On July 10th, 2018, at the UMC Psychiatric Clinic in Tucson, I was diagnosed with Type I Bipolar Disorder (manic-depression), and social anxiety disorder.
From about 19 years of age I have experienced lengthy periods of severe depression, interspersed with varying durations of high energy, risky behaviors, extreme paranoia and auditory and visional hallucinations.
You probably didn’t know this about me, and that’s okay, because at the time, I really, desperately, didn’t want you to.
Most of my adult life has been spent trying to appear as strong, stable and competent as I possibly could. I justified my socially unacceptable actions with socially acceptable reasons that fit well in the context of the communities where I existed. I was dishonest in my omission of details regarding what was happening internally, and outwardly projecting an image of everything I had hoped I could be, but wasn’t.
Who I was in relation to others and who I was in my head were two different people, almost entirely.
Last June the person I was on the outside started to break beyond it’s ability to hide what was happening inside. The highs and lows were becoming indistinct. I was increasingly scared, nihilistic, and suicidal. I was more and more confused in social situations, hearing people say things they weren’t saying and responding to them with confusion and anger. I was sleeping only a few hours, waking shortly after midnight with enough energy to circle the house until the sun came up. I was finding it difficult to keep physical tics from manifesting themselves publicly. I started hiding from people. Death became less scary than it appeared warm and welcoming, making things as mundane as driving become dangerous.
Then I saw a doctor.
For the last year I have been on multiple medications, seen multiple doctors, attended what I think is personally, too much therapy (Trish disagrees), and have had recurrent bouts of symptoms as I’ve rapid-cycled through highs and lows and highs and lows.
It has been hard. At times, embarrassing. Consistently isolating.
And it’s that isolating piece that made me want to write about it.
I have been fortunate to have a system of immediate support that many people don’t have. I have a wife who has read book after book so she can understand me better, an insurmountable blessing. A friend and mentor who gives up an hour of his Saturday every other week just to talk, and has for a year. I have health insurance, and access to doctors and treatments that I wouldn’t have otherwise.
This morning, my internal and external self look a lot more like each other than they did a year ago. I have the resources that are allowing me to get better. It’s my hope that in small doses, I can begin to be a kind of resource to others. At the very least, I can be honest.