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Stigma Fighters : Nabilah Safa

The world was spinning again. It was as though I could hear everything and nothing all at once. A constant buzzing of sound. A voice that I didn’t recognize was trying to explain something, but what was that voice trying to say? It was important, very important. Why didn’t they understand? Why was she looking at me like that?
Wait.
I’d seen that look on my mother’s face before. That look of fear– or was it sadness?
The voice stopped, and I realize it was my own.
It wasn’t the first time I had lost my mind.

I sat in the psychiatrist’s office. I’d been running late and this was my first visit so I was even more nervous and although I didn’t realize it, I was in a full blown manic phase. My therapist had suggested I see a new psychiatrist because in the eight years I’d been seeing my current psychiatrist I had been swinging from depression to mania to depression. I was anything but stable. This current manic episode was particularly bad.

As she tried to get me to focus and do a psych evaluation, I asked if she minded if I ate a few dried cherries. I pulled them out of my tote bag all the way explaining that they helped me sleep. That was something I hadn’t had in days. Sleep. That place I secretly ached for, my body begging my mind to turn off just for a little while. But no matter what I’d do I couldn’t fall asleep, besides why should I want to? I had so many great ideas I needed to write down. There was no time for sleep. And the hunger, the constant need for food was so bad that I’d be up at two in the morning hungry for a full meal. I was exhibiting all the classic signs of mania, flight of ideas, extreme hunger, irritation, and this time psychosis, or out of touch with reality. She asked me to bring one of my parents with me to my next appointment. Luckily I was coming out of the mania by then and she was able to get a better psych evaluation and diagnosed me with bipolar disorder type 1. I was 24 years old. I had been diagnosed with bipolar type 2 eight years before and put on medications when I was twelve for anxiety and depression.
Living with Bipolar Disorder makes it hard to trust when ideas are actual ideas or simply mania. I almost live in fear sometimes of the moment my mind begins to have ideas. It’s like all of a sudden I’d feel the need to write, and I didn’t trust that it was true creativity and not just mania. Not that mania didn’t produce creativity, it was just a creativity I couldn’t control. It was creativity that usually ended up not making much sense to me or anyone else later.

I guess one of the hardest things to explain is how much I’m afraid of a part of myself. It’s like a part of me is this monster that has to be kept in a corner, that is always looming in the shadows. And when I’m not being scared of that part of me, I’m afraid of the darkness that weighs me down threatening to drown me, tossing me into a hole. And add to all of this, the overwhelming anxiety that creeps up on me when I least expect it and then bursts, ripping me up into a thousand pieces that I have to put back together.
It’s been three years since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1. Living with Bipolar Disorder has been hard. It’s hard to have to rely on my family and friends sometimes to point out when I might be acting a little differently. I can’t stay up all night with my friends and I limit my caffeine intake because sleep and routine are important. Eating and drinking water is very important because it keeps my medicine levels where they should be. The biggest struggle has been trying to keep a job. Relationships have been even more difficult because if the person is not willing to try and be understanding it doesn’t work. Yet, I’m grateful for all the people in my life that make living that much easier. Who encourage my writing and help me realize that I am able to manage living with bipolar disorder and still have a happy, successful, and full life.

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fbteaI’m a writer, but teach elementary during the day. I also bake a lot of chocolate chip cookies.

You can reach Nabilah on her blog and Twitter

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