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    Posted August 17, 2014 by
    Keokuk, Iowa
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    First Person: Your essays

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    All or Nothing at All


    All or nothing at all...that should be the rallying cry for those of us with bipolar disorder. Many people know it by the term 'manic depressive'.
    To understand the manic (highs) and depressive (lows) aspects of bipolar is important if someone you know suffers from this mood disorder.

    Depressed Behavior:
    This wasn't a problem for me, and for a while I was starting to wonder why I only felt manic all the time. But as of late, I have been battling depression, and it's an awfully dark place. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my worst enemy would be my brain. Unlike a negative voice on a radio that can be shut off, self-loathing thoughts permeate my thoughts at work, at the store…everywhere. I am in such a cloud that remembering the simplest of tasks is more than a chore; it is an insurmountable job. 85% of the day my brain feels like jelly, and my body reacts sluggishly, mimicking the side effects of a muscle relaxer. It's easy to be labeled as a flake or unreliable person, and it takes so much energy and effort simply to exist it's not entirely wrong. Loved ones are constantly disappointed by my actions, and I try to not let it get me down (even though I have spent countless days doing just that). They can't live in my head anymore than I can live in theirs. It's all about perspective and mine is so warped from that of a 'normal' person that I can't relate. The things I forget, averting eye contact, and blurting out nonsensical queries make me seem like a dismissive and uncaring person. But I'm really not.

    Manic Behavior:
    The house gets cleaned, everything is in great shape, and I feel adventurous. All is wonderful, bright, and shiny - the world is full of possibilities. It seems quite logical to finish every life goal in one day, and what's sleep? Taking a chance on anything and everything is done without regard to consequence. It can include the thrill of shoplifting, gambling, sexual encounters with multiple partners, etc. It is no wonder that many of us are labeled as addicts. Many people with bipolar self-medicate with alcohol and drugs to quiet the intense turmoil they feel. It's completely counterproductive, but mental health services are scarce, and sometimes it can take months or years to find the right cocktail of prescription drugs to get the disorder under control.
    Contrary to popular belief - mostly fueled by the media - having bipolar doesn't mean I am a violent person that should be feared and avoided. I don't hallucinate, hear God, or feel the urge to eat puppies. I am not evil because the wires are crossed in my brain. I'm simply unique in my own right. I take my medications faithfully, even though I have plenty of friends that do not. They dislike the way it brings them down, because it is possible to be optimistic and productive when manic. But I fear that raw energy, because it has overwhelmed me before. I know all too well what it is like to climb the mountain and fall off just before the summit. There's no guarantee that you'll come back the same person.
    I myself was diagnosed at the age of 25 after a manic episode that lasted twelve days. Mind you, this was happening as I was a single mom, going to college full-time, working in the admissions office, member of Phi Theta Kappa, and consistently on the dean's list. For ten days I walked around in a complete fog, losing weight, talking nonsense, and nobody noticed. Not sleeping made me extremely paranoid so I would stay up all night looking out the window. That final night before I went to the hospital was the only time in my life I considered suicide. I was THAT scared and the only thing that gave me enough strength to resist was the thought of my son.
    I signed myself into the psych ward - okay, the nurses tricked me into doing it - and they immediately gave me pills and injections galore, but after 48 hours in the hospital I still hadn't slept so my parents had to commit me.
    I don't remember much; I don't even know how long I was in the hospital. However, the nurses later told me that I made them work for their money those first few nights. The doctors told me I had experienced a full-fledged psychotic break.
    I'm glad I was able to get better. I know of people that went off the deep end and never came back. My only regret is that I have lost a significant amount of memories from my childhood all the way through my early 20's. Luckily, I've been keeping a journal ever since the age of 10. Whenever I am feeling a little down and am at a loss for memories, I will read the journals, so I can 'see' and remember a beautiful moment with the people I love. But, sadly, once I close the book and walk away, the memories quickly fade.

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