Growing up I was a miserable kid. I didn’t think anyone liked me and it made me feel like I lived in a bubble, not able to fit in. I felt isolated. Alone. That bubble is still with me today. Fortunately I don’t live in it anymore, but it still engulfs me now and then. Having bipolar disorder, I believe it will always be there, hanging out in my back pocket, waiting to make me feel alone and sad.
When I reached high school my brain wouldn’t stop telling me I was no good. I sought solace in alcohol. A lot of alcohol. I went to a lot of parties, yet I felt snubbed. I was certain that friends were having parties and weren’t telling me. I knew no one liked me. When I ran for senior class president, I ran against two of the popular kids, and I won, yet I was still certain nobody liked me.
Most of the time I felt depressed, but had moments of erratic behavior as well. A few times I walked around the neighborhood naked in the middle of the night. Other times I’d open my bedroom window that had a bee hive right outside. I’d let them fly in so I could study them. I would also be awake for days at a time, many times to the point I’d hallucinate.
As I got older I continued with the depression and odd behavior. My job required that I move frequently, and different doctors across the country diagnosed me with depression. They would prescribe me medication, but I never stuck with them. My drinking got worse and I eventually destroyed a great career as a result.
In 2003 I tried several times to stop drinking and on December 7th, 2003 I had my last drink. I’d had enough. I’d been sleeping on peoples couches and was incapable of finding a job. I was sober enough to see the damage I’d done, but didn’t know what to do about it. My mentally ill brain was still spinning out of control and I wanted to curl up and die. While everyone struggles in early sobriety, mine seemed especially difficult.
The following summer I realized I wasn’t going to die and decided to take matters into my own hands. A friend caught wind of this, called my A.A. sponsor and they took me to the emergency room at Cedars Sinai Hospital and I was admitted in the psych ward. I needed it. Not having to worry about anything in the outside world and having a warm bed to sleep in suited me just fine.
After 7 days my doctor pulled me aside to tell me I was a textbook case for depression and that I would be on medication for the rest of my life. They expected to release me that day but they were unable to find a county clinic to refer me to. I had already told them that was going to be a problem. On the 10th day an appointment was scheduled for me and I was released. The clinic they located was at the opposite end of the county and was a 6 hour ride roundtrip via bus. I was able to secure medications, but as happened in the past, I eventually stopped taking them. My life really started spinning out of control. I felt hopeless.
About 10 years ago I met, Maurice, who became the love of my life. It wasn’t long after we began our relationship that I hit rock bottom mentally. I would be depressed for long periods and keep the shades dark during the day as I stayed home terrified to go outside. I rarely could leave our apartment. The few times I was able to force myself to go to a supermarket I would run back out the door hyper-ventilating. Inside it was just too much. All the registers, the lights, the conversations, the boxes on the wall were overwhelming and were coming at me all at once. Once again I was back at my old routine and was trying desperately to find a clinic to take me in. Again, I had no luck.
Once more I became suicidal and Maurice and a minister from our church took me to an emergency room. After sleeping for hours on a bench in the psych ward, a doctor came to tell me that she determined I had a safe environment to return to and they were releasing me. I refused to leave and said I would not until she had secured me an appointment with a county clinic that was nearby. She returned later, gave me a number and told me I’d be taken care of.
At the clinic I had a wonderful doctor who treated me for depression, but eventually gave me the diagnosis I should have gotten a long time before. I wasn’t suffering with depression, I had bipolar disorder (manic-depression). All these years the doctors were only treating me for half my problem. That’s why I would stop taking my medications. Anti-depressants alone are not how you treat someone with bipolar. It’s a common mistake actually. Unless a patient walks in the door wildly manic, diagnosing bipolar requires multiple visits over a period of time. A luxury hospitals do not have.
I wish I could say my story wrapped itself up all neatly in a bow like a TV sitcom, but it’s not that easy. I still struggle on many days, but I’m far better off than I was all those many years. I am much happier and I have some balance in my life. Previously I couldn’t see past tomorrow because I wanted to die. Today I have dreams and goals that I want to achieve, not just because I think I’ll live past tomorrow, but because I want to.
Brad was raised in North Carolina and currently lives with his husband, Maurice, in Los Angeles, California. He calls himself a blogaholic because of his obsession writing his blog and his need to read as many blogs as he can. He is 50 years old and has returned to college to get a BA in Religious Studies. His long range goal is to get a Masters of Divinity degree to become a chaplain working in a hospital, hospice care or a university.