Guest Post: How Bipolar Disorder Blessed Me
Gloria, who is a regular contributor to our Facebook page, has written this account of her experiences with bipolar disorder, and how it ultimately blessed her life.
With confidence and honor, I choose to write about how bipolar disorder affected my life, after many years of shame, self-hatred, living in a pit, and hiding from humanity. After years of difficult work, with help from my psychiatrist, a kind and wise counselor, my eyes started to slowly open that I had nothing to be ashamed about and that I had a place “in time.”
Years later, in the present, I am most joyful and unafraid to speak about my mental health disarray and all that goes with it. My hope is that what I say will be of comfort to those with this frustrating disorder and will give them hope for the future by planting lush seeds in their thoughts, like seeds planted in a beautiful flower garden, leaving behind a once-tangled weed patch!My name is Gloria, and I am almost 71 yrs. old, once a school teacher, an artist, a mom of two sons, and a wife of almost 50 years now. However, long ago, I was a bewildered child who thought, “No one loves me,” and that I was born as a mistake, as my mother told me − leaving me feeling unwanted. My dad’s favorite saying was, “Children are to be seen, but not heard.” Little did I know that my dad was bipolar and an alcoholic, which changed his personality to a monster-type father.
When the Earth Began to Shake and Quake
Never did I ever think that, at age 45, a personal earthquake would destroy my life and would leave it in pieces that I still cannot find or retrieve. What was happening to me, I knew not, as I made it through college with a degree in Elementary Ed. K-9 from Illinois State University in 1963. I married my college sweetheart and restarted life, thinking all would be perfect (silly me). I was no longer living in a dysfunctional home with my mixed-up parents. Envision fights, abuse, screaming and yelling non-stop, never allowing a time for quiet or a peaceful place to study. I didn’t have to see my dad again who tried to kill himself in front of me at age 11, or be the victim of a vain and angry mom, who was my physical abuser − no need to say more.
When the Earth Quaked!
The years up to age 45 seemed normal, but as I look back, I purposely ignored the red flags whizzing by. The day came when the earth moved away underneath me as I was in my classroom teaching, and suddenly the walls and the ceiling seemed as if they were moving toward me. Scared, I told my two teacher aides to take over the classroom, as I was sick and had to go home. I went right to the doctor, who took one look at me and said, “Oh my God, how thin you are. Why?” I replied that I had quit eating, ‘cept for sugarless Jell-O, for the entire summer to get to a size two, thinking that if I was thin, I’d feel better about myself, which obviously backfired.
The next day (Halloween), I found myself in the psy. ward with locked doors, thinking I was being imprisoned as a criminal who I knew did not break the law in any way. I was searched bodily, embarrassed, humiliated, and sad. I spent six weeks locked up, and given a diagnosis of manic depression, with words that would scare the devil out of most folks. Then, anxiety disorder was added, and possibly a personality disorder! How could this be? I asked myself over and over, “Was this a nightmare?”
The nurse came in my room at midnight, waking me, with a few lithium pills in her cup. Take these, she said, and I cried, and cried, and said, “No, no.” The answer was, if you don’t comply, you’ll never get out here − a form of a threat, so gave in and swallowed the first pills of my life, then started to become a person I didn’t even know anymore, for I lost my fun-loving side and felt like a monster or zombie, take your choice!
A Larger QuakeThen and there, the earth moved again in a larger quake, as this disorder took from me my job as a teacher, my self-respect and esteem, took from me my need to paint and use my creativity, to see my sons, who were away at college, so they didn’t see my downfall from grace. I lost ambition to do anything, lost my friends, and my own mother turned and walked away, to never be seen again, and my husband was embarrassed, couldn’t accept that his wife was a mental case, and so never went to the family support meetings every Wednesday in the ward. I was left so alone.
For the next ten years, I was wrought in sorrow, having a pity party for just me, gained 100 pounds, which changed the strength of our marriage to a thread. Finally, change started when we sold our old, big house, and moved to the beautiful countryside, to a much smaller home − where no one knew me or my past.
I found a delightful psychiatrist who has a great sense of humor, and then was told to seek counseling, where I found a wise and kind man who devotes his life to helping the mentally sick. I’ve been working with him for six years now, and life is slowly changing for the better, and as of now, I have hope and faith to keep walking onwards toward a loving and wondrous life. I have learned not to think in black and white, to consider all that’s in-between, to love myself (which was difficult ’til the present), to help others, to restart painting again, which I have, and I have made a bedroom into my art room, a place where I find peace, quiet, a place to think, and pray.
My trials are beginning to have another face, a face of happiness, more courage. Self-esteem is coming back two-fold, chasing away the doubt, anger, loss, and depression that was not forgiving for so many years. My eyes see the world for all its beauty, for all of its gifts, and for all of the loving people that have come into my life now. Happiness arrives when your thinking changes from doubt to exploration and discovery of the real self. Now I am happy, painting, and giving freely to those who like my art work − loving my hubby again, and of course the unconditional love of our doggie, who brings sunshine to me, even on a rainy day.
To end soon, I must tell you why I choose the name for this writing, because I found my blessings and now put them to good work. So the title of this prose is “How Bipolar Disorder Blessed Me“!
If I hadn’t suffered, if I hadn’t had to fix myself, work hard, to do my job on myself, I would have missed learning all the lessons I was given, nor would I be, once again, a self-taught artist, who just loves to be creative and to give to others. I have learned to ride the waves in a ocean storm, and to survive ’til the tide dropped me off on the sandy beach, so that I can see the horizon of glory.