My name is Axelle and I live in Bordeaux, France. After several depressions and manic episodes, I was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I’m writing my story in hospital; this is my second hospitalization. You’re probably wondering, “How is she better if she’s still in hospital?” Well, for the first time in my life I have hope. The diagnosis gave me hope, because this means we can find the right medication and the right kind of therapy with a psychologist.
I always felt different, and deep inside I always knew there was something going on. I’d say my life is quite peaceful today, even though I am not stable yet and still think about self-harm and suicide from time to time; I am surrounded by nice people, people I love and who love me back. It wasn’t always like that. Earlier in my life I went through bullying at age 13–14. I think someone noticed my weakness and, out of pure cruelty, decided to stab me there. This girl first turned my best friend against me and used her to deliver the messages. So the two of them would come every day to tell me I was worthless, ugly (they used to call me Axelle the ugly), and would never find anybody to love me, among other mean things they said all the time.
The pain was so intense, because I still loved my friend and always hoped she would someday be my friend again but she never was, even when the girl who started all this went to a different high school. I was all broken, and felt so alone. Everybody saw what was happening — my other friends, my teachers — yet nobody said anything. This was when my first wave of self harm happened. Later, at 16, I was unable to make new friends. I had some friends left from before but still felt like I was alone, because nobody saw how hurt I was. This was the second wave and probably a depression that wasn’t diagnosed because I wasn’t seeing a psychiatrist.
I think my bipolar disorder emerged when I started university. I always had very good grades but after high school it was just like I wasn’t able to do anything anymore. Later at age 23 I had a major depression, was suicidal and went to hospital for the first time. In hospital the psychiatrists could adjust the medication faster. Hospital was like a cocoon to protect me from myself and from the outside world. My stay in the hospital lasted 3 months. I wasn’t going to university anymore; I was unable to study so I failed the whole semester and couldn’t graduate. I failed the entrance examination people needed to become a teacher, because the medication made me too dizzy. But it was totally worth it — I felt better. At first people, including myself, couldn’t really tell I was better.
I just felt numb, but that was a step outside the suicidal and demeaning thoughts. Then, little by little, my psychiatrist and I agreed on reducing the medication, and I could eventually get back to my life. Afterwards was my first major manic episode, but it didn’t last too long. I am not stable yet, but I know this time the doctors won’t let me out until I am and this is why I still have hope. My past experience with all the up and down of bipolar disorder and the anxiety I feel due to bullying impacted my current life in three ways.
First, I’m trying to become an elementary school teacher. I want to teach love and empathy to the children to guide them so they don’t become like the bullies who broke me, or won’t be afraid to speak if they are victims of bullying. I can’t help all the children in the world but I can help those in my classroom and that is a good start.
Second, this condition (bipolar disorder) increases my sense of creativity. I have a lot of ideas flowing in my head and I use them for my drawings, writing and photography. I may not always create masterpieces, but at least I make artworks about something I need to express. It’s very therapeutic for me to express and describe my feelings in writing.
Third, I am now modeling. I started modeling for fun a year ago but I have been taking it a little more seriously lately and I have received only positive feedback. So that is the irony about the situation, after being bullied and teased mainly because of my physical appearance, I am now doing something that’s about physical beauty. We all have beauty and sensitivity so don’t be afraid to use it. I may seem weak because of the fact that I was a victim, or because I have mental health issues, but in fact I feel stronger than people who don’t.
I am still standing even while I’m going through this, and it takes a lot of strength I never thought I had.