My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward

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I had the great pleasure of reading Mark Lukach’s memoir “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward” recently. It was interesting to read from the perspective of a loved one and their experiences dealing with the mental health of their significant other. It’s easy in the struggle to maintain sanity to forget that it is not just you struggling but rather your family is right there with you. Lukach details the account of his wife Guilia’s several stints in the psych ward in a relatively short span of time. Mark speaks about his feelings of abandonment from the  professionals at the Emergency Room who sent his wife Guilia home with medication instead of admitting her when she was having delusions of the Devil.

Mark and his in-laws would ultimately have to bring her back to the ER when she had more ramblings about the Devil and how he is still here and that she protected them from him. They gave her Ativan to calm down and through the fog of it she said “Mark, I am the Devil.” The on-call psychiatrist stated that she would need to be admitted and treated. Mark remembers this moment, “I knew that this was coming, that this was the inevitable next step in the process, but it still felt surreal.”

I realized while reading this book, I never truly thought about my parents and what they had to go through when I was admitted to the psych ward. Did it feel surreal to them? Were they upset? Did they feel as though they had failed me? Dealing with the pain of being forced to be hospitalized left me with no room to consider these questions until now. I feel so incredibly selfish that it took until now to reflect upon them. I hope they know they did everything they could to take care of me but that psychosis is inevitable when untreated for bipolar disorder. I wonder if it was a shock to them that I was being diagnosed with bipolar and sometimes I wonder if they think less of me for it. I know my mother never likes the word being uttered around family or in public as if I was saying God’s name in vain.

Mark’s wife was admitted on a form 5150 which means she was involuntarily checked in and needs to spend 72 hours there as required by law. He describes his first visit with her at the psych ward and it is heart wrenching. She screams at them to leave and that the Devil is there and wants them. She was hysterical with fear and screamed “Don’t you dare come near me!” At one point she rolled onto her back and started to chant “I want to die, I want to die, I want to die.” Mark recalls this moment, “I’m not sure which scared me more: listening to my wife whisper her death wish or scream it.” Throughout all this Mark continued to support his wife and assured her that the Devil would not get her or him and that their love was stronger than any of it, they would get through this.

I similarly had a moment in the psych ward where I wanted to die. They had me on a heavy dose of lithium which we have now learned does not work for me and actually makes me more depressed and suicidal. I laid in the hospital bed crying that I wanted to be with my father and that I thought I was ready to be with him (my father died years ago). My mother just held me crying and I eventually drifted off to sleep and waking to a new day in which they decided to take me off lithium  and instead put me on a nice healthy dose of anti psychotics. Anti psychotics have worked for me then and ever since – keeping me stable.

Once Lukach’s wife was discharged from the hospital she slumped into a eight month depression following her psychosis where she fixated on suicide and was extremely lethargic from the medications she was put on. She was discharged with no firm diagnosis but the doctors had ruled out schizophrenia. Lukach writes, “We had no clear explanation for what had gone wrong. It was probably related to a combination of lack of sleep, stress, hormones, and chemicals in her brain, but not even her clinicians knew what it was.” This meant they did not know if it would come back, however, ninety percent of the time psychosis recurs. They went on with their lives hoping that Guilia  was of the ten percent but as time would tell she was in fact part of the ninety percent.

The reason this book stands out for me not only because it is a memoir about a husband’s experiences with his bipolar wife’s psychosis, but also because it highlights the other side – the caretaker’s struggle with mental health. Lukach mentions he also started seeing a therapist while Guilia was unwell. The therapist wanted to know why Mark wanted so badly to be Guilia’s hero. Mark writes: “I wasn’t too interested in understanding why I devoted to much of my caregiving to Guilia. To me, the answer was simple and cliched: love.”

Mark mentions feeling like shit all the time and wanting to know why. He had never felt so disinterested and lethargic before in his life and was used to having an excessive amount of energy. His therapist said of course he feels like shit because he has been through a lot the past nine months with one month of his wife’s psychosis and following eight months of depression. She also points out that “the worst is over but everything you once knew is gone. The love you had with Guilia, the way you once knew it, is gone.”

Mark reflects on this realization: “Nothing could ever be the same. Our bliss, our puppy love from college, our charmed lives, it was all gone. Guilia’s psychosis and depression would color the rest of our relationship. Maybe even my own happiness wouldn’t come as easily as it always had. I would have to work for it and have the courage to do the work.”

