I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was forty-five years old. It was frightening, a relief, and the beginning of a different adventure than I had experienced so far. At first it was a change from extremes of behavior and emotions. Sick as I was, and had been since early adolescence, I had worked so hard to keep all together—college, grad school, marriage, taking care of my two daughters, having my dream job as a tenured college professor, teaching creative writing classes on the side. Getting a master’s in literature in my twenties and finally my master of fine arts in poetry just before my fortieth birthday. It had all been so difficult, so draining, so ridiculously messed up as I knitted myself together in loose stitches, just barely holding on. And even though I now had a name for what was wrong, despite therapy, and medications via my psychiatrist, it still was the beginning of a voyage that sent me spiraling downward that first eight months, until I ended up in a psych hospital for 31 days, four hundred and fifty miles from home.
By November, I was now including PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and depression to my list of ailments. Later, my psychiatrist would include DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) as well. I had been hospitalized locally for three times, had one suicide attempt and was so ill, I had to go away to the residential treatment program. Both my therapist and psychiatrist insisted that the care I needed in order to survive depended on it.
Over the years have come many more hospitalizations. I missed my daughter’s high school graduation as valedictorian, holidays, and my own birthday. That’s how sick I was and still am. It is a day-to-day thing, this mental illness, with stretches of feeling okay and mostly times when I do not want to ever leave the house. My family and some of my friends have stuck by me and know when to try and socialize and when it’s best to just leave me alone.
I am a passionate writer with two books of poetry published. The second, What Brings You To Del Amo, won a poetry prize and is about my journey in a dysfunctional family, growing up, and entering a psych hospital for a month. As for me, I began writing seriously in college and then the writing disappeared for thirteen years when I had to care for my disabled mother. After her death, the poems came back. In addition, I am working on a memoir titled Famished.
So this is my story—-as the daughter two narcissists, of a self-medicating bi-polar mother, and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse from my father. A life of extremes in the use of alcohol, sex, love, and friendships, much of which grew sour. Do you see it? The thread of mental illness arrived early and stayed at the table long after everyone else had gone home.