I remember growing up feeling like I wasn’t like most people. I used to cry about it, over every little thing. I have always felt it was a huge release for me when I was unable to say my thoughts or express my wishes… a stall tactic if you will. Fortunately, I grew up with understanding parents who supported me unconditionally… always supporting my learning disabilities and delicate nature.
When I was 17 my family moved to Austin, Texas where I smoked herb for the first time, hiding my depression and eventually experimenting with psychedelics. I only did them a handful of times, but I knew that I didn’t like feeling that out of control.
At 19, I was ultimately kicked out of my mom and dads house as I had broken the rules and smoked a cigarette in my mother’s car, later wrecking it almost totally. I lived on my own, but was never really making it successfully. I met a man who was ten years my senior. Over the period of about six months, I moved in with him, relocated to Phoenix, and promptly fell into a very deep depression. No desires to have sex whatsoever. I can clearly remember crawling on my hands and knees, bawling while I vacuumed the floor; so unhappy with this life I was leading, and hopeless that it would never work itself out. I was numb, but I continued forward.
I don’t know for sure, but it’s very possible that this happened during a manic episode.
Then after a year or so, I stumbled upon an opportunity that changed everything and gave me a purpose. I went to culinary school! It was like therapy for me in a way.
I had never cooked professionally, but had always worked in the restaurant scene and done well. It was a proud accomplishment for me because I had done it in its entirety and with little help. Not long after graduation, my boyfriend decided he wanted to move back to Austin for a business opportunity. However, I had been out of love with him for quite some time and I welcomed the chance to go home. So, after starting work in a catering company on UT Campus, I struggled to stay happy with him.
Then, one day, as I was prepping something, I looked up, and I saw this beautiful man walking into the kitchen. My heart skipped a beat. My palms got sweaty, WHO WAS HE?? Turns out, he was my future husband, best friend and kindred spirit. Though we remained friends for nearly a year before becoming a couple, I was absolutely smitten. He was the peanut butter to my jelly. My king. My best friend. And that was something I had never had before.
It was about this time that I had started seeing a psychiatrist again. He had me taking Prozac to curb the depression. While on vacation with my family somewhere in the Bahamas, late one night, I woke from dead sleep and knew there was something terribly wrong. I was awake for 4 days. My thinking became extremely grandiose and while it is a blur now, I was later told I was having my very first manic episode. Back at home, I was chattering and saying things I had no business saying, and it got my ass fired from a great catering gig.
Too much coffee, not enough sleep. And Prozac. I remember sitting with my mom in the doctor’s office when he gave the diagnosis of bipolar 1. I was 22 years old. It was a relief to finally have a “diagnosis” but I didn’t know anything about what I was dealing with. I went to a psych facility in Topeka, KS for about 4 months. Hated it. All they sought to treat was my so-called alcoholism and drug use, not this new diagnosis of bipolar. I was rebellious and uninterested in the twelve steps to hell, and I just wanted some guidance on how to coexist with this thing called Manic Depression. Finally, after requesting an off campus trip to a local Quaker meeting, I succumbed to the clinics wishes and admitted I was an alcoholic. But in doing it my own way, I enunciated that I was only an alcoholic because I DRANK ALCOHOL. I am MY own fucking GOD.
Fast forward. A few years later down the line, my King had moved into my apt with me, I had a good job, and he was going to culinary school himself. We were about to embark on a externship in Vail, CO. Fantastic! Let’s go!
One morning, he surprised me in bed and asked me to marry him! Dumbfounded, I said “Yes!” We were married in 2005, and then two years later moved to Portland, Oregon. We now own a home and have a wonderful 4-year-old daughter, whom we treasure.
After enduring a medically induced manic episode two years ago, I experienced the worst depression I had ever felt. When I checked into the ER, I was practically catatonic and riddled with anxiety. Seven weeks later, after many medication changes and failures, I was finally free from debilitating depression and suicidal ideations. I had given up on myself, the love that I felt for my husband, and my ability to be a good mother. But today, while I still have imperfections, I am happy, content and medicated properly. Life is meant to be lived without regret. I try to do that everyday with every part of my being. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that there is no pamphlet that can summarize how to live with bipolar. You get one life to live and you have to take control and LIVE it, unapologetically.
Jessica lives in Portland, Oregon. She doesn’t work currently, but has worked in the culinary industry before. She has been married for almost 10 years to her king! Together they have one daughter, who is 4.