Becoming “That Girl:” The Bipolar Girl

By Kimberly Zapata

When I first heard the word —  when I first received the diagnosis; my new diagnosis — panic consumed me. Anger devoured me, and a wave of fear washed over me. Or was it relieve?

I mean, I knew it was coming. I have known for a very long time. But being “that girl” — the one with crazy tats, crazy hair, and a ”crazy” mind — that was too much.

The reality of my diagnosis was too much.

I felt disheartened and sickened, battered and broken, and as I sat in that tiny office, full of wood and sterile whiteness, I felt the air leave my lungs.

Every ounce of my being was sucked from my body because now I am officially “that girl.”

I am “the bipolar girl.”

Of course, I don’t feel any differently than I did yesterday. Then I did when I was “just anxious” or “just depressed.” But in my mind, I am altered. I am changed. I am different.

I am no longer quirky, productive, high-functioning or eccentric; I am manic.

I am no longer emotional, soulful, perceptive or hypersensitive, I am bipolar depressed.

And something about being bipolar feels so much more unstable.

I feel so more unstable.

Make no mistake: I am not proud of my reaction. I am an advocate (a mental health advocate) and one who has worked tirelessly to challenge the stigma. To “stop the stigma,” and to encourage acceptance and self-love. I wouldn’t feel this way if my husband told me he was bipolar. I wouldn’t feel this way my brother told me he was bipolar, and I wouldn’t feel this way if my best friend told me he — or she — was bipolar.

(In fact, I have a dear friend who I have never judged for being bipolar.)

But the same rules do not apply to me. I cannot be gentle with myself or love myself and, in my mind — my bipolar mind — I am helpless. I am hopeless, and I am unworthy.

I am screwed up. I am fucked up, and I want to give up: on myself and on life.

But I haven’t.

Not yet.

In spite of my diagnosis, my “madness,” and my near-constant suicidal thoughts, I haven’t.

Not yet.

Instead, I get up and take pills to balance it out. To balance me out. There is an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer. I take one pill to quell my anxiety and another to help me sleep, and I drink.

Probably more than I should, I drink.

But it’s not working. Nothing is working, at least not yet, and I still cycle.

I still swing.

Make no mistake: my highs are great. They have always been really fucking great, i.e. I feel strong and powerful, smart and successful and nothing can stop me. No one can stop me. The air is electric. My body starts vibrating, and I skip right over cloud nine to cloud ten, eleven, twenty-two, and 112. But the highs are also terrifying.

My mind races. My thoughts become erratic. I can’t sleep. I forget to eat. I run, for hours, I run, and even though I know the wall is coming — even though I see it haunting me and taunting me, looming in the fucking distance — I can’t calm down.

I can’t slow down.

I can’t do a damn thing to avoid it.

Ad then it hits. I hit. Then there is the inevitable crash but if I am being honest, I more comfortable in this state.

It is recognizable and familiar, like an old, toxic friend.

Because this is the state in which the sadness hits. This is the state in which the emptiness and numbness hits, and this the state in which my depression consumes. In which suicidal thoughts and ideations become commonplace. And it is in this state which I have spent most of my days and nights.

It is in this state where I am home.

But right now? Where am I right now? Well, I don’t know. I cannot get a handle on what I am thinking. I cannot figure out what I am feeling, and I cannot tell where the meds end and I begin.

I don’t know who I am.

But I know one thing: I am here. In spite of it all, I am here, and while I may still be struggle with the notion of being “that girl,” I know I am her. In my heart, I am proud to be her. I just have to learn to love her and embrace her. I need to accept because today, I am “that girl.”

Today is the first day of my new life as “the bipolar girl.”

4 thoughts on “Becoming “That Girl:” The Bipolar Girl

  • October 30, 2017 at 10:17 am

    Despite it all, you are still here, making a difference. In my very 1st session with my doc only a few months ago, I told my him about my suicidal thoughts and plan. I told myself to hold out for that appointment. I told no one, not even my husband. Because I didn’t have a diagnosis, to me, it wasn’t real, so I didn’t want to burden anyone with my feelings. When I told my doc those exact words, he told me that I needed to accept that my feelings are always valid, with or without his diagnosis. But it made me think of how much significance I placed on that official stamp of depression. Like you, after that day, I was officially one of “those girls”. And I still feel uncomfortable that it takes meds to make me feel better. And like you, I don’t recognize what I am feeling. Is this what it feels like to be happy? Or is it that I just don’t feel suicidal? I can totally relate to not knowing where the meds end and you begin. I actually told my doc, “I’m not sure if it’s the meds, but I feel lighter and more focused. I feel okay about waking up in the morning.” And he asked, “Does it matter? As long as you feel alive, does it matter the reason why?” And I thought about that. To some extent, I hate that it takes meds to make me feel better. So, yes it does matter. But if I take what he said at face value, most days, I am actually happy to be alive. Depression may be a part of who I am, but, like you, I am here. And regardless of how I got here, that really is all that matters. I know it’s hard, but I hope you won’t define yourself as only the bipolar girl. You are more than that. Someone recently told me, “You matter.” And every time you post something on your page, you matter to me…a complete stranger. Thank you.

  • October 30, 2017 at 11:46 am

    I became that girl this summer… bipolar 2. I completely understand. I used to use that word as a descriptor for others…now I’m that girl. After years of depression and anxiety that began as postpartum depression in 2001, I FINALLY had a diagnosis…YAY! But wait! It was THAT diagnosis. Not so YAY. After doing research, I felt even worse. Everyday is a battle of some sort, but I go… or lay on the couch too exhausted to even take a shower. Your writing is a source of inspiration for me. Keep doing what you do bc it’s a great help to all of us out here in bipolar land.

  • October 30, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    I identify with a lot of this. I’m wondering about my own diagnosis. I have an appointment tomorrow and plan to ask more questions. Hugs and love to you.

  • November 2, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    Hugs! You’re so strong even when you don’t believe it. Thanks for educating us. I wish you well!

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