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Being Bipolar

Updated: Mar 21, 2020

It's been 5 years since I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I with anxiety attacks and, later on, auditory hallucinations. It has not been an easy road, but today I feel particularly inspired to share my story.


My 6 year old self on the far right.

Ever since I was quite small, I used to see the world differently from those around me. My imagination ran rampant and resulted in my young self becoming a perpetual liar. I so badly wanted the stories in my head to be my reality. I desperately wanted to explain to others how, at times, I could see color radiating off someone, or how reading a book was like a magic portal to another world that I could tangibly see, touch, and smell, and how it would trickle over into the real world.

I used to have large, screaming outbursts with no apparent cause, and understandably, my parents had no idea what to do. I told them it felt like there was an evil version of myself that sometimes took over my body. Many years would pass with these same struggles; the same cycles of projects and creation moving to meltdowns, lies, and the cruelest things I could think to say.

My Freshman year of college.

Fast forward to my Freshman year of college. At this point, I had had an amazing first relationship, which I completely sabotaged, and then proceeded to jump straight into another. My second boyfriend was the sweetest kid you'd ever meet, and I was convinced it was his job to make me happy. When I wasn't happy, something was wrong with our relationship. I really put that poor boy through the ringer. At the same time, I had distanced myself from my two wonderful sisters and had caused such a horrendous fight between myself and my parents, that I had sworn I would never speak to them again. This of course, only lasted a few weeks before I was back to my bright, energetic, and enthusiastic self. And so it went.

Getting my second dog (Mardy pictured left, Rory right).

Sticking with my self-sabotaging cycles, I harshly pushed my boyfriend away and out of the picture. I had gotten my dog, Rory, when we were still together, and just before our final days as a couple, my 19 year old self decided to add another dog, Mardy, to my already overflowing plate.


Me at the height of my worst manic phase.

I have to warn you now, this next chapter is full of stupid and dangerous decisions. It will absolutely contain mature and possibly triggering content. I'm not ashamed of this time in my life, because had it not gotten this bad, I wouldn't have been diagnosed when I was. However, I truly hope that if you are bipolar or suspect someone you love is, that you'll have the courage to speak up before their life gets to the whirlwind of bad decisions mine was.

This is actually quite difficult to write, but I know it needs to be said... So here it goes.

I was single and twenty years old. I had been accepted into a prestigious and rigorous Bachelor of Fine Arts program for Acting and was drowning in school work. I was living in an apartment I absolutely could not afford and am shocked animal services hadn't taken away my dogs. I was working five different jobs at the time trying to make ends meet while going to school. I would lock my two pups on my all-cement, no-shade-what-so-ever back patio in 100 degree weather because I knew I would be gone all day and didn't want them to poop in the apartment. They had a plastic kiddy pool. I had purchased it to be their water and a way to cool off, but changed the water so infrequently, it was often a green puddle. I would pick up the turds scattered throughout this area once every couple of weeks, so there was practically no place for the dogs to lay without being in their own shit. I honestly think they might have died out there had it not been for my extremely kind neighbor running a hose from his yard, stretching it over my fence, and watering my babies. At the time I was outraged that he felt the need to "help". I didn't need help, and neither did my dogs. But we so did.

Me and my sisters.

Poor is putting my financial situation lightly. After rent and bills, I often didn't have any more money. There were several times where the dogs and myself had to share a single jar of peanut butter for the week, because I wouldn't be paid for another 7 days. Picture, if you will, two adorable 10 moth old puppies staring at you on day four of all three of you having nothing but a few spoon fulls of peanut butter to eat; only now you are rationing down the amount they get because you don't know if the remaining peanut butter is going to make it to pay day. Yes, I could have asked my parents for help. I did occasionally, but I was so prideful and stubborn, I didn't want anyone to know how bad things were.

Sleep. Ah, sleep. At the time I was convinced I only needed a few hours and by a "few", I really do mean 3. A long night's sleep would equate to about 5 hours. I would stay up into the hours of the morning working on my next grandiose project, doing a whole term's worth of work in one night, or binging Netflix on my laptop. I also woke up when the sun did and would go for a run. Mind you, I'm not a runner. Up to this point, I was an occasional exerciser at best. I wanted to tire-out my destructive puppies, and became completely obsessed with being "skinny". We started by doing 5 mile runs and quickly rampped up to 10+. We would run in the morning, then in the afternoon, then again at night. We ran so much, I wore the pads off my dogs' feet.

