Together at the Poles

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.

Prologue

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 Quake

Then 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.

9 Responses to Guest Post: How Bipolar Disorder Blessed Me

  • Gloria – what a great story. I can relate. You are right – without the rocky road in, we often do not appreciate the bliss when we come to it.

    Good luck with your painting and your wonderful new life.

    Maz Barnes

  • A lovely story, thank you for sharing. I hope I become more resilient with age. I’m under 30 and I’ve been dealing with bipolar disorder (and an anxiety and personality disorder!) for 20 year. I have many more year left with this disease and I hope some of them are mostly good.

    <3

  • Thanks so much for your story Gloria. It really does give one hope.
    May your future be even more happier than it has been to date.
    Much love
    Sharnee xxxxx

  • Thanks Gloria for the post. It helps see how others have turned bad news into good news!
    Enjoy life!
    Richard

  • I want to thank all of you, for the encouraging comments, you left for me. I hope what i wrote, is a help to those of you still in a state of confusion about being diagnosed with this frustrating, & most challenging disease, that many have no hope left. I need to say, HOPE, never leaves, if we see it as such, hope enables us to keep moving forward, hope is endless, hope is a way to feel better. I know how you all feel, as you know i am much like you all—but it took me years of sadness, till i learned from my counselor, that i was created for a purpose–now i know my purpose, that’s to reach out to those like us, and help as much as possible, to give hope, to tell you more of what i had to do, to get better, though i am aware that i can slip & fall still, as there is no cure yet. But now i’m more informed, as to how to pick myself up again, & continue living the parts of life, that i feel comforting. I leave you all with Blessings, Hope & peace–fondly with love, Gloria

  • In that i have a memory problem, i will adress this comment to everyone who, took time to comment.First, i’d like to say thank you to everyone, for your comments, that mean a lot to me. I saw one comment that said, “if it takes till 70, to feel better, that’s no life at all.” I beg to differ with who wrote this, as life is what it is, & waiting for good things to arrive, many times takes much work.If i hadn’t been diagnosed with bipoler, i wouldn’t have known how low, & sad we can be, i wouldn’t have grown with more compassion for others, i wouldn’t have been challenged to work hard for years to grow stonger, & whether the storms of life, i wouldn’t have had two sons to love, or made things right with my husband & me.This not a poly-anna story, when all is now perfect, because nothing in life is ever perfect–we live with the good & bad,& the in-between, plus the ugly. Needed to straigten out the comment, i just can’t agree with. Someday, who ever wrote this, will see the good in life, be more content, be stronger, & more aware of the suffering of the human-race. We are a compassionate people, who have experienced the lowest of the low–we can reach out to others, & give them our friendship, we can help anyone, who wants to be helped. I realize i am again speaking as a teacher, so will end my diatribe now. My wish for all of us, is to grow in hope, faith, & love–learn to love ourselfs–and go forward, not backwards. I hope we meet again, i wish you all the best, & if you ever want to be my friend, that would make me happy for life.
    BLESSINGS, LOVE, & PEACE TO ALL, LOVE, Gloria

  • Would love to write more of my challenges of life, as there are so many that, perhaps you’d be interested, in reading. My belief, is that there is not one person on this earth, who does not have problems, yet many ignore them, just because they don’t want to face their weaknesses, as if it’s a sin to be weak at times. We are all here for a reason,our job, is to find the reason, then go forward & use the reason to reinforce our lives, in order to do what we were born to be. When i found this gracious site, i logged in to find a place, i knew i belonged in.Nothing can be better than friends, who are loyal. kind, & truthful. This experience, has been the best!! Now i’d like to write a book about my root family, & how i crossed the bridge, that held me back, without fear. My life has changed for the better, & i hope that for all of you. May peace come into your lives, lovingly, Gloria

