My Story With Bipolar Disorder: Leading Up To The Diagnose
They often say a triggering moment lets the cat out of the bag and the ongoing journey of battling your own mind begins. At least that’s what the doctors and the books say.
What was my triggering moment?
The moment the little girl in me died and this angry girl took over. It was a long time coming, and I guess the time was right for me to wake up and grow up.
I remember sitting at the kitchen counter eating Apple Jacks when my mom said enough is enough and told my dad to leave. He walked over to me and asked me if I would leave with him and I told him I couldn’t. I couldn’t leave my mom alone.
That was the start of the journey to my parent’s divorce.
My parents split up when I was eight, at the time I had to place my blame on someone and sadly my mom took the fault. I was angry, hurt and betrayed. I knew my parents fought, I also knew my dad’s infidelity was to blame but because I never truly knew how he felt about me, I couldn’t blame him.
I was insecure. I couldn’t question him. Instead, I questioned the only sane and consistent person in my life, my mom. The only one that accepted me, exactly the way I was, high sprung with enough energy to fuel a small country. I always knew she was in my corner, which is likely why I felt safe blaming her for everything that went wrong in my life and everyone else’s.
This continued through high school, where I had a new list of “this is your fault” items to add to the “mom” list. She moved us from everything I knew in Florida to what I considered (at the time) a third world country full of stupid people- Panama.
All the while, my wishy-washy relationship with my father never really improved, I tried to mold myself into the daughter I thought he wanted. All I ever wanted was to hear my dad tell me he loved me, that I was beautiful and that he was proud that I was his daughter. Sadly, those words would never come out of his mouth. Sure he said he loved me, but at that time, I wasn’t really me.
I was this fake version of myself, fabricated in hopes he would accept me. I thought losing weight and being a size zero would give him the push to tell me what I craved to hear but the truth was nothing was ever enough for him. Not even when size zero was too big. Not when I cried myself to sleep night after night because once again that promise I knew deep down would never come true- played its true course.
The emotional rollercoaster my dad put me through for so many years made me emotionally unavailable in other aspects of my life.
I developed a need for a sense of control. There was so much pain in me that I just wanted to feel nothing. Food became my weapon of choice and binging and purging was the band-aid I found refuge under.
The addictive side of my personality and undiagnosed illness was starting to show up in different, more dangerous ways. I was addicted to the empty feeling I had created and looked for more creative ways to feel nothing. Alcohol found its way into the mix, and with all the partying that went down and soon boys were added to the equation.
While I was really good at blending in with the other kids, there were still things that set me apart. I was wired more like boys at that age than girls, I didn’t want love, I didn’t want a boyfriend. All I wanted was pleasure, it was an immediate rush.
I started to view emotions as weak and debilitating and the empty feeling I had like power. I found pleasure in hooking up with guys and nothing more. The lack of commitment brought this free type of air to my lungs and I soon became addicted.
I remember a therapy session where my therapist said, “While it is possible to have meaningless sex, you my dear, are not in a place in life where you can. You are still carrying a lot of anger towards your dad and this isn’t helping the situation”.
The more I was told not to do something the more I craved it, the more I wanted it. It sparked this rush in me that later was due to the hypomanic tendencies my mind was looking for.
The issue was that pleasure didn’t last long, that pleasure existed for moments and then my need for a sense of control would take over and I would find myself stuck in this empty black hole with no way out. A fake smile plastered on my face to keep the appearance up. My eating disorder was gaining more speed and taking over my life, without my knowledge. I was consumed with two things, the fear of eating food and the need for cooking.
I had an escape. I had a place where I could erase all the negativity. A place where I could be me and there was no judgment. The kitchen was my happy place, but only while I cooked. The moment the rush was over, was the same moment the fear started to crawl back in, and the fear of food, of wanting to eat, of craving certain flavors, took over.
I loved cooking, my mind would stop overthinking and overanalyzing, the shitty day didn’t follow me in. It was my way of escaping the world. I would cook at all hours of the day, waking up as early as 5 in the morning to make enough food for a party of 20. It was my secret, no one outside of my immediate family knew of my passion for cooking.
You see, my dad, would belittle me and would tell me that the only people in the kitchen were the servants. While my mom praised my cooking abilities, my dad’s attitude added more “shame” to the list.
This went on until the end of my senior year when, once again, another promise was broken by my dad. He was not coming to my high school graduation, which happened to fall on my 18th birthday. Instead, he made more empty promises. He promised me that if I went to school in South Florida, instead of UCLA, he would give me a car, my own room in his house, and basically everything I had ever wanted from him since I was a little girl. The car was just the cherry on top, all I ever wanted was for him to want to spend time with me and for him to love me.