Guilia would eventually end up back in the psych ward following the birth of their son Jonas, after tapering off lithium mostly because she would not be able to breast-feed on it. Instead of a psychosis fixated on hell though this psychosis would fixate on the notion of heaven. After days of not sleeping and rambling about heaven being earth she was admitted to the psych ward for her second time in three years. The doctor believed Guilia was suffering from postpartum psychosis. The doctor would eventually officially diagnose Guilia with bipolar disorder I, characterized by soaring highs and crippling lows. Guilia somehow experienced both as negatives with her mania fast-tracking into psychosis, with paranoia and delusions. The doctor made it clear she will have to be on lithium for the rest of her life.

Guilia would be released from her second stay at the psych ward after thirty two days. Mark would end up feeling uneasy with the two hospitalizations and begin to research bipolar more thoroughly. He spoke with Sasha Altman DuBrul, one of the founders of the Icarus Project, an alternative medical health organization that calls mental illness “the space between brilliance and madness.” Sasha introduced to Mark the concept of a mad map. Mad maps allow psychiatric patients to outline what they’d like their care to look like in future mental health crises. They are designed to encourage patients to plan ahead in order to give them more control and avoid, or at least minimize future mistakes.

They came up with a plan for if Guilia starts to relapse again. If she can’t sleep again, she will take one milligram of Risperdal (an antipsychotic) by midnight. If she still can’t sleep by two a.m., she will take two more milligrams for a total of three. Guilia would relapse again and even though she followed the mad map she would end up in the hospital a third time. However, this time, she was discharged after thirteen days – the shortest of all her stays. This may be because they had the safety net of the mad map which lessened the blow of her episode with medication ahead of time instead of only after the fact.

This book was a beautiful account of a husband’s struggle and triumph being his mentally ill wife’s caregiver. It addresses resentments felt and issues with the mental health system. Mark stands by his wife through three psychotic breaks and proves what true love looks like – it is kind, understanding and supportive. He even struggles with his own depression as a result of his wife’s mental health but finds solutions such as exercising regularly and seeing a therapist. The one thing Mark never does is give up on his wife. He genuinely stands by the vow “in sickness and in health” which some not as strong as him may have taken Guilia’s illness as a way to cop out.

If you are looking for a book that shows the other side of mental health – the side with loved ones who struggle to grapple with and understand their significant other’s mental illness – then look no further. This book has shown me what a true caregiver looks like and how they struggle with a variety of feelings. This book is called “My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward” and it is written by one of the loveliest husbands who in my opinion is a hero, a hero to Guilia.

My Second Manic Psychosis

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The third time I was hospitalized was for a manic episode, more specifically a manic psychosis. Psychosis is a mental disorder characterized by symptoms like delusions and hallucinations that indicate a break from reality.  I was experiencing delusions of grandeur which is a clear symptom of manic psychosis. I wholeheartedly believed that I was a celebrity with millions of dollars at my disposal and this belief was erroneously wrong.

I was admitted to the hospital for something so simple yet very indicative of mental illness – I was walking around in a onesie in public handing out brand new perfumes like Chanel Chance and Ariana Grande’s Ari perfume as part of a marketing scheme to promote my Instagram account which I claimed and believed was dedicated to a business I had created. I thought I was in charge of a talent agency of sorts which brought together photographers, models, and the like. I believed I was the Madame of the entertainment business connecting talented individuals to one another and promoting their work. I even believed I was a drug dealer to the stars, providing all entertainers with a good time.

A manic episode is a period of abnormally elevated mood and high energy, accompanied by abnormal behavior that disrupts life. In severe manic episodes, a person loses touch with reality. They may become delusional and behave bizarrely. I was an extreme case of mania in which I generally believed I was a millionaire with tons of money at my disposal and a huge following on social media when in actuality I was on welfare and may have had about 300 followers on my Instagram account. Despite empirical evidence to the contrary, I would not let go of this delusion and even spent my entire welfare check – $800 – on makeup and perfumes at the local shoppers drugmart beauty counter just to give away all the products as part of a “marketing scheme” to boost my following and show appreciation for fans.

It was the receipt from this purchase that my mother found that indicated to her I may be manic and need to be hospitalized. People experiencing mania tend to blow their money without thinking and on unnecessary things. This is an indication that something is going wrong and that their mental state may not be as stable as it should be.

