My Story – A Courageous Battle with Bipolar

foggy man

Since I can remember, I always knew there was something different about me. The older I got, the more I realized that I was not like “them.” And since then I have been obsessed with being “normal.” Which is impossible. I do often see people who have minds that work closer to normal and I covet what they have. What I would give to have a mind that is easily controlled and, even better, predictable? I wouldn’t have flooded it with drugs.|

It started when I was young. I had parents, but I didn’t really have parents. It jaded me; turned me against myself and other people. Left me in constant paranoia because they were/are raging drug addicts with their own mental issues to deal with. Then they split up because my father cheated on my mother. He came home with gonorrhea and blamed it on her. She was forced to strip down and be searched top to bottom in one of those clinics for the poor. My mother hadn’t had sex in two years and it was with him. It destroyed her as a human being and now I have to call around 5am to actually speak to her while she is sober. It is sad and breaks my heart because she’s the only person on this planet that I know who truly loves me, she was also the only one there when I had to go through hell to recover from Leukemia.

I remember my first manic phase. I was probably around 13 years old. I walked up to my computer and all of the sudden I could remember almost everything that I had ever learned; like the memories were pictures and I could go through my mind and access them all. I didn’t know what was happening but it felt wonderful. For the longest time I felt that way and in a matter of days I was on the high end of depression and didn’t have the slightest idea what had just happened to me. I went from an A and B student to Cs and Ds. Teachers noticed the change and I ended up at a shrinks office. I was put on Lithium but didn’t take it because the kids made fun of me. That was a major mistake my family made because I needed that medicine. The decision for me to not take Lithium then, in all honesty, probably set me back many years. But I will counter argue this when I was 13 I didn’t realize anything was wrong. By the time I was 29 I was ready to see a doctor and take my meds seriously, because I knew it was my only chance.

I know what it is like to sleep 5 hours in four days, even though I was beyond the point of exhaustion. I know what it is like to have that God feeling. I know what it is like to sleep with more people in a week than most people do in a lifetime. I know what it is like to be on top of the world then on the bottom within a day. I know what it is like to have 4 different phases in one day. I know what it is like to make an attempted suicide. I know what it is like to over dose, on purpose. And I know a lot of other things my illness has pressured me into.

What I was doing was wrong and it hurt people dearly. I never really connected with people or opened up to people I had relationships with. I was in college, and kinda thought of as “gifted,” but I swear it was the Bipolar. I had a good job for a student and had a lot of goals. Then one day I fell in love and was given Strattera at the same time. It put me into substance induced mania for over a year. I did not realize that’s what was happening, I thought it was helping me.

My experience with substance induced mania felt like high grade mania, all of the time. My grades went up, I lost a ton of weight and had the greatest relationship with a wonderful person. Then just like that, the doctor took me off of it and I fell into the second worst depression I have ever felt. I was heartbroken and in Bipolar depression. I had a double whammy of depression that pounded me into the ground over and over and over.

(I am going to take a break here to mention something that may cause debate. I am only suggesting this because a minor portion of my life caused more trouble with my illness than everything but drugs. I should have gone to a real psychiatrist, not my general doctor. Listen, I was hell-bent in college that mental illness could be fixed better with talk therapy than medicine, I was wrong. I even learned some weird method called Existential Phenomenology trying to defend my beliefs. Once again, I was wrong.)

I fell apart as a human being. My wonderful relationship turned into physical violence and I could not understand why I was acting the way I was, nor could anyone else. I ended up doing something that hurt him worse than anything I have ever done to another person. I cheated on him. I still feel sick to this day over it. I had never seen pain like that before in another human being until I told him, because he really loved me. At the time, I was proud that I did it and made it look like he was the problem, when in reality I was all of the problems. Like other heartbroken individuals out there, I can still remember the last time I watched him leave through the window. That started it all.

I had felt the pain of abandonment for most of my life, but none of them felt like that. I was broken in ways that took me years to put back together. But the beginning of the end started with a bottle of Percocet thirty minutes before I had to be at work, which was my 4th job that year. ‘Til that day I had been drunk 3 times and smoked weed twice. I can kind of remember that day. I was standing there talking to a customer then all of the sudden my mouth couldn’t form words. Next thing I knew I was in a car mumbling, crying, then screaming about love. After that I was in bed. Finally I woke up, after about twenty hours, and had a wicked headache. Took a shower, walked off the aftermath of pain pills and drove straight to the liquor store. Two hours later I blacked out from drinking a bottle of Jager and did that for about 3 straight months. Eventually, I built up enough of a tolerance to incorporate a video game called Rock Band. I cannot tell you how many times I blacked out on those drums. My friends said they always knew when I was about to black out cause I would start crying hysterically, the only time I showed people my true self. I was in pain and nothing helped.

