I was almost 23. I just finished school and was supposed to start a PhD program in the fall. My life was spinning out of control, I was completely in the thrall of full blown mania. I had over 70 graduate credits under my belt and for the last three years all I had been doing is working on two Master's degrees at the same time, while being a teacher's assistant, tutoring writing and history in the learning lab, cleaning houses and teaching sunday school. In the summer I took classes, lived on campus as a Residence assistant, and taught and tutored SAT prep off campus. I was treated as a peer in my department, and if they saw anything suspect, which some of them did, they just wrote it off to me being ultra creative and one of the budding geniuses they ever saw. Several professors were mentoring me as a protege, and all of them saw me finishing the PhD by the time I was 25, landing a job at some college or university and writing and publishing and teaching. And that was what I wanted for my future too. I had just finished my first novel, and was happy. A major publishing house wanted to publish it. Looking back, the only time in my life that I was ever happy, truly happy was when I was in school. Only one professor, said to me "You're the next Sylvia Plath. You will be a suicide too by the time you are 33".
Yeah, right, I told him. Right along with Anne Sexton and John Berryman.
Then, that April my life started spinning out of control. By the end of the semester, I threw down my dissertation on the English Chair's desk and went back to the apartment I shared off campus with a female roomate and her fiance. And slept for several days straight, waking only to use the toilet. I hadn't been depressed before, never like this. Maybe it was residual from the rape the month before. Though I had thought about suicide before, I never attempted. Not really. At least I hadn't thought so at the time.
I had Tylenol, 50 pills, downing it with a bottle of ice cold vodka and OJ. Gagged a lot, and semi regurgitated, but kept going until the entire bottle was finshed. I washed the glass I had used, put it on the drain board, and tucked myself into bed, with my teddy bear. And fell asleep.
Woke up in the Emergency room of the hospital. The guy I was semi- dating at the time found me, unconscious and unresponsive. Apparently he called an ambulance and I had my stomach pumped. He stayed with me the entire time, but when the admitting doctor told me I *HAD* to go to the psychiatric hospital, he stared down in my blue eyes and told me he could no longer date me, now that I was about to be labeled "crazy" and going to the "nut house", I could keep f***ing him, but we were finished as a couple. This was the first but not the last of the boyfriends I lost because of my illness.
The first doctor in the hospital diagnosed me as unipolar- he was just dealing with the suicide attempt. He put me on Prozac, which had to be stopped after a few days because I literally felt I was crawling out of my skin.
The second doc I saw actually spent time with me and asked the right questions. And then I heard it. Manic Depression. He sugar coated it by calling it Van Gogh's disease. Maybe this would help amielorate the blow must of thought, knowing how much I adore Van Gogh. I don't know. Eventually Manic Depression was out and Bipolar was in. Now I was Bipolar 1.
I never accepted it, though I knew in my heart I was, my brain didn't want to accept it. I took my lithium like a good girl, and did the mandatory blood work required by the doc. And I went through all the other meds I went on, not questioning, just taking because part of me thought if I took these meds it would go away and I would be normal. I would have a normal life and live happy. if I just took the meds and ignored the diagnosis, I would be normal, and my life would be normal. I was the perfect consumer. I didn't question the pills, didn't investigate them, and even though most of them gave me terrible side effects I kept taking them because I just wanted to be normal and thought this would let me lead the life I was meant to live.
My family didn't accept it either, my father telling me to buck up, and try harder. My mother just told me to take the meds, go to the shrink and go to work, and in my spare time date. I got to be quite good at dating, mastering the art of the blind date. But I just didn't feel normal. The meds left me weak, gave me the runs constantly. They never told anyone else there was anything "wrong" with me, and I know this caused a rift in their marriage, my mother believing the meds and hospital stays and much later, ECT would cure me, my father saying there was nothing wrong with me that hard work couldn't cure and I didn't need meds.
And it didn't work that way. All the meds, all the different shrinks, other stays at the hospital, even ECT trying to bring me back to normal. I've lost jobs, lost countless relationships. It's always been the same. Good enough to F**K, never good enough to have children with, should they wind up like me. I tried to ease the hole in my heart and soul by food, but that didn't work. Alcohol made me comfortably numb like nothing else could, but it's been almost 14 years since my last drink.
So here I am struggling. The last year I've had to go a complete overhaul with the med cocktail and at one time I was on 9 different meds in my cocktail at the same time. This past two years alone, I've gone through two psychiatric hospitalizations, one regular hospitalization and one rehabilitation hospitalization from this illness. It's cost me the last year of my life.
All I have is my writing and my cat. I know I will never have a family of my own, or children from my body. I can deal with that, and I am accepting it, but I get so lonely sometimes. Some nights it is so unbearable I just lie in bed with the thought I need to hold and be held so bad I don't think I will make it til the dawn. I don't think I will ever have a relationship with a man again, I have friends who are men, but to have one that I can live with and grow old with, I think that will escape me, much to my chagrin and heart ache.
This illness may have robbed me of a life, but it won't rob me of ME. It won't destroy my soul. I came into this world half dead, backwards, kicking and screaming. That's how I want to leave it. Kicking and screaming, putting up a good fight.