In high school I was often sad. I’m not a doctor, but have heard that depression can be an early indicator of bipolar disorder. I was also the dreamy-look-out-the-window type of ADD. Mom always says I lacked the inner knowledge of the social pecking order. My impulsivity didn’t help win people over. I went the loner-stoner phase. At least the potheads were nice to me.
Then my priorities and goals changed. I wanted to make the Volleyball team. With my attention deficit, it took two years but I finally made it. One day a teammate laid out a line of cocaine and told me to ‘go ahead.’ I liked the energy and dug (volleyball pun intended) the tighter focus. I forgot about it though. I was busy.
I ended up getting an athletic scholarship to Stanford, a school my parents didn’t dream of for me. I wasn’t exactly Ivy League material. More like a B+ type.
One night that summer, one of the coaches and I were with ‘friends.’ The recruiter laid out more of those white lies. He made me promise not to ever tell anyone.
The same summer, at Del Mar Race Track, I caught the attention of a well-known, brash and controversial thoroughbred race horse trainer. I had never known anyone from the East Coast before and loved his accent. He professed to want to marry me on our second meeting.
He knew a Peruvian drug mule who traded him ounce bags for horse betting tips. That translated into get-togethers at his home and an increasing desire for this drug, which came to me in abundance.
I went to the Bay Area. He gave me the bag. Casually, I just put it in my top drawer of my desk in my dorm room, unlocked. At first I did little bits to study and suppress my appetite. I wanted to be an actor or model, you had to be thin. One day the horse trainer relayed that the Peruvian was murdered, brutally murdered. A shudder went through me. Maybe there was a darker side here.
The years drove by, with me in the backseat of my life. No one forced me to do drugs but with an eating disorder demanding me to be thin and ADD, cocaine had a stronger pull on me. Then, it turned on me. From the day that I decided cocaine was a huge problem and wanted to quit, it took a decade to put it behind me.
Cocaine was rampant, amongst my circle of friends to the piles mysteriously lined up on the women’s locker room sink before practices. It was all over the pro beach summer volleyball tour circuit, in which I played.
It wasn’t until my first arrest that I realized cocaine was a felony. One legal issue turned into a handful. Then, violation of probation. The worst. You go straight to jail for that one. No bail. How I escaped a felony conviction considering all the arrests and bad behavior still amazes me.
The crashes after the highs were excruciating. I abused other substances to get to sleep. I had several accidental overdoses. Once I stopped associating with users and suppliers, I was free. Now, the long-broken laws of my brain and body chemistry were going to have their day in court.
Working the late shift as a DJ, I lost weeks of sleep. I was short with everyone and cruelly ended an intimate, loving relationship. Intervened on by co-workers and family, I chose inpatient treatment at a neuropsychiatric institute. I went. I wanted to know what was wrong, too! My treatment team was clinically seasoned and friendly. Usually it takes more time and several opinions to get an accurate diagnosis, but in the hospital environment, they can control other factors, triggers, behaviors observe you closely. It’s not that bad, really.
Antipsychotics were administered temporarily for the full-blown manic episode. I was discharged with a diagnosis (Bipolar 2) and anti-seizure and antidepressant meds. I was stable for a decade. I forgot I had bipolar disorder. My radio career and journalism took off. Then I got lazy. When the antidepressant stopped working I didn’t know I had other options to try. But I didn’t try either. I made some of the mistakes yet again. My recovery was sketchy. I was again hospitalized for psych/eating disorder at a women’s facility.
Two years later and still making costly mistakes, I moved to Florida, was involuntarily hospitalized for five days and met my doctor of fifteen years. With his help, I’ve managed to stay out of the hospital for all this time. I must, must, keep making healthy choices to support that. I might go to the hospital again, and almost did again this month, but the new antidepressants kicked in again after six weeks. Being chemical, hormonal and electrical creatures, everything goes into the mix. I’m responsible here, bipolar diagnosis or not.