Most would agree that we never want to be the person that’s being diagnosed with an illness. I don’t know about you but I’ve been to my fair share of doctors over the past few years. Why do they always tell me there’s something wrong with me? It’s hard for me to remember the last time I went to the doctor for just a yearly physical.
My downward spiral started long before I was diagnosed. Even before I knew there was something wrong. I can’t say that every aspect of my illness is negative because I do believe Bipolar Disorder (BD) gives me the creative outlet that I possess. However, I do not appreciate how my life has been taken control of by the illness for the past few years.
I’ve done things and behaved in a manner in which I formerly would not have. I impulsively married someone who I didn’t love to make me feel normal and whole. Hell, I had never even been romantically in love with someone at that point. To be honest, I didn’t experience a romantic love until the age of 31. What the fuck was wrong with me? That’s what I thought…so I settled I thought that marriage and kids were missing…but that was not the case. I had a great job right out of college, no debt, a home, car, lawn to mow…but I wanted more. I wanted to belong to something. My marriage lasted all of one year, a lot longer than it should have.
One night at a bar I found myself intrigued by another woman and she caught my eye. I was married and another woman had my attention, briefly, but still that mattered to me. I didn’t cheat on my wife physically, but emotionally I did. That night I made the decision to stop being unhappy by continuing to be in an unhealthy relationship so I asked my wife for a date and it turns out that we both had things we wanted to discuss. I didn’t know we would end up being on on opposite ends of the spectrum. I let her express herself first because it would have been easier to hear that she wanted out as well and would be less painful for her, and plus …I’m a gentleman. She declared that she wanted to have a baby but I wanted out. Honestly, I was blown away, she had told me that she didn’t want kids after we had married and wanted to focus on her career. She was an aspiring lawyer who was rising fast in the ranks and little humans would just be a hindrance. She knew that I wanted kids though so I think ultimately she was just grasping for anything to save our marriage and that’s never a good idea. Our divorce was ugly, after-all she was a lawyer. Word of advice, if you ever picture yourself capable of divorce DO NOT GET MARRIED IN NORTH CAROLINA. Trust me on that one. In the end though, we were civil with one another. I think we are still Linkedin and Facebook friends, although my Facebook account has been deactivated for almost two years.
Before I tell you about when I was diagnosed with Bipolar, I’ll start from when the signs first appeared. Within one week of me filing for divorce I became very ill and physically was unable to get out of bed. Prior to this I had never even so much as had anything worse than a common cold. Was I depressed about the divorce? No. My house was in disarray. I didn’t shave for a week. I smelled horrible. Sick, me? Hell no, watch me do this. Even though I’m the most stubborn person I know, this time …it got me nowhere. I seemed to visit the local urgent care every other day and finally I was diagnosed with Mononucleosis. Ok great, curable …or so I thought. Weeks went by and I wasn’t feeling any better but I was able to go back to work until one night I ended up going to the emergency room due to a high fever. I discussed my symptoms and frustration with one of friends, who was a physician, and she advised me to come to her office in Georgia (4.5 hours away). There she would perform an ultrasound on my neck since I had noticed a lump growing steadily on the right side of my neck for quite some time. Which isn’t unusual for someone who has Mono. After the test was over she told me that she would be calling one of her former colleagues in Raleigh, which is where I resided at the time. Within three days I was being seen by an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist and a few days after that I went sent to an Oncologist. Christopher…you have Lymphoma. I asked, what is that? It’s cancer. No, I can’t have cancer …I was just fine a few months ago and I’m going through a divorce. I can’t have cancer I remember saying to him. Well…I did.
I beat cancer and it didn’t ruin me …in a way it saved me. Fast forward two years later, 2015. It wasn’t cancer that reared it’s ugly head. It was Bipolar and in such a weird way. Back in undergraduate school at NC State University, I was given the opportunity to attend Georgia Tech for a semester for a few additional specialized classes. While there I stayed in a dormitory and one night I jumped up from my lower bunk bed and hit my head on the top bunk bed and sustained a concussion that left me in the hospital for a few days. Well, who knew that would later lead to an issue.
My psychiatrist, before diagnosing me Bipolar (that took awhile, a lot longer than I like to think about) thought that perhaps it was the concussion over a decade before was causing my weird behavior and sent me for a MRI scan of my brain. I had previously been to my fair share of psychiatrists before this guy due to depression but none were really good, obviously.
Christopher…you have a brain tumor. Get the fuck out of here. There’s no way that I’m going through this shit again. Was it related to the radiation I received while undergoing treatment to shrink the tumor in my neck? Who knows but it wasn’t cancerous and easily removed but my psychiatrist and neurosurgeon thought it would explain some of the mood changes I was going through. That was great news and I was so hopeful to finally have an answer to why I was behaving like I was and why I had become so emotional. I would like to be able to say that the removal of the tumor resolved all of my erratic behavior, but alas… a few weeks later I found myself in a familiar place…sitting in a chair, waiting for a diagnosis.
Christopher…you have Bipolar Disorder. Those words affected me so differently than the word cancer and the word tumor. I had survived those no problem but this diagnosis was devastating to me. More importantly, to my sense of self. I have an older sister who struggled with Bipolar for years after she sustained a miscarriage. She was fine before that but after she wasn’t quite the same. That wasn’t me, I wasn’t like her, she was “crazy.”Because people with Bipolar are crazy, right? That’s what I kept telling myself. Although my Bipolar is a bit different than hers, she has type I and I have type II, the both are very similar. During these three years of intense personal traumas, I lost my father to alcoholism/cardiac arrest, my dog of thirteen years, and the love of my life (I must mention that I finally experienced loving someone romantically during all of this). Does that sound like the makings of a good country song or what? Maybe that’s why I hate country music with the exception of Johnny Cash and that one Blake Shelton song – sure be cool if you did.
Everyone experiences personal traumas, some more than others, some more devastating than others but the thing is …we can overcome all of them with the right support. Since my diagnosis, I have not been the same. My family knows it, my friends know it, and I know it. I have tried many medications at varying dosages and have taken them religiously along with many forms of therapy. I feel like medication therapy is trial and error basically until your prescribed something that works and leaves you functional. The truth is …I’m still struggling to think that this is something that has defined me for so long and has taken so many years away from me. I’ve always had a job, I started working at the age of 12 detailing cars at my pops shop. As I type this, I haven’t consistently held a job since my divorce. I’ve hurt people. I’ve done things that make me think about myself differently. I’ve hurt myself. I’ve wanted to end my life many times and I almost succeeded once. The creation of this blog is mostly at the direction of my new psychiatrist who really believes in me. She tells me I need a creative outlet and that I can help others so I hope that even if I don’t get anything out of it personally, perhaps someone will. At least I get to re-tune my writing skills that seem to have died along with the rest of me. I often wonder, if I hadn’t bumped my head if I would have been diagnosed with Bipolar by now or if I had chosen to not have the tumor removed (I didn’t have to – it wasn’t cancerous) would my behavior still be blamed on the tumor. I think I wouldn’t be as embarrassed to say that I’m weird/crazy due to a tumor as opposed to a mental illness. It took three different psychiatrist to finally diagnose me. When you find a good psychiatrist, you’ll really appreciate them. I can honestly say I truly suffered from being misdiagnosed for so long. Perhaps I would have a better handle on my illness by now. I guess I shouldn’t focus on the negativity though. Each day I seem to be handle life a little bit better than the previous day.
Do you have Bipolar? If so, tell me about it. How long since your diagnosis?