Resenting My Mental Illness—and Managing It from the Inside Out
Living a life of purpose in spite of or because of ~ bipolar disease
I live with Bipolar Disorder type I.
This was a recent diagnosis, but I’ve had mental health issues from the majority of my life. Since I was 15 years old I have had severe panic attacks, which included vomiting, shaking, and fear of dying. I literally believed I was dying the first time I had a panic attack.
After that first incident, I lived in fear of having another life altering panic attack.
Unfortunately, I would have several more panic attacks before I made the difficult decision to go on antidepressants at age 18. I was a hard decision to make, but I knew that it was best for my mental health.
I would go through cycles of feeling extremely anxious and then fall into a deep depression. It was hard to figure out which way was up or down at times. I knew that I was frustrated with my brain and I couldn’t seem to “fix” myself. I went through periods of rage at my mental illnesses. I just wanted to feel “normal” and I intuitively knew that this wouldn’t happen for me. I was right in the end, because my diagnosis changed when I was 37.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type I, and it was both a surprise and not a shock at the same time.
After I had my daughter, I started to experience two-week-long periods of pervasive insomnia, where I would only sleep one to three hours a night. I thought this was a part of having an infant. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I wrote about experience with postpartum psychosis here. I hallucinated due to lack of sleep and I had overwhelming bouts of anxiety and paranoia. At the time I was 32, and still I didn’t know what was “wrong” with me. I eventually got through that episode but it took therapy and medication changes to help me heal and fully recover.
Five years later, I had a six-year-old and a nine-year-old. Due to an incredibly stressful life event, I was triggered and started to feel (ironically) euphoric. I felt like my whole body was sparkling and I could do anything I wanted to do. I wrote a cohesive book proposal within two hours and sent it to a literary agent. I was on top of the world…or so I thought. As it turned out, this was a manic episode. I know this, because I felt the crash so hard it was as if I was hit by a bus.
I found myself curled up on my daughter’s twin bed crying, not knowing what was wrong with me.
I called my psychiatrist and told him what was going on. He said “Sarah, this is mania. I need to see you in my office as soon as possible.” My medications were changed yet again. After a couple of weeks I started to feel better, but those few weeks were rough.
Now that I know that I have Bipolar Disorder type I, I feel differently about living with mental illness. For a while, I didn’t want to talk about it. But, as people living with mental health issues there are time when we need to talk.
And there are people (your friends and family) who want to hear your concerns. Even if they don’t necessarily “get it” they want to be there for you, so let them.
The issue I am currently having is that I resent my mental illness.
I hate that I have to manage highs and lows. I despise the fact that I’m moody and sometimes I don’t even understand why I feel a certain way. There are some days that I truly wish that I didn’t have a mental illness. There are many days (in fact) that I just want to be “normal” and “neurotypical.” I just want some relief from the burden that mental illness packs in its suitcase and puts into my brain.
Then again, there are days when I see my mental illness in a different light. If I didn’t have Bipolar Disorder, I couldn’t empathize with other people so well. If I didn’t have mental health issues I wouldn’t have started Stigma Fighters and done a lot of the wonderful things I’ve done.
Even though I frequently resent bipolar disorder, I know that if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be who I am, and I wouldn’t have done the things that I’ve done in my life. It’s certainly a mixed bag, but I’m still here on this planet and I want to help as many people as I can, and I try to help a new person each day.