Monday, July 23, 2012

Life in the Bipolar Lanes: Part 1

It is hard to talk about your mental health issues in a public forum. Want to know about my back issues? No problem, I can comfortably talk about that. Want to know how I am coping with Diabetes? I'd be glad to share with you. Want to talk about what it is like to live with a mental illness. No way, much too uncomfortable. But that is in fact what I feel called to do. I am going to step out on faith here and share my story. I will try to share as much detail as possible, beginning today with an overview. 

Though our society is far more accepting of mental illness than it was 50 years ago, it still carries a stigma. Everything from crazy to lazy gets thrown in there. I write this to be an advocate for others who struggle with mental illness. I want people to understand the profound struggle that it can be to appear "normal" when "normal" is the last thing you feel. Additionally my hope is that others will not wait as long as I did to seek help.

My first inklings of problems came as a child. By the time I was 10 years old I was seeing a child psychologist. At that young age I already had profound feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and self hate. I don't have any idea if my 5th grade classmates knew where I went when I was dismissed from class for my appointment every week. But in my mind I was sure they did. I did not know of anyone else, adult or child, who saw a psychologist. Instead of helping, I felt even more an outsider looking in at all the "normal" kids. 

By my early twenties I had changed my primary doctor and hid my mental illness with lies. Though by this time the Bipolar symptoms were full blown, I had learned to live a lie pretty well. Probably only family were aware of my issues, and much of it was put down to simply having a temper. What they saw as anger or being energetic or talkative was actually a manic state being played out. And when the depression hit? I was simply moping or being "sensitive." If any of them suspected mental illness they kept it to themselves.

By my thirties I realized I had to get some help. My illness was affecting my parenting in a big way, and my rages were scaring even myself. My doctor was more than happy to prescribe Zoloft for PMS symptoms. Once again the lie to save face...after all PMS was all the rage, and my issues were worse at that time of the month. For some reason I had this incredible need to look as if I had my act together. Though how many saw through the charade I don't know.

I was in my forties when it all came crashing down around me. I no longer had children or parents to care for. Nothing to stay strong for. Finally the bottom dropped out. The visit to the ER was not pleasant, but for the first time in my life I told someone everything. No lies, no excuses. I was broken.



  1. I love you...just wanted you to know that.

  2. Marla, thank you so much for sharing this...I admire your courage and openness <3