There’s a Teeter Totter in My Brain

In 2009, my world started to fall apart. How’s that for an introduction? Well, it’s the best way to start this off, since well… my life sure wasn’t building new ground. I went from someone who knew for several years that something was just not right inside – but not sure what – to someone being diagnosed with Bipolar II, Social Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It’s a mouthful… so much so that I often feel like vomiting it all back up.

After suffering for several years – since my late teens/early twenties – my bipolar diagnosis in particular answered a lot of questions. In the very beginning, I thought I was just having trouble with the whole growing up process. As a kid, I was always told to enjoy my childhood because when adulthood hits, I’d wish I were a kid again. The one problem with this theory was that I had never wished to be a kid again. Don’t get me wrong. I had a good and happy childhood. However, I liked being an adult. Freedom and choices that I had always wanted were finally at my fingertips. I had goals. I was going to be a career woman first, and the family would come years later. I started college, and then took some time off and worked full time as a copy girl in an environmental planning firm. I didn’t know what I wanted to major in, so hoped that working full time would give me an opportunity to decide. I loved what I did. It wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I enjoyed my work, the people I saw everyday (except for one, but I won’t get into that), and most importantly, I felt proud of my work. For almost two years, I was respected and it felt fantastic! Except, for when it all felt horrible.

What Was Happening?

As had been the case prior to working at the firm, I would begin to suddenly feel depressed and could not understand it. My theory of having trouble adjusting to adulthood did not add up properly in my head anymore, because I knew I was doing just fine. I was working, I owned my first car, and I was making the monthly payment on it and my other bills. I was saving for my future and doing the adult thing. I wasn’t struggling with being an adult. But, I was struggling with what I wanted to be in life. So, “That must be it!” I thought. It had to be that, right? I mean what else could it be? I couldn’t possibly have depression, although, it sure felt like what I had read on the illness. But, depression is for sad people. It’s what people who suffer tragedy, trauma or heartache get. People, who are happy and have no reason whatsoever to be depressed, just don’t get… well, depressed.

And, then what was up with the weird highs I was experiencing? I’m talking wishing-I-was-a-singing-monkey-hanging-upside-down-from-a-tree highs. Well, I don’t think I did that… wait… no, that wasn’t me.

Seriously, though, I would experience energy that was just strange to me, but boy did I love it! Unfortunately, I did some pretty stupid things during those times though, at least stupid for my personality and me. One in particular, was when, for no reason, I decided that it would be “cool” and “funny” to jump into a moving vehicle. The idea that I could have slipped or missed the jump completely and landed under the wheels of the car never entered my mind prior to the jump. And, right after making the jump did that thought finally truly register in my mind? Nope, because I was now too busy congratulating myself and busting a gut with my friends at how “awesome” that was to do. I was so proud for almost killing, or maiming, myself. I sort of wish I was drunk when I did that, since at least, for me, that would be a more acceptable reason for doing it.

Being in my early twenties, I was way too old to be doing such stupid stunts. I view that experience now and realize the stupidity and recklessness that it entailed. Unfortunately, when you’re in those periods of highs, you tend to do things that normally would not even cross your mind. I’m such a quiet and introverted person when stable, but when high, my inhibitions begin to fade a bit. Not completely, but I start to feel much less embarrassed about making a complete donkey out of myself. It’s my alcoholic buzz, except it doesn’t require alcohol for me to reach it. I now know that those car-jump inducing highs are referred to as hypomania.

You see, with Bipolar II, although the depression is just as dark and full-blown as it is with Bipolar I, the mania is not as extreme. We don’t experience highs to the degree of hallucinations and psychosis, such as the case with Bipolar I. We experience what is called hypomania (basically, a milder mania). The mania variation is the only difference between the two bipolar types. For me, I will always crash into a depression after a hypomanic episode. I can have depression episodes without the hypomania, but not the other way around. It’s a cruel teeter totter game in my brain, and depression is the bully that jumps off his end, sends me landing hard on my rump, and then tackles me while I’m down.

This is common with Bipolar II. Depression often becomes the more dominant type of episode experienced. To be clear, though, everyone is different and so are his or her experiences. This is just mine, and I cannot possibly speak for everyone, nor would I try.

The Crash and Explosion

By 2006, I was sinking lower and lower into a depression and hurting so much. I had been back in college for a couple of years now, and beginning my final year. What should have been an exciting year began to become harder to handle. I kept on my path though, as it was a goal of mine that I had to complete. My mom was the one who witnessed the majority of my pain during this time, though. I feel so badly that I put her through what I did back then. I remember standing in the kitchen yelling at her. I would scream at her and cry about something being wrong, that something was wrong in my head. I hurt so much inside that I felt like the only way to stop it was to hit it out of me. I’d bang my head on the wall, pull on my hair so hard that I hoped it would come out, and I’d pound my head with my fists over and over again. I just wanted whatever was in there to come out, and the pain I was causing with each hit felt good. It was good to feel something that I could understand… a pain that had a known source. I didn’t know what was causing that other pain and emptiness, but I knew I wanted it out. My mom would just look at me and say, “Go in the other room! I can’t deal with you!” The frustration and disappointment on her face is permanently etched in my memory. It hurt. I was pushed away when the pain was tearing me apart, and it hurt beyond words.

However, I don’t blame my mom for her reaction. Can you imagine what it must have looked like to see her twenty-something-year-old daughter acting like that in front of her? It must have looked like an adult-sized tantrum. I cannot – and do not – fault her for her response. I do not want to be angry with my mom for how she reacted. I love my mom so much, and since my diagnosis, she has been a rock for me. My mom has and always will be my world. I thank the Lord for blessing me with such loving parents. My mom is a beautiful person with a heart of gold. If not for her and my wonderful dad’s love and support, I would be homeless on the streets, and without my medications that keep me stable.

That stability did not come until 2009, though. It was by the summer of that year that I was lost in the lowest and darkest depression that I had ever experienced. Life was so pointless. I felt like a mere observer in the world, and that I was not meant to be a participant. I couldn’t hear or see right, due to my senses being so twisted upside down and inside out. And, then, there was the anger. Anger was building up inside of me and becoming harder to hold inside. A great deal of personal issues had taken place that year, and by the summer I couldn’t hold in my feelings anymore. I just broke, for lack of a better term. All of my tears, emotions, anxiety, pain, and anger began flooding my life and drowning me. It was no longer possible to hide any of it. I was in so much pain and wanted it all to be over. I would pray to God to end it all. I would cry to Him and beg Him to please just take me home. I was ready to go. I wanted Him to take me so badly, but He didn’t. However, I believe that He did answer my prayers.

After my mom and one of my cousins kept encouraging me to go to the doctor, I finally agreed, and my mom made an appointment with her doctor, since mine had ignored my last request for help months earlier. All I have to say is that this new doctor was a blessing from God. She listened long and hard, and then referred me to my psychologist, who then in-turn referred me to my psychiatrist. They worked with me and talked with me. They listened and never judged. And, after so many years of suffering and wondering what was happening to me, I finally received an answer. It was not one that I expected, nor wanted, but it was finally an answer.

I thank God, that I now finally have an answer!


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