I always thought I understood myself and my brain; after all, it is my own. With every change of mood that I had I would always think of it as something related to PMS, even if my period just finished or was still weeks away. I believe I was always in a constant state of PMS.
Before I was diagnosed, for 2 years I have always had these “mood swings” as how I and my friends would describe it before. They would tease me as temperamental and emotional and I would just laugh it off. I didn’t tell anyone the intensity of my emotions, though. I was afraid of rejection and I never liked the idea of being alone (I was lonely enough).
I would refer to my states as just moods. There were only two and they didn’t always switch on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes, it would last months before the other mood came in. I stopped describing it as mood swings because unlike swings that went through a full motion before reaching the other end, my moods were like jumps.
The first mood was happiness. This was when my energy levels would spike. I would be productive in a very unpractical manner. I’d work on one thing, and then I’d get an idea and work on something completely new. This is where all my unfinished projects were born. All the promises and commitments would be made here. My social life would peak in this mood.
The second was sadness. I didn’t like to call it depression because I always believed I wasn’t that down. This was when I would lock myself in my room and cry all the time. I would never have the energy to go out and I would skip class for days. I would drop all my work and just sleep, even forgetting to eat, sometimes. I would feel completely worthless and lonely. I would contemplate suicide and even reaching to a point of self-harm. I would avoid people in this mood.
So, my moods were like that. Complete extremes and they would just jump from one to the other. I go to sleep happy, the next day, I’d wake up sad and feeling worthless, as if my entire life was out of control.
When I first started talking about this to my friends, the first thing they told me was that I was overreacting and that it was normal. Maybe they’re right, or so I thought. People had bigger problems. I had a home, I was getting good education, my family was complete and although we weren’t wealthy, we were definitely not living in poverty.
You see, I was always the bubbly and sociable girl in high school and they knew that whatever my problems were, I would always get through it, alone. So, what a surprise it was for them when I suddenly wanted to quit life and drop everything.
And even if I kept all these people around, I felt lonely. I felt like no one understood me, so I just stopped sharing and kept all the hurt to myself.
My thoughts would always jump back and forth and toy with the idea that I wasn’t fine versus the idea that I was just overreacting. Until one day, a breakdown I couldn’t handle finally came and I told my sister.
After I told my sister, who was always worried about me (to the extent that she created a twitter account under the name Random Stranger so she could message me without making me feel like she’s prying), she told my parents. That’s when I was brought to a psychiatrist and I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.
Hearing the word “bipolar” being linked to my name felt terrifying and unreal. The psychiatrist was discussing what medications I could take and what food I wasn’t allowed to eat, but all I could hear was buzzing, as my entire world fell apart right beneath my feet. I felt like I was losing control of my life and my emotions, the only things I thought I could control were actually quite uncontrollable without the help of medication.
I’m a freak, I thought over and over again. Guilt rang in my system because I’m an advocate of mental health awareness, yet being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder had me questioning my morals. I didn’t feel normal, I couldn’t feel normal. My brain was messed up, that’s all I knew.
I didn’t want anyone to know, so I kept it a secret. Only my family knew. My friends suspected something was wrong, but they didn’t force me.
AFTER THE AFTER.
I thought it was the end. That I would always live like that – keeping it a secret, having no one to talk to. But one day, I woke up and just couldn’t take it anymore.
Every night for the past few weeks were the same for me: breakdown, think about killing myself, sleep – it became a routine; a cycle. And I couldn’t take it, anymore. So, I finally decided to tell a friend.
The response was unexpected – it was support. I had prepared myself for rejection, but instead, I got acceptance. He told me that it was okay, that I was still me and that no chemicals in my brain could change that.
It was still a little scary after. I couldn’t open up to everyone immediately and it neither became better nor easier. But with my support, I was a little stronger. There are still breakdowns and suicidal thoughts every now and then, but since you’re still reading this means I’m still alive and I’m living with Bipolar Disorder.
Bipolar disorder isn’t just simple mood swings; there wasn’t a switch inside my head which I could flick to control my emotions. It was a jump from happiness to sadness with no cause. It would suck out my energy, it would make me promise and commit things when I was happy and when the time comes around I would be depressed, I’d regret every single one of it. However, one thing I will probably never regret is opening up to people.
I’m no psychiatrist and I definitely am not romanticizing my disorder in any way. This article is by no means trying to force you to open up. Instead, I’m just sharing to you what made me comfortable and happy, and I encourage you to do whatever is comfortable and what will make you happy.
To everyone living with Bipolar disorder or any other mental illness, I just wanted to let you know that we’re not freaks. A little different, but still normal and still human.
And I hope the next time someone approaches you telling you they’re sad, don’t belittle and invalidate their feelings. Instead, do your best to try and make time for them, you might be saving a life, after all.