When my mother approached me to go to the hospital, I thought she was out of her mind but decided to go to prove her wrong. I in my deluded thinking thought she just could not accept that I had become successful. I went through a grueling intake in which first I was triaged and then brought to a little room for further questioning then promptly locked up in a padded cell. The bed did not even have sheets which I am guessing is a precaution to people strangling themselves with them.

I could see the camera aimed on me and thought “Big Brother is watching.” I began to scream at the camera saying “this is against my basic freedom and rights! When my lawyer catches on to this, you’re toast! I’m going to sue all your asses including this entire hospital!” (I in fact did not have a lawyer nor never have I had one). As an hour passed, of me screaming profanities at this security camera, and pacing nonstop back and forth in this padded cell, I boldly stated that “I am going to piss all over this bed unless someone comes in here and talks to me face to face!” Well that got their attention (god forbid I make a mess).

A nice lady came in telling me to calm down and that I would be admitted into the psychiatric unit at the hospital but they were waiting for a bed to open up. She explained that I was being placed on an involuntary hold and would be observed for three days minimum. I don’t remember much about my reaction but I bet I uttered more profanities and threatened to sue her personally. Oh, and I might have said some deluded thing like “I have a concert with thousands of fans waiting for me! Who is going to refund their tickets? You?” Needless to say I ended up in the psych ward under a three day observation which turned into a thirty day hold to eventually resulting in me staying at said hospital for three months before I finally “came down to reality.”

You can look back on my much older posts on Instagram and find ones that indicate this slip from reality. In one I post a picture (or rather steal) of a man dangling his legs from a high up building and below are the rooftops of nearby buildings. I wrote a post under this photograph saying FearANDSelf-Loathing was hiring photography interns and that best believe we pay! FearANDSelf-Loathing was actually my first ever WordPress blog that I wrote during my undergrad at Carleton. It was poetry, speculations and my journalistic portfolio. However, in my delusional mind it became a company that I ran and what I believed to be a million dollar revenue company.

I never got any serious inquiries (thank god) but I did offer vice presidency of my supposed corporation to my best friend who knew I was deluded and played along. I unfortunately reached out to several people and offered contracts ranging from 10 000 to 50 000 dollars who actually believed me and were pretty pissed when the truth came out – that I was mentally ill and currently living in a psych ward. Some people guilted me when I was out that I had offered to upgrade their car and that I never followed through. I was like “excuse me did you not get the part about how I was in the nut ward?” But they ‘d go on to say I promised even though they finally knew the truth. They didn’t ask me “Are you okay,” instead they asked “Where’s my fucking sunroof?”

When I was sick with these delusions in the hospital I continued to believe I had the means to purchase whatever the fuck I wanted. They give you access to a telephone and at the lobby you can find magazines filled with adverts for local businesses. I began calling all of them trying to order , well, stuff! I called the local Ford dealership and tried to order five brand new Mustangs. These people of course thought I was insane but some people on the other line of the phone believed me because I spoke so confidently. However, when it came time to pay and I actually lacked the funds to bankroll these ideas people quickly came to realize I might be insane.

As I write this chapter of my book (I am writing a memoir on my experiences with bipolar disorder),  I’m sitting across from my mother who is sorting her taxes. She asks what the topic is and I say without hesitation, “my delusions.” She laughs and responds, “I can list a few if you’d like.” I hesitate, because as much as I am writing about this topic now it is still a hard pill to swallow – that I lost my mind and my entire family witnessed it.

It is hard to reflect on and harder so when I realize I was not the only one there during my delusions of grandeur. I smile and reply “sure” to my mother. She begins to list a few of my delusions , “that you were going to buy and live in a mansion. You called several real estate agents looking to hire them promising a large commission if they could find you a mansion in the Decew Falls area. You tried to arrange a big wine tour with twenty of your closest friends and called several wineries looking to book. The strangest was you asked me to order you an engagement ring.” We both laugh and I say “Aren’t you so glad I’m sane now?” She smiles and says “For now.”

I wonder where these delusions came from and if they are rooted in any truth. Perhaps they reflect my subconscious drive for fame. I never realized I had this within me but it could very well be a real thing. It could maybe even explain my Instagram addiction, haha kidding! Whether it was rooted in some deeper meaning or not, the fact is these delusions occurred. I was the sickest I have ever been in my life, mentally that is. I spent three months in the hospital being pumped with all sorts of mood stabilizers and anti psychotics. I eventually came down from the high that is the delusion of grandeur and realized I was simply one of the masses, the many.

