When the Symptoms Begin: Bipolar Disorder’s Manifestation
I often wonder how other people’s journeys with bipolar disorder began—if it started with a flash, or began to gradually drip into their lives like a thick coat of paint.
It has been almost 13 years since I began psychiatric medication, so it is hard to pinpoint the exact day that I began to present abnormal symptoms.
However, it is hard to forget the year I turned 12, when anxiety began to take its hold on my life.
As a young adolescent girl, my anxiety and obsession manifested in strange ways, ways that didn’t make much sense.
My first episode of memory occurred when we started to get into the dissection of animals in science class.
My seventh grade class was to dissect a crayfish in the coming days, and I was terrified. The anxiety of not knowing what was going to happen when my classmates and I dissected that crayfish was almost unbearable.
I had never experienced anxiety like this before, and it was physically and mentally uncomfortable.
I didn’t know what to do except ask my parents about the upcoming dissection to try to lessen the worry.
I would fire questions at them:
“What is it going to be like, to dissect the crayfish??”
“Is it going to be gross? Am I going to throw up?”
“What if someone else throws up?”
I didn’t want to do it, and I was panicking.
My parents, who had never seen this extreme kind of behavior from me before, were puzzled and impatient.
Their best advice for me was to wait it out and see it unfold for myself.
That idea was horrifying.
My dad began to scold me daily about asking so many “What-ifs”.
I never dissected that crayfish. I sat out in another classroom in what was the start of me being so anxious I would manage to get out of a frightening situation at any cost.
I began to plot and plan future events and situations with great detail, as if I was convincing myself that things would go well if I did these mental rituals.
This behavior increased with time.
The anxiety showed itself when it wanted to.
My depression, however, was like a bolt of lightning.
After a difficult conversation with my biological father one autumn night, I snapped.
For hours that evening I screamed and cried. I was confused and felt like I might be dying.
I told my mom I felt as if I was falling into a well of darkness.
It must have been terrifying for my mom, seeing her once always-smiling daughter gaze into the pits of hell.
I had never known such pain and sadness in my life, and I remember feeling as if it had culminated.
It culminated from the year when my mother and father broke up, the year I moved 1000 miles away from most of my family, the years that I had been bullied, the years that I felt emotionally neglected and misunderstood.
It was coming to a head, and it was an emotional experience no 12 year old should ever have to deal with.
My mother brought me to the family practitioner the next day. The doctor was very sweet, concerned, almost disturbed by the answers I had for her questions.
I felt that I was changed that day, sitting on the examining table.
I wasn’t the same anymore. I was bored by the doctor’s sparkling demeanor.
I had looked into the eyes of psychosis before I had my first date.
I was brutally honest with the people around me, but almost shocked at what was coming out of my mouth.
I was put on an antidepressant and sent home. It was like everyone was holding their breath.
My mother sent me to my father’s house in New York for a week.
She thought maybe some of the issues had to do with the fact that I never saw him.
She was right on some levels, but I think she also might have been in denial.
She has major depression herself.
However, I can understand her confusion and helplessness at discovering that her once extremely outgoing, happy go lucky child was now on SSRIs, like her.
I will never forget those moments because they were the catalyst for what is to be, in general, a lifetime of struggle.
It was going to get worse after that, and I was going to learn through pain and regret.
It was the dividing line between the years of the carefree bliss of childhood and the realization that those days were now far from familiar.
I come back to that year, 2000, often.
Was it a chemical imbalance finally presenting itself?
Did I have enough of the negative events in my life that as I child I could not process very well, especially without a trusted outlet of communication?
It was probably a combination of both, and more.
I’d like to learn more about the advent of symptoms in those that live with bipolar disorder. I think it is a subject that I rarely hear about and that I’d like to compile more information on.