I’ve always been the good kid. You know the one. That kid who’s always on time to class, who never ditched school, and who only saw the principal’s office when receiving awards. Yeah, yeah… I see those eye rolls, but I’m serious. I wasn’t perfect by any means, but I was about as close as any teenager could get.
I was also relatively stable, mood-wise. I know. Mind. Blown! Now I had my moments where I knew the world was ending and other times where I talked back. But overall I was pretty chill. In fact, I only recall getting grounded once between 5th and 12th grade.
I rarely cried or screamed or slammed doors. Actually, I may have never slammed a door, but my parents might disagree, haha! I also got along with most everyone. I had a few close friends, but mostly I was at an acquaintance level with every person I met.
I was casually friendly but guarded. I was an observer and a problem solver. I liked to hear all sides of an argument and then mediate until everyone was happy. But more so, I liked to avoid conflict. And when avoiding conflict is off the table, the next best thing is mastering conflict resolution!
Now what does any of this have to do with my bipolar diagnosis? Well I’m about to get there. You see both of my parents have been diagnosed with varying forms of Bipolar, so I’ve been familiar with the term and the symptoms my entire life.
For most of my childhood my mom overmedicated while my dad, who has different beliefs than I do about mental health, rarely took his medication. So I grew up watching both sides of that same coin.
Part of why I was such a “good” kid was because I vowed to never become my parents. Don’t get me wrong, I love them both dearly. They’re truly people of good intentions and did their best as parents. But they’re people nonetheless. And all people have shortcomings.
From watching my mom I refused to take medication or drugs of any kind for much of my life. Even being superstitious or of ibuprofen and Tylenol. The only exception was if a doctor prescribed the medicine. And even then I was cautious.
Out of respect for my dad and his beliefs on mental health and bipolar disorder, I’m not going to tell a ton of his details. But I will say at a young age, I was aware of his swings and signs for depression and hypomania. I even have memories of my siblings and I discussing them.
So fast forward to high school graduation and then straight off to college. Like any “good” kid was expected to do, right? I ended up marrying Travis in the summer after my freshman year. Things were good! We were happy! And I was getting good grades!
As an accounting and finance double major who planned to sit for my CPA exam I was looking at 5 years of college total. Again, I was the “good” one. I sat in the front, I asked questions, I went to the professors office hours.
About two years into college I started noticing mild anxiety and depression. I’d actually noticed it prior but that seemed par for the course for a first time college student. But something about the fact that I wasn’t new anymore… or maybe that it was lingering longer… or more invasive… I’m not exactly sure, but something made me realize the depression and anxiety wasn’t ok.
I wasn’t exactly sad. Not excessively anyway. I didn’t just cry for no apparent reason. It was deeper than that. Deeper than sad. I felt alone, in a world of apathy. A world full of people, but I was invisible to all of them. My pain invisible.
It was dark too. I could see, I mean the sun was up but everything and every feeling had a haze about it. I still laughed and told jokes, but there wasn’t much joy to back it up. I’d smile, but it seemed foreign. Like I’d taken some other Rebecca’s smile and just borrowed it for the moment.
When I did cry or get upset about something, there was this underlying nagging, as if to tell me my reason for crying was only surface deep and not the real source of my pain. So I’d dig. I’d dig through the days and months and years. I’d look for memories or instances, and I tried to make them fit that void. So that maybe I’d at least know why I was hurting.
The unknown was really the worst part. As a Christian I had my God, my husband, my family, my friends, a future, and so much more. But still something was off; something was missing. Something felt broken.
And not all the time. Some days I felt great, beautiful, smart, and on top of the world! Only for those days to come to a crashing halt as soon as my “perfect” life met with reality. I’d melt into a frustrated irritable person, mad at the world and whoever else just ruined my day.
Now it wasn’t so obvious to the outsider looking in at this point. Because I had that “good” kid look to uphold. But on the inside… at home… when no one was around… this was me.
I use to have what I thought at that time were outbursts and have come to find out are actually meltdowns due to experiencing emotional overload. I’d scream and cuss and yell and beat my legs as hard as I could. I so desperately wanted to throw things or punch the wall or break something.. anything. But I couldn’t let Travis know it was this bad. So I refrained enough to keep the extent hidden.
You see I didn’t know then what I know now. I didn’t know how all my conditions and situations overwhelmed one another and in turn myself. And I didn’t know I was having a physiological reaction. Essentially my body was in fight or flight mode, and it was so overloaded with emotions that it was both fighting and flighting (comedic relief). It didn’t know what to do other than purge those emotions. And que the meltdowns.
Eventually I talked with Travis, I wasn’t completely honest about how bad it was, but I opened up a little. He had noticed some of it too, and suggested I go to the clinic. When I went, the doctor seemed to brush me off in a way that felt to me like he was making light of the situation. I felt very invalidated and ashamed which of course showed itself as frustration and anger as I cried all the way home.
It sucks to feel belittled that way especially when talking about my feelings. Feelings the doctor wasn’t even experiencing. And even if he was rightc and it was something other than depression; I felt like he should have at least validated me and shown some concern.
But that’s the past. I’ve accepted that experience now because that experience is what pushed me to find a primary care physician and advocate for myself during that process. I researched and found a great doctor. One that I still have to be pushy with at times but who takes my concerns seriously. One that helped me finally get the answers I’d been looking for.
And it’s those answers that I’ll pick back up with part two of this post! So be on the lookout for “Bi-Polar Opposites: The Crazy Wife.” And until next time, don’t forget to have a nap and a snack!