This week marks the seventh anniversary of my bipolar diagnosis. I consider August 21st my bipolar birthday because it is the first night I went without sleep, which caused the storm that followed.
(You can find a more detailed account of that story here.)
Some people find it odd that I celebrate my bipolar birthday, but it isn’t so much a celebration as an acknowledgement of how far I’ve come.
Seven years without another episode.
Seven years of diligently taking medicine.
Seven years of being anal retentive about sleep.
Seven years of exploring my own moods and discovering how anything and everything affects them.
Seven years of undulating moods.
Seven arduous years of becoming a better person.
My episode and ensuing diagnosis acted as a type of rebirth for me. I’m not saying that to be melodramatic, I really believe it gave me a much-needed kick in the pants.
I was an asshole growing up. I would pick fights with my family members for no apparent reason, and I usually didn’t apologize. I inexplicably loved getting into yelling matches with my sister, and I hated doing anything remotely helpful for my brother.
I felt like it was me against the world, which made me angry and resentful. I had a chip on my shoulder for some reason, and everyone in my wake had to be punished in one form or another.
Losing my mind humbled me. I can still be a jerk, but my default mode is no longer set at asshole.
I have some unresolved anger, but I no longer go around making everyone else miserable because of it.
The first couple of years after my illness, I was still trying to find my footing, especially concerning my medicine and sleep. Being bipolar, my moods revolve around my medicine and my ability to sleep.
Sleep was hard to come by six months after my diagnosis. Before I got sick, I could fall asleep anywhere at any time. I could function on five hours of sleep, no problem (this is how I managed to accomplish what I did in high school).
When I was recovering, I slept like the dead. Partly because I was so medicated, and partly because my mind was recovering from close to eighty hours without sleep.
Once I went back to school—not Baylor—in the spring, though, I started having trouble falling and staying asleep. My psychiatrist prescribed me some sleep medicine, but it only worked if I also took Benadryl.
This combination resulted in me being an absolute zombie in the mornings. I proceeded to gain about fifteen pounds because I didn’t have the time or energy to exercise. This was not good, and I was miserable.
I randomly and accidentally discovered that exercising at night helped me sleep wonderfully without any sleeping pills. That changed my life, and I quickly got in the routine of exercising for about twenty minutes before bed, and then waking up early to exercise again in the morning.
Thiscombination helped me shed a lot of weight pretty quickly. Though, I didn’t get back down to my pre-Baylor weight (not the biggest deal because I was extremely skinny and probably incredibly malnourished before going to Baylor).
I still have moments of being a jerkface, usually in the form of passive aggressive behavior, but I’ve come a long way in that arena in the past three years or so.
I (usually) feel pretty good about who I am as a person now. I’m not nearly has selfish or abrasive. I am more patient, and my temper isn’t quite as volatile. I can lose my cool pretty quickly, but I no longer hold grudges indefinitely.
I am one thousand times better at apologizing after I’ve wronged someone. I even apologize in person. It’s still hard for me, almost physically painful, but I recognize the value of a sincere apology.
Some of my growth could probably be attributed to maturity, but I think my illness brought with it some much-needed humble pie. I’ve made some really good friends who have also helped me grow.
It’s weird, but I am thankful for my illness. More specifically, I’m thankful I got diagnosed relatively early in my life. I’ve had a lot of time to figure out where I fit in the world (though, this is a work in progress), and I’ve been able to do it without having to worry about a husband or kids.
I am grateful to my parents and friends who have supported me through this journey, and those who will continue to walk with me on the sometimes-tumultuous road that is bipolar disorder.