During my last and worst breakdown, in 2014-15, there were times when I was anything but safe. I lost homes of my own because of illness. And yes, I was at risk--of becoming homeless, of being exploited. I recognize that so many people with mental illnesses do suffer homelessness and exploitation.
Thankfully, my parents stepped in. They scooped me up. Where I am today is a testament to them, to their unconditional love and their unyielding patience. They never gave up on me.
When I think of bipolar, I think of this lyric from an artist a college friend introduced me to:
"And maybe you can keep me from ever being happy/
But you're not going to stop me from having fun..."
- Ani DiFranco, "Gravel"
Bipolar can be fun. I tend to be impulsive, even when not manic. For me, impulsivity has led to some wild, golden moments that I treasure for their magic. I remember, for instance, dancing in discotecas until 3 a.m. in Spain: I had found a culture that loved dancing as much as I did.
"Maybe you can keep me from ever being happy..."
But the impulsivity, if you give in to it over and over, will keep you from being happy. More than that, it will decimate your life.
My breakdown in 2014-15 started from something small, something impulsive: Determined to lose weight, one day in 2013 I decided to stop taking a key medication. I notified my psychiatrist, and she tried to find me a replacement. But nothing worked. Soon, I was having nightmares and insomnia. I was strung out and stressed, showing up late to work and turning in articles past deadline. After being written-up, I quit the job I loved, convinced my boss was preparing to fire me.
My psychiatrist urged me to get back on the medication. But I fought it. I was unable to perceive my need for the medication.
As time went by, I began to become manic and to develop strange ideas. These ideas accelerated over time.
In fall of 2015, I took off driving, convinced I was being recruited by the CIA and was supposed to go to Ohio to a CIA safe house. I didn't know where I was going, but I would make it.
My mom called me around the Michigan/Ohio border.
"Meggie, where are you?"
I told her.
"Why are you going to Ohio?" she asked gently.
I started to cry. "Mom, I think I'm having a break with reality."
"I think you are, too," my mom responded. "Please come home."
She talked me through that night. The next day, she got me to the hospital. Gradually, medications restored me to myself. Finally, I got back on the medication that I had gone off of in 2013. I returned to myself.
In spring of 2016, I began volunteering for a nonprofit, writing and designing the monthly print newsletter. Nine months later, after designing the 2016 annual report, the board voted to hire me as its communications coordinator. It has been eight months since my hiring, and the job is going well.
In the summer of 2017, I began serving as a support group leader for NAMI Metro, the local branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I now dream of going back to school for my master's. I am healthy and well.
I now know this is the right medication for me. It has restored me to myself. I exercise moderately to control my weight and eat healthy. I have more than learned my lesson about medication compliance. My very safety and sanity depends on taking all medications exactly as prescribed.
I will return to where I started, with gratitude. Here is a quote from a book I am reading, "Breathing Under Water" by Richard Rohr, the Franciscan priest:
"Life is a gift, totally given to you without cost, every day of it, and every part of it. A daily and chosen 'attitude of gratitude' will keep your hands open to expect that life, allow that life, and receive life at ever-deeper-levels of satisfaction--but never to think that you deserve it."
I have screwed up so many times, hurt so many people, hurt myself. But God has overlooked that. I have found grace. And I am grateful. I choose this attitude every day.
As I continue in wellness, I hope to journey "further up and further in," to quote C.S. Lewis. There is a whole world of possibilities to be explored out there. There also is an inner world of love, intimacy and spirituality to develop.
I am standing on the cusp of wholeness. Where to from here? The possibilities dazzle me.