My Personal Story – Alan- Bipolar Youth Action Project Member

Sometimes there is a fire burning and smoldering inside of me. But often, I feel stuck: Destructive habits of thought and inaction can keep me from connecting fully with life's opportunities. Tracing the roots of this, I can see that my emotional brain was largely shaped, shaken and formed in my teens.

Despite having moved almost every year of high school I found my first love there, and although she lived in Scotland we both desired to share a journey of coming closer. We kept in touch daily although we lived thousands of kilometers apart. I was on the school computers all the time, emailing back and forth with her. It was very difficult to keep the relationship going. Finally, I moved to China with my mother and sister; I often felt homesick and isolated. By the end of the year my grade included only one other student, a very quiet friend from Taiwan. In my Grade 11 year we moved back to Canada, and socially I was really lost. The relationship with my girlfriend ended.

My Struggles and Challenges

My parent's struggles to find lasting work took center stage in my family and personal life. One winter night, I spent hours making an igloo outside my house, all alone, feeling as miserable and lonely as a distant star in the icy dark sky. By the end of that school year, although outwardly doing well in school and acting friendly enough to my classmates, I had become extremely introverted. As an escape, I visited an older friend a few hours away in Vancouver, but in time the relationship became confused. He was perverse and abusive.

My first major breakdown came in the summer after graduation. I was blue and aimless. Helping at an intensive summer arts camp really picked me up but shortly afterwards I started having strange ideas, about things like channeling spiritual powers from people who had passed on and connecting to a spiritual dimension. During the day I roamed around town and started thinking that a great event was coming, or that the animals and trees were communicating with me. I would get lost in dream-­like thinking. But when I stopped sleeping, the dreams became waking nightmares. Vivid, powerful and almost tangible, they were difficult to discern from real life. My parents didn't know what to do, and ultimately, I was taken by ambulance to the hospital psychiatric unit.

My Personal Recovery

After a short return home I was admitted to Victoria's Eric Martin Pavilion, where I spent two months mostly in psychiatric intensive care. Some of the big guys in there were pretty scary. The food was awful and I still had strange thoughts and imaginings. It felt like being in jail — an exile in strange surroundings with little to remind me of the real world. Drawing and listening to music were the only consoling activities I had, but thankfully my parents were able to take me out. We would walk along the ocean or visit with friends. But even those activities could be too stressful for me sometimes. After six weeks or so on medication I was able to move to a group home and, within the year, I was doing much better. I got a job, went to college, made friends and joined activities.

Since then I have experienced further upsets, periods of depression and hospitalizations. Re-building good health and social confidence is a continual challenge — but I keep trying. I am not content living in the shadows, but am determined to keep learning about how to relate to the world around me and its expectations, despite my condition. 

By:  Alan, Bipolar Youth Action Project Member