You would think that all the broken promises would have taught me to not believe him or get my hopes up. But I was still just a little girl wanting her daddy at heart. So I followed him to South Florida, changed my entire plan and ditched the one I had been working towards for the last year or so. So what happened? Did the little girl get her fairytale ending?
One morning, while staying at my dad’s before starting school, it all hit me. Everyone was asleep in the house, I had The Notebook on in the background and I quietly locked the door of the room I was staying in. Nope, not my room! I was actually in one of my step brothers room, sleeping on an air mattress on the floor. I closed the door so I could call my mom and cry. She didn’t answer, so I just laid there crying, as the mistake I made began to sink in.
The next day I woke up like nothing had happened and started to repack my stuff before we left to FAU. I was officially on my own. I was in college and while I wish I was shedding tears of joy, I was actually heartbroken that once again, I had chosen my dad over my mom, and for the first time in my life, I actually regretted it.
I craved the emptiness and I couldn’t go out and drink alone. So I joined a sorority.
It had been a while since I talked to my dad and after getting in touch, we made plans for him to pick me up after my test on Friday. It was the weekend before Halloween.
I remember this so clearly, I was walking back to my dorm with a friend after the test when my dad calls and tells me that something came up and he wasn’t coming.
My friend could see it in my face and as soon as I got off the phone asked me to go to dinner with her and her mom, who was visiting for the weekend.
As we walked to her dorm in the student apartments way across campus, I told her I didn’t really wanna talk about it and we start to play “fuck, marry, kill’ when my phone rang. It was my dad. I answer, and he starts yelling and honestly I don’t really know what he said because he was yelling so loud and talking so fast.
Before I knew it he said he was waiting for me and that I had to hurry up. I hang up and start running while telling my friend that I would call her. I literally sprinted across campus, grabbed my stuff and headed to his car. I could sense something was wrong the moment I opened the door. The air was tense and my dad’s jaw was rock solid. My dad’s girlfriend says “hi”, and I just smiled back mute.
As I pulled out my phone to text my friend “shit dude, something happened” he starts yelling again and telling me I’m exactly like my mom. To my dad, that is the worse insult, ever. Anyways this went on for the rest of the weekend. I cried silently when I was alone because I knew that I was done. He dropped me off on Sunday, and that was the last time I saw my dad.
I remember getting back into my dorm room and having my three friends waiting for me, one tried to give me a hug, the other asked me if I wanted to cry, and my guy friend had a bottle of tequila. I took the bottle and dealt with this as I did with everything, drinking and stuffing the emotions in a box and ignoring it.
This went on until I went home for Christmas- I begged my mom to let me stay, and she refused, thinking it was a tantrum because everything blew up in my face. I went back to school and continued with my ways, drinking, partying and using boys as a way to cope. I was also eating less and less, and drinking more and more and before I knew it I was depressed. When I went home with some sorority sisters for spring break, I went to see my high school psychologist who recommended a psychiatrist, who diagnosed my depression. I went back home and continued on with my coping ways and also this new found ‘happy pill’.
I met a guy during all of this and while the hypomanic side of me ran from the commitment, the lost little girl warmed up to the idea. We started the way we ended, fast and hot. The beginning was just good with the ending bittersweet.
In my opinion, the combination of this new spark in my life and being put on anti-depressants was a heavy loaded way to pack on the heavyweight’s mania has.
I loved it at first.
I was a freshman in college and finally the bag of guilt that was always weighing me down, the inner bitch my dad created all washed away. I was carefree, I felt like I could do it all. Nothing was out of my reach and I felt like I was a rock star.
I walked around like I owned the world.
I also didn’t need to sleep.
What college freshman doesn’t love that.
The honeymoon phase of my mania started to die down and along came “I have too much energy” – can’t stay still-can’t watch tv, nothing kept me entertained long enough. I would literally clean my dorm room floor with an old toothbrush and rearrange everything every day.
I was impossible to keep up with, talking a mile a minute, with new ideas spitting out like a machine gun. The people around me were starting to get annoyed, saying I was ‘too’ much. Part of me understood.
I mean at first it was fun, but now I couldn’t keep still to do anything, I was running everywhere because walking seemed weak and I just needed to do it ‘all’.
[I have no idea what ‘all’ was. I don’t think I even knew what ‘all’ was back then.]
To be continued.