Blinding! It was so bright, not in a gleeful way; the intensity of the lights forced me to sit up straight, and that not being my normal posture I found myself fidgeting to maintain the stature. So vivid, the day I walked into that bland lifeless box. The small space, barely able to fit the two of us; I the patient and her, the doctor, sweat formed on my nose and inside the palms of my hands.
There was no medical gear or equipment present, it was just four walls, a desk, three chairs and a door. Not even a thermometer. It felt more like a holding cell, was I a prisoner waiting to be transported to my final destination? I felt isolated. Alone. The next several years would carry this same heaviness.
The wise all knowing woman in white; who in less than 60 minutes of conversation was now explaining to me how I suffer from bipolar-mania.
I will admit I was definitely in some emotional angst and I'd come to her because I'd reached my tipping point, and wasn't sure how much longer I could bear the endless internal interrogations of my not so distance past decision.
A decision that had drastically altered my life; the choice to remove my 15-month-old daughter, Heaven Alise, off life support.
As I stared at her little suffering body, in those final moments of exhaustion and hopelessness, it felt like the right thing to do; but just days, then weeks, and even months later, I wondered constantly, had I played God? Should I have let the machines keep her alive until they couldn't? Was I the one who'd given up and her life was the price I had to pay?
I needed her to tell me that what I was feeling and thinking was normal and to be patient, because I would be healing exactly the way most grieving mothers healed...in time!
But nope, that's not what she said; instead she concluded these ruminating thoughts and lack of focus, low sex drive, bouts of sadness, was in fact clear signs of a bipolar disorder and that my way of coping was nothing more than manic episodes running through their cycles, cycles that medication could help minimize.
The desperation I felt sitting in that stressed sad sauna of a space made me suck up to her words like a newborn baby at the first touch of a mothers nipple.
Pause. I'd heard these words twice in my lifetime. The first time was in the 5th grade, when my cousin baby mama was diagnosed with bipolar mania and the entire family sat around, sharing stories of times they could recall having already known this, because of her emotional instability. Except those comments sounded more like, "I knew that bitch was crazy, remember that time she..."
And the second time was then, sitting there in that clammy incubator, clinging on to this doctors every idea of me; because in those agonizing times of minimal hope and much despair; I truly believed she knew me better than I did.
Am I emotionally unstable?
This is a question I would repeatedly ask myself for the next six years. Every single time I got angry, sad, happy; any emotion! I questioned it.
"Wait, is this bipolar?"
My mother is old school, and a 25+ year recovering drug addict, because of this she never took medicine for anything, she'd risk an infection before taking antibiotics. She didn't trust any of it. She also didn't trust doctors and would always encourage questioning any diagnosis, even a common cold.
She says, "Aw naw...Don't you claim that!" Which basically means get a second opinion before just taking the medicine.
I had every intention on getting a second opinion. Until I realized how the validity of the diagnosis was just as possible as the rejection of it; and what do I do if the truth is not in my favor?
And that's not to say living with bipolar is a good or bad thing; I mean, it just is, but let's be honest, as a people, we haven't been too kind to Kanye...now have we? Meaning, it's not an easy diagnosis to just accept.
So I did what anyone who doesn't want to face the truth would do, I avoided it. Acted like it didn't matter until it did. And every damn time I felt an emotion, it mattered!
Instead of drinking the Kool-Aid (taking the medication); I chose to go on this never ending discovery for a more therapeutic approach to coping with these thoughts of my daughter and now these new thoughts of this diagnosis.
How does one go on having just lost another child--I can't make this shit up-- and now being told she has bipolar mania?
And because the angels had running bets on my emotional stability; just six month later I would be nearing divorce and diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
I seriously thought God was using me as a lab rat for a threshold determinate of human sadness. I used fantasies of awakening to my life having been nothing more than a dream--me in high school happy with friends and goals, deciding a path for my life, a life of healthier eating habits and less stress, better partnering and educational decisions and less self inflicted sadness--as my hypnosis for sleep.
Depression is not an acceptable thing where I come from. To express you are depressed or sad in my family is to be considered crazy or unstable, and you need God! Even going to see that doctor was heavily frowned upon. Sadness was only to be felt, not seen.
I remember one time, just hours after the birth of my daughter, I was crying as my mother glanced over from across the room, barely taking her eyes off the oddly placed, ceiling mounted hospital TV, "what are you crying for?" she habitually snarled.
"I just had a baby, Mom! I'm emotional!" I instinctively clapped back.
Thankfully over the years, my mom too, has grown in her emotional intelligence.
