I’ve been given a lot of labels since I was 17 years old;. psychotic, alcoholic, drug addict, bulimic, cutter, depressed, and labeled as having post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, and .
My Teen Years
When I was 13 years old, I began experiencing hypo-mania with lots of energy and really bizarre behavior. I remember one night I spent nearly an hour rolling on the ground back and forth in an empty parking lot late at night, laughing to myself. This was when my safe world changed into an unfamiliar place, which is what triggered the mania. I was abused for 3 months. The stress of the abuse triggered the start of my long battle with bipolar disorder. I told no one. I was all alone and terrified. For the next 3 years, the hypo-mania was my escape from reality.
At 16 years old, I had my first major depressive episode, so my doctor put me on medication, but I struggled with suicidal thoughts and impulses. I began harming myself and experimenting with alcohol.
Then at 17 years old, I began experiencing full blown mania with extreme rage, anger, agitation and felt completely out of control. I felt that I could talk to no one, and even if someone was there, I didn’t know how to reach out. So I continued to drink, and I continued to harm myself. I would stay up 2 to 3 days in a row when I was really manic, cycling back and forth from severe depression to mania. The depression was so dark; I would just daydream and fantasize about ways to end my life. I often got delusional and psychotic. One night I tried to jump off a bridge, because I thought I was superman and wanted to fly.
Eventually, when I was 18 years old, I had my first of what would be many hospitalizations, after a suicide attempt. It was then that I was diagnosed with type rapid cycling Bipolar Disorder Type I. And even though it all made sense, it didn’t make it any easier. I started using drugs. I would use drugs to get me out of a depression and when I wanted distance from the pain.
My life was in complete chaos, where every night was a struggle for my life, and my mom never knew if I would come back in the morning alive. I began having frequent contact with the police. Then I entered my first group home. It was a residential care facility with 24 hour staffing for those struggling with mental health and addictions. I couldn’t live on my own or with my mom anymore. I felt like I had lost everything and all the feelings from the abuse were still festering inside. So I continued to drink, cut and use, and the frequent trips to the hospital and police contact continued. I even went through 28 treatments of electric shock therapy in hopes of managing the mania and depression.
For the next 7 years, this was my life.
My Life in my Twenties
When I was 25 years old, I entered an out patient treatment program called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). It was a 2-year program designed for treating life threatening behaviors with a combination of group and individual work with a counselor. It was the beginning of a big change in my life. For the first time ever, I felt hope. I felt like there was a way I could cope without drinking alcohol and cutting. Through a lot of drug and alcohol treatment and the DBT, I began to turn my life around. I got sober and clean and began to get stable on my medications. After a 12-year illness, I was finally starting to feel better.
In my own mind, there was a downside to getting clean and sober; I began to feel again. But instead of turning to cutting, drugs and alcohol to cope, I began binge-eating and then purging food. The next diagnosis was bulimia. It was 3 more years before I was accepted into a residential treatment centre in Vancouver for bulimia. I spent a year there. I began to feel again, and for the first time, really deal with the feelings and trauma I had from growing up without a father, the sexual abuse, all my hospital stays and the feelings I had around that period of my life.
Recovery is Always Possible
I am now 31 years old, and I am the happiest that I have ever been in my whole life. I am clean and sober, and am happy to say I no longer use the eating disorder to cope. For the last 3 years, I’ve been in school working on a music degree in hopes of teaching and performing piano, and I really like the music program I’m in. I live on my own, have a cat and we take good care of each other.
It has taken a LOT of hard work and a LOT of support, but I am living a life full of love, joy and happiness. I am still healing, still working hard at my recovery by practicing good self care. It shows me that a label is just a label, it doesn’t define who I am as a person and it certainly doesn’t mean that life is over.
Recovery is always possible.