The first decade of my knowledge of my manic-depressive heritage began at nineteen, setting off a whirlwind of pain and anguish when I tried to cope with the knowledge of the condition, tried to find treatment for it, and most of all, coped with the stigma of now being known as “mentally ill” for all time–something many of my friends, co-workers and fellow church parishioners could not handle.

The second decade began at twenty-nine, after a diagnosis of having Graves’s Disease, a hyperthyroid condition that often mimics the bipolar swing of manic-depression.  This decade–while I allowed myself to be treated for postpartum depression after my son was born–I spent in denial of my true mental health and lulled myself into believing that for the entire previous decade the doctors had been wrong and the reason the treatments never seemed to work on me right was because they were treating me for a mental illness when it was a physical illness all along–or so I believed.

What did this mean?  I refused any sort of contact with therapists or psychiatrists except when it was suggested as a treatment for fibromyalgia, and when it got too personal, prying into my history and pushing drugs on me when the purpose of the treatment was to teach me stress-reduction techniques to cope with the pain, I dropped it cold.  A complicated situation and recommendation of a professor did send me into therapy for a brief time, but that stopped after a broken leg stopped me from driving there and never picked back up.  And of course, without therapy or a psychiatrist, there was no medication.

And what did all this mean to my behavior and how I was to the world around me?  This woman who spent her time as a full-time student and mother was bouncing off of the walls, trying to cope with the stress level that would drive just about any woman crazy whether she were bipolar or not, succeeded somehow in getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English, but barely.  Not giving details of specific incidents, there were a few “college-like” behaviors as well, like partying with friends on occasion, not befitting her matronly stature.

Okay, enough third-person-I was crazy, I had some fun and regretted it the morning after.  I had trouble keeping up with classes because the pressure was too great.  I was just plain 0ut-of-control, not so one could put a finger on what was wrong and send me to the right doctor, but enough that I made a few people uncomfortable enough to stay away, and I do not blame them.  I would have stayed away myself if I had had a choice, for it was hell I am sure to be around me during that time of stress and frustration when I refused to be treated for my illness–all due to clinging to the misbelief in a fantasy misdiagnosis to declare myself mentally healthy so I would not face that stigma ever again. 

Living in denial is hard, and most often if one runs with their head down, they eventually run right into a brick wall that knocks them to their senses, and I found mine soon after I hit thirty-nine.