be forewarned, this post is lengthy.
I’ve been keeping this secret of sorts and it’s been eating me alive. It’s also a great point of personal shame. I’m living with Bipolar Disorder, type 2 to be exact.
The fucked up thing about BP is that there isn’t really a “nice” way to find out you’re afflicted. There’s usually some huge moment in your life where shit just falls off the rails… now that i’ve been diagnosed, I often look back over the past few years and i say “damn, I should’ve known/seen it coming”
Let’s take a trip back in time.
Spring 2011 was a pretty good time for me. I was dating a woman whom I loved (in fact, i’m still in love with her. Which is probably not good for me. But that’s for another day). We had a small crisis but it made me realize that she was someone whom i could see in my life forever. In fact, I felt so in love that I thought my heart would explode. It was an overwhelming feeling.
The school year ended and I’d found funding for a really cool research project for the summer. I had taken out a student loan also so i had a little bit of disposable income. Life was good. One day at the end of June my advisor emails me saying we need to talk. We meet and he informs me that I’m being effectively dismissed from my PhD program. I felt like a kangaroo had kicked me in my gut. I was crushed. I went back home and told my girlfriend, she was her supportive and optimistic self and said that everything would be alright. I had my doubts.
The school year starts and I’m in a frenzy to find a job for after graduation (they allowed me to stay for a year to find a job). And every day my stress level grew higher and higher. It was too the point where it was causing me physical pain. I couldn’t sleep at night, the nightmares were rampant. I was afraid of what would await me every time i closed my eyes. My solution, as it had been many times in the past, was alcohol. Johnny Walker Black to be specific (an uppity alcoholic, the nerve!) I would buy it by the handle and drink until i passed out every night.
My girlfriend tried to be supportive but I don’t think she truly understood the depths of my sadness. She was trying to encourage me but it just didn’t work. The more i saw her the more I felt like a failure. I wanted to build a life with her but with no job, i felt worthless. I was a man without a plan, aka a piece of shit, in my mind.
Subconsciously (or consciously?) I started to push her away. It seemed like all of our talks about the future turned into arguments. I felt like I was purposely trying to say things to make her break up with me. I just wanted her away from me. She wasn’t the cause of my problems; but I felt like the ship was sinking and I didn’t want to take her down with me. So one day I called her over and said those fateful words: “I’m not in love with you anymore”. She cried, and it hurt me, deep. But all i could think was “at least she’s free from me”. I felt some sort of relief, I was the only man left on this sinking ship.
Then it happened…a fellow classmate in my PhD program committed suicide. I was at Cornell University, suicide was almost “regular”. But this made me realize the path that I was on. Suicide had crossed my mind almost daily at this point. So I decided that the following semester I was going to get help.
Right before Christmas break I went out drinking with my frat brothers (yes I was 26 hanging out with undergrads). I was feeling good. I don’t know if i’d say i was “happy” but i definitely felt like taking some risks. I decided that night to smoke some hashish that some White chick had. I’d never been so high in my life. The high feeling overwhelmed me and I started to panic. I just needed to break free. I decided I would walk home. It was 3am.
I walked across the footbridge above one of the many gorges in Ithaca. This crazy kind of clarity came over me. I asked myself: “What is my life worth? What’s the point of living when everything ends up bad?” I put my foot up on the fence, I was ready. It’s wasn’t so much that I wanted to die, as much as it was I was tired of living. Cornell recently installed these fences on the bridges to keep people from jumping. I’m not sure I would be here if they weren’t there.
Frustrated, I walked home. I was just so angry. I was raging, except all the rage was directed internally. I punched the brick wall of my building until my knuckles bled. I walked into my apartment and destroyed it. Then I saw my friend, my bottle of scotch. I took it to the head. But i knew booze alone probably wouldn’t do the trick. I had some sleeping pills in the bathroom…i filled up my hand with pills, forced them in my mouth, and washed them down with Johnny Walker. I got in my bed fully clothed. I prayed for God to forgive me and I fell asleep.
Obviously, I didn’t die. In fact I woke up the next day feeling great.
