It was July of 2010 when the dreaded diagnosis came. I had always had my suspicions and so had others, but denial was the place I lived in for a long time. That July was different. On a whim, I decided I was packing up my things and my children and leaving my husband. I was impulsive and irrational. I had all the answers. I was on top of the world and at the time my decisions were from some divine intervention with myself. I, myself, was god and making decisions as a god would.
After I was all loaded up in the care with my things, dogs and children, I drove off like a bat out of hell. It didn’t take long before my reality and true reality start to part at the seams. As soon as it did, I was stricken with fear and regret. What had I done? Why was I doing these things? I crumbled into a million pieces. I quickly pulled over and called my husband. I told him I didn’t know what I was doing and I was scared to death. He quickly drove to me, gathered the kids and got me somewhere safe. Until that moment, I didn’t want to be mentally ill or labeled “crazy” and I rationalized it with every fiber of my being. My husband and I were on a mission to find me the help I needed. A local assessment center is where I would find help.
I was terrified. Images of straight jackets and padded rooms filled my head. I walked in the door and was directed to a place to sign in. I was surprised. If this was a mental hospital, it certainly didn’t hold up to the scary expectations in my head. The people were nice and seemed to genuinely care. It wasn’t long before I was sitting in a room to be assessed. The social worker asked me a whole lot of questions and proceeded to tell me that while she didn’t like jumping to the conclusion of bipolar disorder, but I had almost all of the symptoms. She slipped out of the room to call the psychiatrist on call and see what the course of treatment would be.
Straight jackets and padded rooms once again filled my head. I was terrified of what was in store but even more frightened if I did nothing. When she came back in the room, she said it appeared I had a great support system and unless I felt it necessary, there was no need for inpatient treatment. I was to come back the following Monday for outpatient treatment. It was a five day a week, full day program. I was intimidated but motivated. I was determined to learn more about my condition and how to cope with it. There was a small fear of the medicine I would be put on and what it would do to me and how it would change me. Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP) was more eye-opening than I ever thought. The meds seemed to be working and the therapy was invaluable. I felt as if I had become a better person.
I continued to see the psychiatrist I saw while I was in the program and started individual therapy. There were med changes and those changes eventually lead to something I had never really. I landed in the ER and subsequently inpatient treatment on suicide watch. When I arrived and started to see the rules; visitation from a certain time to another, only so many phone calls, and a bunch of other rules I can’t really remember, I immediately wanted out. I called my husband and told him so, but they insisted I couldn’t leave, not even against medical advice until I saw the psychiatrist. I agreed and looked forward to meeting with the psychiatrist for a possible med change. That didn’t happen. I was disenfranchised by the mental health system once more.
I continued my med regimen and my psychiatrist recommendations. After months of trying to make it work, my marriage collapsed anyway. A visit to my psychiatrist after another suicide attempt a year later where he suggests inpatient quickly had me fleeing from any sort of mental health help. I discontinued my medication (not recommended). I was in a good relationship and I had custody of one of my children. I was using the coping techniques I learned in IOP to get me by, but something had changed. My moods were erratic. They were unpredictable. I would go from full-blown mania to depression with hours, sometimes minutes. It was time to give up and head to the assessment center once more.
I would be admitted to IOP once again with the diagnosis of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. It was a roller coaster for three months in two different programs. I followed up with a psychiatrist and continued my meds. I would experience several up and downs and land in IOP and inpatient again. My experience would be better than any I had before and eventually, my rapid-cycling and suicidal ideation would be under control. That’s not to say there weren’t any speed bumps along the way, but as of today besides some physical ailments, I’m doing quite well.
This is the point where I tell you that my journey continues. I created a website and blog that I have dedicated to mental health awareness, my personal journey and ending the stigma of mental illness. It is my new life mission to do what I can to promote empathy, compassion, and understanding for mental illness. My website is still young, but I believe it can only continue to grow. I have taken and passed their Ally course and it only serves to empower me that much more. I can only hope that by continuing to tell my story that it will impact someone and even if it is just one person, then I have fulfilled my purpose.