The room was dark and silent, but I could still hear the voices. That inaudible mind chatter would be the soundtrack of my early adolescence. It crept up inside me without warning, took hold of half my heart and coiled its way around my spine. I lived in fear, we all did; fear of my unpredictability, emotional outbursts and bouts of severe depression. I remember my mother’s tears and my father’s strong embrace as we sat in my room confused and helpless. White pills covered my floral bedspread and it seemed the truth had been discovered. The screaming and cursing had started again and no one could seem to tell us why. I had that all-too-familiar feeling that knocked the wind out me and left a cloud of smoke in my body. The pain was indescribable; I was suffering in the deepest part of my soul, drowning in my own tears, and experiencing my first manic episode at the young age of fifteen. My parents and I listened intently as the doctors threw around terms like “chemical imbalance,” “mania,” “clinical depression” and “hospitalization.” The Doctors diagnosed me as Bipolar - a disease that is treatable, but not curable. My diagnosis would define me for my most formative years and help shape the person I was to become.
It seemed I was failing at every aspect of my life. Feeling sorry for myself I withdrew from social activities and developed an apathetic attitude about my schoolwork. My friend’s parents encouraged them to stay away from me and urged me to stop calling, as if my disorder was contagious. Theirs was a misconception that I would continue to fight in my adult life. Alone and scared I turned to medication and psychotherapy. It was there that I learned to cope with my disorder and uncover the tools that would help me to wake up everyday and make the choice to live.
Facing this adversity at such a young age caused me to question my very existence. I longed to be like everyone else at my age, attending school dances and laughing with friends at lunch. I saw the joy in other kids eyes and wished I could have that organic feeling myself. There had to be something more to life than lying in bed waiting for the hours to pass. There had to be something more than the crippling anxiety and soul crushing depression. I began to write and found moments of peace in my own poetry. I discovered a voice, one that refused to suffer in silence. I was searching for the light in a very dark room and it took me several attempts to find it. After countless hours of therapy, various medication changes and endless pages I found myself faced with a choice, sit in the dark corners of my mind feeling sorry for myself or be a proactive member of my recovery. Choosing to live my life and educate others and myself about my disorder, I now find myself drawn to people who have similar struggles. It seemed that they felt comfortable asking questions because I was so open about my diagnosis. I was making a difference one opinion at a time as I talked with peers and family members about my struggles.
Being different is not something I chose, it is just something that simply is. Battling the social stigmas surrounding Bipolar Disorder was not something I had been prepared to do. It was something that came with the territory. I wasn’t going to let adversity get in the way of my living a fulfilled life. I began to dream of a life where my diagnosis didn’t define me, a life that allowed me to laugh and enjoy the company of others. Where I could handle the natural turbulence of life without getting completely derailed. Allowing myself to dream of something more was one of the fundamental things that paved the road to my recovery.
After much self-discovery I came to the realization that things were simply always meant to be the way they were. There was nothing I could do to prevent the tidal wave that is mental illness, but there is a great deal I can do to repair the devastation it left in the aftermath of its path. I began to see my disorder as a gift. I had a story to tell, one that could make a difference in the lives of others. Rebuilding and maturing in spite of my circumstances would make me a stronger more focused individual. I would never know how good life could be unless I knew how bad it could get.
Facing adversity is part of life and doing so has made me a better person. As I stand today I am strong, stable, and looking forward to the future. I have created and non-profit organization called Wingtips for Wellness. It is my hope to share my experiences to help others who suffer from various mental disorders. There is something in each of us that helps heal our wounds, something that keeps us moving. I have faith, faith that good days will come, faith in a higher power and purpose, faith in medicine and research and faith that one day it won’t be as bad. I am a warrior fighting a battle. I have struggled and been beaten till near death to raise awareness. To help others who have no hope.