Callous. Cold. Spoiled.
These words have been used to describe me, label me, and judge me. When one does not understand something, the first instinct is to attempt to classify it into something comprehensible. The labels were an attempt to position me into a niche I simply do not fit. In essence, I am a circle trying to fit into a square.
During my teen years, I flew from wild thought to wild thought. Onto my next manic adventure, I chose love as my high of choice. The first infatuation was a euphoria I have yet to replicate to this day. Of course, this was merely a chemical cascade. However, in those moments of heartbreak and first love, the pain of withdrawal was very real.
My vivacity was an energy that struck suddenly and fiercely, like the Southern thunderstorms of my youth. Those surrounding me were in awe or fear of my next strike; beautiful to watch, but dangerous all in the same instance. When my energy was burned, my despair was indescribable. Yet, throughout this entire process, it seemed perfectly normal to me. Being suicidal one night and awakening the next morning thrilled to see the sun rise simply meant it was a Tuesday.
It was only when I saw crimson drops fall onto stark white porcelain that my fear became real; As though I were Snow White in a Grimm fairy tale, it was simultaneously surreal I was in a downward spiral and terrified for my life. The signs hidden under long sleeves, the pain masked behind a smile, I was desperate for control. My waist whittled down to nothingness. I felt I had more value with the less space I occupied. Earlier in my life, my father took his own life. Growing older, it was only a fact of my life; it held the same value as my name or my birthdate. Unbeknownst to me, there was an underlying pain that acted as a catalyst. I tried to blame my circumstances on events that had long since passed. As I became a mother, my viewpoint changed drastically. For the first time in my life, I began to think outside of myself. I called a psychiatrist shortly thereafter.
I was diagnosed with ultra-rapid cycling bipolar disorder. My doctor bluntly told me my illness was not my fault. Like heart disease or diabetes, it was a medical condition. I was assuaged by the diagnosis, that there was a word for what was happening in my head. I wondered though, where did I end and the disorder begin? I had grown into the labels others placed on me. Getting well meant taking responsibility for my actions.
I write this not as an excuse for past behaviors. I write this for the person out there who feels crazy, confused, and who feels pain so indescribable it’s all consuming. It’s not a character flaw. No matter how hard a person may try, mental illness is a medical problem. It should be treated by a doctor.
There is hope.