Author: Natalie Beiser
I experienced my first full blown manic disorder, as experienced by those with bipolar 1 while in my last year of high school. Prior to being sent for inpatient treatment, my behavior had been sporadic and I had many angry verbal outbursts. Those around me did not understand and I was told later that it was suspected that I had developed a drug abuse problem.
After being away for a length of time, I returned to school to clean out my locker. I remember two acquaintances standing around as I tried to unlock my combination lock, staring as I did so. I wanted them to quit staring. I wanted to tell them how their lack of communicating with me and watching caused such nervousness about being gone so long and what others imagined about me.
I did not return to school for finals and finished all of my studies at home. There were only two classes that I needed to graduate with my class, so getting my coursework completed was not difficult. It was important to me that I participate in graduation with my class. It was a life defining moment in the life of a young woman. I had already missed my noteworthy senior band concert, where senior awards were presented. I later learned that my name was presented, and it was indicated that I had been “sick”. I missed other huge defining moments, too. I was on the yearbook staff and I missed the dedication. Also, missing the senior prom and final out of town band trip were major blows.
After the ceremonies were over, several approached me, many with kindness, while others displayed animosity. The class president/valedictorian made a comment about how he should have gone into the hospital for many weeks so he could have gotten out of coursework and stress. I wish that he knew how much that comment hurt me while I unsuccessfully tried to think of a comeback.
I received the cold shoulder from many people, and still do from a very select few over thirty years later. What I have come to learn is that while that time was tough, it will always be fresh in my mind and heart. The class president didn’t realize that my coursework included bars on the windows and a stainless steel toilet and sink in the hospital. I would have preferred the coursework.
However, my biggest triumph was learning that some people do not even remember or even care any longer. The experience was amplified in my mind, but not in theirs. Very few people mention those times any longer when we get together. I moved away to another part of the state four years after my first episode, and removing me from my hometown helped remove the experience from many people’s minds.
Do not let having a manic episode, regardless of how bad the experience was define you. After many years, the memories of others often become shorter. People often remember you in a more positive way, or the way that you were with them in your childhood. Some people do remember and they no longer care.
And if people distance themselves from you and do not come back, you may have been better in life without them.