Learning I was not like everyone else around me, or so I believed, was a difficult time in my life.  I was first told I was mentally ill–specifically manic-depressive with a borderline-personality–back in 1991 when I spent time doing in-patient rehabilitation in a codependency program to help me cope with my father’s alcoholism (he’s been sober now since I’ve been in high school, right before the time of my hospitalization).  This hospitalization was also to help me relearn how to cope with life without the codependent habits of low self-esteem, or minimizing my feelings of importance, feeling like I was supposed to sacrifice my happiness for others as long as they were happy, and using sex to win people to me that I felt drawn towards and looked to find my lost childhood security in the arms of this lover who I prayed would give me all I lacked during those years I sought my father’s love and guidance and found an alcoholic on-the-road at his truck-driving job and or asleep in his living room chair, in front of the TV snoring away, with a pile of beer cans next to his chair, yelling “I was watching that” any time the TV went off, even though it was the sound of his snoring that woke me up in the first place.   

It was hard enough to cope with the few meetings of Alateen I attended and therapy I had before I went into this program, and coping with seeing my father being in his own program and coming out sober and starting his triumphant battle against alcohol that he has been on since the mid-eighties, but being in that place with people who had problems that my naïve nineteen year-old mind was not ready for was difficult.  I learned about AIDS, I learned about homosexuality, infidelity, and the pain of having a child in a war zone through these other patients and I was overloaded with frustration and confusion just from that alone, even beyond what I was being told in my therapy sessions. 

What I was told about myself was really a humdinger!  I was told that I was a manic-depressive (bipolar) with a borderline personality disorder.  A look at a Wikipedia article (as I have just mused upon, remembering my prior research,) or another article on the diagnosis will help you to understand why I went into such a shock and fury when told, and first denied it.  I was there long enough to make sure that by the time I left I had gone through all the grief stages, and left accepting what I was and trying to cope with the labels I felt on my back. 

For a decade after that departure and stamping of labels, I suffered stigma that led me to hide my illnesses, fear taking the needed medications or shame at seeing a therapist or psychiatrist.  My family was often afraid of how I would react to changes in my life, especially when I cried in pain and sheer agony and they were helpless.  I had co-workers and friends who were just as confused, and were very uncomfortable being around me, even if they liked me and sympathized with my illness and troubles.

 I was an angry person, I was a fearful person, and I was not coping well at all, receiving what I believe to be less than adequate care from the medical experts in my life–some who spoke with accents so thick I (or the secretary) had no clue what the doctor said, leaving me even more confused than before stepping into the office.  I am a lady who swoons over accents, but when one stands between me and knowing which drug to take and the dosage, side effects, and other treatments necessary, my romantic heart steps back a beat.  I had therapists my mother felt needed their own therapists and shouldn’t be trying to lead me through my struggles.   I had medications that made me so sick and made me blimp up into a huge ball of fat from soda drunk to counteract the tiredness and dry mouth, and candies constantly sucked for succor, and I was at times like a zombie while on the medication.

I was also reckless when I denied myself proper treatment during this time, or did not receive it because of the professionals in charge and I did not do a proper job, getting involved in questionable relationships where I sought sex as a substitute for love, and being unsafe in the process.  I was lucky I never got pregnant or contracted STDs during this time!  What a horror that would have been!   I was often afraid when my cycle was late and I wondered what a child of mine would be like, knowing that the alcoholism ran through my family line like wild fire (something I am glad I have not yet succumbed to, rarely drinking even socially) and mental diseases were also an issue.  Would my progeny be ill, and should I keep a baby that I feared would be like me?   Could I handle bringing into the world a child that could suffer like me?  Would that be cruel and unusual punishment and abortion be worthy in this potential threat? 

That decade led me to my husband, the first relationship with a man who truly loved me and was not in it just for the sex or just as confused as I am.  My husband is wise and supportive and helpful, and because of him I have the proper treatment I need.  However, he was just as confused and hopeful as I was when I found out I had Graves’ Disease–a hyperthyroid condition–that often mocks bipolar disorder, and I began to believe that they were wrong in that hospital and this time the doctors were right and I was not mentally ill.  I began to believe all my problems were rooted in just physical ailments and gradually stopped seeing mental health professionals, thinking they were wrong and I was right. 

Thus began the cycle of grief all over again, with me in huge denial.  As they say, “Denial is not just a river in Egypt …”

(I apologize for any errors, as I am still adjusting to medications and having trouble typing using a laptop, due to fibromyalgia, arthritis and neuropathy.)