I was 12 years old, sitting on my friend’s bed, when I saw a crow and thought to myself: “Something bad has happened.” Twenty minutes later, my Dad was at the door telling me that my mother had an accident and that he had to take me to the hospital to see her.
When we arrived at the hospital, there lay my mother, barely conscious. One look at her and I knew something was seriously wrong. My Dad tried to explain to my sister and I that she had tried to commit suicide. I didn’t understand. Why would mom want to leave us?
My sister and I soon learned that mom was in such a deep depression she no longer wanted to live—and suddenly, my world didn't make sense any more. I couldn't figure out what depression was. Dad led me to a chart and showed me the normal ups and downs we all experience and that mom was not in the normal range. Her ‘low’ was more severe.
I was shattered inside that something so horrible had happened to my mom. She looked so helpless.
Mom was diagnosed as bipolar. She eventually came home from the hospital and began her struggle to stabilize with medication.
A struggle began for me as well at this time. If I feel sad, am I at risk in some way? I wondered. Are negative emotions such as anger and frustration ‘bad,’ and do they mean you’re depressed? Were tears allowed?
I began to isolate myself, searching for answers to the questions I asked myself. I felt that negative emotions were not good to have, so I began to fear them and suppress them. I did everything in my power to feel ‘good.’
Mom finally levelled out, and I felt I was meeting her for the first time. I found her to be an amazing and wonderful person. She was now able to be there for me now.
Then one day, when I was 17, my turn came. I knew something was wrong: I felt as though I was dead; I had no interest in anything and felt a deep overwhelming sadness. I went to a counsellor at Mental Health and he diagnosed me as being severely depressed.
I met with a psychiatrist who understood me, and my journey towards healing began. In hospital I got started on medication and my mood lifted. When I was well, I moved into a care home to become semi-independent. I took care of myself, managed my allowance, and made two wonderful friends named Debbie and Julie, who ran the care home. They wanted nothing but my mental health and were always lifting me up—until one day, two years later, I decided to move out on my own. I moved into an apartment that was nice and light. This was perfect for me, and I became very independent.
Everything was going well. In fact, I felt so good that I decided I didn't need my medication any more, so stopped taking it. Shortly after stopping my meds, I went into such a state of mania that I began to hallucinate. I believed I harboured criminals in my body. In the pouring rain I walked five miles to the police station to tell them that I had a criminal inside my body to give to them. The police didn’t believe me and told me to “go home, dear.”
While walking home, I felt the presence of a friend who had passed away. We spoke, and then I let her go in freedom, watching her rise up to heaven. I got home, soaking wet from the rain, and can still remember how tremendously good I felt. I decided to take a bath while I was waiting for my boyfriend to come over and was quite happy about this. The problem was I had no boyfriend.
Then ‘they’ arrived. The crisis nurses told me to get out of the bathtub or they were going to come in the bathroom to get me. I didn't understand. I felt so well. I didn't need help. But I got out of the bathtub and got dressed. They took me to the psychiatric ward and locked me up for three days.
It was the absolute worst feeling, being confined within four walls, unable to roam anywhere. I put up such a fight, yelling and screaming, begging them to let me out. I was so angry, I kicked and punched those four walls that surrounded me. I did this until I exhausted myself, then would pass out and sleep for hours. When they finally let me out, I felt so free. But I still didn't understand why they locked me up. They said they had reason to believe I was going to harm myself, yet I had no intentions of doing so—I had been feeling so great.
Thus, my journey to recovery began once again. My psychiatrist had left to work in another city. A new doctor tried one medication after the other and nothing seemed to help. Finally, another doctor, through looking at my history—my severe depressions and my incredible highs—realized I was bipolar, with episodes of psychosis if I was in extreme mania or in a severe depression. He said, “She's bright and intelligent. We need to get her out of the hospital.” And he put me on medication that I finally responded to.
Once I was well, I was discharged and went back home to my apartment. The doctor had suggested that going home would help, and he was right. Slowly I regained full independence—I began buying groceries, paying my bills, driving again—which made me feel good. I kept busy volunteering at places that interested me. I took good care of myself. Eventually I got my life back.
I've learned that, with my illness, I need to live a low-stress and peaceful life. With any severe stress or emotional pain I fall into a depression. I did counselling that helped me sort out the emotional struggle I had due to my mother’s suicide attempt. I learned to accept any and all emotions as part of being human.
So here I am, looking back on my journey. I have been levelled on medication for three wonderful years and have been free to do as I choose. And I’m happy to say that my mom, whom I love her very much, is my best friend.
About the author
Monique would like to use her experience of bipolar disorder to help others suffering from mental illness. She encourages people to reach out for help, because she sees a lot of hope for recovery and living an enjoyable life