Events began to spin out of control, and I needed help to stablize.
Ballistic When Diagnosed
I remember driving along a section of road, every day, several times a day, for months upon months. Usually, there was traffic and "down time" involved, and it was then I found myself confined with my thoughts. The sounds on the radio couldn't be turned loud enough to drown out my thoughts that day.
I cried to God aloud, knowing He'd hear me if I asked in my head, but wanted to hear the sound of the question, to verify its authenticity.
"Why didn't my life work out like everyone else's? Why couldn't I find love, have a baby, and a family of my own? Why couldn't I have had some time out of the hustle and bustle of the rat-earning race, and had a child, and known that feeling of love? Why did you leave me out, God? I won't ever get that in my life now! I'll be driving to work for a pittance for the rest of my life."
The sound of the words brought forth alligator tears, making me feel worse from hearing the pain in my voice. It was real, and so was my left-out feeling. I wiped the tears from my eyes and arrived home in the two blocks remaining. My life had become a road routine, and I felt emotionally alone, isolated.
I was at the end of an emotionally draining year. I resigned as a teacher but found a job as an assistant manager at an apartment complex. I loved the job, but became compulsive about it. Drastic mood swings made me unpredictable to those around me, as well as myself.
Coming back from lunch one sunny afternoon, Billy Joel's "Matter of Trust" played on the radio. Tears gushed from my eyes, spilling down my face and onto my clothes. I couldn't stop crying. I returned to the office from my lunch break, and still the rapids inside of me churned. The song had brought forth very unclear, but very strong emotions.
Since I had had a total hysterectomy the year before, I consulted my gynecologist, who listened and quickly referred me to a psychiatrist. During the first appointment, during the first ten minutes, the doctor diagnosed me as manic-depressive. I didn't really know what it meant, but I knew it wasn't good. I took his prescription medication. Nevertheless, my symptoms were snowballing.
Coming back home to my apartment after walking the complex at 2:00 am checking lights (self-appointed task one evening), I heard the voices of men, coming distinctly from just outside my apartment window. I was frightened, as these weren't people coming in from a party and being loud, but two voices in a conversation from which one could only catch phrases. I was manic and rattled. I called the police.
The officer arrived quickly as he lived in the complex. He took down the information I had, but indicated there was nothing there now, and I told me I was working too hard. Months later, I realized an auditory hallucination had taken me over. The whole thing was real to me because I heard it. However, these sounds only exist in my world. I was indeed paranoid. Somebody, somewhere was out to get me.
I realized at that point that I probably shouldn't be living by myself. I could no longer trust my own senses to guide me properly. The apartment complex was sold by the owners about that time, and I was offered a job in another city, which I took great expense to investigate. I got a long weekend away from work. Bipolars often spend money, large amounts of cash and credit, for what seems a good reason at the time. I took a plane, rented a car, and got a hotel room over the Bay of Galveston. The job was a real opportunity, but I knew that major changes were something to avoid, especially if I was still prone to voices. They were never clear, just kind of fuzzy, which annoyed me even more.
Eventually, I realized that moving home with my mother, in Dallas, would be the best thing for me. When reality shatters, you need your family's support.
My mother drove the eight-hour car trip to South Texas, and she helped me get my possessions boxed up and shipped to Dallas. I moved in with my mother and her new husband. My symptoms and behavior was too much for my step-father, who was in his late seventies, and soon I had a small apartment on my own, where my bipolar moods were less likely to damage me and those around me.
Mom took me to all my numerous psychiatrist's appointments, purchased my medicine, and did everything to help, except swallow the pills for me.
I applied for a job at "Blockbuster Video," but found using their computer, with no previous skill, too much of a challenge. I quit after a month. Many months later, I read a news article that indicated the position I filled was due to a robbery and the death of an employee. I was totally out of touch with the world around me. I was, however, somewhat content in my fog. It was an easy place to be. I was heavily medicated. I was not normal.
Next, I applied at a craft store as a cashier. My passion for crafts was one activity that my "mood disorder" had not extinguished. I thought I'd enjoy the atmosphere, and dealing with others who shared the love of creating for the home. Mostly, I stood at the cash register for hours on end. My manager said I had a very creative way of recording transactions. He knew I wasn't stealing, but the register never balanced. The week before Halloween, the atmosphere in the store was manic, rude people, and with display, destroyed even before noon. I couldn't stand the feeling that surrounded me at work, and I quit. I went home to flounder in my winter seasonal depression.
I couldn't get a job and keep it. I didn't feel good about myself, and the weekly bipolar meetings weren't especially helping. I took all the medication I was prescribed, and it left me feeling less capable than I had ever been.
Since beginning to take Lithium for my manic-depression, I had gained 75 pounds. I was a big tall girl, tipping the scales at 217 pounds. Never in my life had I worn an extra large scrub that was tight. I spent the winter watching the leaves outside my patio window change colors and fall into the little creek which carried no water, stagnant like my life. Government help takes forever to kick in, but I finally arranged to attend sessions for help and general job training during that time.
In the spring, I applied for a job at a vet clinic a few blocks away from my apartment. Soon the government aid arrived, and I applied and was accepted to vet tech program at a community college across town.
I was swimming in side effects from the various and many medications I was on. I couldn't think straight. My body bulk had increased by a third. I had no friends and no social life. When I was able to think about it, my life seemed to be going backward. If I ever did get my vet tech license, I would never make as much as I had as a teacher.
But there were advantages to the no homework lifestyle too. I learned from the animals. They all have lots of unconditional love to give, and pets in the clinic needed the extra care which I was always so ready to give. But I was broke, friendless, and all my dreams of what the future held for me had been dashed. I couldn't dream of a future that could be right.
Ten years have passed since my diagnosis. I've learned many things about bipolar disorder, one thing is that it doesn't have to be a handicap. There are times when symptoms are overwhelming, and that's when you get intensive help. Having a good psychiatrist is important because you need to communicate. I've had a disagreement with more than one psychiatrist because I refused to be pronounced upon. It felt like a life sentence. It was, but not necessarily in a bad way. I've learned the importance of speaking my mind. I've learned that even though I am "sick," I am not less of a person.
I was raised Catholic but consider myself more a spiritual person now. I don't have to know all the answers to life's problems, but I do take comfort in knowing there is a power greater than myself who loves me and will take care of me and my future plans better than I can myself.
Now, I investigate research on bipolar disorder, record my thoughts and feelings, and plan to publish a book when I feel like I can promote it and actually make sales.
I've had the leisure in the last five years to live at a pace which keeps the stress monsters away. I've finally lost the 75 pounds. but I had to get off Lithium and on to another type of medication.
I still won't have a baby, but I know I could not care for one alone. God had a good reason for my situation so far, and I believe that if I leave my heart open and keep my mind clear that things will work out better than any dreams I ever had.