Why I’m Finally Opening up about Suffering from a Mental Disorder
“Lu, Bev explained to us what you might be suffering from. I think you need to be ready to understand and know how we can help you.”
I was quiet for a moment, and then decided to ask.
“What did she say?”
My parents looked at me, and then nodded.
“You have something that’s called Bipolar Disorder Type Two.”
“What’s that?” I felt the tears forming, perhaps it was a misunderstanding, and perhaps my psychiatrist wasn’t sure. She doesn’t know me.
“It’s a mental disorder. It explains how you’ve been feeling.”
I looked at my parents, wondering what this meant.
“Does this mean I’m not normal, Dad?”
“It just means that you’re a little different, my love.”
After this, they explained to me what it meant. They explained, and now I’ll explain. I’ll come out with my story because I believe that it’s right, and it was bound to happen eventually. I had kept it a secret for so long expecting people not to understand. But by doing so this would help destroy the stigma that is so grossly attached to a mental disorder such as Bipolar Disorder, and in hope it would inspire others to do the same.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type Two when I was fifteen after an unfortunate series of events occurred, leaving me unsure of the world and unsure of who I was. However, I do not consider it a curse. I consider it an ironic blessing. I refused to talk about it with other people, as I was mostly afraid of what they would think. Bipolar Type Two isn’t easy to explain as there is often a misconception of what it truly is. I didn’t want people to identify me as a psycho, and I didn’t want to define myself as this. I only chose certain people to tell in knowing that they wouldn’t judge me, but each time I did tell people, it became harder. This would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, so bear with me.
During the year 2011, I was severely confused. I had started to experience emotions that were out of control, and I had suffered delusions, paranoia and hallucinations that started to take over my mind. I suppose the easiest way to explain what it is would be this: Bipolar Disorder Type Two is a series of episodes that occur when I least expect it. My moods will change between hypomania and depression (this is often felt in short-term periods, such as days or weeks.) Agitation is involved as well, which causes me to lash out at people irrationally, watching tears well in their eyes without a care. During the year of my episodes, I didn’t realise that I was extremely sick. I had become cynical, and tried to take my life three times. I would hear voices at night, ones that didn’t make sense, leaving me to cover my ears until they went away. During the day I’d see things in the corner of my eyes, or when people talked to me I’d completely forget where I was for a few seconds, leaving them to ask me, “Hello? Are you okay?”
But it was 2012 when my life was completely out of control. In the beginning of this year, my parents finally decided to take me to a psychiatrist. Being the age that I was, the psychiatrist couldn’t necessarily diagnose me with Bipolar Disorder. So she misdiagnosed me with depression and handed me anti-depressants that caused so much turmoil on my brain that it became completely fried. After I took them, my family watched me carefully. I suddenly started to feel happy, more like hypomanic, and raced around my house, shouting how happy I was and how finally everything felt fine. Later, as the serotonin in my brain was multiplying within seconds, it began to lose control of this neurotransmitter sending me into a depressive breakdown. I cannot remember what happened. My family told me that I was screaming, tears streaming down my face and repeatingly uttering the words: I can’t do this anymore.
The next three days after this were hell. The following day I ran through the streets amongst tourists thinking that certain demons were trying to capture me. My brother ran after me, trying to stop me and take me home. Eventually he did, pulled me onto the couch and tried to calm me down. Again, I don’t remember this. Naturally, my brain destroyed all memory after having being sent into overdrive. The very next day, my parents gave me a tranquiliser, and admitted me into a clinic in fear that I’d attempt to kill myself again. I stayed there for three weeks. I was given three sets of medication: Epitec (a depressive mood stabiliser), Abilify (another mood stabiliser) and Seroquel (a sleeping pill to fight my insomnia). I still take these today.
During my time in the clinic, I slowly started to get better. I was often amongst alcoholic and drug addict patients, but there were few others with mental disorders too: Anorexia, OCD and depression. We inspired each other to get better, and with this support most of us managed to do so.
I was admitted as an outpatient, and was praised for my strength and determination to get better and to become “sane” again. Praised? Why? This isn’t anything of which to be proud. I was forced to get better. I dismissed whoever said I was brave because I’m not. I have to do this for myself. Still it isn’t easy. Sometimes my brain gets used to the medication, and I suffer voices again. Or when I’m stressed, I’ll breakdown and waves of anxiety will cover my body. This year, my hypomania returned in which I crashed my car, made irrational decisions and of course, the struggle of those voices returned. I remember lying in my bed one night without sleep for three days, and hearing the TV upstairs booming loudly in my head despite it being switched off. I heard my family in the kitchen, laughing and talking, but I knew they weren’t there. So why did it sound so convincing? I huddled in my bed in complete tears. I didn’t want to wake my parents because I considered that selfish, and instead waited until I finally fell asleep.
Recovery takes a lifetime. It doesn’t happen in a day. I’ve had to accept that this disorder will be with me for the rest of my life, and realise that most people will not understand. Honestly, the hardest thing for me to do was keep it a secret. After I returned back to school, I didn’t want others to know. However, often things were said in front of me about my illness that deeply offended me but as usual I tried to take it with a pinch of salt.
“Bipolar? Those are fucking crazy people.”
“Fuck, the weather is totally bipolar at the moment.”
“Uh Bipolar? That’s multiple personalities isn’t it?”
“You couldn’t be a psychologist. Knowing you, you’d tell people to go kill themselves”
But I couldn’t take these phrases lightly anymore. Aren’t these terrible things to say? Yet, they were said. It happens to every Disorder. OCD is used as an adjective. People think it’s okay to use when describing how they like everything neat when this has nothing to do with it. Schizophrenia is believed as Multiple Personality Disorder when these are two completely different disorders. Psychopaths and Sociopaths are mentioned as a dangerous people, when this is simply not always true. Tourette Syndrome is laughed at, and people like to assume that all suffers swear constantly (this isn’t completely true. Some suffers often have impulsive clicks, or even twitches.)
So much stigma, so little understanding. We do not talk about mental health as much as we should. Bipolar Disorder and the like, is difficult to understand, as it isn’t spoken about. Hollywood movies don’t portray mental disorders well, and so this is often what people think they are. This needs to stop.
The point of this entirely long essay (which I apologise for) is to explain to people the severity of suffering from a mental disorder. Perhaps we are oppressed. I don’t like to consider myself like this. I will never let Bipolar Disorder define who I am. I refuse to say, “I am Bipolar,” instead I say, “I have Bipolar Disorder.” I will never let my emotions and voices control my sanity. I am stronger than this. I’ll fight my demons for the rest of my life, and never deem myself crazy. But some people might and I can never hate them for it. People suffering from mental disorders need to come out so that they can explain the truth behind what mental disorders are in hope of destroying the stigma that we face on a daily basis. I commemorate every single person who have endured painful times, and encourage them to face everyday bravely despite just wanting to forget about it.
I find it extremely important to destroy the false misconception that mental disorders are attached to so that people can feel safe enough to open up. It’s important, and by writing this I’m proving that it isn’t actually difficult, and that anyone who doesn’t understand should not be blamed but rather taught.
Suffering from Bipolar Disorder has never been easy. Sometimes I cannot get out of bed, and sometimes I am extremely happy because the world is incredible and I’m invisible. I cannot travel without breaking, I cannot become stressed without a mental breakdown and forgetting to take my medication is extremely dangerous. Yet, my family has always been supportive, opening up to my boyfriend was the best thing I’ve ever done, and believing in myself is what I need to do everyday. After all, that’s the best thing I can do.
“If you write this, it would be the bravest thing you’ve ever done.” My boyfriend said to me over the phone after I had read something that offended me.