Bipolar Disorder – My Story

This is very difficult for me to write out and after I went to the internet for all the inspiration I could gather, I decided it’s finally time to talk about my Bipolar Disorder.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1 when I was in Junior High and my life has been a series of phases full of learning and growing with the disorder as well as fighting it and denying it’s existence. When I was first diagnosed, I didn’t believe my doctor. Everyone has mood swings, right? I knew that I felt things differently than other people but I wasn’t convinced on Bipolar.

I pride myself in being good at people reading and observing my surroundings. Through this method, I was finally able to say maybe I do have it after all. When something would happen around me and a group of other people, no matter how big or small, I would watch their reactions and feel the room out. I quickly realized that they didn’t feel the same way I did about what happened. I felt SO STRONGLY about everything and chalking it up to being dramatic or just being “extra” wasn’t cutting it anymore because I was at a point where I could not function on a daily basis.

Being self aware is the only thing that saved my life because it allowed me to accept my diagnosis and to start treating it. I wanted to talk a little bit about the disorder and how it has affected my life and who I have become.

What is Bipolar?

bi·po·lar dis·or·der
noun
  1. a mental disorder marked by alternating periods of elation and depression.

While this is the technical definition if Bipolar, it doesn’t really teach you what it’s like to actually live with it. It is severe and long lasting episodes of depression and either mania or hypo mania. There are two types of this disorder, type 1 and type 2.

What is Mania and Hypo Mania?

According to the DSM-5, which is what doctors use to diagnose:

Mania is a period of abnormally and persistent, elevated, expansive, or irritable moods and abnormally and persistently increased activity lasting at least 1 week and present most of the day, nearly every day.

Hypo Mania shows the same symptoms but not as intense manic episodes.

Type 1 vs. Type 2

Type 1

  • This is where you will have depressive and full mania episodes that last a full week or more. You have to exhibit 3 or 4 of the following symptoms to a point where you cannot function to be considered for a diagnosis:
    • Inflated self esteem
    • Decreased need for sleep
    • Much more talkative or feeling the need to keep talking
    • Flights or racing of thoughts
    • Increase in goal directed activity
    • Psychomotor
    • Excessive involvement in activities that have a high potential for painful consequences.
      • For example:
        • Buying sprees
        • Hyper sexuality
        • Dangerous physical activities.
  • My personal symptoms of mania:

    • I talk very quickly and my words get jumbled because of how fast my mind is moving. A lot of times I forget to breath because I am talking so fast.
    • I talk loudly sometimes and don’t notice. I have since I was a child.
    • My heart rate goes up and I start to sweat even when I am not actually moving. This sometimes causes me to feel nauseous (like right now as I am typing this). I am extremely manic right now which is probably why I am typing so much.
    • I feel incredibly motivated and productive and like I want to try new things.
    • I lose my social anxiety almost completely.
    • I get so uplifted and I feel so empowered that I get extremely emotional. When I am in a deep state of mania, I actually start crying because I feel so good. During these episodes, I don’t care about anything that is wrong in my life or that makes me sad. I just don’t have those emotions inside of me at that time.
    • Impulsiveness is a big one for me when I am manic. Whether I go on a buying spree or go on a hike that my body cannot psychically handle, it always has the same effects. I create a tornado, and when my episode is over, I have to clean up the mess. My spending and my mouth are the 2 things that I show the most impulsiveness in. Thinking before you speak is almost impossible when manic. It is a constant struggle that I have paid a very high price for.
    • When I used to teach classes for a living, I used my mania to help me seem more enthusiastic when I taught. Little did my classes know what was actually going on inside of my mind firing a million things at me at one time. This has caused problems while I was teaching due to me talking too fast, stuttering and slurring my words, and being too loud. I have sent my classes on many breaks so I can take a breath to try and calm down. It also causes me to say really impulsive things which is not an option in a professional environment.
    • I grind my teeth and will do things like bobbing my leg or over crack my knuckles because I can’t sit still.

Type 2

  • This is where you have depressive and hypo mania episodes that need to last for only 4 days. It is commonly believed that this is a milder form on Bipolar as the lack of intense mania can allow a person to function normally over a lifetime without treatment. While that may be true, people with Type 2 often have more severe depressive episodes that happen much more often than in Type 1.

