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How Struggling With Bipolar Disorder Has Affected My Life

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When I sit down and look back at all the ways struggling from bipolar disorder has affected my life, I just want to slam the closet door shut and walk away.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

It started as far back as I can remember. The old, “I have a headache and a stomach ache so I don’t have to go to school” got me through some of it. They weren’t lies. I did honestly feel sick — I just didn’t know why.

All throughout my high school years, it would come and go. A random teacher or coach would ask me if I was OK. Then, when I started to date, every break up hit me like a brick.

We all think love will last forever when we’re 15. I invest every ounce of myself into a relationship. Should it fail for whatever reason, I take it as a personal assault on my character. Why wasn’t I good enough? What did I do wrong? Is it because I’m fat?

I moved into my first apartment at age 19. I was working two jobs and going to school. Suddenly, I hit a wall. I couldn’t function anymore. I suffered from severe insomnia so I would take ten or more pills to go to sleep. When I couldn’t stay awake, I took a handful of a different medication. I hated me and I hated my life.

Finally, I came to my parents and told them. They helped me find a counselor. That worked for a little while. I was 19 when I first started taking meds and I still take them to this day. I’ve seen myself without them and I don’t like that person.

For me, one unpleasant side effect of bipolar disorder is trying to explain to people why you can’t keep a job, can’t stop crying and can’t just snap out of it. Another is dating.

I dated one guy who made a surprise visit to my parent’s house. I invited him into my room to watch a movie. When he saw all the pill bottles I had, he quickly exited. I never heard from him again. Good riddance to bad garbage.

I dated one guy very seriously through high school and I thought he was “the one.” Unfortunately, he was the wrong one.

I spent a lot of years meeting people and trying to form healthy and lasting relationships but it never happened. I even met someone online from New Mexico and we were planning a wedding. Several months into the engagement, I had my first hospitalization for depression. He decided I wasn’t worth his time anymore. He turned off his phone and pager and hung up on me if I called him at work.

I couldn’t overcome the sadness and the anxiety. I had a stabbing pain in my chest. That is when self-injury became a big part of my life. It made it all stop for a little while but it became my crutch — my only coping mechanism, if you can even call it that.

Soon after, I met an abusive jerk who enjoyed making me feel unimportant, fat and ugly. I stopped eating altogether and lost a lot of weight. How much damage I did to my body, I will never know.

In 2001, someone came back into my life who made me feel it was worth living again and I married that man. Of course, we have good times and bad times. I still have highs and lows. He talks me through all of it. He is an amazing person.

It is possible. You can overcome all the pain of your past and move forward, but it must be on your own time. You can’t let someone else dictate that you “ought to be feeling better by now.” Nobody knows or understands so you must take care of yourself.

If the medications aren’t working, tell someone. If that person doesn’t listen, tell someone else. Remember, you must do the work. When I say work, I mean being willing to feel your emotions and accept your insecurities. Maybe you’re someone who enjoys self-help books. Perhaps you prefer talk therapy. Self-talk is also an incredibly necessary tool.

Talking yourself through panic attacks and feelings of fear can be quite empowering. In my situation, I would be lost without journaling. It all boils down to what works out best for you and your life.

In my experience, you can’t strictly rely on the prescriptions because you could be stuck in that rut forever. Just try. Climb out of that hole a little bit more every day. And if you need me to, I will throw you a rope.

Getty Images: yngsa

Originally published: November 13, 2019
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