I was angry after coming home from Baylor. I was angry about not being at school where I belonged, and although I probably could not have articulated it at the time, I thought it incredibly unfair for God to give me bipolar disorder. A journal entry a few weeks after coming home from Baylor is telling:
Journal Entry 9/8/2011
Hey it’s me 4 years later. Not much has changed except I should be at college and instead I’m stuck at home. Spec-freaking-tacular. Fudge ice cream and cherries spread all over the freaking place. Gosh freaking darn the whole world.
That is verbatim from my journal. Unfortunately it’s the only journal entry I have from my recovery period. I was obviously tormented by not being where I thought I belonged.
However, after gaining distance from that hellacious period, I came to realize what a huge blessing the timing was. This revelation came after a long bout of denial about being bipolar.
I am adamant that I got sick at the ideal time. Let me ‘splain. First, it happened after high school, so I didn’t have to miss school or suffer through explaining my absences. This also meant I escaped the ridicule and questions an episode would have garnered from classmates.
Maybe if it had happened in high school, it would have been caught sooner, but I doubt it. I had a knack for keeping secrets from my parents. Because I was at Baylor when it happened, and thus around mostly strangers, my reputation didn’t suffer as much as it would have if I’d been in high school.
I went a little crazy on Facebook while I was out of my mind, but I’m sure most people didn’t notice my posts were all that erratic. Though, thankfully someone did, and they alerted my dad, which is why he came and got me from Baylor.
Because my episode started the first week of school, I was easily un-enrolled and we got a full refund on the tuition my dad had paid. I ended up not going back to Baylor, which might be the biggest blessing from the whole ordeal (both for my soul’s salvation, and my bank account).
The other benefits aren’t quite as obvious, but they are just as valid.
An episode was inevitable for me. It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when. It happened when it did because of a perfect storm, and short of resurrecting the dead, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I was diagnosed and medicated at 19. Some people with bipolar disorder aren’t properly diagnosed until they are in the 30s or later, and by that time, some people have often grown used to self-medicating with alcohol and/or drugs.
I was lucky in that I was young and properly diagnosed the first go ‘round. I’ve often wondered when an episode would have been triggered had it not happened when I was 19—while I was still relatively unattached from any responsibility. I didn’t have an employer to whom I had to explain anything.
I am sometimes horrified to think my first psychotic break could have happened after being married. How do you explain to your spouse you didn’t know you had a mental illness? If you’ve chosen well, it wouldn’t be marriage-ending, but I’m glad I get to tell my future husband on my terms.
And, God-forbid it happen after I had kids. Again, I’d have to explain it to my husband, and I may not have been fit to care for my own child.
As it is, this illness is largely in my control. I have an awesome psychiatrist, and I know he will take care of me when I do get married and want kids. Huge life events are less likely to unmoor me since I take my medicine dutifully.
I am stuck with this illness, and I’m fine with that. The timing of my first (and only) episode was truly a blessing. And, since it was going to happen one way or the other, I’m glad it happened when it did.
I am truly a better person since being diagnosed and medicated; I still have moments when I’m a complete jerk face, but that is no longer my default setting. I’m not a live wire like I was in high school.
It’s not a stretch for me to say this diagnosis and journey have been two of the best things that have ever happened to me. Losing your mind has a way of humbling a person, and man, did I need some humbling.