Learn From Me
I never thought I’d face a real struggle. I led a very charmed life. I was captain of the softball team, destined to be homecoming queen, a straight-A student with an innocent smile that melted the hearts.
And then I hit a 50 foot brick wall at full speed that I never saw coming. It was like one day I went to bed a happy little girl and the next day woke up surrounded by demons. I couldn’t tell you how or when or why it started, but I can tell you what it did to me. Bipolar disorder and bulimia took away the” happiest years” of my life.
Before the clouds rolled in so quick, I had never seen my mother cry. For the next year or so, I don’t think a day went by I didn’t see her cry.
I stopped going to school. I stopped talking to friends. I stopped caring about anything other than losing weight and making other people feel the pain I felt. My dreams ceased to matter. I was never going to get better. I was never going to college. I was never going to smile. I was never even going to leave my room. I simply wanted to stop existing. Most days I refused to get out of bed. I simply saw no point. Sleep was so much easier than reality.
The little part of “real” me left deep down inside didn’t want to see “evil” me ruin anything. I destroyed friendships, lives (mostly my own and my parents), my GPA, my body, my physical and poetic heart, my self esteem, and over a year of my life. I missed my high school graduation and senior prom. I screamed things at people I loved that I can’t even fathom thinking today. I said and did things that my memory has all but repressed for sanity’s sake. And no one knew why. No one knew what was wrong. It seemed no one ever would.
And then finally came the right, competent, caring doctors I now know, appreciate, and love. I started my first bipolar medication and started talk therapy four times a week and things started to level out a little. So I decided that meant I was strong enough to no longer be medicated. Wrong.
I crashed so hard it made NASCAR look like bumper cars at the local amusement park. I don’t quite know the series of events but soon after, I am told, I jumped out of a moving car on Route 9. The first thing I can recall is waking up sore in a hospital bed, seeing my hysterical mother through the glass screaming at the nurses to let me out. Oh, and my 40-something roommate Porscha literally itching from a heroin withdrawal.
For the next few days, I got to see my mother for an hour at 7:00 every day. She was never late. She would’ve been there the entire time had they allowed it. More than once, hospital security had to drag her away from me when hours were up. Talk about heart breaking.
I talked to my father on the hallway pay phone when I was allowed, but I didn’t want him to see me in that place and I don’t quite think he did either. I think he would have broken down walls to set me free if he had come before then. He was the one who picked me up when I was released.
By the sixth day, I got to take a supervised walk outside. I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the sun quite so much.
I spent most of my time there thinking why. Why me? Why this? Why now? Why should I even keep fighting?
And what. What did I do? What next? What happened?
It seemed like I spent an eternity there that first night.
I don’t know whether those first 8 days were harder on my parents or me. I mean, physically it was the easiest time of my life. I was fed my medication twice a day, got to pick what food I wanted, played a lot of cards, and met some people who almost seemed to be able to empathize with me. I was the youngest one there by at least 10 years, which was scary at first but they all seemed to like to take on the parental role. I’m sure most of them hadn’t been given a chance to care for someone else in a long time. I was more than willing to be that person.
But, despite what I thought at the time and probably what a lot of other people thought too, I made it. I walked through darker-than-black days and came out stronger. And now I sit here in my bunk bed at a respected University seemingly talking about the old times.
I still struggle daily with my depression about my past, my concern about my present, and my confusion and fear about my future. But I also smile. I go to class. I write boring essays about politics. I go to parties. I hold hands with nice boy that likes me back. I have friends that I call to gossip with. I do things that “normal” 19-year-olds do. And less than a year ago I was sitting in a lockdown psychiatric ward wondering why I couldn’t just be dead already.
I think that my story is rather propelling evidence why you should really, truly never give up. I’m certainly not saying that I’m cured. I still cry and worry and get scared sometimes. But I also play Frisbee in the sun and have my summer with my best friends all planned out.
I do not pity myself or want pity from other people. I simply want everyone to know that things can get really, really tough right when you least expect it. And sometimes you are going to want to give up and stop fighting because you see no end to the pain. But good things can come out of even the worst situations. I created the thickest “who cares about me enough to stay” filter and found the greatest people in the world. I realize now that people fight battles you may never know about or understand. I’m a stronger, more compassionate, more grateful person than I ever thought I could be. I used to cry over things like my 8th grade crush didn’t like me. Now I can hold my head high and believe everything happens for a reason even after my best friend passes away. I also learned that simply because you have a disability like bipolar or bulimia does not in the least make you a weak person. And taking medication isn’t for the feeble. Sometimes you need help and being afraid to ask for it is the only thing that makes you weak. Asking for help shows strength, courage, and heart. And learning to deal with the cards you’re dealt, no matter how seemingly unlucky, is what life is all about.