  • What a wonderful day, as i’m still flying on a cloud up in the vast blue sky, from yesterday, seeing my writing on Bi-polar Today. It has caused me to think on being a writter, who’s theme is mental illness, & remind all, that there’s no shame to be had, there’s many roads we can travel, to live our lives, in a positive way. The world hasn’t ended, just because we have a tough disorder—we can make it much better, if we don’t give-up, or do what i did for many years,”feel sorry for myself, & hide from society.” We all need friends, for the earth was made for all of us, to be happy with one another, as we weren’t meant to live alone, nor have a very sad life.
    So, with writing my story, a new gift has popped up, & i’m going to use it to help others who have suffered like all of us. I am going to learn how to write a book, & tell the public what mental disorders are, & how they effect a person, & how people need support, friends who care—the world needs to know, we are human too, we are sad, & lonely lots of times. If they read & understand, perhaps we will be treated like the good people, that we are.

  • Hi Gloria,
    After I read your story and all your replies I felt a kindred spirit with you. Our lives have parralled in many ways. I am Bi-polar too. Was diagnosed around the age of 45. I too am an artist and I’m also a singer/song writer.
    I now am 55 yrs old. I have two grown children and am still married to the same guy after 32 yrs. Almost got two divorces. I was falling apart and my husband wasn’t being very helpful. I had been in counceling for years but my Psychiatrist never caught on about the BP. My daughter was diagnosed first.
    My parents treated me terribly when I told them about my diagnoses. They didn’t want to hear about it. They were in denial. But I kept at them, informing them of what it was all about, how I was feeling even though they didn’t want to listen, I made them. I have been through many medication changes. Most were bad for me. Horrible side effects.
    We lived in Maryland for over twenty years. Then one day my husband asked me if I would like to move and start a new life in Augusta, Ga. I really don’t know how I made it through that move, selling one house and buying another. But we were more than ready for the change. Once here, we got settled in. However, my psyche was unsettled. I found a new psychiatrist. And then shortly fell apart. I called him leaving several messages to no avail. I was left in limbo. Needless to say I thank God for my dear friend out in Calif. who helped me from afar. I called her one night while my husband was out of town for three months. I was all alone, knew no one, no church to go to and I didn’t know my neighbors. I called my friend. This was during the period that Al Gore was making his money making career. I left the TV on the news station all day-all night. I kept checking my pantry, I was paranoid, scared like hell and had no one to talk to. I was breaking down. So my friend stepped in, called 911 in her area and they got ahold of 911 here. We asked for no siren. The police came first. They were so kind to me, even though I was arguing with them about how the earths climate was going to change-just repeating all that Al Gore was saying. I was taken to the hospital where they had a wing for the patients like us. There is where I found my new pschiatrist and I was put on lithium.
    It was a very long haul for me. Adjustments on meds, going back into the hospital (I was suicidal). But my husband stuck with me. And the funny thing was my parents (at that time they were in their 70’s) sold their house in CA and moved out here to be with me. They did that just for me!!! That move told me all I needed to know about how they felt about me. They were no longer ashamed of me.
    These days I read ALOT, books, internet. Anything I can get my hands on. I have found some very rare friends here in GA, a good church, Psychiatrist and councelor. I’ve been through a year of group therapy and now am in another group. I feel the need to be with people and share my story and help others if I can. So, Gloria, I want to thank you for sharing yours. It has uplifted me so. I have just gotten out of a years’ worth of depression and a few manias and yesterday painted my first painting in a year! That felt so awesome.
    I hope you write your book. It’s benefical for others to learn about Bi-polar people, that we aren’t “crazy” and that we have feelings too.

    Thank you again

    Lorrie

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Psychotherapy from Daniel

Daniel Bader, Ph.D., RP (Qualifying), CCC

Daniel Bader, Ph.D., is a Registered Psychotherapist (Qualifying) and Canadian Certified Counsellor specializing in bipolar disorder, offering in-person psychotherapy in Kitchener, Ontario, and online and telephone psychotherapy within Canada.

To book an appointment with Daniel, please visit his Psychology Today profile.