Another interesting thing to note was my steadfast belief in my delusion. Despite a lack of proof or evidence that I was a celebrity with boat loads of money, I still clung to the belief that I was. I would practice songs in the corridors of the hospital mentally preparing for my next concert I would put on as an entertainer. I truly believed with all my heart that my delusion was reality. I was so lost in the deepest recesses of my mind, I could not get out without the help of medical intervention. I am so thankful to my mother for recognizing the signs of my bipolar disorder and getting me to the hospital in time before I did any real damage to my self or others.

I am so thankful for my closest friends who visited me during this tumultuous time in my life at the hospital. They are my real friends because they never have thrown into my face that I’ve been seriously mentally ill. They stood by me while I was having delusions and even played along with them. My best friend of all time recalled that I would phone her from the hospital trying to get her to order limousines and other bizarre rich people things. She said she would always agree with me and play into my delusion because when she did not, she noticed I would become quite stressed and agitated.

Thankfully, after three months I was ready to join the real world again –delusion free. However, I rely on a 300 mg dose of abilify (an antipsychotic injection) every four weeks to keep me on the straight. This is a small inconvenience in my life when compared to the reality that I could lose my mind again if I do not keep up with these monthly injections. I do not wish my experience with manic psychosis on anyone because when the fog lifts and you’re left with just yourself, there is a deep sense of shame that overcomes you – that you could think, act and believe so bizarrely.

The important thing to recognize that this is an illness and it is not your fault but rather the brain chemistry you were born with and that it is treatable and possible to live a normal life. I think the shame comes from the stigma of being hospitalized for a mental disorder because it is not as accepted as it should be in society. I did go insane but that is not my baseline setting and is abnormal for me. Movies and Hollywood glamorize mental illness as people constantly living with insanity and being dangerous to others and themselves but this is not always the case. Medication can do wonders to balance out the brain and correct abnormal behavior in those living with mental illness. It is not a death sentence or a sentence to being in a psychiatric unit your entire life – in my case maybe for intervals but the majority of the time I am like everyone else just living my life to the best possible potential that I can.

Delusions of Grandeur and Just Plain Delusions

The third time I was hospitalized it was for a manic episode. I was experiencing delusions of grandeur which is a clear symptom of mania. I wholeheartedly believed that I was a celebrity with millions of dollars at my disposal and this belief was erroneously wrong. I was admitted to the hospital for something so simple yet very indicative of mental illness – I was walking around in a onesie in public handing out brand new perfumes like Chanel Chance and Ariana Grande’s Ari perfume as part of a marketing scheme to promote my Instagram account which I claimed and believed was dedicated to a business I had created. I thought I was in charge of a talent agency of sorts which brought together photographers, models, and the like. I believed I was the Madame of the entertainment business connecting talented individuals to one another and promoting their work. I even believed I was a drug dealer to the stars, providing all entertainers with a good time.

You can look back on my much older posts on Instagram and find ones that indicate this slip from reality. In one I post a picture (or rather steal) of a man dangling his legs from a high up building and below are the rooftops of nearby buildings. I wrote a post under this photograph saying FearANDSelf-Loathing was hiring photography interns and that best believe we pay! FearANDSelf-Loathing was actually my first ever WordPress blog that I wrote during my undergrad at Carleton. It was poetry, speculations and my journalistic portfolio. However, in my delusional mind it became a company that I ran and what I believed to be a million dollar revenue company.

When I was sick with these delusions in the hospital I continued to believe I had the means to purchase whatever the fuck I wanted. They give you access to a telephone and at the lobby you can find magazines filled with adverts for local businesses. I began calling all of them trying to order , well, stuff! I called the local Ford dealership and tried to order five brand new Mustangs. These people of course thought I was insane but some people on the other line of the phone believed me because I spoke so confidently. However, when it came to pay and I actually lacked the funds to bankroll these ideas people quickly came to realize I might be insane.

