Dedicated to all of those we have lost due to mental illness. I strive to endure because I know you are beside me.
Surviving an abusive childhood left me with many mental obstacles but I can confidently say that for me personally, bipolar disorder was always the most difficult mental illness for me to cope with-even before I knew what it was. By the time I was 18, I knew that something was horribly wrong and I knew in my heart it was bipolar disorder. I spent so much time and effort to be seen by doctors and counselors in the hopes of being properly evaluated, all ending up with the same results: major hits to my bank account, rejection, and antidepressants (for those who are unaware, antidepressants can make symptoms of bipolar disorder even worse). Because I was improperly treated for so long, by age 20 my symptoms worsened to the point where I was rapid cycling and experiencing extreme mania (with psychosis) and extreme depression every other day. Needless to say it was an incredibly traumatic time period in my life. I was hospitalized twice within a 9 month time frame only to be met with more rejection. The first time I was hospitalized I called the police on myself during a brief moment of lucidity. I remember being handcuffed and put in the back of the cop car. The psych ward ER was even worse than I thought it would be. I was put in a room with only a mattress and there were glass windows so that the nurses could monitor me. I had no pillows or blankets and no one came and talked to me until the next morning. It truly was like being an animal at a zoo except everyone ignores you.
The second time I was hospitalized I left feeling more suicidal than when I had entered. I felt like a shell of air encompassing a decaying brain. The bills for my hospitalizations were insanely high, even with insurance. Is this what I get for not taking my own life? A fee for wanting to stay alive but not knowing how?
That was my complete and utter rock bottom: I was fighting for my life and could see no light of any kind. After I was hospitalized the second time I knew I had little time left to find help. I made one last-ditch attempt and made (yet another) psychiatry appointment. I literally had felt like I was teetering at the edge of my grave and one false move would bury me. But like a bittersweet miracle, the psychiatrist diagnosed me with having Bipolar I and put me on a mood stabilizer.
My whole life changed. The person I could always see within me but that was incapable of being reached, finally emerged because of my medication.
I still have difficulties with other mental illnesses and continue to have incredibly challenging days, but recovery is ultimately a choice and I have to make that choice every single day. However, without the right medication I would not have had that choice in the first place. Finding medication dosages for all of the comorbid conditions I have in addition to figuring out the right dosage for Lithium was and still is tricky. By working with my psychiatrist and my current therapist, the process is completely bearable. The bottom line is that recovery is entirely and completely possible.
It can be a long and terrifying process to find the right treatment(s), but when you do it has the potential to completely change your life.
In a non-medical aspect, I encourage you to be “selfish” in your hobbies and activities and engage in things that make you happy. Additionally, do not let people enter or stay in your life who do not bring you any kind of happiness. Bipolar disorder can be absolute hell and you deserve to be selective about those you surround yourself with.
You deserve the best medical care and you deserve to be unapologetic and picky when deciding what and which care is best for you. This is particularly important as what medication(s) you are put on can drastically impact your life for the better or for worse (as I had mentioned being placed on antidepressants). Additionally, finding a psychiatrist with thorough knowledge on comorbid conditions and interactions between medications is vital for your general wellbeing.
Proper medical care and access should not be restricted to anyone on any grounds, yet so many of us are met with countless limitations, stigmas, prejudices, financial burdens, and overall ignorance in our world that can make you feel like you truly cannot go on-a hopelessness I’ve felt often and intensely. But, as Samuel Beckett once said:
“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”
Please continue to go on as I will be doing the same and thinking of you as I do so.