I hardly ate. Vegan food was expensive and rather than eat a McChicken, I ate nothing. I honestly never even felt hungry, and would force myself to eat only when I was getting light-headed.

I had a lot of unprotected sex. I'm sorry if this section bothers you. I did warn you at the beginning, and this is an important piece to my story. I wasn't just sleeping with men without using a condom, I mean I wasn't on birth control either, lying about it, and playing Russian roulette with Plan B. I had three different partners at the time, and it is truly a miracle I didn't end up with an STI, STD, or pregnant. I was a complete slave to sex. I felt like I needed it. Like it was the only time my head was clear and my thoughts quiet. I knew what I was to these men, a booty call, but at the time, my desire and self value were so low, I didn't care. One night, my mother was sleeping on my couch. She was graduating from her masters program the next morning and I couldn't go due to work. I snuck out of my own apartment that night to take her car to go pick up one of my guy's from the bar and go back to his place. The next morning I tried to play it cool, but the concern in my mom's eyes was heartbreaking. She saw how little I valued myself, and it broke me.

Me and my coworkers at the annual Underwear Parade (an AIDS cure fundraiser).

Not too long after, my lease was up, and in a moment of clarity I agreed to move home until I could find a roommate to split the financial burden of pet-friendly-rent. I had bought a bag of dog food and proceeded to leave it in the living room while I made cookies. My mom offered to take it back to my room for me. I quickly told her, "No, I'll do it."

"It's okay, you're in the middle of something, I'll just take it back to your room for you." She picked up the bag and I snapped. I slammed the cookie tray I was holding down onto the counter and ran to grab the dog food from my mom.

"Whoa, what's going on?"

"Nothing, give me the damn dog food."

"No, we need to talk about whatever this is."


I grabbed it out of her hands and tried to move past her. She wouldn't move.



"I SAID MOVE!" I was shoving her as hard as I could, but she wouldn't stop holding her ground. So I slapped her. I slapped my loving, caring mom right across the face. My heart stopped at what I had just done. I was a monster.

"I'm so sorry mom. I don't know-"

"It's okay." She wasn't even mad. I stormed outside sobbing. What kind of vile human was I that my mom wasn't even mad at me for hitting her.

A few days later, my mom came to me with a printed check list: Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder. She said I checked almost every box.

"Thanks mom. But I was just having a bad day. I don't have Bipolar Disorder."

A few days after that my dad took me out to coffee. He handed me a handwritten letter and began to cry. Almost everyone in his family had suffered from mental illness. My aunt was Bipolar and had committed suicide when I was in middle school. My grandmother had constantly moved my dad and his siblings from place to place, because she heard voices that told her it wasn't safe. My great grandpa was institutionalized for believing himself to be Jesus. My dad sat there sobbing as I read his letter.

"I'm so sorry. This is my fault. I gave this to you."

Even 5 years later, as I write this passage, the tears flow down my face. It's not my dad's fault. But the reality is, the genetics are from his side of the family. The immeasurable pain on my father's face that day still hits my heart. In his eyes I could see he knew my life would be forever different, forever more difficult. I could see his guilt and fear of losing me the way he lost his sister. I agreed to go see a doctor.


I had a diagnosis, but was still lost.

I'd like to tell you this next section get better. It does... eventually. I had started taking Lithium, a mood stabilizer, and moved back to my college town. The initial side effects of Lithium are almost unbearable: nausea, aches, drowsiness, lethargy, hot and cold flashes. However, I instantly noticed a difference in the way I was treated. People wanted to talk to me. People started smiling at me. It was enough to keep me wanting to get better.

I turned to my mom to lean on during this time. She would text and later on called 3 times a day to ensure I was taking my medication. I would call her at any time, day or night if I was spiraling. I would be sobbing over the phone to her and she would coach me though the next steps: go drink a glass of water, run around the block ONCE, take a hot shower, and call her when I had finished these tasks. It helped. It helped so much. I wasn't suicidal per-say, but I did wish something terrible would happen to me to put me in the hospital and make my world stop for a while. Without the full support of my family, I don't think I could have made it though. My mom was my life raft. I only wish I hadn't caused her so many anxiety attacks going through this season in my life.

