I’m a Connections Facilitator. One of my group members wrote this and gave me permission to send it to NAMI. I read it to the group and we all agree that she has expressed something that we have all felt in a way that we would never be able to do.
By Britni Ayn
I am driving down the street, my darling dog Baxter has his head dangling out the window of the car; his tongue resting happily out the side of his mouth. Baxter begins to shift from the window to gazing at me; he can sense my mood changing. I start driving a bit too fast, swerving through lanes believing that I am invincible. Baxter starts to notice with greater preeminence that I am becoming irritable and moves to lie down on the seat. It is the start of mania the start of a very familiar feeling to me, I feel like I can do anything, like I can be any person. My ideas are brilliant and quick to evolve; my thoughts are like meteor showers, they are getting harder and harder to follow and I am record each sensational idea before the next is released and unpredictable. I feel like the world is the most beautiful place; I am girl who can get your attention and hold it, I am irresistible and captivating. I have power over everything on this earth; everything looks brighter to me, I am an inventor with my very own kaleidoscope eyes. The entire world is mine and nobody can change the utopia I am creating in my head. I am perfect, I am okay; but denial is the only thing that is true.
My emotions start to alter quickly as my surroundings turn a bit different; the world is no longer remarkable or bright and brilliant. I am brutally choking on all the things I hold down, my past has swallowed my ability to be vital and it is never shy about protruding into my daily life. My fingers start to tighten without the approval of my brain; nobody can take my euphoria away, except for the monster. The monster is a roller coaster in my head that has strapped me in and will never stop propelling me into the eternal greatness my mind produces than into its depressed shallows only to repeat the cycle. It is constantly lifting me into the air and turning me around in circles, right now the monster is dropping me. I am staring straight at the ground waiting to hit the bottommost pit. My finger nails begin to dig into my skin, carving little moon-like curves that peel away from my hand, I don’t want to be back in this place of chronic depression.
Screaming is the only way I can let the monster loose from inside of me. Screaming is all I have to escape right now, my mouth opens to let out a horrific noise but my lungs refuse to intake any air. It is impossible to release the pain inside of me that is blockading my earth shattering scream, the monster can be anything she wants in my body, the monster can stop my breathing. My heart is pounding and thrashing inside my chest, tears begin to swell in the sockets where my eyes should be. My eyes are missing they are just filters for lies and mistrust, I have a false reality not a pair of eyes. My attempt to push out a scream becomes an expeditious attempt, squirming and throwing my hands into the car dash. To the other drivers I might look silly and insane, my mouth open, screaming a silent scream; it sounds angry and loud inside my head though. When I finally gasp out a much needed breath, I do not scream; I let the tears stream down my face, clawing at my skin all the while pulling patches away to set the monster inside me free, but Bipolar is the only thing that is true and no amount of moon like skin shavings will rescue me from my dizzy roller-coaster ride.
Moreover, some people may look into the mirror to fix their hair and make sure they are presentable to society; they smile and are content with themselves, unless it is me looking into the mirror. When I face the mirror someone else is in it, someone else is applying lipstick to my lips and eyeliner to my eyes. Someone else is standing in front of me when I look into a mirror, someone I hate. I cannot face the girl in the mirror without my heart attempting to protrude out of my chest. I start to imagine the monster in my mirror taking over my daily routines just so I will never have to open my eyes to face the monster that is her. I imagine giving my life fully to her so I can disappear, the monster has already taken so much, why not give her dominion over every aspect of me? How easy it sounds giving away my authority, as opposed to sharing a body with the monster; but part of me is still sensitive to the touch.
I am always becoming more and more aware of my psychological changes; it is becoming evident that my ups and downs are becoming increasingly severe with age. My mirror does not portray just a girl and the monster that has Bipolar Type One, but a girl that doctors have labeled and believe to possess: Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Bulimia, Anorexia, Panic Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; Insomniac, Borderline Personality Disorder, Chronic Depression and hopeless. Fighting a disorder is not easy, fighting an entire list of labels, is certainly not simple. It is not my fault, it is genetic, it is the woman who gave birth to me who knew that she had chronic Bipolar Disorder. She made life altering decisions, she knew her family had many mental health issues and she neglected this in the planning of her pregnancy. Therefore I was born into a family consisting of three suicides and numerous other psychological disorders; my biological makeup is an army waging wars against normality. My mind has no middle ground; Bipolar Disorder has created co-morbidity inside of me, with never ending anguish. Bipolar Disorder is the monster inside of me who has robbed me of that which is me, the enemy is the complete opposite of who I am. My life is either euphoric or a constant question of life, extreme depression waging my own death because there is no middle ground, it is up or down and it’s not basic instinct to wish yourself six feet underground.
