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Stigma Fighters: Bipolar Hot Mess/Christina Huff

August 24, 2006. Who knew that when I woke up that morning, it would change my life forever.

We all have lots of dates that change our lives. Our birthday, date of marriage, date of divorce, date of graduation, date of children’s births, date of deaths, and the list goes on. Having a mental illness, sometimes it’s hard to remember exact dates. Symptoms can just creep up gradually without us knowing they are symptoms so its hard to pinpoint exactly when the illness starts, or if we had the symptoms all along and just never noticed. We may recall a time frame we started noticing that things were not right, or something was off, for example, our senior year of high school or after a major life event (marriage, death, job loss), but trying to pinpoint an exact date, well, in my experience with my own mental illness, running mental health blogs/websites and meeting others with mental illnesses, an exact date usually can not be recalled. There is one date though that can clearly stand out in our minds; the day we were DIAGNOSED.

August 24, 2006. That was the day I was diagnosed. August 23, I had gone to work as usual, sat in my office trying to focus on my paralegal duties. I hadn’t been feeling like myself for a while, but ever since high school I had always struggled with depression, so I just figured that it was just another wave of depression and would pass. After work I had met up with my boyfriend (whom I was living with) and some friends. My boyfriend and I had an argument and I went home, went to bed, and prepared to wake up and head to work the next morning as usual.
August 24, 2006. I woke up and found that my boyfriend had not come home, but that wasn’t what was bothering me. All I could think about was jumping off the balcony of the 4th floor of our townhome. All that was below was cement and paver bricks. We had no grass. We had no net, or anything soft down there, just plain concrete. I stood on that balcony looking over the edge and just wanted to die. I didn’t care where my boyfriend was. I didn’t care that I had to be at work in 2 hours. I didn’t care that I had two dogs who had been inside all night and needed to be let outside before their bladders burst. I just wanted to jump, or fall, over that railing. Everything was just different that morning. I woke up and instead of feeling tired from a late night out or upset about the argument (as I normally would be), I just walked around in a weird zombie like fashion and just kept going outside on the balcony contemplating my demise. After a few trips out there, I came to the conclusion that something was not right (duh!) and I called the ER for one of the hospitals in Chicago. I explained what I was thinking and they asked me if perhaps going to work would take my mind off things and might help. I looked down at myself, in my pajamas, and decided that I couldn’t even imagine getting dressed for work, let alone getting to the bus stop, then taking the bus to the train, then the train into the office to where I would be spending at least 8 hours in a little office in a downtown high rise, alone with all my thoughts. They transferred me to a suicide hotline. After talking to them with little to no affect, I was told to head to the ER.
August 24, 2006. I got in my car and drove to the ER. I had no idea what was about to happen. I had never been to a hospital for just my emotions. ER’s and hospitals were for people with physical illnesses that needed to be treated, I thought. I walked up to the desk and when they asked what brought me there, I told them the lady on the phone told me to come. They asked why and I casually said, “I want to die. I really want to kill myself.” Immediately, I was taken into a room where a security guard was standing watch, they took my purse and made me change out of my sweatsuit and into a gown (the drawstring on the pants and the zipper on the jacket were potentially harmful). After a while, I couldn’t even tell you how long, could have been an hour, could have been 4, they handed me a form and asked me to sign it. It was a consent form voluntarily admitting myself to the psych ward. I just picked up the pen and signed away not realizing what was to come.

August 24, 2006. They wheeled me through several pedways and a bunch of locked doors that only ID’s could open. I then arrived in the psych ward. I looked around slowly, and immediately regretted signing that paper. I put up a fight. This wasn’t where I was supposed to be. This isn’t what I thought I had signed up for. But, yet, I didn’t even have any idea what signing that form truly meant. Throughout the whole morning, I never imagined what I thought was going to be the end result of going to a hospital because I wanted to jump off my balcony. Turns out, that was the best decision I ever made. At the time I really didn’t think so, I tried to fight it all, threw tantrums, threatened lawsuits, but it truly was the day that changed my life.

August 24, 2006. The day I was diagnosed with Bipolar II. Finally, there was a name for the way I had been feeling and what I had been thinking. At last, someone else was able to confirm that my thoughts and feelings were not normal or just phases in my life. They were actually cycles, the cycles of Bipolar II. As I approach my birthday on Oct 1, and turn 35, I think about how my life would be different if I had not gone to the hospital that day. Would I still be trying to figure out what was wrong with me? Would I still feel like I was wandering aimlessly? Would I be on the medications I am now and would I still be in the same place? Probably not. I also might not have ever tried writing. My first stab at showing the public my writing was writing for a mental health blog, the first mental health group that I had ever joined and had finally given me a whole group of people who were dealing with the same things I was and could relate to me and help me through. That’s when I decided that I wanted to help those that were like me. Now, here I am, blogging and writing and helping others. Its been 9 years and while many things have happened in between, that date is one I won’t forget because that was the day that my whole life changed. I received a diagnosis and was finally able to get the proper treatment to start living a better life inside my head.

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A Chicago native, Christina Huff devoted the first part of her career to the study of law–one of her many passions. She attended the John Marshall Law School after receiving her B.A. and B.S at Southern Illinois University, and spent several years working as a paralegal in several prestigious Chicago law firms.

After a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, Christi began the second part of her career with the zest and passion she gave to studying law. In learning about her own struggles with mental illness, Christi developed a calling and talent for helping others. Her first venture was writing for the website Ask A Bipolar, which then led to becoming the President and Owner of the website. She also blogged monthly for International Bipolar Foundation.

Deciding to expand her blogging formats, she created the website Musings of a Bipolar Hot Mess and a corresponding Facebook page, which started as small gathering of a mental health support community and grew quickly to mega page status with a current following of over 14,000 fans. Now branded as the Bipolar Hot Mess, Christi shares her everyday struggles as an inspiration to thousands to show them that they, too, can find hope in living with a mental illness.

There is rarely a time when you won’t find Christi working on many of her projects she feels so passionate about. Whether it’s writing articles for Ask A Bipolar to creating homemade holiday cards for her Bipolar Hot Mess fans. She currently hops back and forth between Chicago and the West Coast where Christi lives with her boyfriend Jason and with Hot Mess Mom and Dad, Sister Hot Mess, and her beloved dog Prince.

Christina can be found on her blogFacebook and Twitter.  

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  • Jim Buchanan

    I smiled when I read the part about signing the paper. I did that in 2003. I had a little more of an idea what was going to happen, but not really. Like you, it was one of the best decisions in my life.

    • Christina Huff

      I agree. I am so glad I did.