As I write this chapter of my book, I’m sitting across from my mother who is sorting her taxes. She asks what the topic is and I say without hesitation, “my delusions.” She laughs and responds, “I can list a few if you’d like.” I hesitate, because as much as I am writing about this topic now it is still a hard pill to swallow – that I lost my mind and my entire family witnessed it. It is hard to reflect on and harder so when I realize I was not the only one there during my delusions of grandeur. I smile and reply “sure” to my mother. She begins to list a few of my delusions , “that you were going to buy and live in a mansion. You called several real estate agents looking to hire them promising a large commission if they could find you a mansion in the Decew Falls area. You tried to arrange a big wine tour with twenty of your closest friends and called several wineries looking to book. The strangest was you asked me to order you an engagement ring.” We both laugh and I say “Aren’t you so glad I’m sane now?” She smiles and says “For now.”

I wonder where these delusions came from and if they are rooted in any truth. Perhaps they reflect my subconscious drive for fame. I never realized I had this within me but it could very well be a real thing. It could maybe even explain my Instagram addiction, haha kidding! Whether it was rooted in some deeper meaning or not, the fact is these delusions occurred. I was the sickest I have ever been in my life, mentally that is. I spent three months in the hospital being pumped with all sorts of mood stabilizers and anti-psychotics. I eventually came down from the high that is the delusion of grandeur and realized I was simply one of the masses, the many.

Another interesting thing to note was my steadfast belief in my delusion. Despite a lack of proof or evidence that I was a celebrity with boat loads of money, I still clung to the belief that I was. I would practice songs in the corridors of the hospital mentally preparing for my next concert I would put on as an entertainer. I truly believed with all my heart that my delusion was reality. I was so lost in the deepest recesses of my mind, I could not get out without the help of medical intervention. I am so thankful to my mother for recognizing the signs of my bipolar disorder and getting me to the hospital in time before I did any real damage to my self or others.

I am so thankful for my closest friends who visited me during this tumultuous time in my life at the hospital. They are my real friends because they never have thrown into my face that I’ve been seriously mentally ill. They stood by me while I was having delusions and even played along with them. My best friend of all time recalled that I would phone her from the hospital trying to get her to order limousines and other bizarre rich people things. She said she would always agree with me and play into my delusion because when she did not, she noticed I would become quite stressed and agitated.

Thankfully, after three months I was ready to join the real world again –delusion free. However, my third stint in the psychiatric unit of the hospital was not my first experience with delusions nor was it my scariest. The scariest delusion I have ever had was that I had been raped and it was during my very first manic episode that I was led to believe this.

This book is called The Secret Diaries of a Manic Depressive Girl because I will be including images of diary entries from my actual diary during times discussed in the book. Below are images of when I was first admitted to the hospital for a manic episode, one symptom being my delusion that I was raped two years ago by a club assistant at a prominent Ottawa nightclub. You can see in these entries that I actually believed I had been rape and am trying to cope with that belief which I thought was reality.

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Diary Entry #1: Sept 4 2014. (the year is dated wrong in the original)

In my first diary entry of my journal at the time of my delusions I allude to a terrible memory I am attempting to suppress. This would be the memory or rather delusion of my rape. I mention I was purposefully not taking my anxiety medication so I could keep that memory docile. How anxiety medications and a memory of rape correlate I’ll never know but remember I was really sick and held on to strange beliefs – one being that I was raped.

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Diary Entry #2: September 17, 2014.

When reflecting on my diary, pages like the one above stand out as interesting. I am and have always been struggling with bipolar disorder and how my identity fits into this disorder. The very first question I write at the top of the page is: “Why am I letting this disorder define me?” I also state “I am ME. I am a person with dreams, with hopes, with desires.” And then I go on to reference a famous Mary Lambert song “Secrets” in which she begins the song “I’ve got bipolar disorder, my shit’s not in order.” However in my journal entry I play on that and write “I have Bipolar Disorder but that doesn’t mean my shit’s not in order.” It’s interesting to see I am still asking the same questions I was struggling with back then.

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Diary Entry #3: September 21, 2014.

Here I hold onto my delusional memory of a rape and state “I know I was raped and I know exactly who did it and I know which nightclub is responsible.” Again, I believed I was raped by a nightclub assistant manager who worked at Ottawa’s Mansion nightclub. I realize in hindsight, my delusional brain took my only one night stand at the time and corrupted it into a dark image of violation. I am a person who does not believe in casual sex and this encounter left me feeling dead inside. I also blacked out parts of the event due to copious amounts of consumed alcohol. It’s easy for a sick brain and a delusional one to take a fractured memory like this and create a new one, one that reflected the emotions felt towards the event.

