Saturday, March 5, 2011

How I was first introduced to two little words - Bipolar Disorder

I was always a very driven person that had one main goal from my earliest thought as a child. That goal was to finish college and become a highly successful person that could add something very important to the human race. This was coming out of the mind of a 9 year old. I always sought perfection in myself and in anything I ever tried to do or attempted. I never needed anyone to push me to succeed because I was my toughest critic. My parents of course always encouraged me to do my best and strive for perfection. I was always on the honor roll at school and I never missed a day because I loved to learn and improve myself. I studied as much as I could even as early as Elementary School. I have an older brother who was also brilliant and I was always chasing him to achieve more than he did. Quiting or failing at something was never an option in my family. As early as 14, I knew I wanted to become a doctor and nothing was going to stop me from that goal. Neither my father nor my mother had achieved a 4 year degree from a college and that is what they wanted for their two children more than anything. That is until my life collided with two words I had never heard before in my short 16 years of life. In fact no one in my life knew what those two words meant. The year was 1989 and we were all utterly clueless. The two words were Bipolar Disorder.

Before I heard those two words, I of course had experienced many months of confusion over what was wrong with me. My grades were slipping and I no longer wanted to go to school. I could not sleep for days at a time and sometimes my mind was racing faster than I could form words. I went from a few weeks of feeling like I was invincible to feeling that I was worthless and I wanted to end my life. This was not like any of my previous behavior. My family and friends were very concerned because they didn't recognize me anymore. They all knew I was in trouble but knew very little on how to help me at the time. My parents finally had to make the tough decision and check me into a mental hospital on the encouragement of a ER doctor that said I was showing signs of depression and I was suicidal. This news from my parents left me very distraught and I even tried to run from them that day. I had thought I was going crazy as most people referred to things of this nature back in the 1980's and now I was scared that I was losing my mind.

The car ride to the hospital was one of the longest of my life and all I felt was doom and gloom and that my life was over at that moment. The first time you walk into a mental hospital can be a very intimidating
 experience. There are so many staff members asking you a thousand questions over and over again. I was probably screened with every type of medical exam possible. This was very scary because I was not even
 treated as a human being but just another number. Since I was an adolescent, they never seemed to share much with me about what they were doing or why they were doing it. I was told I was not allowed to speak to my family for at least 3 days and that was probably the hardest thing of all. I was and I still am very close to my family, so not seeing them was very tough. Finally after days of test, the staff started my treatment plan for what they referred to as clinical depression. After the first week I was finally feeling better and I was sleeping again. I no longer wanted to end my life. I had one mission and it was to get out of the hospital as soon as I could. As with most things in my life, I took this challenge as serious as everything else in my life.

I was relieved for awhile at least that someone had figured out what was wrong with me and they could fix it. I was released 5 days early from the hospital because I had made amazing progress. I went home with such excitement and the joy of being free and not locked up without freewill. My excitement was soon crushed
 though with how others were treating me. Before I left the school for treatment I was the President of the Honor Society, a member of the school's dance team, and I had just won the school's beauty pageant. I wa
 s a fairly popular student with many friends but somehow when I returned to my school, I had become the town gossip and freak of the school. The one thing about having a mental illness is that you find out who your true friends are and the people that will stick by you through the hard times. Well let's just say they were not many left on my team.

My problems were not cured so easily as I had thought though. I had to continue many hours of therapy
  and it was tough on my whole family. Every doctor wanted to point the finger at a different parent saying it was their fault. My brother told me to snap out of it and quit seeking attention. I was still having problems, and depression was not the issue. I was now having deeper symptoms of euphoria and fearlessness and I thought I was invincible. Once again everyone was clueless and help did not seem in my reach. The amazing thing is that in all of this not one doctor at that time actually said I had bipolar disorder. My brother was in his Junior year of college and he brought home his psychology book. Since I always enjoyed reading and learning I
 started thumbing through the book and I stumbled on two words. Those two words of course were Bipolar Disorder. It described everything I was feeling in the past months and it also describe my changing behaviour. Once again I was relieved to see that what I had was treatable and I would be back on track to achieve all my goals. How little did I know at that time or how the world would view people with bipolar disorder and the stigma that so many people have with it.



  1. Elaine, thank you so much for your blog. What you just described was me with a few changes. I was sexually abused by my father from3-13 yrs of age. And when my symptoms started manifesting all the docs focused on ptsd, depression, social anxiety, general anxiety and panic attacks. Not the other stuff. So for a majority of my life I have been misdiagnosed and mistreated. I too read a lot, and found out in an ah-ha moment that I am bipolar. And now I have to get the right kind of help before its too late. Thanks, I will be keeping up with your blog. Take care, Daisy

  2. everything you said hits home.from being a perfectionist to being a high achiever..all through meducal school it didn't occur to me i might be bipolar..when i would go through the manic/depressive episodes i always thought its coz of my OCD.i once got so deep into the whole religion stuff coz i thought it would take my problems away but all it did was made me am so much at peace coz i have come to accept that i have bipolar.finally there is some light in my endless cycles..thanx for your blog..its good to know am not alone