I don’t know how much longer I can fake it
That it’s all alright, that I can do this alone
And I know that life is what you make it
But it’s hard to see stars when you’re always caught in the folds
Every night in my mind it’s a fight
But I won’t stop dreaming
‘Cause this isn’t over
It’s never over
I won’t stop running
I won’t stop running
I’ll take another sunrise
Another hand to hold tight
This isn’t over
I am way too young and I won’t stop running
~ “Won’t Stop Running”, Great Big World
It is a Saturday as I write this; May 28th, 2016. It seems important that I note that, because when or if this story is ever shared, I know it’s one that will need to come in bits and pieces over time, not as a one-off post. In a way, what I’m about to write about is the culmination of what’s actually been going on for years (decades, if I’m being honest) but in many many others it is just the very beginning baby steps of what will become a lifelong journey.
I have bipolar disorder.
I’ve been practicing saying that, even if mostly inside my own head. I say it very well, don’t I? Hello, my name is Jennifer and I have bipolar disorder. Did anyone else just hear Richard Gere in Pretty Woman when I said that? “Hello, my name is Mr. Lewis and I am very angry with my father. It cost me ten thousand dollars in therapy to be able to say that sentence.”
I haven’t (yet) spent ten thousand dollars in therapy, but I am actively going to therapy, which in and of itself is… unexpected.
But I’m getting way ahead of myself, and should really start at the beginning.
It was a cold and snowy day in 1974 when I was born … KIDDING! Well, only partly kidding, because it was a cold and snowy day when I was born. I was born during a snow storm in fact. That’s completely irrelevant to the story though. Except that now that I’m thinking about it, it’s actually pretty poetically perfect that I was born during a storm. I wouldn’t be ME if I’d been born on a calm, quiet, balmy day in June.
I’m just not the calm, quiet, balmy type.
I’ve always been open about my issues with depression and anxiety … and when I say “open”, I mean I’ve written about it a grand total of a whopping 4 or 5 times (out of 1,000 posts) over the course of the 10+ years that I’ve maintained this blog. But while I was always as raw and honest as I could manage at the time, those posts only told a part of the story. They were tentative. Testing. Dipping my toes in the water as it were. I feel like I shared a great deal, but I subconsciously held back at least as much as I revealed.
I’m tired of holding things back. My only personal goal right now is to get myself well, and I believe that part of that process is going to be total, uncensored honesty.
This spring I had a breakdown. “Breakdown” is a weird word (one that’s a way too often and flippant word of hyperbole) that doesn’t convey the severity of what happened to me, but it’s the only word I’ve got. As was my usual pattern, I’d just come down from feeling AMAZING. Life was so painfully beautiful it made me cry. I’d been full of energy. Full of grand ideas. Full of huge plans. I was going to write another book. I was going to expand my blog. I was going to start more blogs. I spent hundreds of dollars on online courses to teach me how to do exactly that. I was going to CHANGE THE FREAKING WORLD. I felt like I could do absolutely anything. And then….. I didn’t. And then I got depressed. And then I got really depressed. And then I wanted to die. And then, in the middle of taking the 8 year old to play rehearsals, and the 12 year old to football practice, and taking care of the kids and the house and the pets and everything else that comes with adulting, I had a breakdown. To put it into perspective, the only reason I didn’t end up in the ER was that I found a psychiatric facility that could get me in for an evaluation right away.
Only a couple – less than five – trusted people knew how much I was truly struggling. Even then, I spared them the gory details. The little bits I did share here and there though were more than enough encouragement for well-meaning advice. I just needed to exercise. I needed more sleep. I needed to change the way I ate. I needed to use essential oils. I needed more supplements. I tried really hard not to be offended – and deeply, deeply frustrated – because I was exercising. I was eating well. I was getting sleep. I was taking appropriate supplements. And essential oils? I tried pretty much all of them that were supposed to be helpful. Daily. But the thing is, motivation is great. Exercise, sleep, and vitamins are great. But there are some things they Just. Don’t. Cure. I couldn’t fix it. Sheer willpower was not doing it. And it was insulting and minimizing every single time someone suggested otherwise.
It was reminiscent to the end of my journey with my gall bladder. It was full of stones and sludge, it was starting to get inflamed, and there were stones lodged in the common bile duct. I was due to have it removed, but then it started to get infected. I ultimately had an attack that lasted about 72 hours, and in desperation called the surgeon’s office for advice. The overly cheerful woman on the phone told me, “Oh you’ll see a big difference if you avoid things like fried foods.” Fried foods? Was she kidding me? I hadn’t been able to eat ANY fat for several months, and hadn’t been able to keep down anything – at all – for days. And she was talking to me about fried foods? I ended up in the ER, where I checked in for a five day stay, one emergency operation, one endoscopic procedure, and a truckload of necessary medications.
She was being helpful to the best of her ability, but I didn’t need to be told to avoid fried foods. It was so beyond that point. What I needed was intervention. And in this case, I didn’t need to use essential oils. It was so beyond that point. What I needed was intervention. It wasn’t that I was hanging on by a thread. My thread WAS GONE. I had no more thread, and I was hanging over a precipice. The only recourse I had left was to seek the help of a professional.
So I did.
And it was the hardest, and scariest, thing I’ve ever done in my life.
(Continue to Part Two)