I remember rolling around on the hospital’s emergency room floor bellowing “Stop! I do not want to see!” referring to the memory of a rape. I was having “flashes” of the rape that occurred in my mind two years ago but they were just a type of hallucination. I believe my brain was trying to find a new memory to reconcile the old one of being used for sex. In my warped mind, it was easier to cope with a rape and someone forcing themselves on me then to admit I had had sex with a shitty guy who just didn’t give a fuck about me. This rolling around and bellowing got me promptly admitted to the psychiatric unit where I would start treatment for my first ever manic episode. I started taking lithium and gradually the hallucinations, paranoia and ultimately delusions began to waiver.

It was not until months later that I was able to let go of the notion that I had been raped. I believed it with all my heart so intensely that I could not imagine just letting it go. In a much later diary entry I reflect on this (pictured below).

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Diary Entry # Unknown.

In this entry I write: ” Reading my journal, is like looking at a stranger, I don’t recognize myself. That’s fucked up – that my brain could create it’s own alternate space without the use of substances. My physical came back in the clear.” This entry reflects my ultimate acceptance that I had not indeed been raped and that this was a trick my bipolar brain had played on me. In the moment, I thought it was the realest thing imaginable and even seeked counseling for it. Imagine that! Someone seeking therapy for an event that never actually occurred but that their delusional brain had created. Now that’s messed up!

I have learned through this experience to not take my sanity for granted. I literally lost my mind to delusions of grandeur and just plain delusions. I understand now that bipolar disorder is an illness, but a treatable one and that with the right drug cocktail I can in fact keep that sanity in check. I am thankful I never tried to harm myself or kill myself due to this fabricated memory/delusion. Rape is in my opinion one of the hardest things to come back from and heal from. My mind was tormented by it and in my reality it was not even real. I could not imagine the pain one experiences from such an event. I am thankful my brain snapped back to its sane state and I could reflect on what was real and what was not. I will never take for granted a clear mind again. Delusions of grandeur are fun for only so long until you realize you are the only one having them.

A special thanks to all the doctors and nurses who helped me on my journey to recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Is My Life Heading?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my life and where it is going lately. I had a long talk with myself (yes, I talk to myself) and realized it’s literally going nowhere. I currently do not have a job, am not in school anymore and spend the majority of my time napping. I began to cry as I realized I am contributing absolutely nothing to society and that made me feel like crap! The only thing that I can think of that has any purpose, is my weekly volunteer shift at the SPCA Cat Adoption Centre in the local mall here. I guess you could say I am in a bit of a slump.

I used to have it all, or at least in my opinion I did. I had three really good and productive years in my life when I was in Ottawa attending school at Carleton University. I completed three years of an undergrad in a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Art History and English with a minor in Psychology. Yes, I double majored and minored! While at school, I was your typical type-A student who aced every course and had multiple extracurriculars. I created and was president of the Visual Arts Carleton (VAC) club, volunteered regularly at a local artist run centre in the community, and wrote regularly in the Arts section of Carleton’s student run newspaper called the Charlatan. I was always on the go and nothing seemed to slow me down. I excelled at University and come to think of those three years there as the best years of my life.

I remember a conversation I had with a roommate during these three years in which she said, “I envy you, you’re so put together.” I laughed at her and responded, “I just look like I do.” But to be honest she had a point, I did have it somewhat put together. I laugh at the thought if she could only see me now – a University drop out (not by choice, due to medical issues) who lives at home with her parents stuck on disability. This conversation always sticks in my head because I currently have it with myself everyday. I envy my past self and her ability to conquer the world so to speak. I used to set goals and smash them but now I don’t even bother making these goals cause I know I’ll just be disappointed. I’ll be disappointed because at the moment current restrictions, both financially and mentally, prohibit me from accomplishing almost any of my goals.

I have bipolar disorder and it makes it difficult for me to be able to do what I want. I’ve had several manic and depressive episodes that have left me hospitalized for months on end in the past few years. I could not finish my degree because I had to be hospitalized for a manic episode. After being hospitalized, I was rendered almost useless from being over medicated and ultimately had to drop out of Carleton University during my fourth and final year. I returned home from Ottawa to Welland and moved back in with my parents where I tried multiple times to hold down a job as a server, barista and TA but nothing stuck. I find after having been hospitalized and on various medications my brain as melted in a sense. I find tasks involving memory and comprehension a lot more difficult than prior to these experiences. I do not grasp things as quickly as I used to which makes holding down a job harder. I am now as of recently on disability and although that is a positive thing because I now have some income, I find it makes me feel worthless. I feel almost like I am not mentally stable enough to have a job or an education and that is enough to make anyone go mental!

