By Nick Berry
I remember the doctor telling me that I was bipolar.
I had heard this diagnosis from the last four doctors I went to during my low points. I only seek medical help when I am down because I withstand mania much better.
I’m an educated man who knows first hand what a bipolar diagnosis can mean for a person. I teach individuals with emotional disabilities and have seen the extremes that possess them. I slouched in my chair and began to cry. What exactly was going on? I’m a teacher. I have a master’s degree, two of them. I’m a father and a darn good one.
This diagnosis, along with the last four, had to be incorrect. Being told yet again that I was mentally ill finally dug its way from my outside to my inner being and crushed me as if he had told me that I had months to live. However, I had an epiphany at that moment and promised myself and the doctor I would follow his drug regime.
It’s been a decent life since that moment, but the early years of my illness were sickening.
I guess the sadness and sickness of being bipolar comes from 11 years of being put on and off so many medications. The treatment seemed more like torture than something you would do for a sick patient.
At my last hospitalization, the counselor looked at me and said, “You will never make it because your meds aren’t leveled out. Unfortunately, your insurance has told us you must leave today.” I cried and begged but it seemed the only way to stay was to pay out of pocket and I knew I couldn’t do that. I was directed to a psychologist about three blocks from my house.
This doctor was what I would consider a quack.
I brought a family member and friend to verify this fact and verify they did. The doctor gave me two different types of highly addictive benzodiazepines alongside a very nice stimulant.
He told me to do whatever it took to get my ex-wife back. He told me to communicate with her mother. He told me to hop in the car and drive the east coast. As absurd as all this sounds I followed each and every one of his irrational orders which brought me undue heartache and some great manic liberation.
This seemed to be the name of the game. I was to take the meds and endure the side effects.
After telling the doctor of the side effects he would give me a new drug with new side effects. Luckily, the doctor sent me a letter discontinuing his work with me because he stated I missed two appointments. I received this letter shortly after bringing my mother and friend to my appointment. This severance of services was a blessing in disguise despite the horrible withdrawals from the benzodiazepines and speed.
My life has been an interesting one. I used to get severely energetic and elated which I absolutely loved, but everyone around me feared. Usually during my manic periods I would drink to shut myself down or quiet my mind. Drinking did not help my personal relationships; it pushed away my family and friends. I’ve driven cross country on manic bouts and climbed mountains and seen the beauty of this wonderful country. I’ve also been paranoid and accused close friends and family of stealing from me and being out to get me.
The mania has crushed relationships and hurt not only those around me but also myself.
The depression is very irritating because I am an active guy who wants to get out and go. The depression holds blankets over me and refuses to let me venture outside. It is sometimes debilitating. Suicide seems rational and I’m totally disconnected from any human being. I’ve bounced back and forth like this for eleven years.
I’ve been lucky to find a doctor who gave me the oldest solution know to the bipolar community: lithium.
It’s not fancy but it does its job. I’m stable which does not mean that I don’t feel. I do feel but today I am capable of not staying in the feelings too long or allowing the feelings to dictate my actions. I practice deep breathing, yoga, meditation, and am part of a lovely support group. My journey with bipolar has taught me to stay the course and when one solution doesn’t work go ahead and try another one.
Today I am able to live a happy and useful life as long as I attempt to stay in the moment, take my medications, don’t self-medicate, and treat others *with kindness.
I want anyone who struggles with mental health issues to know that they are not alone, even when they feel like it, and that with determination and some dumb luck there is a solution for everyone.
Nick Berry is an amateur writer of poetry and short stories. He is a special needs teacher in a rural, Southern Indiana community. When he is not writing or educating he is spending quality time with his three children Sienna, Everett, and Elijah. They enjoy outdoor adventures and quality snuggling time watching T.V.
Editor: Sherrin Fitzer