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Feature Bipolar Babe Story: Introducing Becky Kingsley

Greetings babe community, A new idea has swirled into babe land this week and our first feature story has arrived here on Babe's Blog today.  From time to time I will feature a story from a 'babe' or 'beau' living with bipolar disorder.  Please submit your stories to babe@bipolarbabe.com and shine like the star that you are!  I am introducing a fabulous lady who has an intriguing and most interesting story about her experiences of living with bipolar disorder.  She asserts she is a little nervous about sharing in such detail and length.  I admire her courage and her very entertaining work is showcased at www.manicdepressivetalk.com.   This is her personal venue where she share her thoughts on many of the issues surrounding bipolar disorder and includes funny posts such as: A Confession of Sorts: Some of the Most Embarassing Things I have Thought About While in a State of Utter Mania!  Becky also has a chat forum so everyone can participate in stigma free conversations. 

She is witty, charming and I adore her passion for creating open spaces to talk about mental illness, which speaks to her bravery and just plain awesomness.  She is a true bipolar babe! 

Becky Kingsley's Story

"I was 23 when I first was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  My uncle has it, so I pretty much knew what to expect and I was relieved to have an explanation for all of the crazy stuff that I had been going through.  In Jr. High, right after puberty and the onset of a more than a couple of pimples, I started to get paranoid about losing my friends. This was before cell phones, so I sent them neatly folded messages in class shaped like arrows and hearts and whatever else I could make, which asked them “Are you still my friend?"  I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s when my depression started and it lasted on and off for a few years.  My grades went up and down with my mood swings.   One year I was an “A” student and the next year, I was barely passing school and I had decided to “stop taking” two classes.  Somehow, I managed to make it to graduation despite an extremely close call when I ran into a teacher on my way out the door to skip school.  I was fortunately given Saturday School, just like the Breakfast Club, and I didn’t get suspended. College was much easier than high school. The truth is that if you are a little different in high school, sometimes it’s hard to find your niche; after high school, in college or the real world, more people are likely to appreciate you for who you are.  The "real world"?  I transitioned to the real world and I complained to my friends constantly and felt a little depressed, so I decided to get career counseling.  I went in to see my doctor to get a referral to request a counselor or therapist.   Instead of giving me a referral, the doctor suggested Prozac and I decided to take his advice. I had broken the cardinal rule – never go to a GP for psychiatric advice.   Listening to him turned out to be a bad mistake although that may not be the case for everyone. Mania hit within a month, I went from a highly functional hypo-maniac individual to a literal “lunatic” unfit for society.  I felt as if I had a special mission from a higher force, which is strange because I wasn’t religious at all, and I went severely off the deep end.  I quit my job, told my boss I was going to write a book about how to be happy, and believed that I was communicating with people from beyond the grave.  I was involuntarily committed to a treatment facility, which is also known as a psych ward.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but that place was unique.  It was small and the staff really cared about the patients, which should be the norm, but it isn’t.  I stayed about a week and plotted my escape.  To get out, I needed someone to accompany me on an outing, but no one I called was available, so I took my friend’s mom to the movies.  I got kicked out and the doctor gave me my walking papers and I was back working in a week. Fast forward to a few years later on a tropical beach…feeling a little festive one night, I thought it would be a great idea to “christen” the other partiers on the beach with a nice mixture of sand and mud, but they thought otherwise, and tookthe steps necessary to get me help and to get me home.  Going crazy was actually fun the first time.  I was beyond wacky, had fun decorating with lipstick, saw an aura surrounding a nurse who delivered newborns and thought I was the next great Messiah to hit the planet.  After my first episode, I had people so impressed by my stories that they wished they had bipolar too, which was nice.  The next episode was not so much fun.  I had body aches and pains in weird places, I had anxiety and fear (something I had been totally without the first time) and couldn’t get my groove back for a long while.  Afterwards, I went right back to teaching and I went through a doctor who didn’t know as much as he should have about medication so I had NO ENERGY whatsoever. Depression.  I couldn’t work.  I got suicidal and had nobody to talk to about it but my doctor, whom I called every day begging for medication that would help me.  I was staying with family and felt useless and empty.  I slowly started to return to the land of the living.  I volunteered and took classes and tried to stay positive when all I could think about were dark thoughts.  I never attempted suicide, but I thought about it.  Somehow, I survived.  I went back to the 'place' where I had last gone what society calls ‘crazy’ and it took all of my courage just to face everyone after my humiliation subsequent to the manic episode and all of the terrible things I had done and said.  I wasn’t suicidal at this point, but my self-esteem had definitely taken a blow.  I faced and dealt with some of the people that I had problems with and traveled alone a bit.  While I take responsibility for my actions during my mania, truthfully I believe I blew many of my actions totally out of proportion.  I needed money, so got back in the classroom, but I started to get anxious while teaching and felt sucked absolutely dry by my ESL students.  I came home to the USA and started all over again.  This time from scratch.  Since I’ve been back, I’ve worked a number of jobs.  I believe I still feel weirder than most people , but I like it because it’s what makes me 'me'.  I’m proud to be different.  I’m more creative as a result and have more than a few interesting stories to tell. Bipolar Babe asked what advice, if any, I would give a younger person with similar problems. 'Believe in yourself and follow your passions. You might feel that your diagnosis hinders you, but it opens more doors by giving you a reason to search inside yourself more deeply to find the real you. Talk to people.  If you are suffering from suicidal thoughts or you want to harm yourself, you have to 'tell' people. It’s the only way that they can help you. It’s hard to believe, but there are a ton of people who have been in the same situation and who have only grown stronger from their experiences.  Read about Bipolar Disorder- understanding your illness helps you. Educating yourself about medication, stress-releases, symptoms and possible triggers are all great ways to help yourself.' I may have lost out on a lot because of my bipolar disorder and it’s taken a lot of my time and made my relationships more difficult, but I’ve learned about myself and others.  I don’t always feel ok, but that’s a part of life and I have definitely learned to accept myself the way I am, but to also accept my limitations.  Currently, I am writing about bipolar disorder, living back in the United States, enjoying my friends and family, and I feel that I am on the right path."

