life with my disorder (part 3)

Welcome to the final installment of my journey thus far. It’s been awhile in coming, I know, but here it is.

Around this time after graduating, my dad was beginning to interview for a job 600 miles away from where we were living. I began to prepare for my first quarter at a state college, while keeping in mind that there was a very good chance our family would move by the end of the year. I continued having appointments with my doctors, and I kept up with my medications. Unfortunately, a mixture of the lack of the intense exercise of cross country and taking certain medicines, I began to gain weight. Weight has been a problem ever since.

I really don’t remember much of that summer but I do remember when I began college. I decided to take four classes, which was probably ambitious considering everything. I actually started the quarter fairly well though, and began to talk to classmates and make potential friends. Then my boyfriend broke up with me. I really took this breakup hard, and my grades reflected this. However, I was able to finish the quarter with decent enough grades, and our family packed the house in preparation for the move.

Once we moved, I began seeing both a new therapist and psychiatrist. It was scary to put my trust into completely new doctors, and basically have to start again. A few months into the move, I decided to admit myself to the psych ward, with the support of my family and new therapist. It was mostly situational—with the recent breakup and move—but I wanted to make sure I was in a safe place as I began to feel increasingly depressed. This hospitalization was my first time in the adult ward instead of the adolescent. I had a really great roommate, and the rooms as well as the open areas were much nicer than the previous hospital. I learned more strategies to cope with unhelpful thinking patterns, which included black and white thinking, all-or-nothing, and others.

After this, I actually did very well adjusting back into taking classes at community college and settling into living in a new place. I was to continue this for a little over two and a half years. During this time, I changed psychiatrists, and really liked my new one. He introduced me to a therapy group that was much different from my first experience back when I was a teenager. There were six of us (plus the doctor) who would come consistently every week, and we were much more focused and intentional with our meetings. I met with my therapist and we talked about some difficult subjects. While it could be draining and sometimes upsetting, it ultimately helped my mental state.

However, and I know now how bad of a decision this was, I stopped taking my medications. I stopped taking them for about a year and a few months before it caught up with me. I think I stopped for a couple reasons. One because it was a hassle to take medications each day. I felt like I was being held back, needing to remember to take the pills twice a day and order new ones. Two because I was definitely in denial about my condition. I felt like I had exaggerated my symptoms when I was diagnosed, and that everything that had happened so far wasn’t a big deal. That it wasn’t a real concern, and I didn’t need medications to be normal. Yeah, major denial.

I experienced some hypomania during the 2016 fall semester but I didn’t think it would lead to anything. Part of me knew I was emotionally and physically and mentally elevated, but I chose to ignore it. Honestly I enjoyed it, because I got more work done and my brain was functioning on a higher level. I felt more outgoing and independent, while getting great grades in my classes. Then I fell off the deep end.

I went into a full blown manic episode, including psychosis. The police had to be called, and I was taken to the hospital. I don’t remember a lot of that hospitalization, but as I was still experiencing hallucinations and psychotic features, I remember being terrified and paranoid most of the time. I was even put in the quiet room a few times—a room with nothing in it and I was locked in. It was awful. It also seemed like the nurses didn’t care as much about the patients, and there wasn’t much room in the ward at all. When I was released, I remember walking outside and everything feeling surreal. It was like everything was brand new.

Two weeks later I was back in the hospital. This time, I was to be hospitalized for 22 days. Except this time, I was in the hospital I first went to when we moved and it was a much better experience. For most of this hospitalization I was in the ICU. Once again, I don’t remember much. It felt like I was only there for a few days. I grew to love the nurses there and even some of the other patients. I didn’t mind my time there. I have a couple journals filled with scribblings of lyrics and delusional thoughts; apparently I sang a lot throughout my hospitalization. During this time, I began ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) and was put on a myriad of medications, some different than before.

At this point, I am recovering and it’s taking a long time. My ability to read and write has been slowly coming back, although many times I find myself searching for words as I’m talking to someone and I just can’t find it. It’s difficult to converse with people and social situations bring me more stress than they used to. I’m still doing ECT, although I’m tapering off and hopefully will be done soon. Without having classes spring semester, I’m really looking forward to fall semester and learning again.

I mentioned this before in a different post, but it’s beyond frustrating to be limited by my mind and body due to something I can’t control. I fully admit it was my fault that I didn’t take my medications, and I have learned my lesson. However, it feels unfair that I have to deal with this at all. When my family tells me about what happened while I was completely manic, it sounds like I was a different person. It never ceases to surprise me how serious my disorder can be.

While I’m still working through a lot of emotions related to this bipolar disorder, I’m forever grateful to my family, friends, and doctors who worked and continue to work tirelessly to make sure I’m safe and healthy. I know this recovery time won’t last forever and soon enough I’ll be fully back on my feet. I just have to remember.

x

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