Traversing the Unsound Mind – Bipolar Disorder
I am at home in November of 2014. I am hedging bets, and forecasting my departure from this year, and arriving into next year. It was looking good; a smile-overwhelming moment in my life. I am reaching my limits though, and the people around me are noticing. At the end of November, entering into December, I am escorted by an off-duty police officer to a safe place, as I am a danger to myself and others. What makes this time different than the last time was that the only off-duty police officer directly involved, was my dad. All the while, in my mind, I have an undercover bodyguard walking me around. And since my departure from 2014 could have been compromised, my dad took me to the hospital himself. My dad explains I have been misbehaving, and might do something stupid in the near future, and he leaves me with five security guards who want to take away my Blackberry and my watch. I see him exit the room fighting tears, but with a final smile, as I was basically asking him to “come at me bro”. I calmly and directly told him that I was not going to be giving up my mobile device, or my exact-time-keeping watch. He was going to have to physically take them from me. Now, because he was not willing to take things that far, he had to give permission to someone else to do it. In that moment, I had taken complete control over myself, and I braced myself to be taken on by five guards. Apart from hoping someone is still on my side, I am just hoping to keep control of my life. It had been a wild month, and a year of flux, but in a good way. In the blinks leading up to this moment, I had time-travelled to the future; I had stopped time in my mind. I had travelled to the moon and back. I had seen myself from the other side of the Universe, and I was important to the survival of Earth.
My sister and I arrive at Southlake Regional Hospital in my hometown of Newmarket. This is the safest spot for me, my sister and I agree, and my family and close friends supported this decision. In my thoughts, I wonder if this really is the place for me, but trust that nobody who loved me would leave me in the system for too long. I wait my turn to see a doctor, or as I saw him, an advisor. My safety was at risk; the situation was out of control. And I really did realize, my mental health was the situation, and I was the one who wanted control. My reality was rather in focus, and I was the only one who could predict the true path I was on.
I cooperated with the doctor when he asked me to explain the situation. It was clear I was not quite in touch with the same reality the people around me were in touch with, and in fact, I was displaying signs of mania with psychosis. On the flip side, I did not feel as if I was behaving in any way other than normal. Since it was now clear I was the only one facing my reality, I wanted to leave. “Something wasn’t quite right now, and the tempo of my groove was surely shifting”. After the preceding weeks of manic excitement and pure enjoyment, I was now sliding into a state of anger and sadness. Slowly I became more and more uncomfortable with the predicament I was in, as it was not looking good for me. I was about to be admitted into hospital involuntarily for psychiatric care once again.
The doctor ordered blood work, so I had to stay. But I was not about to let them stick a needle in me, and they were not going to get anywhere near me with medication I did not want to take. I had it in my mind that the ‘professionals’ were conspiring against me. When the nurse told me I was going to be given meds to keep me calm, and that they wanted to take more blood than before, I questioned the medical professionals. I protested I was not going to take meds, but nevertheless submitted to another blood test. The nurse cut my left arm, and the blood spilled into their collection device. As my dad and family stood by and watched, the nurse took my blood to the lab. I remember still being calm at this point, and I was complying with strong suggestions to cooperate.
These are the actions of a young adult traversing his unsound mind. Immersed in thought, I had seen a world that was very removed from that of my family’s reality. I could, in one moment, have a realistic experience, and in the next, my mind would think something else was taking place. An event that was more profound than the experiences of those around me was happening at a very conscious level in my mind. These events seemed like they were happening in parallel to reality but slightly more intense and with heavier consequence. Later, it was obvious that all of this was only in my mind, but re-living it now is eye-opening and a lesson as to where my mental perception can take me.
What followed was a relatively short journey to recovery. I was kept in Southlake Hospital for approximately three weeks, with two and a half of those weeks spent in isolation in the psych ward. It took no time to convince me of my disability: Bipolar Disorder was something I accepted and came to terms with in 2009. The medications were administered in what seemed like a calculated experiment again. They knew how the drugs should affect me, but didn’t quite know how my body and mind would react to each specifically. It took days to find a combination that had the desired effect, without having the undesired side-effects. It felt like torture again: keeping me alone in a room that only opened from the outside. I had a bed, a toilet, and a gown; no personal belongings. Food and free time were a luxury, but I could not leave the designated area, let alone step outside. Days felt like minutes, and weeks felt like seconds. This was the complete inverse of what I had experienced last time in this situation, back in 2008.
After three weeks, I was released from South Lake Hospital. I was observed by medical professionals along with social coordinators. It took a team of specialists to medicate me to a point where I was safe to be released into the outside world. I displayed a variety of coping mechanisms, life skills, and tools I had learned to keep positive about my mental health. I already knew about the medications I was taking, and what street drugs do to my mind. The process of finding the right balance of medication and healthy living habits took five months, which felt like a lifetime, but that was back in 2008-2009. I had already been rehabilitated back to a functioning member of society once. This time was going to be a breeze; I was going to find myself.
The part of me that was found again was the part that could conquer the world. Although everyone else in my life had supported me all the way up until now, only I was the one who could go to face my dark side. I understood though: I was a different person than the one that was born into this world. I was going through a big transformation in my life, having faced my dark side before. I remain grateful to my family and friends this present day. I believe we will stay alive and live on this earth for a long time, if only because of the bond that was developed during the struggle to live here together.
In the month that followed, I started to focus on Major Miner again. I reconnected with friends and family, and I started to live again. I also found a way to love more, and now use what I feel to in my heart to help others. It took baby steps to start up again after my release in 2009, but now I am ready to take leaps. One day at a time, I prove to myself and others that living with Bipolar Disorder is a gift. I take my medications mostly as prescribed, because I know the consequences I may face if I don’t. Although I still experience variations in my mood, I do not quite reach the extremes I lived through before. “Depression is an awful dark void where not one rare high-spirited thought could reveal a sliver of light”, while “Mania is such an amazing feeling, it leads to chaos and dire consequences.” Because of my experiences, I will continue to recognize my disability and I will demonstrate I can cope.
“In my effort to live a ‘normal’ life, I have found myself reflecting on my experiences. I look back to see if anything can be learned from my actions. Depression and mania are hard to look back on, as the memory of pain and misery they bring is sometimes overwhelming. When I feel depressed, I remind myself that I am not alone in fighting my demons. I have great friends, and a supportive family that can also see my pain. I reassure myself that there is light at the end of the tunnel I carefully navigate. It may take some time, but eventually you will find the strength to overcome your struggle. In some cases, you may need the help of medication to reach that place where you can move forward. The obstacle of accepting help is a big one for some, and I relate to their sentiment of burden. It can be hard to seek, and even accept, help. The feeling of weakness is crushing, and the feeling of self-helplessness is humiliating. It is assuring to know there are people who care for your well-being, and finding the right people to help you is one of the most important steps to recovery.
To someone facing my struggles, I would recommend you take a close look at all your options before pushing the gas pedal. It is impossible to reverse some actions, so be sure to make the right decision the first time. That extra time spent contemplating the benefits and consequences of your actions can surely save you and others the heartbreak of any wrong doing. Although life is full of imperfections, your experiences, challenges and overcoming of obstacles is what makes up your individuality. Choose your identity by choosing your actions thoughtfully.” (Traversing the Unsound Mind)