According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 5.7 million adult Americans are affected by bipolar disorder. Women are significantly more likely to experience periods of rapid cycling and may have more depressive and mixed episodes than men with the illness.
Bipolar is a mood disorder with distinct periods of extreme euphoria and mania to sadness or depression. It’s also known as manic depression or manic-depressive disorder.
Researchers estimate that between 25% and 60% of people with bipolar disorder will attempt suicide (many of the drugs used to treat bipolar may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts in children and young adults).
I am part of that percentage.
Older generations have broadly suggested that mental illnesses have become “trendy” in the last ten years. But this is an insult to those of us who fight every day. The pain we feel isn’t a broken bone or any sort of injury; it’s internal.
We feel it in our hearts, in our brains, in our gut. In our shaky hands and drowsy eyes. In our mood swings from being ready to concur the day to 40 minutes later when you haven’t moved from your bed because the thought of getting in the shower seems too difficult. We feel it when we are out with our friends and our social battery runs out. Suddenly, you’re chewing on your lip, watching the clock because you dread spending any longer with a fake smile on your face. We feel it when we have an important family gathering, but the thought of being around all those people makes your anxiety spike, and you skip out so you can drown on the couch and sleep.
We feel it everywhere.
That is what I was diagnosed with the day I checked myself into the ER. The day I took a stand for my mental health, I was pacing in the kitchen, pulling my hair, yelling at nobody. I’m not sure what happened that day, that crushing weight of sadness looming over my head again. I had given up. Getting in my car was a blur, checking myself in was a blur, the doctors were a blur. Soon enough, two orange bottles were in my hand, filled with a prescription that would make me better.
For the next four months, I turned into a corpse. I lost 30 pounds in two months because I couldn’t move from my bedroom. I quit my job, didn’t eat, and slowly withered away day after day, waiting for the medication to make me feel better. At the start of this year, I leaned on alcohol as a coping mechanism. I was slowly slipping away.
A month later, I decided it was time for change. I was admitted to the ER for suicidal thoughts and for harming myself. I was a risk to myself. Instead of loving my body and my life, a life I have worked so hard for, I was abusing myself.
I stayed in the mental health short stay for seven days and was given a fresh orange bottle of new medication.
I don’t remember what happened after that. For a moment, I thought I was okay. I believed that for once in my life, everything was going to be alright.
I was wrong.
There was this crushing weight surrounding my entire being all the time; this constant sickening feeling of death clouded my thoughts.
Was I ever going to get better?
Over time, the days morphed together. Sleep, shower, watch TV.
Eventually, I gave up my fight.
It was the worst day of my life, and instead of getting treated, getting new pills, getting any help, they flushed my stomach and sent me on my way. This is why people with mental health problems don’t reach out for help. It’s why we hide our pain. It’s why we can’t speak about it. It’s why we take another pill and go on our way. We tell ourselves, “It’s just another bad day,” but not every day should be a bad day.
Because your mental health is just as important as your physical health, they tell us. But they don’t do anything about it.
I wish I could tell you that I’m better, that the pills helped. I wish I could say I’m happy, that life is great. But I’d be lying. Because I still use alcohol to cope, I still have days where I lay in bed till 4pm, I still have trouble eating, and I’m not better. But I’m doing my best.
And just simply doing your best is alright.