I spent my childhood growing up with my mother’s Bipolar Disorder constantly clashing with mine; it was unbearable; she tortured me with her denial and paranoia. My mother was diagnosed but her condition went untreated because she refused any type of help. Therefore her condition worsened which only strained our relationship, although I still loved her unconditionally. I loved my mother so much it caused everyone around me pain, I was willing to neglect others feelings; they constantly berated her about seeking professional help, this only worsened her condition. While others badgered her I calmed her down and told her everything was okay, smoothing out the wrinkles. I knew very well it was not “okay”, but keeping her close to me was much more important at the time, then family telling me to be honest with her life was unmanageable. She believed pills would change her for the worst, but as a child I needed medication to change her for the better. I grew up under the thumb of her disorder without light; I sprouted into the world a dark person with children’s Bipolar Disorder and co-morbidity.
It was clear to my mom I needed therapy, I started going to therapy weekly, around the age of twelve. I hated each and every person who tried to help me, they said they understood what it was like but how could they? Nobody could understand the monster living inside of me. As a result I began to sort through therapists like hairstyles, having experimented with fifteen different ones before the age of sixteen. How could I listen to a person who told me to be good to myself? How can one be good and respect a body who constantly conspires against the mind; making me unknown to myself. I fought my body without hesitation, self-harm became a routine. I had no concern for my health, when my body created feelings I could not control I punished it to get back at it for the pain it caused me. I burned my skin with heated curling irons, burning away my flesh to remind my body that ultimately I am in control of it, not the monster. I stopped eating, engaged in fits of Bulimia until I was finally rehabilitated.
Regardless of what anybody said to me I did not care, my body hated me and I firmly believed that; even the truth in the statement, “ the sky is blue” paled in comparison to my own reality, the truth was my body was torturing me, no other truth seemed valid. I had no problem employing destructive tactics against myself; I was set on killing the monster, it was clear though that I was the monster. Mania and Madness had chipped away at me, until all that remained was a lost individual. I was invisible, disappearing slowly, to the point that I would dissolve from friends and family Polaroid’s, no longer existing in the realm of humanity because I truthfully believed I was already dead. I was ashamed of being such an awful monster; I refused to admit to the world that I was like my mother. If I was like her society would look at me in the same belittling way that it gazed at her. Shame is the only feeling that accompanies the cards dealt to an individual with a mental disorder when such stigma is placed upon each diagnosis. Mania, the perilous highs, the feeling of destructive power is not fun. Depression, complete numbness and carelessness is not fun; death, the fog always plaguing me is not fun, being Bipolar is not fun.
Some nights I would wake up after an hour or so of sleep with an itch to drive to the store, where I could spend inexorable amounts of money—mania would send me on spending sprees regardless if I had the money to do so or not. However there would also be nights I could not sleep at all, sitting upright in my bed staring at the blank wall with absolutely nothing inside of me. I could have been awake for days staring at my wall with an empty belly and an empty mind. Depression was not insinuated with the lose of a boyfriend or not getting something I desired, depression was and is humorless, lifeless, a borderline to life and death. I felt as if my heart was beating but it was beating at a slower pace than others; I was sure it was just slowly shutting down, soon to relieve me of my misery. I pleaded with my heart to silently slip away so no malady could enter my life, abandoning it, so I might cease to exist once and for all.
I required a certain kind of emptiness to bring me into a state of awareness of how far my disorder had really pulled me to pieces, it demanded an awareness where looking in the mirror with the thought of death sounding much better than life to awaken me. It took purging regardless of if I had even eaten, it took my esophagus being torn into shreds and bleeding. I needed desperately to really look at my body and see the hollowness in my eyes and bruises covering my skin, from a lack of nutrition. Pain and hatred for myself was the only thing I could feel and or understand; I looked battered and lost but I was the executive of my own torment. I had once wished I had eyes that could see normal things and it took me becoming nothing to fill my eyes, I needed help. So I crawled out from under my dark sheets and finally at the rightful age of nineteen sought out a program to get me better before I completely wasted away. The idea of playing Russian roulette with my mental health and my physical health had become one pull away from losing the game.
Bipolar disorder stole everything from me; it embraced me and turned me into the monster, because I didn’t take accountability to at least make an effort. I entered a Bulimia program for the second time in my life and started to see a psychiatrist. Medication saved me from death, my psychiatrist put me on many medications to calm the monster down, and it did. It took one month to start finding common ground, to begin anew as someone who was not always fighting an enemy, the presence of which was always lingering inside of me. It is scary knowing that barely under the surface of me is a disease that anticipates the moment when I miss a dosage of my genie, found in the contents of my medicine bottles, punctuality and routines continually grant my fortunes. I am fine and no longer live according to a monster that belongs under a bed, although I am on five different medications that I must take twice a day. I am always in touch with and reminded of who I really am, never able to shake off and be rid of that feeling. The monster is in there, can I beat this? No, but I can learn to work with it, to control it. Bipolar Disorder does not have to be a death sentence, I will fight back