As a young college student, I found myself experimenting with the usual course of mind-altering and mind-expanding (so-called, anyway) drugs, among them, of course, LSD. While I ever only tried it 2 or 3 times, and I never had quite the ‘mind-altering’ experience I was promised…I do remember noticing certain changes in my perception of the world around me. For example, the playground at the park was quite a bit more fun than I had remembered it being for a really long time 🙂 Even more, everything I thought or said, seemed to be more alive, more colorful, behind my eyes, in my head, out loud. It was never a large group of us, and there was always a ‘sitter’ to help keep people grounded enough not to freak out. But the gentle differences I noticed made life seem more vivid, more tangible, almost like I was more alive.
As I got older, got a real life, but still in college, I didn’t pursue my friendly visits with LSD, although drinking was still my almost nightly buddy. I got married, got an off-campus job. Real life but still in college. Then I started having these episodes, these moments, or sometimes more than moments, phases, days, hours, where I saw the world in more than vivid color, I saw it in techni-color and panivision on top of all the real colors already there. Things stood out as more than 3-D against the paleness of the normal things, others stood out as larger and more dominant, more in my focus. Sometimes I felt the world seem enchanted, amazing, wondrous. Others I was wanted it to be just flat and gray again, something I could handle not overwhelming. Sometimes I thought the colors and feelings of life would never return and I was hopeless. I didn’t know then that what I was seeing and feeling was not how everyone else saw the world, the things in it. I still thought I was sharing the same kind of disruption in perception that I shared with my friends on my trials of LSD. I thought this is how people feel and see and struggle through life.
It was only through my husband that I got a teeny tiny taste that this was not typical of others, that this was not actually the norm. I wasn’t able to really understand that, though. It seemed like I was interacting and reacting just like every one else to me. I couldn’t understand how I was different. But I started being more aware over the next few years that I seemed to live life and experience life much more intensely than anyone else I knew. That I was more dedicated, more fastidious, more efficient, more awake, more energized, needed less sleep, needed less food. That I couldn’t understand why others had to stop to eat and sleep, and they seemed to be so lazy and careless to me. It seemed that no one wanted to actually do or accomplish anything, save me.
Everything I laid my hand to, turned to gold. Except friends, my husband, where I started having more and more issues, but I couldn’t see it had anything to do with me. It just seemed as though they were receding from me, and I couldn’t see why, so I just accepted it. Although I was having more and more short-lived volcanic eruptions, I still felt as though it wasn’t anything to do with me…I felt it was my husband, being slow, being stupid, not following what I said better, driving too slow, just not keeping up in general. But as fast as I would erupt, I would burn out, so by and large, although he didn’t really enjoy this new development, he said that he loved me enough to put up with the short eruptions to have me for the rest of the time. I began to get that there was something with me, but I couldn’t see what it was. I couldn’t see how my eruptions were not proper, not appropriate. They seemed to be the only way to behave, to react. I knew there was something I was missing, and it probably had to do with me, but I just couldn’t get what it was about me that was not ‘right’, that was ‘off’, somehow.
It wasn’t until after my 1st child, my son, was born, that I had my first real psychotic depressive episode. Don’t get me wrong, I realize now that most of my childhood years, and teen years, I was really depressed and angry…but not psychotic, not suicidal for every moment. But after my son A was born, I was really psychotically depressed. I don’t even know how I made it through that first year. And by the time he was 2.5, and my 2nd child, my daughter H, was born, I realized I needed help, and lots of it. I could finally see how much my perceptions were ‘off’, how much my thinking and behaviours weren’t ‘right’ compared to others. I wasn’t psychotic anymore, but my perception was really different.