Symptoms of Depression:

Mood: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness
Sleep: early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep
Whole body: excessive hunger, fatigue, loss of appetite, or restlessness
Behavioral: agitation, excessive crying, irritability, or social isolation
Cognitive: lack of concentration, slowness in activity, or thoughts of suicide
Weight: weight gain or weight loss
Also common: poor appetite or repeatedly going over thoughts

When I am having a depressive episode, it is much more than just feeling sad, slow, or irritable. When I am depressed, I go to a very dark place that drains me of any light in the world. It is such a deep sadness and for my entire life, it steals my self worth and want to live. I have thought my entire life that even if I make it another year or even another decade, I know I will end my life full of these dark hallways that never seem to end eventually.

I am a very logical thinker and when I get into this place, I try to logically think through it. Why do I feel like this? Is it worth this feeling? Almost always the answer is no. I guess that is what makes a mental illness a mental illness. There is no logic in it, but it is there and it is strong and it needs to be dealt with. I have tried to self medicate by doing multiple things.

I have tried taking Adderall and like pills because it made me manic 100% of the time and I would rather be up than down sometimes. I took too many pills and almost landed myself in jail for it with a felony. Thank god for a legal loop hole and a second chance.

I have self harmed since I was 9 years old and it is not something that I ever wanted to do. When I have panic attacks and my body doesn’t know whether to cry or scream or hit something, it completely shuts down and all I can do is shake. Self harming, either cutting or burning, for some reason has always gotten me out of these spells and that is the only reason why I did it. I knew I didn’t want to actually hurt myself but it calmed me down and I was desperate. Obviously this was NEVER ok and I push these thoughts out of my head whenever they sneak their way back in. It turned into an addiction and an obsession and now I have scars all over my arms, stomach, and legs that I will take with me wherever I go. Forget stretch marks, these are my real battle scars.

How has this affected my life?

  • Relationships

    • Whether it being family, friends, or boyfriends, it is very hard to keep people in my life for many reasons. I don’t feel understood, my mouth runs away from me, or they can’t handle the true me and the ups and down associated with that.
  • Legal issues

    • I became so mixed up in my own world I couldn’t bare the thought of leaving to go to school. This caused me to be charged with 3 counts of Truancy and me going to Juvenile Detention for over a month. I was not a bad kid and never had behavioral issues at school but the judge saw that I was a danger to myself so he sent me there so I can get help. I then went to an impatient facility in Wheeling, West Virginia for a couple of months which was a living nightmare day in and day out.
    • I also overdosed on Focalin in High School because I just wanted to be manic all the time. I couldn’t take it. I was almost charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance which is a felony but I got off by the help of an angel and a legal loophole. Seeing the pain in my family and teachers eyes is something that I will never forget. It is not worth it, I promise. 
  • Hospital Stays

    • When I would get sick or a wound I did to myself would get infected, I had to stay in a special room with restraints ready just in case and at the Children’s hospital I had to wear a bright purple gown because I was a risk until I talked to a social worker. This was so dehumanizing and humiliating, but it was the life I chose. 
  • Jobs

    • I have used my mania to give me a better work ethic and to stay focused on the task at hand. I can also get a lot done while in this state. The bad thing is, mania doesn’t last forever and so when it would go away my productivity drastically decreased and my relationship with coworkers would crumble.
    • I climbed the corporate ladder and made my family and friends so proud because of where I came from. Unfortunately, this disorder started to work against my career and I became consumed with the negative. I do not have a choice but to get over it and do my job. That is what adults have to do. Unfortunately, that is not how mental illness works and I had to make big changes to protect myself and all of the progress I have made on my Bipolar. I could not control my emotions in the high stress position I held so I had to step down in hopes of finding myself again. It has been a month now since I made that decision and I have never looked back. No job is worth everything I’ve worked so hard for my entire life.
  • Personal Identity

    • I, a lot of times, don’t know who I am. What I like, what I don’t like, what makes me happy, what makes me sad, what I want, etc. I have to stay in tuned with my mind constantly and this becomes exhausting.
  • Finances

    • I am 3 months behind on almost all of my utility bills, I am 5 months behind on 2 credit cards, I owe my Mom money, and I have 7,000 of medical bills I haven’t paid a cent towards. What did I do? Bought a $60 hammock. I never even considered the purchase, not even once. Even when I made good money in my Training position, I was still as broke as I was before making any money. Impulsive spending is a big problem I constantly have to work on.