I also have financial restrictions that I am embarrassed to say have come to run my life. I maxed out all my credit cards when I was in school paying for things like rent and groceries. This is not the only debt I have since when I was hospitalized I was unable to make payments on my OSAP (student loan) as well. It snowballed to the point that it would be senseless to begin making payments for it would never be paid off in a timely fashion. Another thing to keep in mind is my inability to hold down employment which makes it nearly impossible to make any kind of payment on my debt. I am currently waiting to bankrupt my student loan since you have to have been out of school for a certain amount of years to do it. So as it stands I have no money to even consider going back to school again and it will be years before I can save enough on disability to be able to afford it again. This situation and the inability to do what I love which is study, has made me extremely depressed.

This is all my long winded way of saying, I have no clue where my life is heading. I have decided, however, to try (key word “try”) to do something about it. I will set new and smaller goals to add more enrichment to my life. One goal I have is to learn and experiment more with photography. I also have fitness goals and financial goals that I would like to make this year. I want to be a healthier person both physically and mentally. And sitting around ruminating on my past is not going to get me anywhere. It is important to keep in mind my past when moving forward but it is not the most important thing to be dwelling on. I want to seek out more opportunities to grow as a person and try to learn something new everyday. So I may be limited now in terms of what direction my life can head but that does not mean it cannot be meaningful. I have decided after my little chat with myself about how my life was heading nowhere, that I will fight to have a meaningful life. It may take baby steps but I do believe one day I will return to University and have a career. But for today, I will start with my first goal which is to blog more! And that will just have to be enough…for now.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Sometimes You Just Want To cry… The Story Of My Bipolar Disorder And My Education

I was robbed in life, by life and circumstance. I literally lost my mind in my early 20’s due to the onset of bipolar disorder. I was delusional and completely at a loss with reality. The onset occurred the year I was going to be attending my fourth and final year of University. This was a big deal to me for so many reasons, one of them being I had worked my ass off to come as far as I had come. I created and directed the Visual Arts Carleton club and had a voice in the art community as a regular volunteer/bartender at Gallery 101. I had even come to take a place on the board of directors at Gallery 101 but had to quickly retire the role due to my mental health, and that was devastating. The whole experience of losing one’s mind is made even the worse when said person has to pick up the pieces after the carnage is over. And the end result of my declining mental health was a hospitalization stay against my will in a psychiatric unit. The ultimate betrayal of my mental health was that I could not attend my fourth year of University and finish my degree which was my biggest dream. It was like what I had said before…devastating.

I was robbed in life, by life and circumstance. My life would come to be defined by these episodes of mania and depression that I would experience as a bipolar person. Both landed me in the hospital at some point or another. My depression is not like your depression, its crippling and mind consuming. My brain looped on this one thought “You are a failure, you couldn’t even finish your degree after completing three years of University.” I would lay in bed twenty four hours of the day and sleep sixteen of those. I was trying to put my brain in a coma if I’m being completely honest with myself. It needed to heal and recover from its loss. I had come so close, cheek to cheek, to my dream of finishing university. It was heart breaking to come that close to achieving my ultimate life’s goal and not being able to have it. There was a lot riding on my education, mainly my parent’s hopes and dreams but also a giant student loan. I had to come out of those four years of studying obsessively with something, even if it was just a piece of paper. That piece of paper, that degree, defines you. It says “hey I made it!” and “I am capable.”

