I was 11 the first time I thought something might be wrong. I was just starting middle school. I felt like my elementary school friends didn’t want to be around me. To be honest, I didn’t want to be around them most of the time. I felt like they didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. While they had their problems, I felt like they never wanted to listen to mine. More than that, though, I couldn’t explain what was wrong with me. They wanted to know why I was so sad all the time. I wanted to know it, too. My parents wanted to know why I was so moody. I wanted to know, too.
About halfway through sixth grade, I started asking my parents to send me to a psychiatrist. I’d never been to one before, but I thought psychiatrists were supposed to fix people’s brains. All I knew was that there was something wrong with my brain and it needed to be fixed. Of course, they weren’t just going to send me to a doctor without asking any questions. I couldn’t explain to them why I was sad all the time. I tried to tell them that I was having trouble at school with some of my elementary school friends. Unfortunately, they did what any logical parent would do and called my school. This led to me being called into my counselor’s office for peer mediation with the girls I said were giving me trouble. Since all that had happened was a friendship falling apart, I mainly looked and felt like an idiot. I lied to my parents and said things were getting better.
They did. For a little while. I was still sad a lot. Some days were better than others. In eighth grade, I had my first panic attack. I was in French class. There was this girl I really didn’t like. I made a joke to my friend who sat next to me that we should raise money to buy her a one-way plane ticket to Australia, since that’s where she was from. Another person overheard and told this girl what I said. She said some bitchy, sarcastic thing back to me, since we were both petty eighth graders. I went to choir and couldn’t focus on anything. My mind was racing. I don’t know when I started hyperventilating, but it wasn’t until my next class that my algebra teacher sent me to the nurse. I tried to tell my teacher that I was fine, but ten minutes later, I couldn’t breathe. I went to the nurse and was completely hysterical. I told her what I had said to this girl. I said that I was sure she would tell a teacher. Then I would get in-school detention. Then it would go on my permanent record. Then I would never get into college. Then I would end up working at McDonald’s for the rest of my life. I was positive that one comment had just ruined my life. The nurse went to get the assistant principal who assured me that I would not get in trouble for what I said. As I laid there in the nurse’s office with the assistant principal trying to calm me down, I knew once again that something was wrong.
My next panic attack came at the thought of starting high school. I called a local radio DJ and asked him if it was normal to feel anxious about that. Naturally, he told me that I probably needed to go wake up my parents if I was having trouble breathing. Since I was completely irrational, I did not do that and just hyperventilated until I fell asleep.
It was in ninth grade that I cut myself for the first time. I had an argument with my parents and felt so completely alone. I went downstairs, grabbed a pair of scissors and just sat there on my bathroom floor. I dragged the pair of scissors across my leg, right below my left kneecap. It was just two miniscule cuts, but they terrified me. I grabbed the phone and called my boyfriend at the time, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell him what I had done. I didn’t think he really cared. Our relationship was really odd and I didn’t want to bother him with the crazy things that were going on in my head. I put my Hello Kitty band-aids on my leg and tried to forget about what had happened. The next day, I panicked because I thought the cut was still bleeding a little bit. I told one of my friends what I had done. She made me promise I would never do it again. I promised her, but I think we both knew I wasn’t being honest. I was never a regular cutter. It wasn’t something I did on a daily basis, or even a monthly basis. It’s something I fell back on when I was at my lowest. I would cut myself a couple times in a week and then nothing for months on end.
That summer, my parents finally agreed to let me see a counselor. We found a person that my pediatrician kind of knew, but she didn’t really know anything about her. I went a few times to her, but I never really connected with her. She said I needed to focus on driving more because it was something that was causing me a lot of anxiety at the time. She thought I needed to join more clubs at school, but it was summer and I was already someone who was incredibly involved. She said it was a shame that I wasn’t closer in age to my cousins, but there wasn’t anything to be done about that. By the end, I was outright lying to her so I wouldn’t have to go back to her again.
Sophomore year of high school was the lowest I have ever been. In my school district, sophomore year is the first true year of high school. For ninth grade, they send us to the Freshman Center, which is essentially a holding cell for freshmen. I had made friends at the Freshman Center who were now at the other high school in town. I felt completely alone. The friends I did have were people I didn’t feel very close to. I threw myself into school work. I came home every night and sat in my room to do my homework. I would work on homework for hours and then cry myself to sleep nearly every night. I talked to people at school, but I didn’t want to tell them very much about what was going on. People already accused me of constantly throwing myself a pity party and just wanting others to feel bad for me. Really, I just wanted someone to notice that there was something horribly wrong and save me.
