“Only solitary men know the full joys of friendship. Others have their family; but to a solitary and an exile his friends are everything.” WILLA CATHER
I discovered I had bipolar disorder in May 2014. The diagnosis was delivered roughly 12 hours after I had called 911, on a night when I was terrified of my immediate surroundings. I was under the illusion someone was controlling my mind. I was depressed, yet I had the energy of a pumped up boxer; it was a mixed state.
After a bout of what seemed like crippling depression alone, I was given a prescription for Prozac back in March, before my diagnosis. I later found out Prozac is a drug that can be deadly for those suffering from bipolarity. After my call to the police that night in May an ambulance followed deeming me a danger to myself. I was eventually admitted to the psychiatric emergency ward of a local hospital. My shoelaces and cell phone were confiscated. I waited for hours until I was seen. I was too far inside the tunnel of my mind to ingest the meaning of bipolar disorder but after a series of many questions, I remember his final question clearly, “Have you ever considered that you might be bipolar?”
Later on, after 2 days straight of sleeping at the hospital, I started to realize that it all made sense — the bouts of elation, of absolute euphoria, the energy that could rev my engines into the late night. Those were the days I was convinced I had beat depression.
I have lived with the knowledge that I am bipolar for seven months now. It is not a long time. Only about 2 months ago I finally hit the right balance of three different medications. Before that it was a gamble. I went from one drug to another and doses were adjusted and readjusted. The surge of different chemicals in my system was causing me to feel worse, mentally and physically. In the meanwhile I lost my home, I lost my boyfriend, I could have lost my jobs if I didn’t have some very understanding employers. But more importantly, you know what was constant? My friends.
By the time I was hospitalized again, I had no family in the States and my boyfriend bailed (yes, it was hard for him) so my friends rallied and formed a network. Some had never met, some connected on Facebook and I think I had almost ten people communicating with each other to arrange hospital visits, bring me clothes, food, coffee, books and magazines; they reached out to my family in London, always keeping them abreast of my progress. One friend drove eight hours from out of state to see me. There wasn’t a day or a visiting hour when someone didn’t come to hold my hand when I cried or make me laugh when there was nothing else I could do.
My New York family continued to look out for me when I was discharged. One beautiful woman gave me a bed in her house and the company of her two dogs, others took me out for dinner and constantly told me that time will heal and that I will get better. For so long I thought that their words were clichés. It’s been just over two months since my last hospitalization, and they were right. Though I still suffer from the moody waves of up, down and stable, they are not as high or as low. I haven’t had a mixed state since I left the hospital.
Here’s the thing. The boyfriends come and go – not all of them – but some just can’t cope with someone suffering from a particularly bad stage of bipolarity. In place of resentment I’ve learned to focus on my friends as without them I would have been wildly lost. To the bipolar community, when you are going through your worst, please remember this: you can call that friend at 3am, you can ask someone to escort you to the emergency room and you can ask them to spend the night with you when you are in a state of self-harm. Your friends can be more beautiful than you know.