What’s it like having bipolar disorder? Truthfully, I can’t explain it any other way than you’ve probably heard it before: it’s a roller coaster. The twist? It’s in a dark, abandoned amusement park building and you can never see when ups or downs are coming, or how steep they might be.
In 9th grade, I had my first major depressive breakdown, and I attempted suicide. I was hospitalized, put on mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety meds, and an antipsychotic, and closely monitored by my parents and friends. My mom and dad started telling me more about our family history, and it turns out that bipolar disorder runs in my family. My doctor had told my parents that I could potentially have it, too. He was right.
Fast forward to November of 2017. I had a few other depressive episodes. I hadn’t attempted suicide since then, but I’d still been struggling the last three years with stabilizing my mood and keeping myself above water. I was hospitalized again for depression and anxiety. My antipsychotic medication was changed to a new type and a much lower dose. My anti-anxiety meds were also adjusted, as were my mood stabilizers, and I was put on an antidepressant.
Now it’s February of 2018, I have my first manic episode. I spend all of my savings (almost $600) in cash in the span of roughly three days, and I have no recollection of doing so, or what exactly I spend it all on. I try to run away and end up hydroplaning and totaling my car. Despite almost dying in that car accident, I feel like I am invincible. My mind is constantly racing, but for once it’s not from anxiety, it’s from pure, untamed joy. I can’t tell that I’m manic, and it takes weeks for my mom to realize that something really isn’t right. Finally she sits me down, and talks to me about what’s going on. She convinces me to let her call my doctor and get my meds adjusted. My doctor ups my medication dose from 1.5 mg to 3 mg without an appointment because of the emergency circumstances. A few weeks later, I go to my psychiatrist for a follow-up appointment to talk about how the adjustment was working for me and to explain what exactly had happened. I have a hard time getting the words out of my mouth. I’m still falling down the mountain I was on. My doctor ups my medication from 3 mg to 4.5 mg, which is the dose I remain on today. I suffer the consequences from the episode by having zero college savings and maybe fifty cents in my checking account. I have no receipts, so I cannot return anything that I remember buying. I am officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, after almost four years of “potentially” having it. I do not care.
April, 2018: I still have not replenished my savings. I am broke, depressed, and worried that I will go manic again. I sleep in way too late every day. I am trying to break free of bad habits, but I am struggling to do so. I am exhausted. I am scared of what the future holds.
There is nothing that can compare to this dark, abandoned roller coaster. People constantly talk to me about how they don’t want to depend upon medications for the rest of their lives and would do anything to get off of them. I will never have that luxury. I’ve learned from my other family members with bipolar disorder that when you are manic, you hurt others more than you hurt yourself. I will always have to worry about mania, and I will never be able to escape myself. Every night I go to sleep hoping that I will not wake up tomorrow a different person—a worse person.
As I sit here writing this narrative, I am trying not to dwell on the person that I might become versus the person I never want to be. Tears are welling in my eyes. I never want to hurt anyone, especially not myself. I want to be able to build a home out of my bones, but my mental disorders make me terrified to do so. I’ve always thought that my biggest goal in life should be to be happy, but now I am afraid to let myself be happy, as it might turn into mania.
Illustration by Keta Tugushi