I had a couple really scary moments that year. I vividly remember looking at myself in the mirror one day and not even recognizing the person who looked back at me. I remember another time where I completely blacked out for a few minutes. I don’t mean fainting. I mean having no recollection of what I was doing. One minute, I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom working on schoolwork. The next minute, I was standing in front of a medicine cabinet and starting to open a bottle of Tylenol.
I was never truly suicidal, but that was probably the closest I’ve ever come. There were plenty of times that I fantasized about killing myself. I never thought about the feelings of ending my life. It was more that I thought about my funeral and if anyone would even come to it. I would think about how people would react to finding out I died. I never quite got to the point where I made an attempt, though.
I never felt more alone than I did that year. The people I trusted the most were faceless 30-year-olds that I talked to on a Veronica Mars message board that I found. I didn’t divulge all the goings on of my messed-up head, but I gave small glimpses into what was going on. They were the people I spent Homecoming with that year. Everyone thinks that school dances are all about the actual dance, but for me, it was about the process of getting ready. I wanted so badly to have a group of friends with whom I could do my hair and make-up. My mom let me go to a salon and get a fancy up-do. I had a dress that I loved. I just didn’t have any friends to hang out with at the dance or get ready with before it started. While other people had groups of friends doing hair and make-up together or went out to dinner before the dance, I did my own make-up and warmed up a frozen pot pie while I talked to people online. There were people I knew and was friendly with who I thought I would dance with and have fun, but I kind of floated around. I found a couple groups, but didn’t really hang out with them for longer than five minutes. I felt like I was intruding on their fun. I mainly hung out at the back and read my book. People would come over and find me, but I didn’t know how to tell them that I was in a room of my peers and had never felt more alone. I stayed for nearly the entire dance. When my dad came to get me, I lied and said that I had a great time, but was just really tired.
By the end of sophomore year, I was doing a little bit better. I had at least found a group of friends that I trusted and started to confide in them. They started to understand that I was sad a lot and didn’t really understand why. They understood what I meant when I said I felt like my moods were fluctuating. They didn’t know what to do to make me feel better, but they understood it wasn’t something I could control. That was really all I wanted.
Junior year was a little bit better. My moods still went up and down, but I was getting better at predicting when things were going to change. You’ll notice that I mainly talk about when I was depressed. If I was bipolar, I would be manic, too, right? Kind of. The first manic episode I remember was during state testing my junior year. I got out of testing and felt like the world was going in slow motion. I was shaking and felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin. I got to my AP US History class in the afternoon and could not focus on a single thing my teacher was saying. I didn’t take any notes because I felt like the world was going in slow motion and I couldn’t get down to that level. I got home and could not stand still. My mom took one look at me and said she thought I might be bipolar. At that point, I’d figured that for about four years, but couldn’t seem to get anyone else to see it. I went to walk around the block a few times and my mom called a psychiatrist to make an appointment for me.
It was May of my junior year that I was finally diagnosed with Type 2 Bipolar Disorder. The way my doctor explained it, I did not have Type 1 (or traditional) bipolar because I rarely had full-blown manic episodes. I didn’t have delusions of grandeur or make ridiculous and impulsive decisions. I would have hypomanic episodes, or baby manic things. I would have sudden bursts of energy, racing thoughts, insomnia, paranoia, and increased anxiety. I constantly looked over my shoulder because I always thought someone was behind me. I still had the really low lows, though. I would stay low for a really long time and then come back up for a really short time. Finally, someone realized that something was horribly wrong and I needed help. I started medication and therapy, but that’s a story for another day.
I’m not keeping this blog in order to get sympathy or as a cry for help. I’m writing it for a variety of reasons. I want to be able to deal with my own emotions and feelings about being bipolar. The best way I know how to do that is through writing. I want to be able to explain to other people what it is like to be bipolar and to live with that. More than that, though, I want to be able to be a support for other people who are dealing with bipolar disorder and other such mental illnesses. I am going to make a constant effort to write about the good days as well as the bad. I don’t know if anyone will read this, but it’s just something I want to try.