Manic Memoirs: Young, Fly and Bipolar

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I sat in front of my laptop Googling feverously.

I wasn’t searching for a hot pair of shoes or looking at one of my favorite blogs. I was looking for someone that looked like me, dressed like me, talked like me…that felt like me.

You see by then I was months into what I called a “spiral”.

Sometime in the late spring, early summer, the familiar issues that have plagued me in the past began to creep out of hibernation. What I assumed was an unchecked ADD diagnosis was beginning to rear its ugly head and I was scared. By early fall I had lost two clients, was doing a horrible job managing my life, felt like I was at the bottom of the bottom and was reduced to searching the world wide web for just one example of someone that I could identify with that was going through what I was at the time and was successful.

I found nothing. I mean, I found “stuff”, but nothing that gave me a sense of clarity.

I was young. I had a blossoming career in the entertainment industry. I graduated from Howard University, juggled three kids but once again, I was falling short. But I was better than this, right? People like me were not supposed to feel like this so what was wrong with me? I may not have looked crazy but I sure did feel like it and I continued to spiral.

And spiral.

And spiral some more until I had hit what felt like rock bottom.

With nowhere else to turn I called my mother, admitted my situation (which little did I know was far more obvious to those around me than I allowed myself to believe) and allowed her to make me an appointment with yet another psychiatrist.

By then I had visited eight psychiatrists, three therapists and one life coach within the 11 years since my initial ADD diagnosis during my junior year of college. With such a checkered past behind me, I went into this meeting with little hope for any real help.

As I sat there and divulged my life and struggles to this woman, she took notes of everything I said, just as they all had done. She asked the same mundane questions, just as they all had done. But something seemed different; she looked at me in another way . She looked at me like she actually cared.

She certainly cared enough to start from scratch and figure out a real plan to help me and by the end of our hour-long session she said the five words that still ring in my head like it was yesterday: “I believe you are bipolar”. I was stunned. She continued to tell me that she believed the ADD was there but it was a subset to the mood disorder that I had been living with.

It all began to make sense. The rollercoaster feeling in the pit of my stomach? Anxiety. The increased energy and seemingly uncontrollable, unfocused days that my friend and I dubbed as my manic moments? Hypomania, a bipolar high. The exhaustion and despair that always followed? A bipolar low.
The frequent sadness and feeling of utter hopelessness? Depression. The spiral that I so naturally accepted? Emotional breakdown.

Man. That was heavy.

I mean, it made sense but it didn’t make sense. I wasn’t bipolar! I had ADD. Tons of people have ADD. The only bipolar people I knew of were the women that you hear about on TV. The ones who hurt themselves or their children. I wasn’t bipolar. I had ADD, dammit.

But nope, that label was applied to me and I could no longer deny it.

I have bipolar disorder II. Wait, do I have bipolar II or am I bipolar? One seems to be a treatable diagnosis while the other sounds like a definition of who I am. (I will ask Dr. Davis later, I guess)

I learned that for many there is no cure, no magic pill to take it all away. Just management.

I’ve finally come to accept my situation. Mainly because the medications I was given seemed to actually work, though my symptoms haven’t disappeared. Yeah, I still pace in circles during the hypomanic moments, talking a mile a minute and am unable to focus on one task, but what used to occur two to three times a day now at most happens once a week.

I finally feel hopeful again, like those six months of despair were not in vain.

It’s been a process and a long overdue one at that. Now that I know the true nature of the symptoms, I can start identifying the traits of my bipolar disorder that I just assumed were parts of my personality. Several emotional breakdowns over the years, the panic attacks, the depression--all things I’d woefully accepted because I had no clue what they truly were.

I may be bipolar (or have bipolar disorder. I swear I’m going to get to the bottom of that) but that’s only a portion of who I am. I’m a mother, a business woman, a creative and a pretty awesome person if I do say so myself.

I have hopes and dreams that extend much further than my latest manic episode. I am excited to talk about this and much more every week on this blog and invite you to take the journey with me.

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Comments

  • cj

    Wow. Finally, someone that can relate. I still have not told my family because I feel like they will judge me, but my hubby is very supportive. The thing that kills me is the way society views bipolar. It has such negative connotations, I felt such shame when I was diagnosed. I hope more will be done in the future to educate people on what it is and how it can be managed.

  • Mississippi Librarian

    Although my undergrad degree is in Psychology, I never thought that African Americans were susceptible to these issues; that is until I began to pay attention to people around me. Then i discovered the true frequency of depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, paranoia, and schizophrenia that occurs in the Black community. I just never thought of Black people as being mentally or emotionally fragile because of the nature of complex circumstances that we navigate on a daily basis and usually we are independent because we have to be from a very, very young age. I have come to know that mental illness is real in the Black community and it is not addressed as frequently as it is in other communities.

  • J.B.

    Mental health is definitely something we struggle with in the black community. I have also self diagnosed myself with ADD. You inspired me to actually make an appt with a professional to provide right diagnosis. Everything is treatable and not something that only I experience. I need to keep that in mind when I think these are “ME” issues. They are definitely more common than I thought Thanks for sharing your story and starting the dialogue.

  • J. Smith

    One of my close friends was diagnosed bi-polar in college. It was the first time I knew someone that actually got professional diagnosis. I definitely felt like some of our mutual firends side eyed/judged and said things that were borderlline ignorant (maybe because they didn’t really know anything about being bi polar) .
    That is what we need to change. We need to make people feel more comfortable sharing .

  • Kasey’s Mom

    As the mother of the young woman that wrote this column I must say that I have never been as proud of her as I am today!! She has shown great courage and faith by sharing her story. she only hopes that by sharing her story others may be encouraged and inspired to seek help. As African Americans, we tend to frown upon seeking medical assistance when it comes to mental health issues. This type of thinking has proven to be detrimental to the well being of our people. Thank You my beautiful daughter for being brave enough to make your voice heard! love you much!!…

  • Mommynoire Guest

    Good to see quality content and relatable writing online. God Bless you.

  • your #1 fan

    I’m in absolute awe right now. .I’m sooo proud of you to reveal something that is so personal and own it, but don’t let it define you. This is so powerful and your going to help so many people through your testimony. This is frm the person that always understood your misunderstoodness for over 20 yrs..lol

  • At A Crossroads

    Thank you for this. I’m currently battling depression. And even though this is about being bipolar, I can totally relate. Some days are better than others but it is truly a struggle I feel totally alone in. I’m taking steps to feel better but sometimes I just wish I could die. I just wish I could disappear.

    • Kasey Woods

      And that’s when you reach out to someone. There are so many options and death is not one of them. It may feel like it but it is not. What you do now is call your insurance provider, find a therapist and psychiatrist in your area and make an appointment now. It gets so much better. This is Kasey, the author by the way. Email me at mymanicmemoirs@gmail.com to talk.