By Christina Pellegrino
This article is part of a series that will follow my journey through bipolar disorder. I will be reporting in a journal format to record things as they happen, so others can organically see what is really going on inside during this painful journey. My hope is that in sharing this with others, we can expose bipolar disorder for what it is and open up about our experiences to help us cope with the pain it causes.
Part One: Written in pain July 15, 2017
Living with bipolar, I don’t even have words for it. First of all to get diagnosed “officially” took 10 years. I have to suffer with the one thing people really can’t understand- the brain. So much of it is a mystery. I’m just a guinea pig trying to survive. To be willing and have tried everything and yet here I am. It doesn’t matter. I can’t control it. It is stronger than I am and I have to accept that fact. Everyone watches and can feel bad, feel some of it, but nobody knows what it’s like. We are all individuals. Even others who experience this, they are still their own person. They’ll present differently. Not all the same. It’s just so isolating and really makes me question what the hell am I even alive for? To suffer and suffer and wait for help. And try and fall and try and fall. It’s not pretty. It’s so ugly. And it’s this internal battle no one can even see. So forget about actual life events happening beyond this. It’s so scary. And I don’t even know.
The up — reflection
Thinking I had it all under control. Accepting every month or so I’d have my few ‘down days’ but then they’d pass and life would go on. Yes this was hard but it became my norm, my pattern that I semi accepted and thought I could, in my own efforts toward wellness, continue to improve.
I can remember the months where it was like wow, I’ve evolved to the next level. It was mid Feb-April, I felt I had this thing under control. I felt so in tune with myself. I was so mentally strong. I had this confidence, this comfort in myself. I seemed to know my boundaries, understanding April would be a busy social month. And I did amazing at the various social functions — 100th birthday, rehearsal dinner, wedding. I attended all and did so well. Finding out I was going to be a godmother gave me a new purpose in life. I started planning the shower as though it was my own job. It was exhilarating, until the crash in May. Like a knife to the heart, I didn’t see it coming.
The down —reflection
The first day I wasn’t so concerned, nor the second, third or fourth. But when a week went by and the depression didn’t lift, I knew “something was up.” My alarms went off. I was bedridden, so sickly, hating life, heavily depressed — for weeks. So much that it even affected my dog’s anxiety level. The pain I can never quite describe. Like my brain is being strangled. I waited a month for it to pass, but it didn’t. My life came to a standstill. I was devastated. It was time I seek treatment even though I always said, “no more meds, no more docs” — well it was time to say “no” to all my no-more mentality, and be evaluated. For something is wrong, again.
Bipolar Disorder Diagnosis
By the recommendation of my therapist and some online research, I found a new psychiatrist in NJ. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to properly articulate my last 10-year mental health battle accurately. But she had no problems understanding and giving me a diagnosis of Bipolar 2. My 1st real official “This is what you are’” diagnosis (from my recollection at least). It wasn’t really ever fully understood or officially labeled in the past. And as I got this diagnosis, things changed. How I saw my behavior, where I’d gone into that hypomanic state with no sleep for two to three days and beyond creative. I could recall this happening throughout the years. Those months I thought “I got this.” I totally had periods where I was a bit above my baseline — I am still discovering what that is. Being a perfectionist, I always thought the hypomania was just my personality, but now it’s all a bit blurred. And so treatment begins.
Treatment — 1st couple months
Up, down, and all around. On a new mood stabilizer, adjusting doses, lowering another medication and then stopping it, still taking two medications for my extreme anxiety. I feel like I am being run by pills, and I kind of am. But I have to be ok with it. Something in my brain’s chemistry is not regulating and boy do I need the help. I accept it, though it has been painful. At night I just question what am I even doing here? When will I ever be right? Who am I? The thoughts can be so distracting, so ridiculous but my head holds onto them, like they are so real. Somehow I am this defective person that got misplaced in the world. Like I don’t fit, with anyone else, not even myself. I’m just here. Feeling broken. Having moments of relief but then overtaken by depression and anxiety. All the lines are blurry. I feel like I’m failing. Will I get better? Am I getting better? Well it all depends which one of me you ask. I’m different people or so it feels. Different traits, talents, outlooks — all depending which mood has switched on. I could be so deep and dark or so light on life.
And then I try to function, to be “a part of life’” and it just brings more pain. I watch the world like I’m not even really a part of it. It’s very isolating and makes me want to retreat and hide away even more. It brings about more thoughts — seeing people participate in life, have joy, have normal stress, have normal emotions — be functioning through them, while I’m there struggling. And I don’t really know what anyone else’s life may be like, maybe they’re struggling too, but my head won’t tell me that. My lens paints a beautiful color for everyone else and casts a dark storm cloud over myself.