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