One year after my diagnosis.

I was making strides in my self awareness and coping mechanisms. I had figured out a few things:

Things that helped:


-wholesome food

-being consistent with my medication

-hot baths

Things that triggered the heck out of me:

-too much exercise

-eating to be "skinny"

-money troubles


Unfortunately, I didn't stay away from my triggers. In fact I jumped on to them full-steam regularly, which landed me in the most unhealthy relationship of my life. At the time I truly believed no one would love a Bipolar person like me. In the words of my ex, "When you're good you're great. When you're bad, you're terrible." Which is how I found myself the committed girlfriend of a man who thought it was funny to call me fat and crazy. His humor of putting me down lead to emotional and some physical abuse. No, he didn't hit me, pushed, but never hit. Were there times I was genuinely afraid for my safety? Absolutely. But the mental games, those were the worst. My disorder was used against me in every fight and my struggles and triggers tossed back into my face. "All of your exes most likely cheated on you." "If I wasn't here, you'd be totally lost." "Well, you definitely don't look the way you did when we first started dating Chubs." I know I contributed to the abuse cycle as well. I'm sure I said and did extremely hurtful things too. Eventually, I had to get my mom to help me leave him. She had to sit in the car while I got my things otherwise I wouldn't have left. We both knew because I had tried multiple times before.

I wish I could say that was the end of it. But I went back to him several times. We weren't always necessarily together, but it took me a while to get that notion out of my head, and even longer to stop sleeping with him.

My mom was my life raft.

Truthfully, there's so much more to tell, but perhaps I'll save it all for a book one day. Just know, the self and relationship sabotage didn't stop. Friends, family, strangers, I took them all down with me. I was angry at myself and the world for the relationship I had been in, so I ate my feelings. I ate them in droves. And then I'd puke. I'm purge away everything I had eaten. I thought I deserved the pain. I deserved to be miserable. I was a worthless, unlovable human anyway.

I gained 50+ lbs and began to have auditory hallucinations. It had been 3 years since my diagnosis; I had graduated college, but felt completely lost in my life.

Coincidentally enough, the person who had been so destructive to my mental health, was also the one who found my salvation. He had done a water drinking challenge hosted by a mutual friend of ours from college and told me I need to reach out to this girl about her fitness coaching. He told me it was totally my kind of thing. He was right.

My friend Chelsey introduced me to a world of health and fitness surrounded by positivity, kindness, and love. I was suddenly surrounded by women who had accomplished amazing things while battling everything from addiction to abuse to mental health issues. I began reading personal development books and learning how to fall back in love with myself. I started losing the extra weight and repairing mental damages. I began to dream again. I applied to several master's programs and was accepted into a school in New York City. Similarly, I got a job that summer, down in California, teaching playwriting to children. I was meditating and saying affirmations to myself daily. I was finally starting to feel in control of my life.

By the way, my dog Rory, ended up becoming my service dog, but that's a story for another time.

I moved to California 4 years after my diagnosis. I had decided to stop taking all of my antiphychostics and mood stabilizers. It was a scary choice, but the right one for my personal health journey. I worked to fix the damaged relationships I caused in the past. Some, like my sisters welcomed this seemingly "new" me. Others, like friends from college, have never truly accepted my change and have fallen out of my life. All I can do is continue to try to be a kind, loving, and stable version of me.

I fell in love with the Bay area and decided to stay and continue working for the theatre company I had been working for that summer.

Me in California vs me a year prior.

Now, onto year 5 after being diagnosed, I have a wonderful life. I make my mental health a priority by eating well and exercising. I have people who are my safety nets checking in on my when they think I'm swinging. I'm in the healthiest relationship of my life and learning to push myself to make new friends and try new experiences. I do my best to acknowledge my triggers but I now know, I am in control. I can feel the emotions and episodes my disorder causes, but it doesn't mean I have to act on them. The journey, I've realized, truly never stops. But you have to keep going, keep working at it, keep pursuing your best self. I honestly cannot wait to see how far I'll go in another 5 years. Please remember, there is hope. You can do this. You are not alone.

Me today.

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