I have been meaning to write about this but I don’t know where or how to start. I guess I could give you a history of mental illness, Bipolar in particular or when I started showing symptoms of Bipolar or how I knew I had Bipolar. But none of these will truly bring justice to my journey. It took me 5 years to get well, and mind you, I’m not really all that well. I’m just starting to heal. The wound is deep and only one layer has been covered up. I have no idea how long it will take me to truly be okay but I keep taking it one day at a time. If even that overwhelms me, I take it one hour at a time.
It has always been hard for me to let people know I’m not right in the head, let alone admit it to myself. It’s even harder when people you know, like a neighbor or a beloved cousin, calls you abnormal to your back and smiles at you when you’re face to face with them.
I first found out that I have Bipolar back in high school but I really didn’t do anything to treat it. Years later, my mom would tell me the bullying caused my Bipolar but because of my husband and my psychiatrist, I know better. My Bipolar is caused by an imbalance between the chemical transmitters and receivers in the brain, brought on by genetics. Too sciencey right? To put it simply, the chemicals in my brain are not enough to work right. It’s not balanced. Besides, when it comes to genetics, my dad has it so I have it. Bullying just aggravated it.
As I grew up, I sought solace in reading and writing. A lot of people say I have a talent in writing but I have doubts. Maybe I got really good in writing because that’s what I always did, not something natural but practiced. As they say, practice makes perfect. Whenever I was feeling clinically depressed I would write and it always made me feel better. More connected to the world and to life. Unfortunately, I always thought my Bipolar made me write really well so I let it go untreated, even up to my college days.
Reading too was a welcome respite for me. When the world got too much, I’d open a book and immerse myself in a world of fantasy.
Over the years, I’ve exhibited a lot of symptoms. One of them is crying for no reason at all aside from the fact that I’m clinically depressed. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve cried myself to sleep. I’d get very down and suddenly cry so hard it hurt me.
Another symptom I exhibited which is a classic Bipolar action is spending money I do not have. No one has any idea how much money I spent in one sitting, or in one month when I got my Bipolar attack. To give you an idea, it’s more than a million pesos. It’s not even about being a shopaholic because without my Bipolar attack, I rarely buy stuff that I want unless I still want it after a week or two of letting the feeling pass. It’s just that the urge to keep buying is so strong it engulfs me and I get lost in it. Even if I had only Php20 I’d spend it just because I want to spend money.
The urge to keep going out, somewhere, anywhere is another symptom of Bipolar. Whenever I get my Bipolar attacks, I can’t sit still. I have to go somewhere. I don’t care where but I have to go.
But Bipolar is not about tears, sadness, and spending copious amounts of money for the heck of it. It’s also about happiness and when I say happiness it’s not your ordinary happiness. It’s a very weird high state of happiness where you feel very confident about yourself and feel like you can do anything and you are indestructible. It’s also about making unbelievable plans that you normally don’t make when you are, let’s say, sane.
I remember one time when I was in this state, I came up with a plan to open an online pet shop that only sells organic stuff. I contacted a lot of suppliers and even already made an FB page of my pet shop and advertised the stuff I’m going to sell in it. I was highly confident and was making impractical plans and decisions. When my elevated happiness went down and I was back to normal again, whatever is normal for someone like me, I had to close down the planned pet shop because I didn’t even have the start-up capital for it. And this with already contacting suppliers and them giving me the go ahead to buy their products at a discounted reseller price.
I get offended when people use the term Bipolar jokingly to describe their moody friend or the weather. Bipolar is not a trivial matter. It is dead serious. A lot of people have killed themselves because of it. Yup, suicide. Not because they were weak but because they just want to have peace and death brings you peace. It is the end of all darkness and pain people with Bipolar and other mental illness are experiencing.
I’m no stranger to suicide. I’ve thought of it many times and yes, even attempted to do it many times. I was always unsuccessful though, because of my ever present husband. Everytime though, when I’m at a mall, more often than not I am overwhelmed with the feeling of jumping from the highest floor and falling to my death. It seemed such an attractive and highly addicting feeling that I almost did it some of the times if not for my husband holding on to my hand. Also, there’s that nagging feeling at the back of my mind that I don’t want to die. It takes all my strength to fight it and it leaves me tired.
Actually, every attack I have leaves me tired as it is almost always violent. Hitting myself, screaming at the top of my lungs, picking fights…the list goes on.
When I went to Law school, I was okay at first but as time went by, my Bipolar was so bad that I my weight yo-yoed; going from 100lbs to 140lbs in two months then dropping to 100lbs the next. I also stopped brushing my teeth and taking a bath. I’d just lie the whole time and alternate between sleeping and either eating or not eating. Most of the times, the thought of doing anything other than lying and sleeping tired me out and overwhelmed me. I even developed anxiety attacks because of the fear of being called upon to recite in class. I’m a shy person so I dislike recitations and the thought of reciting made me so anxious it gave me heart palpitations and paralyzed me. That on top of Bipolar? It was living hell.
If bullying aggravated my Bipolar, Law school was the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.
It’s been five years since I was in Law school. I’ve been on medication since 2016 and have recently started dieting and taking care of myself. It was in January of this year that I started brushing my teeth everyday and it was around April of this year that I started cleaning myself and washing my face regularly. And it was just this month that I’ve finally started to take a shower regularly. I have no idea if one of these days I’ll feel overwhelmed again and and I’ll stop doing all these things but as I said earlier, I’m taking it one day at a time. I feel like I am healing and I am fervently hoping so. Even my finances have started picking up! I have a budget book again and have finally started saving. It has been a torturous journey, with my mind being ravaged and my body being neglected.
Having Bipolar or any mental illness is no joke. It is life threatening and isolating. I barely had any friends in college because I had an ongoing Bipolar attack – yes, for four whole years. It stopped me from making any connections with anyone. I thank God everyday that I have a very supportive and understanding husband and that I am still alive despite my many attempts at killing myself. So please be sensitive. Don’t use the word Bipolar lightly. And if you know someone or are suspicious that someone has a mental illness, be there for them. Your mere presence is a powerful gift you can give them. Mental illness is scary but there is hope. There is always hope.
And you, the one with the mental illness reading this, I want you to know that yes, there is light despite of all the darkness you are in. You may not be able to see it yet but it is there. You will get well. Just take it one step at a time. Breathe and live.