“You have bipolar disorder.”
My heart sank. My thoughts raced. What was going to happen next? Would I ever get better? Why did these four words seem so daunting and scary, all at the same time? Would I always be ‘the girl with the mental disorder?’
All thoughts that raced through my head around September of 2008 when my doctor’s intake led to these results.
I knew something was wrong when my credit card debt racked up, my glass of wine became bottles, my stress about my upcoming wedding led me to barely enjoy the planning, my fights and arguments with friends became unsolvable (in my head), my job at The Miami Herald too stressful, my highs were way high, my lows became tear-stained evenings crying over everything, my “Sex and the City” late night watching binges led to 5 a.m. bed times and my loneliness seemed heightened, even with a million friends around me. I had an answer. Something was wrong.
I knew it now, and I was the more powerful for it.
I am sharing my story because I still get these feelings and make the same mistakes, but they are thankfully more contained thanks to 5 mg of Abilify, a supportive husband and group of friends that believe in me. But you want to know what the hardest part of it all has been?
Believing in myself.
Let’s continue this story by saying, I am considered successful. People say they love me. I am now a high school teacher and professor, leaving behind a very stressful journalism career only to freelance on the side when my soul needs to create the written word…I miss journalism, but not the deadlines every day. Not the constant parties and social events where people said “they were friends,” which only would lead to me missing them when they stopped calling, triggering a panic/manic episode.
I love writing, I love some of the friends I made through that career, but when you are clutching your 5th vodka soda at a Grey Goose event to self-medicate thanks to the crowd, you need a moment and the recovery, mentally, takes days.
You could say believing in myself is hard, but I believed in myself enough to realize…enough is enough. I wanted to be happy, inside the darkness of my mind and the struggles of my insecurities.
You could say my children/students saved me. I am not yet a mother, but after the layoffs of 2008/9 at The Miami Herald, I found my calling, standing in a classroom at Florida International University teaching masters degree students the joys of writing. The passion of journalism. Seeing them believe in me, 26 years-old, as I stood in front of that classroom shaking my first day, brought me some light. Having them sing me happy birthday that October 2009 with chocolate cake and telling me they “got it” and “loved my class” made me realize I had a calling. I was hooked…I felt at peace.
Then, I decided to continue this route, entering classrooms in Miami-Dade College, lecturing at Florida Atlantic University, all while working stints as an editor at Where Magazine, where I cut back on events, and later in 2015 at Bauer Xcel Media, as a senior web editor for J-14 Magazine, working from home. It seemed like a dream job.
Only problem is, despite doctor visits and monitoring, my demons, my bipolar cloud, will always be there. Loneliness working from home triggered it. I was happiest in the classroom. Breaking into tears, I knew I needed to make a change.
That’s when I realized…I am successful, but to what cost? What success did I want for myself? I wanted to make a change, have better hours, change lives…I wanted to be a high school teacher as well as continue my college teaching career.
Scared, I applied. I got the job. Boca Raton Community High School is now home. I am going on my 4th year as a teacher there and it was like putting myself back through school, learning the ropes, making new friends, going through the new teacher program, taking exams and finally, this year, being fully certified as Florida Department of Education teacher.
And then there’s the kids. My 10th graders.
You could say they make me smile. You could say they saved me. But in the end, I saved myself and I followed my dreams and realized despite a disability I can, too, live a full life and focus on my goals.
Fast forward. It is almost August 2018. I am writing this on a break as I teach international students at ISSOS (International Summer School of Scotland) at Yale University. I also still write. My husband is still around, and so is my cat, Luna. I have some good friends and family. I am still here.
I share my story because I have my days. I go dark. I think about my mistakes. Student loan debt. Credit Card debt. Lost friends, lost chances…what if. “You are ugly, you are not smart enough, you are not doing enough, you are not working hard enough, you should NOT BE IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE.”
All of this happens in a bad, low episode.
Then comes the high…and I am magic. All is beautiful. I am loved. I am pretty, smart and talented. I am a rock star.
And guess what I do?
I hang on to that moment and I tell my bipolar disorder thank you.
I will hang on to the positive. I am still here. I am enough.
And then I start my day all over again, realizing this disease will not go away. But, I can fight it. And, my dear readers, you can as well if you’re ever diagnosed with any disability or mental disease.
You, too, are enough.