Medications never worked for me or made me worse. So what did I do?

Once I finally accepted that I am different and I have Bipolar Type 1, I tried medication. My doctors had me on so many different medications that did dramatically different things to your brain and each and every one of them had horrible side effects that I decided I was better off without. It was time for a new treatment.

This is when I took my first step on a path of self awareness. I learned to constantly recognize my emotions and keep myself in check. If I am not too deep into an episode, I have actually taught myself how to logically choose to not feel that way. This is the strongest skill I posses. This started when I first turned 18 and lived alone. I was an adult now and I have to do things that no one else can do for me. It is not an option to not function at this point. It was the tough love motivation that I needed to choose my emotions.

After sometime of trying this new method, I realized that it wasn’t enough. If I am too deep into an emotion, it is impossible to pull myself from it. As far as the outside world was concerned, I was functioning, but in my own head I knew that I wasn’t take care of myself, my things, or the real problem. I need to stop these episodes from occurring the best I can instead of just dealing with them when they happen.

This brings me to the now. I am on a journey that involves a ketogenic diet and self love. Eating a keto diet has been proven many times to treat mental illness and I didn’t know this until I started the diet to lose weight. I still have episodes but I can function through them and can control the consequences a lot better now. I am still new to this journey so I am not where I’d like to be, but it is amazing how living a lifestyle full of keto, yoga, meditation, and self care has helped me on the deepest level. I have a new perspective on life and on myself. I am excited for all of the possibilities this has given me and I will never look back.

If you have Bipolar Type One…

I just want you to know that it is going to be ok. Some people say to not let it define you. I think they mean to not make excuses for your actions and take accountability for what you’ve done to your life. This thought of tough love has gotten me to where I am today. I decide to let my Bipolar define me but only positively. This is not something that will ever go away. It is with me at all times and it always will be. It has shaped my past and will shape my future. Perspective is key.

The way I look at my Bipolar diagnosis:

  • I am in a space between madness and genius.
  • I have more strength of character. I have lived through the fires of hell and come out on the other side every single time. Even if it is only out of pure survival, that makes me a polar warrior. A bad day for most people is a walk in the park for me. Living a week in my shoes would be unbearable for most.
  • I can feel genuine, deep empathy for others. I know what it feels like and I will be there for you to feel it with you.
  • I am so creative when I am manic, I become extremely innovative and this has helped me a lot professionally, as well.
  • I have the drive to try to new things. I can have a new hobby each week. I may not finish a lot of projects, but I still explored a part of myself I otherwise never would have.
  • When mildly manic, I have such a passion and enthusiasm for life. Most people may not feel like darkness that I feel so often, but they also don’t get to experience the highs that come along with it. I am forever grateful for this feeling. It is what keeps me going and fighting.
  • When manic, it can also make you a very passionate lover. I will not elaborate. Lol.
  • It gives me a unique perspective on emotions and I am able to analyze situations and issues in ways that other people cannot see.
  • I am the most resilient person I have ever met. Every time I recover from an episode, I have a deep underlying sense of accomplishment and strength. This also acts as a sort of insulation to PTSD as the episodes can be so intense it can cause permanent trauma effects. I have been conditioned by the fire and I will be fine.
  • It makes me work harder at my job and it is easy to have a good work ethic sometimes.
  • Due to the dark days, I have a more realistic assessment of life. I am a deep thinker and so I analyze every single situation for all possible outcomes. As long as I don’t obsessively analyze, I can use logic from what I’ve been through in my favor.
  • Although it seems like a mere mental exercise, I believe how we think about ourselves and our illness is what allows us to live successful lives. Sometimes a minor shift in perspective, like opening up to an external muse rather than craving mania, brings new comfort and light.

If you are living with this condition, I truly hope from the bottom of my heart you see that you are not alone and there are things you can do. Please talk to your doctor about different treatment options and do your own research. No one can know what is in your head except you. Being self aware, knowing what you’re feeling and why you are feeling it is the best step you can take towards a better life.

This condition has brought me so many lows but it has also molded me into a person that I am grateful for.

I may be different but I like who I am.

Never give up.

You can also check out:

The Self Love Diet

What is Keto? – Beginning Your Journey

Diet and Depression

Personal-My Journey So Far

Self Love Nightly Checklist

Why try Yoga?

2 thoughts on “Bipolar Disorder – My Story

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