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What Happened When I Took a Photo of Myself Having a Bipolar Breakdown

I felt it coming on since the early afternoon yesterday, and it finally came to a peak in the early evening hours as I returned home from work. The hyperventilating, the feelings of worthlessness, the voice in my head that never misses these opportunities to remind me how pathetic and useless I am despite my greatest attempts to block it out.

I quickly lose my battle to fight it off and succumb to every feeling I fight so hard every day to resist.

I cry. I can’t breathe. I scream. I pull my hair out. I hit myself in the head in an attempt to quiet the voice.

I cry. I can’t breathe. I scream. I pull my hair out. I hit myself in an attempt to quiet the voice.




My breakdowns last anywhere from 10 or 20 minutes to hours, essentially until my mind exhausts itself enough to allow me to cry myself to sleep. Even then, my heart continues to pound as hard as ever — I feel it throughout my entire body as if it were an electric pulse being shot through me so strongly and rapidly I can almost see it. Sometimes I see it.

What people tend to misunderstand is that in the throes of these episodes, you cannot talk to me because I am not sure if you are real. I am not sure of where I am, of what I’m doing, of what I’ve done or how I even got to wherever I am. My only certainty in these times is what I feel, what the voice is telling me. My only certainty is anguish, pain, shame and fear — so much fear.

Last night, as I started to come down, when I was able to think just consciously enough, I made a decision that I’ve never made before. I wanted to see it. I wanted to see what I looked like in this moment. I wanted to see what had frightened so many others away from me. I wanted to see myself in the clutches of the monster that is my illness. So I took a picture.

There I was. Shoulders hunched, eyes swollen, filled with fear and brimming with tears with my one free hand continuing to rip my hair out as it drags across my face. There it was.

There I was, but there I wasn’t.

Today, as I look at this photo, I understand that this is not a picture of me. This is a picture of my illness. This is a picture of it’s attempt to break me, and this is a picture of it’s failure to do so, because I am still here.

Today, as I look at this photo, I struggle to contain the same emotions that led me there. I’m staring myself in the eyes and doing my best to keep that pain away. I see this photo today and I know that I will be there again someday. I will feel these things again. I will go to that dark place again.

What I have now, however, is proof that it will not win. As I look at this photo, I feel fear and I see darkness. As I look at this photo, I feel hope and I can see light, faint as it may be.

This is what my bipolar I episodes look like. This is not what I look like.

This is not me. I am me. I am a fighter, and strong as fighters everywhere may be, we all get knocked down sometimes.

This snapshot of my episode is chilling, possibly even triggering for myself and others.

This snapshot is my proof that I can and will, always get back up.

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Getty image via m-gucci