It has taken me years to come to terms with not only my disorder but the reality that I may not ever finish my degree and now that I’ve accepted that, I can honestly say it will be okay. As of late I’ve been thinking it would be nice to finish my degree even if its closer at home at Brock University and in a slightly different program than the one I started at Carleton University. However, while consistently being hospitalized the past few years my finances have been depleted. It may not be feasible to attend University anytime soon with my current financial situation. That being said, who says I need to finish this now? Who said I even need to get my degree in my 20s? Why not my 30s? I think my mentality that I should have achieved the goal of getting my degree by the time I was 22 was limiting me. It was only setting me up to fail. If you open and expand your mind to the possibility that everyone’s timeline in life is different than you leave more room for success. It’s all relative in the end. I have to make allowances for my mental health and accept that my condition has deferred my educational timeline for now. I may not get my degree in my 20s but I am feeling optimistic I will have my finances and health sorted out by the time I am 30 and can then try again to get my degree. I am not going to give up but I must admit bipolar disorder has been and caused the greatest set backs in my life. This will not deter me from setting goals and trying to smash them though, not anymore. I will not lie in bed like I used to wondering “why me?” I was given this illness for a reason because God or the powers that be thought I had the strength to handle it and frankly, I NOW accept the challenge.Screen Shot 2018-02-22 at 9.01.06 AM

An Image from my First Year at Carleton University, I am the eighth person from the left.

I Have Bipolar Disorder But I am NOT Bipolar.

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Recently I decided to write a new blog – all things bipolar! This is my first entry in which I plan to outline my goals for this blog and of course introduce myself. It took me years to come to terms with my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, after several bouts of mania, hypomania, bipolar depression and even manic induced psychosis. I felt like the diagnosis labelled me as something “less than” and I really struggled with the concept that I have bipolar disorder but I am not my illness. I am so many more things than my illness: a lover, a fighter, a writer, a journalist and an avid gym goer (thought I would throw that one in there). It was hard to look past the label of a lifelong affliction with a mental disorder. It was hard to look past the fact that my brain worked on a level abnormal to the so called norm. However, a very small part of me was kind of elated because my life and its constant ups and downs finally had context – the cycle of mania and depression.

My intention with this blog is to educate more than anything on the personal side of bipolar disorder and the struggle one might face coming to terms with this illness, monitoring it, and hopefully, ultimately living your best healthy life while living with this affliction (which I am still getting a hang of!). This blog is also an opportunity for me to learn more about the disorder and the people who struggle with it. I intend to follow as many blogs written by bipolar people about bipolar and other mental health issues they may face. I also intend to research the disorder more thoroughly in hopes to further my knowledge and my reader’s on the topic.

Now about me:

My first serious manic episode occurred when I was transitioning into my final year at Carleton University. I had my first manic episode with psychosis and experienced my first ever hospitalization. I hallucinated a memory that I had been raped two years ago and truly believed in my delusional thinking that it was true. I also had paranoid and delusional thoughts centering around the company LaSenza which I was writing an expose on. I thought they were watching me via my webcam and were “on to me.” Lithium helped me come to my senses but left me with a feeling of apathy towards life and an inability to focus on my studies at the time. I returned home to the Niagara region and shortly after experienced my first serious bipolar depression where I laid in bed on average sixteen hours of the day. I developed a sense of anxiety towards the world and ultimately became an agoraphobic for months, not leaving the house and rarely using the front door.

Two antidepressants, Wellbutrin and Cipralex, led to me gradually leaving the house and becoming social once again. However, the combination of the two medications without a mood stabilizer (as I weaned off lithium) resulted in my second full blown episode of mania. I had mainly delusional thoughts in which I thought I was a celebrity with millions of dollars. I offered to buy all my friends cars and even tried ordering a bunch of mustangs by calling a Ford dealership from the hospital phone since I was ultimately hospitalized again. My psychiatrist prescribed lithium once again which resulted in a hard come down where I was extremely embarrassed by my actions. This time around thought I did not have a bipolar depression following my bout of mania. The doctors kept me in the hospital for about two months to ensure I transitioned back into everyday living smoothly. At the time I was very upset about this but am now very thankful.

I have been mania free for about two years now and finally found the right cocktail of drugs to keep me on the straight and arrow (an anti psychotic called abilify and recently a small dose of cipralex to help with my overall anxiety). I believe my experience with bipolar disorder make me a good person to discuss this illness via this blog and shed some light on the nature of the affliction and its fallout.  I will also be slowly releasing a book of fiction I am writing with the working title The Secret Diaries of A Manic Depressive Girl loosely based on my experience with bipolar disorder and hospitalization. I hope to ultimately self publish this book and share it with the world. The goals of this blog are simple: to educate and remove stigma surrounding the illness that is bipolar disorder.

To my readers, I hope you take something away from reading my blog even if its simply the feeling that you’re not alone in this.