I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2016.
Prior to my diagnosis, I sought help from a therapist because I just didn’t know what was wrong with me.
It’s important to share some of my journey, to allow others to know they’re not alone, provide potential clarity for one’s own experiences, as well as to educate on how this illness may manifest itself.
I began questioning my sanity on one hellacious night after sleep had evaded me for weeks. It was around three in the morning, and the idea of going to the pool at my apartment, which was closed, sounded so fun.
There was absolutely no awareness or care in my mind with regard to rules. At the time, rules didn’t exist to me. Thrill-seeking and fun were the only things encompassing my brain.
I was working as a real estate broker at the time, so after a long night of writing contracts, I figured I deserved some much-needed pool time. I grabbed a bottle of wine, a pack of cigarettes, and headed out the door. Drinking and smoking cigarettes was my go-to during manic episodes.
Upon approaching the pool, I noticed my key fob wouldn’t let me in. Not to worry, I thought; I tossed my wine and cigarettes through the steel bars and then began to scale to gate. I had the agility of a chimpanzee in the wild.
The next morning, I had very little recollection of being at the pool. My partner was furious at me because apparently I had left everything at the pool—wine, cigarettes, glass, and key fob. We were in trouble with the apartment complex. It was at this moment and after recalling many more strange nights like this, I knew I had to seek help.
I began working with a therapist who quickly suspected I had bipolar disorder. She informed me this suspicion was primarily due to my weeks of sleeplessness, behaviors such as the pool night (known as manic episodes), followed by months of being bedridden with depression.
My therapist referred me to a psychiatrist who, after numerous evaluations, officially diagnosed me with bipolar 1 disorder. Bipolar 1 is arguably the more aggressive category of the illness, meaning you have severe manic episodes. Bipolar disorder can also manifest as bipolar 2. In any case, with bipolar disorder you suffer from extreme highs and extreme lows, often leading to reckless behaviors.
Treating bipolar disorder often requires an extensive list of medications. Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, atypical antipsychotics, and anti-anxiety agents—just to name a few. Eight different types of psychotropic medications have been my daily reality for seven years.
I’ve received judgement from friends and family; however, why do we judge others over taking medications for their mental health but not for their physical health? Mental illness is an illness, just like any physical illness. Sometimes in our society, we don’t view diseases of the mind as we do diseases of the body.
Living with bipolar disorder, unmedicated, is a recipe for disaster. Untreated, it can lead to detriments in your work life and personal life, as well as an increased risk for suicidal ideation. While medication is a personal choice, it can be dangerous to live with bipolar disorder without it.
Another sign of bipolar disorder is grandiosity, even bordering on delusional grandiosity. You may perhaps believe you can do anything, even going as far as defying the laws of physics and nature. At one point, I believed I was stronger than gravity. I believed it was possible that I could fly and I had many outlandish theories that backed up my rationale.
One may experience consistent feelings of euphoria, feeling absolutely on top of the world despite circumstances and reality telling a different story. It’s only when one comes crashing down into depression that reality hits.
Bipolar disorder can be a living nightmare. It can lead one to make terrifying decisions that can negatively impact every facet of their life.
I’m thankful and proud of myself that I sought help. For anyone who finds themselves in the situations or feelings mentioned, a good place to start is seeking assistance from a licensed therapist or psychiatric practitioner.
One in five adults in the United States experience mental illness each year, and one in 20 experience serious mental illness each year. Millions of people are affected. Through education, open dialogue and reducing stigma, and promoting resource development, countless individuals can be helped and lives can be saved.
If you live with bipolar disorder or any mental illness, you’re not alone.