Hi Crazy Beautiful Reader,
A few years ago, I thought I had effectively ‘beaten’ bipolar disorder. Because I’d lived locked inside the walls of my own psychosis in college for a brutal month-long hospitalization, I took my medication, without wavering, every day, for almost fifteen years. And while I did struggle with moods, I adopted strategies to control them. I somehow believed that the medication was a panacea that would keep me sane, forever.
In August of 2015, a few months before my 35th birthday, I decided to freeze my eggs. I was single at the time. I wasn’t sure I wanted children, but I knew I wanted the choice to have them. I was tired of sitting through date after online date feeling like the deadline to find Mr. ‘Right’ with whom I could procreate was looming.
I knew freezing my eggs would mean a disruption in my mood, but I had a great doctor and a history of deftly regulating my moods. But within days of starting the hormone injections, the beguiling throb of a familiar euphoria buzzed through my body. I was electrified by brilliant ideas and inventions. Tortured by a ravenous desire for sex. The hormone-laden process of jump-starting my ovaries had made me ‘hypomanic,’ the term doctors use for an elevated mood that’s a notch or two below full-blown mania. At that point in the egg-freezing process, I was flying too high.
The manic episode arrived a few weeks later. I was hospitalized for the first time since college. My psychosis returned. I was remarkably violent, completely unhinged.
In the wake of the egg freezing, my case was what they call treatment-resistant. Despite the highly sedating medications I was swallowing or receiving by injection, I refused to sleep for days. I had enough Seroquel, Klonopin, Zyprexa, Benadryl, Thorazine, and Ativan in my system to sedate a linebacker. The doctors eventually recommended Electroconvulsive Therapy, or ECT, to my parents. With ECT, electrodes send small currents through the brain to induce a short seizure that, for reasons that are not fully understood, essentially resets the brain. Within days of receiving the treatment, I had come back to myself. I was ready to leave the hospital. In the year that followed, I regulated my mood with medications, therapy, and self-care.
AUGUST MANIA, PART 2
In August of 2016, after I’d returned to work and lived healthily for many months, the mania returned with no apparent trigger. It was more muted, but it was there. It required a second hospitalization. I wasn’t as psychotic as the previous August, but I was very sick. I took another long medical leave. More ECT brought me back to myself, but now I was forced to face the fact I’d had three major manic episodes: winter of 1999, August 2015, and August 2016.
The doctors say once you have a manic episode, you’re more likely to have another and another. I was no longer someone who had in her own mind at least ‘figured out’ bipolar disorder. I was someone living with bipolar disorder.
THIS PAST AUGUST
This summer, my family decided to tell me they were worried. “What is your August plan?” they asked. I didn’t have one. I got nervous. I hadn’t gotten sick in August 2017, but for some reason that didn’t allay my fears. Augusts were when I apparently lost my mind. I’d also signed up to do a four week workshop called the AltMBA and I knew the intensity could be a trigger. What was I thinking?
I considered dropping out. But I pushed myself to do it, and this August, I managed to sleep every night, prioritize work/life balance, and not get sick. I understood for the first time that bipolar disorder is not meant to disappear into the background. It’s not meant to be an afterthought. It’s mean to be a continuous struggle, a fight. What I like to call a crazy beautiful fight. Because hey, there’s always next August.
During the workshop, I spoke publicly about bipolar disorder for the first time. I talked about living with bipolar disorder and I realized that one of my most profound life goals was to write something that helped others who are struggling with mental health. I landed on the idea of a newsletter and so here we are.
Welcome, to the Crazy Beautiful Newsletter #1.
I believe that it is possible to live well with mental illness and mental health struggles. I haven’t figured everything out, but I live inside this possibility. And so many of you out there do as well.
This newsletter is a place where I hope to share with you, every issue, something about what it means to own your story, to own your struggle, and to live well with mental illness.
Please let me know what you think by hitting ‘reply’ and dropping me a note if this newsletter resonates with you. Your feedback means the world to me.
p.s. Some of you are receiving this because you previously subscribed to my now dormant blog Your Bipolar Girl … others on this list are friends near and far. Thank you for your continued love and support!