Me and Myself – My Experience with Bipolar I

I’ve briefly talked about my struggle with Bipolar I and how it affected the beginning of my journey into twin-motherhood. It did make it harder than it should have been, especially while dealing with Postpartum Depression and it being a little tricky to manage since I was still breastfeeding. But, before then, it’s always been a constant in my life. It’s easy for others who don’t go through something like it to dismiss it entirely, telling someone who is struggling with it to “get over it” or “cheer up”. All I’m here to say is that, trust me, if we could will it away it’d be gone by now. It’s not like we enjoy it.

First of all, let me try to explain what it means. There are two different types of Bipolar Disorder, which is a disorder defined by periods of extreme mood disturbances (NOT “MOOD SWINGS”. People need to quit trying to be cute and saying they’re bipolar because they went from happy to sad one day). Type I, where I fall in, is the most severe and consists of multiple episodes of severe depression that are followed by at least one episode of mania – when an individual has way more energy with less sleep than usual, is much more irritable than normal, engages in some risky behaviors such as spending a lot of money, and has feelings of grandiosity. A person may speak more rapidly than usual, be exceptionally happy or cheerful, have difficulty paying attention to things and have racing thoughts, and doesn’t stop. This disturbance occurs from once a year up to weekly. Type II is a little different, diagnosed after major, longer depressive episodes and at least one episode of hypomania – which is not as “high” as the mania episodes in Type I.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was around 14 years old. I had been seeing a therapist who I thought I could confide in when it came to how I was really feeling, what I had been thinking about, and that I was at a very passive suicidal spot in my teenage life. Well, I don’t know what part of patient confidentiality he didn’t understand, but he told my parents as soon as I came out of his office that they can always call 911 if there’s a problem while he was on vacation. You can imagine the look I got from my parents. Thank, doc. Needless to say, I never saw him again.

I have been misdiagnosed and wrongfully medicated a few times during this whole process of “oh, you have depression, actually you have major depression. Nah, you’re just a hormonal teenager who is now just a rebel without a cause. It now looks like you’ve had a few mania episodes so let’s look at that and oh, you kind of have ADHD, but now that’s wrong. OH. I SEE NOW. You’re Bipolar. Type I.” So, as you can imagine, I was a very angry, depressed, and confused little person entering adulthood. Incorrectly prescribed medications had me fantasizing about killing myself, writing suicide notes, harming myself, and finding myself holding a lot of Tylenol and even Zoloft pills in my hand, ready to swallow them all. But the conscious part of me stopped myself from doing anything terrible, and so here I stand. The fact I had become a compulsive liar didn’t help my case at all, and it only got me grounded and my parents we disappointed in me more times than I can remember. It wasn’t until I decided to actually take care of myself that I realized how mistreatment had only made my condition worse. I started seeing a new therapist here in NY while still on my medication prescribed by my previous therapist in Texas. She continued to allow me to fill it and we worked things out in her office. I had not realized just how bad the situation was, and she took the challenge head on. She eventually lowered my dosage on my medication and, along with our sessions, things began to settle. I ended up not seeing her anymore after a little while, and she moved to a different state, but I continued to get my prescription refilled as per my primary doctor and am looking for a new therapist (good luck to me).

When I found out I was pregnant, the first thing I had to do was drop the meds. The hormones and the excitement kept me in check, but I did have some pretty low days followed by days where catching my breath felt like a thrill and that nothing could bring me down. When the girls were born, I hit a wall with the mixed emotions that came with their premature birth (12 whole weeks early), the 3rd trimester and postpartum hormones, Bipolar I, and a slap-in-the-face that was Postpartum Depression. I was very depressed, very hyper when talking about or being around the girls, and it was truly a vicious cycle of the same emotions, over and over, like a violent string of waves hitting a poor little rock on the beach. It was beyond difficult to manage without my medication, and once I realized I absolutely needed help, I was put on three different medications that controlled different aspects of Type I and that were safe to take while breastfeeding. Now that I no longer breastfeed, I’m back on my old meds and it’s taking some adjusting to it all. Too many chemicals and changes in the last year.

But how does it actually feel?

It’s the worst feeling in the world. It feels like I’m watching someone else go throught it all, but it’s really me. It’s like an out-of-body experience – I know why I’m doing what I’m doing, but I cannot stop myself from doing it. I know that it’s most likely a chemical imbalance in my brain that causes all of the confusing thoughts and fantasies, all of the anger and high that I feel when I’m on the mania episodes, all of the debilitating depression that feels neverending. It doesn’t discriminate, it doesn’t give three flying fucks about how good your life is. It doesn’t let you take those things into account, and telling me or anyone else who goes through this to cheer up or “think of the positive things in life” doesn’t do shit. It doesn’t comfort. It doesn’t say you care, and it certainly doesn’t make us seem like we’re being truly understood or helped. If a person who suffers from this has the courage to even talk to you about how they’re really feeling, show you their raw emotions in a moment where they’re so fragile and broken, the best you can do is listen. If you have to say anything, just tell them you’re there for them and that you hope they feel better soon, and ask if there’s anything that can be done to help. Personally, I already feel like a whiny child when I do speak up on how I’m truly feeling, and having someone tell me that they’re there for me or that they’re sorry I’m going through this is very comforting. I’m always so focused on how I sound to the world when I’m on either types of episodes, so focused on not bothering anyone with my own problems and the things that go through my head, that just having someone there to listen, nod, and hug me helps me center myself. It helps me remember that I am loved and that what I’m experiencing doesn’t change how fun I am, or how good of a mother I am. It makes me feel validated, while the Camila who won’t stop talking and cursing and venting and aggressively pushing things around does all the physical things she can to rid of some of that angry pressure. It’s really hard putting how it feels into words, especially when I’m in the dead middle of not feeling depressed or going into a mania episode. It actually feels a little silly to me, like I’m making excuses for myself when I do act differently. But I know I’m not, I definitely don’t make a victim of myself when it comes to it, I only choose to be an open book so I can be better understood and hopefully help those who have trouble asking for help.

There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help. It’s excellent when you realize you need it and do something about it. In this world that gets darker by the minute, if we don’t take care of ourselves, nobody will. It’s detramental to make sure you’re your best self for everything you have to face in life. If anyone reading this needs help, don’t be intimidated to do so. For what it’s worth, I’m more than happy to listen to you, to share my own thoughts about this crazy disorder that affects a lot of people, and I hold no judgement against anyone going through this. You know how to reach me. I’m not going anywhere.

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