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How My Laceless Shoes Gain New Meaning With Bipolar Disorder

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

My laceless shoes represent an integral part of myself that has been stripped away because of my disorder. Just like the hospital scissored away at the laces, so did the disorder cut away at the remainder of my emotional stability.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I am vulnerable.

It’s a feeling I have embraced on my own terms but never on the terms of my disability. I’ve always been keenly aware of my own power and capability, until you’ve experienced an episode that tears away at the very being you’ve created for yourself.

I am fragile.

For 10 days I stayed at a mental hospital in the grips of a mixed episode of bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms. Each day brought me a sense of routine and care that I was sorely lacking in my personal life. Each day the symptoms eased more and more, creating a safe space with an excellent team. I was blessed because I had the option of choosing the best of the best. Or my husband was, because ultimately, he was the one that made the choice. I had a good experience admitted into inpatient hospitalization.

My episode started with an obsession about making cold brew. When you say it aloud, it seems trivial or odd, but I simply had to make cold brew in that moment. My head was spinning, my thoughts racing. I couldn’t even concentrate on the directions. Fed up and frustrated with my attempts, I simply guessed. An impulsive decision. A symptom of mania. Let’s keep track. Symptom 1 of mania.

I started pacing outside. Restless. I listened to music and each step I took was a stomp as if I was imprinting myself into the concrete. Restlessness. Symptom 2 of mania.

Suddenly, I had an image of laying down and harming myself. It was so vivid. Perhaps a delusion because suddenly I was scared for my life. Symptom 3 of mania. Symptom 1 of depression for suicide.

I needed to get away. Away from the house. Away from the trap that it was causing because if I stayed a moment more in the house, I would hurt myself or kill myself. I was determined and scared. Determined to die but too scared to succeed. I walked back inside the house, pulling my shoes on, the same shoes that would be sliced away at, and yelling at my husband that I needed to leave right now.

He described me as unreasonable later when I was aware of the damage I had done. “I’m leaving with you,” he said, hurrying to put on his shoes as I paced impatiently back and forth. Did he not realize I needed to leave right now?

We left and it wasn’t five seconds later that I was laying on the grass, feeling the earth underneath my fingertips. I was amazed at the texture, the beauty of the world. Everything seemed incandescent. Amazing. Why would I want to leave a world that was so beautiful? But no, I wanted to die. I wanted to stop thinking for one moment. Suddenly, bright orbs of light started falling from the sky and I was in awe. Symptom 4 and 2, hallucinations which can occur during depressive and manic episodes. I turned to my husband, explaining to him what I was seeing because of course he was seeing the same thing. Far deep in my delusion and hallucination, I was sure he could see the bright orbs that filled me with a sense of wonder and terror at the same time.

“We need to leave.” He said, rising and brushing the grass from his jeans.

“I want to go somewhere. Anywhere. I want an adventure.” I nearly demanded. He began walking.

I started crying. Symptom 3 of depression, random bouts of crying. Deep, heaving sobs that shook me. I was so scared of the apartment because what if I tried to kill myself?

I was absorbed by the awful, crushing weight of fear, loneliness and hopelessness. Symptom 4 of depression.

“OK, let’s sit in the car.” This seemed like a perfect plan because then I could convince him that we could leave and go somewhere safer. I spat out options to him and each time he would shake his head and I could see his worry and fear shift to his shoulders, his tone becoming helpless. This has made me grateful for my husband’s boundless amount of patience with me and love for me that he took me seriously enough to know I thought I was in danger and aware enough of my disorder to know it would pass.

“Why don’t you contact your doctor?” I did. He did not get back to me until the next day when he prescribed me an emergency anti-psychotic. I was already leveling out, still suicidal, hearing voices and racing thoughts. My doctor described it as a horrible mixed state with psychotic features.

A mixed state is defined by the DSM-V as: Three or more depressive symptoms during a manic or hypomanic episode.

Or, three or more hypomanic or manic symptoms during a major depressive episode.

I went to work the day after, taking the emergency med before work and felt like a zombie. Everything that was going on was behind my mind, active and hungry for chaos. But my body was cooperating. I was making it through the motions, but everyone knew I was sick. I requested a leave of absence on the second day of the episode and hurried to the hospital in what I was wearing. Later my husband would pack my bag and put these shoes in that I had for eight years, and I would find them stripped away like psychosis strips away at the brain. Laceless.

I am still fragile. Still splintered away with the edges flaying out like wings that had taken me to the highest of highs, until I could no longer breath. The jagged scissors that had cut away my shoes, leaving threads sticking out like my heart was shredded into pieces by my own brain. I am wearing my laceless shoes as we speak, mainly because I don’t have any other tennis shoes. It reminds me of my own fragile, vulnerable self. Stronger from the hospitalization but traumatized by my episode. Fearful of everything, of every thought that passes through my brain, of being alone, of not being active. I thank the hospital for giving me the tools to keep my brain active to ban the thoughts that raced through my head, thoughts of suicide. I am still symptomatic but surviving.

Fragile like my shoelaces.

Getty image by LUMEZIA

Originally published: November 18, 2021
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