Throughout my life, I’ve been told different things…almost on a daily basis by husbands, friends, and sometimes, family. Phrases include: “Calm down!”, “Cheer up!”, “Quit being so sensitive!”, “Why can’t you just let things go?”, “What do you have to be so sad about?”, “Why are you being so unreasonable?” and the list goes on. I can’t tell you how much I’ve beaten myself up over and over and over again when I haven’t been able to do just these things. So many times, I’ve been hyper-emotional or just plain hyperactive, to where I make horrible decisions and say awful things. Then, I’ll turn around and be so terribly sad I won’t be able to stop crying and feeling depressed, no matter how much I want too.
Saturday, my mom came over and I had just gotten done spending a couple of days cleaning my closets and basement. Furiously. I packed up my Jeep 3 times for donation stuff and then filled a dumpster at my friend’s apartment building. Then, I cleaned every wall, vacuumed every cobweb, and scoured the floor. After this, I cried. And cried. And cried. And I thought I was finally losing my mind. Mom came over to see my ‘new’ basement, but she saw more. She saw me so hyper I was sad…so emotionally spent I was depressed…and so manic I was scared. And this is the life-changing sentence she said to me: “Kristi (yes, I’m using my real name…), when you were a teenager, grandma told me she worried about you because you were either so happy or so sad. She asked if I thought you might have manic depression.” Could you?
This was in the mid-80’s when little was known about bi-polar and for my grandma to even know about this, let alone communicate it to my mom about me, blew my mind. Then I started thinking and light bulb literally went off in my head. Teachers used to tell my parents that I was way too hyper, yet I had few friends. They would say how I would just cry out of the blue, and then complete my work as quickly as I could to try to be the first done.
In high school, I lost a few friends because they never knew what Kristi they were getting. Was it fun, manic, hyper Kristi that would drink and party with them until I was so drunk, I’d have to spend the night at my friends? Or, would they get the somber, sad, depressed Kristi who would bring them down and confuse them as to why I suddenly thought it was the end of the world?
This summer, when I was so depressed, I thought it was. The amount of tears I cried were immeasurable, and as much as I ‘wanted’ to stop, I couldn’t. But when I finally would for short bursts of time, I was so ‘up’ I couldn’t function then either. When I contemplated and then attempted suicide (taking a handful of pills and then throwing them up a time later), I wasn’t wanting to die. I was wanting this fucking roller coaster to end. To finally end. I kept telling my mom and best friend, Rich, that I was just so damn tired of the ride. I’d been on it for all my life…and I was finally sick of it. I wanted off.
I’ve always known what bi-polar was. For piss sakes, I have a B.A. in Psych…all of the hours for a Clinical Psych masters, and was awarded my M.S. in Family Studies. I’ve taught Abnormal Psych more times that I can count and the DSM is practically embedded in my brain. But, I also didn’t want another label. Another ‘excuse’ for why Kristi is just the way she is. Another person saying, “Hey, I got bi-polar!”
Why didn’t I see this pattern for what it is? Is it because I was so busy living it…trying to control it…that I couldn’t? After a depressive time, I would be so happy I wasn’t as depressed that I considered the mania a blessing! Yea!! I could get things done…be my ‘bubbly’ self…get back to ‘normal.’
After mom and I had our conversation, I called my doc who has been working with me for the past year in trying to get my moods under control. He had me take some inventories, he reviewed my medical history from the past 20 years that documented all of the times I was seen for emotional/depressive symptoms, and diagnosed me with bi-polar. He has put me on a medicine for bi-polar and is confident it will get me off this roller coaster. The ride will be over…or at least it’ll be the kiddie version of the roller coaster, and not the ‘Screamin’ Eagle’!
When doc said the words bi-polar to me, I started crying (go figure), and at first I didn’t understand why. I was getting my answer! The clouds over what has been ‘wrong’ with me for all of these decades were lifted! A treatment was possible! I wanted to celebrate and instead I was shaky and emotional. I still am. I got home and called mom who had been waiting to hear what doc said. She was so relieved I got my answer but also understood why I was reacting the way I was.
For the last 16 hours, I’ve been looking back on my life (haven’t slept…look like crap…doing this in my pj’s…) and I can see how this mental illness (another label…) has affected so many decisions, situations, and relationships I’ve had over these years. I wasn’t honest with you all when I didn’t take enough responsibility in the demise of my 3 marriages, and I’m here to tell you that no matter how much I sugar coat it, I was very much to blame in all of them. My impulsiveness led me to do things I am so ashamed of, that I ask God for forgiveness everyday. I know he has already done that, but I can’t bring myself to do the same. I see how I hurt my family by words I’ve said…things I’ve done…and I will never ever be able to make it up to them. I see how I could have been a different mom. I was a good mom…but I always felt different from the other moms. They were so relaxed and ‘adult-ty’ while I always felt foolish around them. I was either hyper like a kid…or down like I wasn’t happy with the little family I was blessed to have. I can see how my moods affected my high school work so much…and how I could have gotten so much more out of those 4 years of my life. I can see my over-reactions that drove people away. I can see how I took others on this ride that no one should have had to go on. I see how my mom has tried her best to understand me in impossible situations, and bail me out accordingly. I understand my tendency to over-spend without thinking…motorcycles, elective surgery, clothes, cars, taking on pets I had no business having, running up credit cards, etc. I can see me hopping on the latest trend and doing all I could to both fit in and stand out. I cringe at how I’ve behaved inappropriately hundreds of times over.
I want to go back. I want to go back to my 16 year old self. I want my grandma’s words to be understood and I want to go to a doc that was knowledgeable in this illness during that time like my current doc is. I want the treatment then, that I’m finally getting now. I want to be different in school, in my family, with my friends…and especially in my marriage to my son’s dad. I want to turn the clock back 15 years, and do it differently. So bad I want to do that. Have my little family still in tact and not have to admit to myself that I destroyed that for my precious son. I want to be the mom, daughter, sister that doesn’t cause so many issues…so many worries…so many problems. I want to go through those years and feel good. Feel right. Feel normal.
Because I don’t know what that’s like. I’ve never had it. When doc said I will be feeling so much better after the new medication kicks in, I told him I didn’t know what that would be like. To be off the ride. How does that feel? To not be on top of a hill one day, and then drop the next? Will I even know how to ‘walk’ after riding for so long? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
I do know there are some things I need to do: I need to cut myself a little bit of slack, mourn the past, and know that all I can do is go from here. I need to understand this illness and not use it as an excuse, but learn to work with the meds and be a part of the treatment myself. I need to recognize what part of the kiddie coaster I’m on and communicate that to my family. I need to forgive myself for the thousands of past mistakes once and for all. I need to make sure this illness doesn’t define me…but just helps explain me. I need to thank God that I finally have the answer I’ve been searching for all of my life, instead of asking him why the heck it took so long to see what was right in front of me.
Most of all, I need to apologize to my family. My family who was forced to take a ride with me that was hellish at times for them as well. I’m so sorry they had to endure this with me. And I’m so so so sorry for what pain my ride caused them. I’ll never be able to make up for that. Never.
Prof K ❤