Depression was defined as thoughts you decided to have. You are choosing to be sad. You are choosing to lack clarity; if you just decide to feel better, all will be well; but first pray about it.
PRAY ABOUT IT!
Therapy? NO Therapy! Don't be telling them white folks your business.
PRAY ABOUT IT!
One morning as I stepped out of bed, fragile, I fell to the floor--the dramatics are always present in my fallouts, even if I'm alone--I was tired of this strong, unbreakable, always forward movement ideology; I was fucking exhausted and broken and I no longer needed help, I craved it.
For years everyone gave me their version of how to properly cope, yet none of these ways were working, in fact they increased my rage and deepened my sadness.
The pray about it way was just making me more and more angry that God wasn't doing enough.
I was pissed at the doctor for adding this label to the bag of bullshit I already carried around with me daily.
I was resentful towards my parents for not being better parents and preparing me emotionally for these uneasy moments in life.
I was disappointed in my husband for turning out to be a less than perfect husband, which is ironic, considering I never saw a marriage as something worth aspiring to have.
Saddened for both my living and deceased children as I myself was not the ideal mother, a mother I would want to parent the younger me.
And annoyed at myself for not having the wherewithal to fix it all.
It took years before I found the right therapists. Yes, I have more than one. And highly recommend it, if your insurance or pockets will allow.
They were either too old, too white, too talkative, lacked listening skills--one would assume this to be a prerequisite for being a fucking therapist--disappointingly, a black female therapist who I just knew was the winning ticket, boldly vocalized during our last session, "OH NO he didn't" when I expressed infidelity in my marriage.
Fuck! I thought you were the one, but I can't have you judging my shit like that...bye Felicia!
At this point I'd moved out and was living alone for the first time in my life at age 33. I valued my space and even started to meditate as a bridge to sanity while I searched for a new therapist.
I began asking myself questions...how long did I want to sit in the sadness of my past? How much energy did I want to dedicate to the idea of living with bipolar? How many days did I want to fizzle into nonexistence as I muddled over the woulda shoulda coulda thought processes and consistent self loathing?
I'm literally laughing out loud right now because I really have given sadness, and that diagnosis, so many of my days, hell...years!
Partially, I think this embedded idea of black woman suffrage--we must suffer before being fully accepted-- kept me pinned down longer than necessary. The wiser parts of me are aware, we only know what we know. So, until I learned to walk away, I'd be staying put in a mentality that was not serving me. Whether I acknowledged it or not, this was indeed my choice.
And yes, I still have the thought...Wait, is this Bipolar? Though less frequently.
What I've discovered in the process of unpacking all my shit, is that we all have our own ways of dealing and healing and whatever this looks like may appear insane to others but that doesn't mean it's crazy. Sounds like something a crazy person would say, huh?
I think after hearing it, I wanted Bipolar Mania to be the answer. I wanted it be over when I left that office and yet in that office is where it all started.
The gun fired and I took off running, grasping, winded with only one goal in mind...self-discovery.
Who the fuck am I?
This blog is in some ways a part of that discovery.
Pre-blog, post diagnosis, I started seeking experiences that added to my life versus detracted from it. An endless search of soul satisfying connections that encouraged me to dig deeper and look closer at my own hidden intentions. I very quickly discovered I didn't know or like me very much.
It wasn't until this diagnosis that I begin to unveil the unlimited resources I was born into this world possessing. The ability to go inward, question, reflect, and decide how to move forward in the best way for me and in my own time.
This is sooooooo much easier said than done and I send all the love and light to anyone embarking on a self-defining feat.
Wait, is this bipolar?
Maybe! I don't know. And truthfully, I don't care; because it doesn't define me even if it is.
I never did drink the Kool-Aid nor did I seek confirmation on whether or not I should be drinking it.
I did however start creating my own concoction (my ways of coping); a recipe I desire to ingest and has given me better insight and clarity than I could have imagined six years ago.
Ingredients in my concoction:
Meditation (most days, not all and that's okay)
Free Writing (daily; whatever comes out)
The allowance of tears and sadness (whenever needed)
The unapologetic freedom to have and express emotions.
Reading (for growth and fun)
Therapy and quiet reflective thinking
Acceptance when I don't do any of the above
And lastly deciding in every moment to choose how I allow things to effect me. Even if it doesn't look the way some would assume it should.
And I'm always adding to this list.
We must be advocates for our own sanity; how else do we live the life we truly desire, void of the opinions and theories of others, theories that do not serve us?
Have you ever been told something about yourself that didn't sit right with you?
What did you do about it? Did it change you at all?
What's your way(s) of coping? I'd love to hear some challenges you've faced when being labeled by others.