Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine: A Journey Back from Madness

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I’ve been up and I’ve been down, with mood swings and relapses. I’ve been misunderstood; even misdiagnosed for years before being properly diagnosed. And now I know … I am a face of bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorder or Manic-Depressive Illness is a chronic or lifelong mental illness that, although it can never be cured, it can be well controlled. 


If someone had told me my life would be turned upside down due to mental illness I probably would have laughed and said that it was a white person’s illness; and I’m black. Yes, I made it racial of all things. To be honest it was only because the white faces of bipolar disorder were more visible than the black ones. And growing up I assumed that mental illness was a problem for white people, not blacks. I searched but never found anyone that looked like me with this illness; so that just gave way to ignorance.


Now I’m sure somewhere there were other young blacks who were having the same problems as me. Who like me were told “just take it to God and all would be alright.” Well I took it to God and I still wasn’t ok, just renewed in a God I had doubt existed; how could he and I still be allowed to go through this. Not that there is anything wrong with taking it to God but sometimes God needs a little help in quieting an unquiet mind. And I had come to a point in my life where my anger with God had consumed me. 


There wasn’t anything anyone could say or do to prepare me for the chaos that shook up my life. My life was on a downward spiral of self destruction and bipolar wore me down physically, emotionally and spiritually. In all honesty, there were moments when I thought God had abandoned me. My mother looked at it as an identity crisis, something I would grow out of. Nothing made sense in this mixed up world of highs and lows; I lived a life of extremes with mania feeding them the energy needed and depression weighing down my spirit. 


Far too often, those who suffer with mental illness suffer in silence. I choose to bear the weight of my illness alone rather than risk being ostracized for something that was out of my control. Many blacks see mental illness as shameful and delay treatment until symptoms reach crisis proportions. This was me. 


My anger at times was destructive, unforgiving, and sometimes even violent. My thoughts raced in extreme euphoria; and my erratic behavior stemmed from an undiagnosed rapid cycling bipolar disorder. I had moderate manic episodes followed by more severe depression. Usually during the manic phase, I would need less sleep and would have boundless energy and an inflated self-esteem. My manic episodes included rapid speech, disconnected thoughts, grandiose ideas, hallucinations, delusions, anger, extreme paranoia and irritability. I was recklessness and impulsive, which lead to promiscuity, excessive spending, and very fast dangerous driving. 


So there I was angry for no reason and getting angrier as the seconds passed by. I’m talking all out rages; from 0 to 60 in seconds. I would get pissed off and drive like a fool, punch holes in walls, pick fights knowing I would be the one to come out hurt and most of all I would get into verbal altercations. I was just mad at the world. I’ve been so mad I’ve blacked out and not remembered what happened when I awakened. I once chased down this woman just because she told me to go back to Africa. Mind you I had seen no parts of Africa in the first place and had no thought of going back! So I caught her at a red light, jumped from my car, busted her window, pulled her out, and commenced to beat the hell out of her.


Then there were times I was so low time stood still between taking breaths. My depression manifested itself in very debilitating ways. Being so low I didn’t have the energy for suicide but prayed in my mind it would come. Being Bipolar sapped my energy and made me feel very moody. My symptoms resulted in damaged relationships, poor job performance, and even attempted suicide. I found though that I truly wanted to live but just didn’t know how to survive with bipolar disorder. It took three attempts for me to figure that out. I remember wanting to laugh in the face of a mental health provider when she asked me if I felt like hurting myself. It was like … lady, are you serious? I don’t want to die; I just want to be rid of this pain inside of me. I want to be rid of this terrible sadness I feel.

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