I was once asked if I was aware of the damage my Bipolar Disorder has caused to those around me. I was asked in a rather pointed fashion so I dismissed the thought entirely. But I admit it’s a question that tore at me on the inside for a long time.
Did I know, really? And could I even begin to understand the feelings of those left in the wake of my first manic episode?
The short answer is no.
Some have told me, others still won’t speak to me. I’m not certain I remember everything I did 17+ years ago in the fog of mania. Truth be told, at the time it was all happening, I didn’t care.
I had just experienced a difficult end to a relationship and the suicide of a close friend. I fell into my first deep depression. I began speaking with a psychiatrist over the phone. He quickly diagnosed me with depression and put me on a rather high dosage of Prozac.
This was the tipping point.
SSRIs are typically avoided in patients with Bipolar Disorder, but I hadn’t been diagnosed yet. As a listed side effect, Prozac can worsen symptoms of depression. This is a relatively common occurrence. My results weren’t typical though and, as is rarely the case, mania ensued.
In hindsight I remember the rush and the sudden and intense relief of the hopelessness of depression. Pounds that sadness and grief had added began to melt away. I wasn’t willing to give up the euphoria or the new physical self for anything.
By telling my doctor that I was still depressed, I manipulated him into upping my dosage. I have always been extremely skilled in the art of manipulation, most often to my detriment.
Had he insisted on physically seeing me rather than treating me over the phone, he would have witnessed the rapid weight loss and change in demeanor. Unfortunately for me, he did not. I topped out at 80 milligrams a day. That’s the maximum recommended daily dosage, according to the drug’s manufacturer.
Physically I went from 160 lbs. to 110 lbs. in the span of approximately two months. Looking back, I was an emotional train wreck. At the time, I thought I had a new lease on life.
I’m still ashamed of the way I treated my family and friends and the things I did. I discarded ALL of them. I thought I had gained such enlightenment. Suddenly I pridefully touted myself as blunt and bold. I spoke with an unfiltered sharp tongue and I counseled friends on what I perceived their flaws to be. Apparently those close to you don’t appreciate being told that their significant others are beneath them, that they are uneducated and that their general way of life and thinking is subpar. Like I said, the episode cost me almost every single one of my true friends.
I found myself surrounded by people who had everything except my best interests at heart. I took risks just to take them. I should have died 100 times but luckily I made it through. I dated, and I use that term loosely, guys I would have never had anything to do with otherwise.
I ended up marrying someone who had already been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. The union would last all of 8 months. The physically and emotionally abusive relationship was doomed from the start, and frankly should have never happened at all. But my mind was moving too fast, I couldn’t even wait for the ceremony preparations to be completed before I scrapped everything and opted for a smaller quicker wedding.
I took so many wrong turns that I forever lost my way back to the life, family and friends I had before.
I have managed to apologize to some of the people I hurt so severely but some will still not hear me out. I have to accept their boundaries and hope one day that they will. They are still well within their rights to feel the way they do so many years later. Some of the wounds I inflicted will never heal.
I’m writing this now because I was finally given the opportunity to apologize to one of my dearest friends from a time before Bipolar Disorder altered my life.
Mania hasn’t manifested in me since. I have experienced several periods of depression and hypomania over the years. But by the grace of God, I’ve been spared another bout with full blown mania.
I’m still ashamed and embarrassed of some of the things that happened then. For some of those incidents I still can’t find the voice to speak about. Somethings still linger in the dark. That’s the best place for them though and it’s where they will remain. I may be traveling on an alternate route but at least I’m traveling in the light now.
As for the original question of whether or not I understand the damage I caused. The answer is still no. What I do know is that I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on my worst enemies, but mania blinded me as I inflicted it on those I loved.
I don’t have any more answers. I wish I did because they deserve so much more. I can only continue to say I’m sorry to each and every one of them who will listen.
Maybe one day they will realize the damage I did not only to them, but myself too, was the result of a battle I wasn’t yet equipped to fight.