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Daddy Issues: My Story

“She has blue eyes.”

That was the first thing my blue-eyed father said about me when I was born. All babies have blue eyes at birth, but mine turned hazel. My dad never knew we had something much bigger in common: bipolar disorder.

My dad was unstable, moody and distant. He’d spend thousands of dollars on luxury goods, then lock himself in my parents’ bedroom for days. One day, he’d affectionately tease me until I giggled. The next day, he’d angrily snap at me for no reason. His outbursts terrified me. I exhausted myself trying to make sense of his actions, always taking them personally. I was the girl with daddy issues, which undiagnosed bipolar disorder made more complicated.

In elementary school, I was full of hyperactive energy. A teacher called me “Bigmouth,” and I often got in trouble for talking in class. In high school, I filled my schedule with extracurricular activities and social events, leaving barely enough time to do homework. In college—on top of a full load of classes and a job—I threw myself into activist groups and partied every night of the week. I drank too much, slept and ate too little. My thoughts raced from one thing to another. I swung back and forth at the mercy of my impulses. I jumped between relationships, apartments, jobs, and even sexual identities. I shoplifted and got arrested. I was on a speeding, runaway locomotive. I didn’t it know then, but I was hypo-manic.

In my senior year of college, my mom left my dad. He was hospitalized for attempting suicide. He washed and dried my mom’s work suits, shrinking them and hanging them back up on the same hangers. I imagined little doll-sized suits, wrinkled and mangled beyond recognition, my dad standing over them.

My dad died by suicide in 1998. I was numb for 4 years after his death until I finally crashed. I had my first major depressive episode. Completely unable to function, I took leave from work.

I saw therapists and psychiatrists. I tried mental illness medication. I struggled for chemical equilibrium in my brain, which was grueling, but I finally found a cocktail of medications that lowered the volume on my moods. I had a psychological evaluation, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was horrified to learn I had the disease that had killed my dad. A bipolar diagnosis felt like a death sentence.

In 2012, I was married to a controlling and verbally abusive man. He reeled me in by paying attention to me—something my dad never did. I made bad decisions with men because of my daddy issues, and that was the worst one. The stress of my marriage triggered my mental illness, and I was thrown into a mixed episode. I barely slept. I was agitated and irritable, and my racing mind catastrophized everything that went slightly awry. I was both hopelessly depressed and anxiously manic. After a nasty argument with my husband, I downed a bunch of meds. I thought I was cured. I was wrong.

I lost consciousness, and woke up strapped to a gurney in the emergency room. Having seizures for twenty-four hours, I was thrown in and out of consciousness. I pulled and kicked against my restraints as reality confronted me. I was then hospitalized at an inpatient psychiatric hospital. Once I was released, I promised myself I’d never go back. A few months later, I left my abusive husband. I wouldn’t let my daddy issues overshadow my self-care again.

I’ll never forget the look on my mom’s face in the emergency room.

I put her through the same experience my dad had, even though I knew better. That’s what bipolar disorder does. It makes you lose insight, narrowing your focus to a needlepoint, so everything and everyone gets lost in the periphery. As I began my recovery, I finally understood the gravity of my illness. Bipolar disorder can be fatal without proper management. What happened to my dad could happen to me.

By accepting my diagnosis, I’ve been able to make sense of my dad’s actions. His emotional distance and instability were neither my fault nor his. They were symptoms of the disease. My understanding of bipolar disorder released me from my crippling daddy issues by allowing me to forgive him. Ironically, the illness that took my dad away ended up bringing us together.

I’m both a survivor and an advocate. I’m currently writing a book, called Daddy Issues: A Memoir, about my experiences. I want to give hope to the millions of people who’ve been affected by bipolar disorder and suicide. I struggle all the time, but I set healthy limits and I reach out for help when I need it. I’ve gotten two bachelor’s degrees in English and graphic design.

National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” broadcast an interview with me, and my artwork has been shown in national and international art museums and a college art school textbook. I’ve been working in the film industry for over fourteen years. I have more than 33 movie and television credits to my name, as well as two Emmy nominations and an Art Director’s Guild Award. I also have a blog—darknessandlight.org—where I share my experiences with bipolar disorder. Yet for all my professional achievements, I’m most proud of my recovery. It’s been my hardest-fought battle.

Someone once asked me if I would get rid of my bipolar disorder if I could. I would not. My past made me into someone I’m proud to be today. I’m living proof that a bipolar diagnosis is not a death sentence.

By: Carrie Cantwell – Blog: darknessandlight.org

Jenna’s Amazing Story! From Suicide Attempt to Recovery…

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.shutterstock_154131002 (2)

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.

bipolar babes story

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.

Bipolar Babes stroy

A Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Brought Salvation

bipolar babes storyMy story begins at the age of 16 or 17. I always knew that there was something not quite right within myself as things did not seem ‘perfect’. My mind was racing and I would need to seek out a quiet place, close my eyes and focus on something. I never spoke of these racing thoughts. I plugged along until I moved out to the West Coast to be with my new man. I realized that I was having manic episodes; getting so angry that I had to walk away. Then I would punish myself for getting angry.

At this point, I decided to get some help from my family doctor (GP) who put me on an antidepressant. This medication took the edge off until I got pregnant with my first daughter and I went off the medications altogether.

Despair and Struggle with my Mental Health Journey

I was diagnosed with postpartum depression after she was born and never was able to get treated with any other meds and was pregnant with my second daughter 10 months later. After the birth of my 2nd daughter I went off the deep end and there seemed to be no saving me and bringing me back to reality. I was not harmful to my babies, but I was in the deepest despair and turned reclusive with them.

I reached out at this time and went to see a counselor – she was an Angel. She got me into a postpartum group with other new Moms and this helped tremendously. Everything seemed rosy now and I could conquer the world.

Over the course of the next 3 years I was put on 4 different antidepressants but none of them shutterstock_78288958 (2)seemed to work. When my father passed away I hit an all-time low and this scared my husband. I was prescribed new medication which seemed to help. I continued to take this medication for 6 years not realizing I was not supposed to be taking it, or any of the other antidepressants that were continually being prescribed to basically ‘shut me up’ and send me on my merry way.

How Love Brought Hope

My husband watched me get deeper and deeper into this abyss. He took me out one sunny day and had an intervention with me. I was shocked and saddened that this person he was describing was actually me. I promised him that I would go to a doctor and finally confess that, yes, I was feeling suicidal along with those EXTREME highs and EXTREME lows. He scheduled a telephone consult with Mental Health and from there they got me in to see a Psychiatrist.

Salvation.

I was finally diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder and was told that antidepressants would do NOTHING for me and was FINALLY prescribed the correct medication. It has been just over a year taking this and I still have my highs and lows, but they are so much easier to handle for both myself and my family. I am now at the point in my life that I am not ashamed to tell people my story and realize that I am not alone.

This diagnosis does not define me as a person.

Theresa, An Amazing Bipolar Babe