By Ashley Soriano
The Hoof Print (McDonough, Georgia)
She received her diagnosis in January 2014. That was when she finally got answers for why she sometimes feels like she physically can’t get out of bed, she can only roll up in a ball, or she completely hates herself.
As she opens up about her mental illness, her voice sometimes shakes and she grabs her chest or rubs her eyes when talking about her illness. She said, “It’s like I feel completely worthless and incapable and I have no energy. It’s like a feeling of emptiness and at the same time a feeling of self-loathing…”
“You don’t understand the feeling of absolutely nothing is worth it anymore until you’ve actually been in that position,” she said.
But there are other times where she feels on top of the world, like no one can stop her. Like she is invincible. One night around 3 a.m. she went driving. She reached a speed of 80 miles per hour in a 45 mph speed zone. Reckless driving is only one of many reckless things she does when she’s in a manic episode.
She said, “You just get so reckless cause you feel like nothing has any consequences.” During these episodes, she can hardly sleep and will often stay up all night.
Her voice shakes as she says, “It’s difficult. There’s a lot of stigma around it. A lot of people throw around the word bipolar like it doesn’t mean anything and like it doesn’t exist and like it’s a term for the weather.”
A junior female at Ola, who prefers to remain anonymous, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, when she was only 15 years old. She was also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Although some days are worse than others for her, she realizes her struggles have meaning. “At this point, it’s just kind of a day-by day-thing because I know that what I’ve been through I didn’t go through for no reason. I went through it because I am here to help other people.”
This particular mental illness is characterized by extreme mood swings ranging from severe depression to mania (excitement, euphoria and delusions), over a period of weeks rather than hours, which is often a misconception.
Committing to telling her whole story, she revealed that she had taken 70 pills at one time during one of her manic episodes in an attempt to commit suicide. As she said, some days are worse than others. But more importantly, she reminds herself, as she sheds a tear, that “I’m not gonna let people who always told me that I was not good enough and that I was worthless. I’m not gonna let those people be right… It’s just having to learn to love myself regardless of my flaws.”
Her mental illness, though a big part of her life, is not the only aspect of her life. She works hard in school because her struggles drive her to do better. Currently, she does not take medication and she stopped going to therapy, but she knows she can still be a functioning human being in society.
She provided words of encouragement for those who suffer from bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses: “There’s a point where you have to accept that you have it, and that you can’t keep denying it, but at the same time you can work on it, you can learn coping strategies, you can learn how to live with it and ya know manage it.
It’s not the end of the world, and you can’t give up cause you have a purpose.”
— Junior female
Seth Portwood, school social worker, listed some characteristics of bipolar disorder: pressured speech, racing thoughts, poor decision making and disrupted sleep. He said, “But in a hypomanic state, everything is much bigger and better or much worse depending on the mood.”
Portwood recalled a video of a girl on a MARTA train who began yelling and rapping at an elderly woman. Many of the comments on the video either laugh at her or regard her as “crazy” or “unsafe to the environment.” It turns out that she suffers from bipolar disorder and was in a manic episode at this time. Portwood said, “There’s a significant risk for suicide, so it’s important that people get in treatment and that we don’t just minimize this as somebody being moody or something.”
He encouraged those with bipolar disorder: “Don’t be satisfied that your life can be this up and down.”
Photo Credit: The Hoof Print