and vindictive. She thoroughly enjoyed putting down everyone that worked there and telling me repeatedly that I was doing everything wrong because it wasn’t her way of doing things. The job I had liked for the first two weeks was now a nightmare.  For a long time I thought that my breakdown was partly her fault but I came to realize after close examination of the events of the weeks prior to it, that she wasn’t to blame, but rather the week with her was the straw that broke the camel’s back. 

This week of my life I find very hard to talk about so I will refrain from delving any further but it was the week that changed everything, the week where everything went downhill fast. 

On the Monday of my fourth week I came home from work filled with the same emotions that had been weighing me down all of the previous week. I made supper for my kids but couldn’t eat myself and then I lay in bed. I mentally coached myself- just a few more weeks and I was done, I could do this- but the more I tried the worse I felt. An unbearable weight filled my chest, I felt cold and sick, and was filled with an unexplainable fear, and it was not long before I broke down into uncontrollable tears. I began to tremble and a cold sweat spread across my entire body. My kids were playing video games in the living room and I knew I had to do something, if not for my own sake then for theirs. I called my mother and sobbed as I tried to explain what was wrong, what I was feeling, but there was no way. How could I explain something that I myself could not understand?  

I packed bags for my kids and drove to my mothers for a couple nights. I was a complete and total mess. I couldn’t sleep unless there were people awake around me and my nights, while everyone else slept, were spent wide awake. I couldn’t eat and was constantly nauseous. I was shakey, scared, sad, nervous, and sick all rolled into one. A couple of days later I called my sister, realizing I needed help. The next day she took me to my doctors office and I demanded that he see me. In uncontrollable tears I explained as best I could what had been happening. Hospitalization was discussed but I begged him not to. I would do anything he asked of me as long as he didn’t have me admitted. Even in my delicate and troubled state of mind I knew I couldn’t handle that, nor could I do that to my children. He prescribed some medication- an antidepressant and a anti anxiety- and referred me to a psychiatrist then sent me home with strict instructions to see him every week until I saw the psychiatrist. 

A lot of the next week is a blur. My then husband was away at work and because he worked on a boat I had no way in contacting him and he had no idea of what was going on. I stayed with my parents for the week, called into work to let them know I would not be back. My doctor had taken me off work for a month to start but I had already made the decision that I would not be returning to work there. 

In many ways my condition worsened that week and in the weeks that followed and in some small ways it improved. I became afraid to drive alone. I couldn’t drive on the highway and when I had to travel to see the psychiatrist, which was a 2 hour drive each way, I would have to get my sister to drive me. I stopped wanting to see people and to date it has been 10 months since I have been out with friends. During the first couple of months they would call to see how I was and invite me out but after turning them down time and time again they stopped trying. I stopped talking to friends on the phone and screened my calls daily.  I even stopped running errands around town such as going to the store or the post office. I became very reclusive and still am to an extent. The one area in which I did improve in those next few weeks was losing the feeling of absolute dread at the thought of going to the job that I had come to not only despise but associate with my breakdown. 

I went back to my apartment shortly thereafter and my husband came home. Maybe it was because he hadn’t been there as my world came crumbling down. Maybe he was unable to understand what was happening to me. There are so many maybes. But the bottom line was his addiction controlled his life more than he did. He tried to understand. He tried to be there for me. He tried to help. But his efforts weren’t enough. I continued to spend night after night home alone. I was continually lied to. I continued to have to carry the weight of responsibility on my shoulders while he continued to carry on as if nothing had changed. But everything had- I had- and I needed him to do the one thing for that he had never been able to do before- step up and be the husband and father myself and my children needed and deserved. Sure, he had good intentions. But as the saying goes, the road to hell was paved with good intentions. We managed to forge a normal relationship for a couple of months but nothing was the same. The passion and emotion in our relationship was gone. My faith in him was dying and I honestly believe that a part of me died with it. This man was my best friend. He was my “person”, the one I went to with everything. When I had good or bad news he was the first person I wanted to tell. He was the person I told my secrets to, who I shared my dreams and fears with. He was the one person I believed would always be there for me. I was so very wrong. 

It was approximately 3 weeks from my initial doctor’s visit when I had my first appointment with the psychiatrist- a tiny European man who was very soft spoken  and quiet but had a reputation for being an excellent doctor. After an hour of talking he prescribed Seroquel and took away my prescription for Ativan, the anxiety medication that my doctor had originally prescribed. I wasn’t diagnosed that day but was given a month trial on the Seroquel. It would be a couple of weeks later before I began to feel a little better. By this point I had been on Efexor (the antidepressant) for approximately 6 weeks and the Seroquel for 2. I didn’t  know it at the time but the Seroquel was a treatment for bipolar. When I returned to his office 4 weeks after that first appointment and told him I was beginning to feel a little better he once again prescribed the same cocktail of meds. I saw him monthly and it was on my fourth visit that we finally talked about the diagnosis that would change my life forever- bipolar disorder. 

It’s been 10 months since my diagnosis. In many ways I am doing much better and in just as many ways I am not.  I am much more balanced now, but I still struggle with mood swings. I still go through high and low phases which last about a week each. Social anxiety is still a huge obstacle for me to overcome and I am not quite ready yet. For that reason I am still very reclusive and isolate myself from the world around me with the exception of my children’s events and activities. I still do not go out with friends although I do talk to them often. I still struggle with irregular appetite and binge eating and my weight has climbed drastically because of it. Somedays I don’t want to get dressed so I just don’t. Somedays I don’t want to shower so, again, I don’t. But then there are days that I  bounce out of bed, get dressed, and start the day with a vengeance. I have learned that I can’t change how I feel and I just have to feel it, live in that moment, wait for to end and then move on. 

Keeping busy is another way in which I work to control my moods and keep balanced. Being busy and creative doesn’t allow me the time to dwell on the negative emotions that treaten to take over. Crafting, do-it-yourself projects, decorating, writing….these are as much a part of my health regimen as the carefully prescribed cocktail of medications that are meant to keep me sane and balanced. 

And now, so is blogging. 

Several years ago I was a blogger. Before life got in the way, and later fell apart. And now, as I work to rebuild it, I am a blogger once again.  Whether anyone reads it, or if nobody does, it’s an outlet for me. For happy things and sad, for silly things, for bad days and good days. For me. And if any of you wish to share in my every day ramblings I would be happy to have you 🙂 

Thank you for listening. 

  1. bipolarwhisper says:

    Excellent piece describing what happened in the weeks and days coming into a breakdown and finally getting a diagnosis can be hard to write, but very therapeutic. I ope that it has helped to get it written out and that it is a weight lifted.

    Liked by 1 person

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