When I was initially diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I in the early 2000’s, there was not much explained to me about managing the symptoms of the disorder, other than the psychiatrist prescribing me with a couple medications, that he hoped would work and suggesting I see a therapist to help with coping with the dire diagnosis.
I was in my early 20’s when I first heard I had Bipolar Disorder, and was still in college at the time. I was really into partying up until this point and having a good time with friends. I was self medicating, as some would say, with alcohol, weed and occasionally other drugs. School was really an afterthought and mostly something I felt I had to do, rather than something I wanted to do.
One day, after partying for a few days, my body and mind finally couldn’t take anymore. I went into what is called psychosis. I didn’t know who I was, thought I was famous, had rapid speech, couldn’t sit down and was pacing a lot, was paranoid, thought people on the television were talking about me or to me, and even thought my roommates at the time were demons. I was trying my hardest to shut my body down to go to sleep. I tried taking a sleeping aid and that didn’t help. Loud noises were a definite trigger and would startle me. I was in bed one of the nights when I couldn’t sleep, and was so scared to move that when I had to pee, I just peed in the bed. My best friend at the time helped clean me and the bed up. God bless that friend, as I’m sure that was scary and emotionally painful to witness.
My roommates reached out to my mom and stepdad, and my stepdad came to pick me up so they could get me help. They all thought that it was drug or alcohol related, although at this point I had not had any substances in a couple days other than the sleep aid. I’m sure my previous use a couple days prior was not helping the situation though. My stepdad drove me to Moorpark, Ca, which is roughly 30 miles from Northridge, Ca where I lived at the time. We were headed to his and my mom’s house. On the way there he had music playing in the car. I proceeded to sing at the top of my lungs and dance to the music. Mind you, he was listening to music I had never heard before, so I was making up the words. He must have been so confused and worried. This was not my normal behavior.
At their house, I waited for my mother to get home from work and I was a cigarette smoker at the time and remember smoking more than half a pack of cigarettes as I waited. Chain smoking was a problem I would come to know later as part of my manic tendencies. Once she arrived and saw my behavior, she immediately took action and drove me to the Emergency Room. My mom’s best friend and my brother went with us to the hospital. In the car I remember being in the backseat with my brother and bothering him on the ride there. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, I don’t remember many details of that ride. It’s almost as if I blacked out at this point or was sleep walking, since I had been up for 4-5 days straight. It was later explained to me by a psychiatrist that when the body is awake for that long it does act like it’s sleepwalking or micro sleep, in order to protect itself.
I was immediately attended to at the hospital, filled out some paperwork as best I could, then admitted. I was told later that I attempted to run out of the hospital and was caught by security and brought back. I was admitted to the psych ward, which are now called behavioral health units here in California. In the psych ward I was medically and psychologically evaluated. This included drug tests to ensure this wasn’t a drug induced psychosis. All they found in my system was THC, from the marijuana I frequently smoked. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and put to sleep with something they injected into my vein. I slept for 3 days and do not remember what happened during that time, except a vague recollection of eating some food.
I was in the psych ward for almost two weeks. The staff administered medications I couldn’t pronounce and had no clue what they did, I was required to go to group and one on one therapy sessions, participate in activities like arts and crafts and exercise and we were even allowed to smoke on the patio but only at certain times. During my stay, I was severely manic so my moods fluctuated from angry, depressed or extreme euphoria. I was so unruly, at one point, that they strapped me down to a bed all night by myself, to keep me from moving or disturbing the other patients and the staff.
Eventually after two weeks of this, I was deemed stable enough to leave, even though I was still severely manic. Once released I was assigned an outpatient county psychiatrist, who prescribed 3 medications and told me to get a therapist. I did not have insurance at the time and government services were not that great, but at least it was something. The mania lasted for about three months and got a little bit better as the days passed. I started talking to a therapist as suggested and thought I was doing better and that I would be able to put this past me. I went back to work at the Olive Garden and continued school at Cal State University, Northridge as well. Those roommates however were frightened by me and asked me to move out. So I did.
All of this traumatized me and created scars that I thought would never heal. I was told that healing was not possible for me and that only managing my bipolar was possible through medications and talk therapy. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I started to believe differently and seek out other options to heal my wounds and the trauma endured from experiences such as the above. This is only one of my experiences out of many similar ones from my past.
In December of 2020, my path crossed with The Holistic Psychologist, and my world of self healing began to open. A new way and perspective of mental health and wellness was finally being introduced to me. I learned that medication management and talk therapy are not the only options to help treat my symptoms. They are helpful but there is more that can help heal my past traumas and wounds. Through this Holistic Psychologist, I learned and began to practice meditation, journaling, breathing techniques, and visualization. I began reading books on these topics as well as practicing some of the knowledge I was learning from these books and teachers. Slowly my perspective started to shift and I began to feel more like myself again. A new world had been opened up. One that does not hold on to the past and shrivels away in misery, but one that learns and grows from the past and uses the knowledge gained to heal from the painful challenges I’ve been through in my life.
Yes, I still go through challenging times and I’m not perfect at all these new practices, however, I now have a way out and can get back to a regulated state easier than before. I do continue to take my medication. I do continue to talk to a therapist. I also incorporate the many tools learned from The Holistic Psychologist as well as the other teachers, who I believe helped me get past my story and realize I am so much more than a diagnosis, and that my wounds do not have to define who I am anymore.