When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2012 I was too manic to understand the ramifications of my new found mental illness. And for four years, I was too scared and ashamed to understand the burden of placing blame on my illness. I had my moments of clarity in between those four years, but most of the time I was manic. The last time I was hospitalized for mania was in 2014 and I distinctly remember telling people that I was grateful for the diagnosis. That I was happy to have bipolar disorder. It’s been two years since that hospitalization in St. Luke’s Hospital and as a stable person I can say with confidence that have major depression and mania have helped my life. I wouldn’t go so far to say that I am grateful for the moments of intense energy and mood swings. I won’t say I am grateful for the alienating and suffocating effects of depression. But I would go on record to say that because of regular weekly therapy and medication, I have found a new normal. I have found not of semblance of joy but actual joy. I have found a peace that I never had before.
I was diagnosed at 19, two weeks prior to my 20th birthday. I was enrolled in a summer studio session at Cornell University, making up for the previous semester of horrible work. Why was my work horrendous and not satisfactory enough to get a passing grade? Equal parts of being preoccupied with my father’s declining health and complete apathy for architecture. But here I was, full blown manic in public space. I was manic for a week and a half at this point. I remember not showering or sleeping for seven days. I remember lashing out at friends and strangers. I remember everything I said and did while I was manic. And the level of disgust and hatred I have for that version of me is more than enough to stop me from detailing my actions.
Mania, it’s a literal exhilaration of emotions and energies. I could run on a treadmill at 10mph for 30mins straight, I could almost lift twice the weight I normally do, I didn’t have the necessity of sleep nor food. Some cool things about mania? My skin was glowing like that of a pregnant woman’s. That’s about it. Sex drive? Through the roof. I masturbated 6-8 times a day. I tried to have sex with my girlfriend in a hospital bathroom with the security guard standing outside the door.
When I was first hospitalized for my mania, I was placed in Presbyterian Hospital. I was there for two weeks, but time when you’re manic feels like one long day. I slept and ate regularly. Had visitors: my parents, my mentor, extended family, every day. I thought I was a disciple of Christ, then I thought I was Christ, further down the rabbit hole I went. The medications didn’t really kick in until I was close to being discharged. But that was my first out of three hospitalizations. I would have another one in 2013 and my last in 2014.
Thankfully it’s been two years since my last manic episode/hospitalization. I’ve had some depressive spells since but I welcome those moments over mania any day. It’s been really difficult for me getting back to school but once I returned to Cornell in 2016 I felt complete. Complete although my girlfriend of four years broke up with me. And complete even though three week after entering school my father passed away. That shook me to my core. That brought the first depression of 2016 and then his birthday brought the second. I lost my best friend/confidant/father on February 10, 2016 and it has been difficult to trudge through the bullshit of life. But I remember his attitude and outlook on life, how stoic he was and to the point. He wouldn’t want me to stop but to continue even stronger because of the depression.
He would be proud to know I’ve found many tools to combat my illness. He would be proud to see where I am now, two semesters away from obtaining my bachelors degree and already starting the process for my masters.
But what I am most happy for is that my diagnosis brought me and my father closer. He wasn’t always the best dad, or person. Abusive, physically and mentally, but he provided. And when I diagnosed he found the patience to see me through my depression. To play Parcheesi with me everyday for a month because I couldn’t find the strength to interact with other people.
And to Courtney, my ex-girlfriend, I am sorry that I wasn’t the man you feel in love with. That I lost my ambition, strength, and my reason for even trying. You stood by me the whole time since that summer and I ignored you over my healing. I know how painful it was/is to be in relationship and not even be seen or cared for. I’m sorry I was too ruined to love you equally and care for you equally. I’m sorry I hurt you and lost you.