Monday, November 18, 2019

It’s Always the Same Story: My search as a person with bipolar illness to find a better ending

Published in Buffalo Healthy Living

It was 1998. I pulled back the top sheet and pink bed cover. As I sat up, I saw a window. I had no idea where I was. Had I attempted suicide? I looked at my wrists. There were no bandages. I rolled over and saw the stash of quarters on my night table. I was in a mental hospital. But why was the cover pink? All the other times the blankets had been white.

The first thing I did was try to get out of there. As I walked down the hall, I saw the nurses’ station. Across from it was an elevator. I pushed the down button. I was wearing my hospital gown. Three nurses appeared. Two held me as the third pressed an injection needle into my thigh. It worked quickly. I remembered the quarters and walked back to get them. When I called my husband, he patiently explained I was receiving ECT treatments which can cause short-term memory loss. I remember counting out loud until succumbing to the anesthetic which makes shocks are painless. My loss of short-term memory had one benefit: I didn’t remember my entire depression.

Upon returning home and unpacking, I saw a blue wraparound skirt with small flowers and a peach suit jacket to match. I walked into the living room where my husband was. “My mother was here,” I declared. I would have only purchased that suit to make my mother happy. I hated blue. The jacket wasn’t tailored enough. He told me my parents had driven from Long Island to Buffalo. I didn’t blame them for wanting to be there, but knew they hadn’t helped. I also realized my mind missed things because of the ECT treatments. Princess Diana had died. I had watched the movie Titanic. I haven’t watched it again, fearing it will spark the memories of that depression. I don’t want to get PTSD on top of bipolar disorder. Some of this is funny. But, mostly it’s the same story.

Now in 2019, I want to advocate against the stigma of mental illness. I remember reading an article about a bipolar woman’s experience. It was eerily similar to mine and made me feel nauseous. Calming down, I realized bipolar illness is a diagnosis like any other. People who have it display the same symptoms. Realizing I was determined to become healthy, and healthier than the woman in the article, I began my quest for a better ending. I am finding it as I begin to tell own my story.

I have been married for 29 years, have two great kids, and two advanced degrees. I realize now that woman’s story is not my story, and, with effective medication and therapy, it doesn’t have to be anyone else’s.

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