Booze turned into Oxycontin and Oxy turned into Opana.  I snorted at least 16 Opana 40s every day. Money was no object at the time. Once in awhile I would sneak in some coke and a lot of weed to mellow out the pain pill buzz if it was too strong. But I was high from 2 minutes after I woke up til about two before I finally fell asleep, sometimes up to four days straight, for 3 years. Those three years had some pretty down moments, too many to mention but I did more opium than the worst cancer patients; probably a few of them combined.  When I finally stopped using, two full blown withdrawals, I had to flush over a hundred pills. That is four grand on the main market, fifteen hundred if buying the script. I never sold any drugs but I loved to do as many as I could.

For three straight years I destroyed my mind with as many drugs as it could handle without dying, which came close a few times; most on purpose. I blacked out on a bench during one of my father’s biggest performances, and snorted Opana at funerals cause I had to use every hour or I went into withdrawal; in public. I had six relationships, with about 20 other people on the side. I was insanely cruel to anyone who tried to get to know me. I knew I was broken inside and I hid behind that haze of drug abuse that so many other people have been through. Sometimes it felt like God had come down and kissed me on the cheek. One day after another I did drugs, but deep inside I knew something else was very wrong. I had never felt like that before. I felt dead, even with drugs in me. Not at first, at first it was awesome. It took my mind to places I never knew could exist and opened my eyes to a lot of my own inner problems; so did Elliott Smith.

I hate to rip off someone’s words but I have always thought Elliott said it the best “I can’t prepare for death anymore than I already have.” I knew exactly what he meant. From those two funerals I went to, I learned that my funeral was in no way, shape, or form going to be like the two I had seen with my own eyes. No way. I planned everything out so it would be like an Andy Warhol exhibit, mixed with songs people could sing that made them feel better inside. That was my goal.

Time went on, and the addiction became worse. I don’t remember a lot from the end of the drug period. I dated two girls, cause I am bi. One ended up in prison, the other stalks me. But this is how drug abuse ended for me. One day I looked at my life and I saw for the first time in years what was really going on. I was with someone that I hated. I had zero control over my own life. I felt sick beyond the worst ideas created describing sickness. Then one day I said no more, threw her out and went through withdrawal for the second time. I cheated the second time and smoked weed so I could keep Tylenol down because I am prone to severe fevers during withdrawal. Weed helped me keep some food and Gatorade down. The first withdrawal was the worst. I didn’t know what withdrawal really was. Nothing quite like shitting on the floor and throwing up in the toilet at the same time, while screaming for God to kill me. To some that may seem gross but to those who have had to go through a horrible withdrawal they were happy just to make it to the bathroom.

Shortly after, I made an appointment with my doctor. I told her the truth about drug abuse and being suicidal. She had me go to the rehab area in the main hospital and members greeted me that honestly wanted to help. After talking to them, they told me where I was at was for people who needed to get drugs out of their systems. Well, I had already been through that. They sent me out of there and said I should probably admit myself to the psych ward. I didn’t. Instead, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist who I knew personally.

What started as normal problems turned into a paramount situation after drug abuse. Something over-took me and I felt some form of sickness that to this day I cannot put into words. Believe me I tried. I am still not entirely sure what it was. I spent two years like that, seeing the shrink once a month. I tried talk therapy and watched grown men lose their minds and start throwing and kicking stuff around their offices. When I went to the medicine doctor it was like playing roulette but instead of numbers each space was a medicine.

For almost two years I tried medicine after medicine to get out of what was making my life impossible to live. Eventually, it got to the point that I had ECT done. I willingly allowed them to do it. I was in desperation to feel better. By that point I was ready to die. I couldn’t take it anymore. It didn’t help me. Instead, it left all of the bad memories and erased most of the good ones. During ECT I had the worst panic attack I’ve ever had. I was on the floor and my legs kept kicking on their own, I couldn’t breathe. I was screaming for help because I honestly thought I was dying. Like some horrible reaction to having ECT done. I ended up in the hospital because of it. It lasted over an hour. At the hospital they gave me two shots of something and it was over no sooner than it had started, and damn I felt good.

The final straw with that shrink was when she put me on suboxone. She thought that I had rewired my brain so that the only way I could feel emotion was with that shit in my system. It made me deathly sick. So I stopped seeing her and went back to my primary doctor to get his opinion on other doctors I could go to. He suggested one and I started seeing him the same day. Changing doctors changed my life because he helped me more than anyone ever has with this illness. Just thinking about it made me cry because I will always remember where I was before. I trust him.

The story really seems to dwindle down once I found the doctor best for me. I have been in a real committed relationship and haven’t cheated. But here is the most important thing, I still phase but they are nothing like what they were. Sometimes I am pretty down but it never reaches that level many of you are probably familiar with. Some days I have a terrible time getting out of bed. I still feel how the intensity of my consciousness shifts during each phase. And sometimes it is my fault. I am not afraid of the shrink than the rest of a lot of people I have spoken to, but there is always that fear of going to the ward. What I have learned through it all is to just tell them the truth. But to sum it all up is this, I went from a maniacal, drug addict person to being asked to teach classes on Bipolar. Who knew right?

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