I went home to Atlanta for Christmas and had a blast. It was as if i couldn’t feel any better. I was spending money left and right, doing whatever made me happy. It felt like I was chasing a high. But it felt amazing. I hadn’t felt this happy in 6 months.
When I got back to school I went to counseling. They put me on anti-depressants but they didn’t seem to work. All i knew was that I felt empty and alone and I was longing for the woman I loved. I eventually swallowed my pride and asked her to take me back. Eventually she did. My life appeared to be back on track.
A few months later I found out I got into business school. I was ecstatic. I had been sad and stressed leading up to that moment but it was nothing compared to what I had experienced before. Long story short, I went on another binge and spent almost all the money I’d saved up for a move. The shame came again. I broke up with my girlfriend for a second time. We were going to different cities and I felt that she deserved better than me. In fact, I still do. About a week or so later I left for North Carolina.
It got really bad in North Carolina. I had no money and no friends. All i had was time to think and to hate myself. I knew the path down which I was headed. I knew it would be bad. I managed to survive until the school year and I got up the courage to go see a psychiatrist. Initially he put me on some anti-depressants (again). But they really just made me sick. I e-mailed my ex-girlfriend and told her how I felt (I was literally dying without her). She came to visit me and things were on the up-and-up. But then…I started experiencing things i’d never experienced before. One day i was washing dishes and all of a sudden my mind started racing. The easiest way to describe the feeling is those old TVs with the broken v-hold, where the picture just keeps scrolling up and down the screen. Yea, imagine that. But now imagine all the images on the screen are bad thoughts and they’re just flying through your head.
I didn’t think anything of it at first but then it happened to me when I was driving. That was really really scary. It was almost as if i couldn’t see the road or realize that I was driving. All i could “see” were the images running through my mind. When it stopped, i realized I lost 10 minutes of time but I was still operating my vehicle safely. At that point i went back to my shrink and told him what was happening. We talked over the course of some weeks and i realized that it wasn’t the first time the racing thoughts had happened. It usually happened when I was in bed, so i just assumed it was my mind flashing potential dreams or something.
Long story short, I went in to see him and he broke the news to me. “Jeremy, I believe that you are type 2 bipolar”. I almost started crying. He said it so casually, he even had his feet kicked up on his desk! I’m in full panic mode but I’m trying to keep calm. “The good news is that this is something that you can live with. You can still have a normal life” WTF does he mean i can have a normal life?! He just told me I was crazy! He gave me some medication that was supposed to help stabilize my moods as well as help me fall asleep. And at $50/bottle I was praying that it worked.
I was devastated. I didn’t tell anybody for a few days. In fact most of my closest friends don’t even know. Eventually, I reached out to the one person I trusted and whose heart I trusted. If anybody could handle this it was her. It was in fact her kind heart that made me fall in love with her in the first place. I told my “girlfriend” (previously referred to as my ex). Her response was ” So does this mean we can’t have children?”
Her concerns were valid. Her question was a serious one to consider. Kids are really important to her. But no matter what I carry that experience with me. I was looking for words of comfort but instead I received a fearful, albeit honest, reaction. I’ve been living in fear ever since.
I’ve told a few more people since that day. The reactions have been positive. But none of those people are close to me. None of them have to live with me or interact with me daily. None of them were in love with me. Of course it’s easy for them to say “oh that’s fine. I’m glad you shared that with me”. They don’t have to see me if they don’t want. And all of the people, live far away. I’ve told some people who I do see/interact with regularly, and if I were to say they didn’t treat me differently I’d be lying.
But honestly, I’m tired. I’m tired of having to live in fear. I’m tired of being afraid to trust someone. Tired of being afraid to get close to someone. I just don’t care anymore. If you think I’m crazy. So be it. All i can do is manage myself. I realize a mental health issue is too much for some people. Shit, I could be single forever. But no matter what, I will NOT live in fear anymore. Every week I see a professional to help me understand this illness, and every week it gets better. Now I can see when the swings are coming. I can more easily recognize the triggers. And maybe one day I won’t need medicine anymore. But until that day comes. I will continue to live. I will continue to love (even if heartache and heartbreak feels like it’s going to kill me).
So there you have. J-Full is crazy. Judge me if you want. It won’t make it go away.
If you got this far thanks for reading.