Why don't you just throw a cast on your brain?

I believed the earth was shaking, when I was first in the psych ward, an actual snow blower came up against the window causing my adrenaline levels to rise in terror. Another patient ran to my side assuring me that I was okay but I was not convinced. I hid in the pitch-black laundry room thinking it was the only safe place in the hospital, but in the next heartbeat I thought I would be crushed to death by a pending earthquake. I had to keep moving, even if it was in circles, around and around the ward. Amusingly, it now reminds me of being on a racetrack. I walked the hallways, unable to sleep for days, ingesting pill after pill, trying to close my eyes, which felt spry and stapled open. When I observed my reflection in the mirror I saw something divine. I believed my body was a holy temple for souls to rest in. But despite my intense spiritual experiences, I just continued walking the hallways, unable to sleep. I was only twenty-six years old and I was being hospitalized for the second time. I will never forget my new psychiatrist first approaching me and asking if I was okay. Earlier that day I felt like I had been beaten to a pulp, but when he spoke I was listening to the gentlest and kindest voice I had heard in years. My last doctor, at the other end of the country in Ottawa was also magnificent—a kind French man. But his office was bright yellow and I believed the colour stimulated my hunger (perhaps explaining my 35-pound weight gain). But this new doctor, Dr. J, seemed to care even more if I was okay. He told me I should take a shower, something I had not done for days and I was motivated to do it. Dr. J reminded me of how special and successful I was. After having only been out of the hospital for a couple of weeks, I was determined to go to Korea to teach English. He prescribed me six months of medication, even though I had met him because of a suicide attempt. He never questioned me. He trusted and respected me. This was amazing because I never even respected myself. When I rambled on about creating an organization about Bipolar Disorder, he never seemed to doubt me and now I am learning not to doubt myself.  2681290940083925091bQWmfe_phI cannot just throw a cast on my brain and head back to work thinking I am 'okay', so instead of being hard on myself and justifying my absence to others and myself, simply okay saying I am in recovery and doing better thank I was.  There are times when I do feel pretty good but with the nature of bipolar disorder it seems it is difficult to find a stable long lasting balance in my mood, sleep and way of being.  This time has been humbling and I am grateful for the things I have been able to accomplish, but I have found peace now in knowing that recovery is where I am at and that is good enough for me.  I have chats with my psych nurse to thank for this.    I actually want to head off to boot camp to do something to ease the depression and restlessness.  It is only by sheer will-power will this happen so I need to throw myself into a structured routine that will push and motivate me.  Alter Ego Fitness…hmmm…I think this is what I need to do this awesome boot camp program!     I am scared, but excited!  Talk soon and thanks for reading.  xo ~Andrea