From 1999 when I first noticed how I was so different until 2005 i struggled continuously working with my doctors (who I later discovered were more like mental butchers) trying to find the right med combo. In 2005 I had the most severe mixed episode I had ever had, making most of my life before that look tame. For a little more than a year, I was in the most awful psychotic manic episodes where I was doing anything and everything that was dangerous, risky, and made no sense at all. I was basically a rubber ball bouncing all directions, doing things that looked euphoric (sex, drugs, etc) but were in fact signs that I was not grounded in any sense to the world, that I was in fact actively suicidal, and hoping for a passive death. Then those psychotic manic extremes gave way to the most depressive psychotic extremes I have ever experienced. I woke up one day and saw how badly, how crazily, how hurtful my actions for just over a year had been during that psychotic mania (with some severe depression thrown in for spice). I saw how I was alienating everyone in my life away from me, how I hurt them more than I ever would have done, how I wished I could have seen and stopped myself from all of this destruction. I wanted to know why my docs had allowed this, why I hadn’t been hospitalized, why my meds never got worked out better. I was so devastated, so horrified, so terribly sorry, I ended up spending the next 6 months in my bed sobbing uncontrollably, only emerging to use the bathroom and find some crumbs to eat in a dash, then back to bed sobbing more. Then came the blessed sleep, sleep that I couldn’t have enough of, that I begged for every waking moment. It was the only time I didn’t feel I was being ripped apart and all my body and brain being tortured unrelentingly. I thought I would never stop crying, and never emerge from my bed.
My husband was so supportive, he stood by me. He tried to ground me when I was flying and flirting with death, he tried to bring me out of my tears when I wished I could just sleep forever. But a marriage can only stand so much, and I had hurt him so badly, and he was in such need of companionship of a someone not so ill, that the bond between us was broken forever, even though he stayed with us another year until the end of 2006. Then, I lost my husband to another woman, a woman I called friend. When this happened he quit supporting the household of me and our kids. He quit his job, cashed in his pension and spent it all on her. The court did not stop him doing any of these things, even though they are the norm. The court instead brought CPS into my home, and said because my husband left me and failed to pay child support or rent, that I was a neglectful parent, because I was not capable of working and was in the process of applying for disability. They made me meet these impossible goals-they said I had to make money, have a job, but if I couldn’t work because I was so ill, then I was not capable of raising my kids. They told me to go to the hospital when I felt suicidal or unstable, but when I did, they took my children from me and put them in foster care. Luckily one of my friends signed up to be a temporary foster mother to my kids, so for them it was not as bad as it could have been. They finally decided I was unfit permanently, and was going to lose custody. I begged their father to take them with him to Arizona where he had moved from Iowa. He agreed. They spent a year there with him, and I was the most bereft ever being away from my kids, from being a mother to them. I was so desperate, so hopeless, I tried to kill myself over 20 times in that year I was away from them. I still couldn’t understand why the docs couldn’t find any meds to help me stabilize. I couldn’t find any reason to live without my kids. After that year, I finally was able to move to Arizona, so I could at least have visits with my kids, be in their life. For the first time in 3 years, I saw hope, I saw a life possible through all the darkness.
Bipolar is like living in hell, unconnected to the world around you, stuff in your head that doesn’t make sense, and you think it does. Colors, sounds, inability to sort, inability to make thoughts. Bipolar is just like LSD, except it never really wears off. Even if you have found a good cocktail of meds, every so often, the disease breaks through again, and at first seems fun like Acid, but quickly turns sour as it overstays its welcome, and becomes a really bad trip. Some might be drawn to Acid for the induced psychosis, but when you have to live it, when it is part of your life forever, it is no welcome escape. It becomes a prison in your mind for your mind. And most people grow out of the desire to experiment with such drugs, as regular life becomes the norm for them. But those with bipolar cannot grow out of it, cannot stop it from happening. So for those of you who don’t believe or don’t understand bipolar, drop some acid and imagine it lasting forever, even when you can’t stand it anymore, even when the trips are bad, even when you don’t understand what is happening, and you want to get off the rollercoaster. Maybe then you will understand your friend or family member, who seems like they could be ok, be fine, if they just wanted to enough.