Please welcome our new blogger!
I'm a 27 year old man with bipolar I disorder. My roots are in the great state of Pennsylvania, but being a Navy child, I was raised in the southeast coast. For my early childhood I lived in Charleston, SC. In the first semester of the 1996-97 school year I moved in with my dad and stepmom to escape the unstable household of my mother. I have been in GA ever since. My first bout with mental illness was in the spring of my 9th grade year in high school. I was under a lot of stress (playing football, I had just lost my grandfather who I was very close with and I was beginning to hang out with a different crowd than usual in high school). After several weeks of an unstable sleep schedule, I began to have manic thoughts. Those manic thoughts became actions when I decided to follow the ladder in the janitors closet to the roof of my high school. I just felt like going for a walk. After I came down I was hospitalized for 15 days. Those days are much of a blur. I do remember some events. I remember being scared and feeling alone. I attempted escape at least two times. I eventually recovered and was released to the care of my parents. That following summer was the worst I will ever remember. I was heavily sedated for much of the summer and was constantly afraid of what people may be thinking of me. I slept a lot. I gained a lot of weight. The following year my medicine was stabilized and I lived a normal teenage life. I became active in my church youth group, and my sister moved in with us. She said she did not want what happened to me to happen to her (she blamed my mother). I graduated high school in May of 2003. On to college... I attended and graduated with my undergraduate degree in early childhood education from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, GA. At this time I was not yet diagnosed bipolar I. My doctor at the time was considering I may just be going through adolescence with a little more difficulty than others. At this time in my life I hated taking my medicine. I believed it meant I was broken. I eventually was taken off medicine due to persistent negotiating with my doctor (I now know this was the wrong thing). I lived what appeared to be symptom free for the next 4 years, that is until my first attempt at student teaching. I became overwhelmed with the duties of a student teacher in the Fall of 2007, to the point of extreme anxiety which then turned into severe depression. I dropped out of student teaching. I had trouble keeping the simplest foods down. I was constantly in worry. I slept a lot. I considered taking my own life. At this time I saw a doctor again. I started taking medicine again. For the next several months I was living well, that is until I decided I was too prideful to ask my parents to help me pay for my medicine. I stopped taking medicine. I started drinking, a lot. I then suffered from my last bout of mania. I scared my parents and those close to me. The woman who is now my wife was put through Hell and back. So...back to the hospital I went.
This hospital more frightening than the first because now I was among grown men with mental disorders and going through detox. It was what I would consider prison. In this stay in the hospital I almost lost my apartment. I recovered in about a week and a half and was then released a week later (contingent on my grandfather spending that following week with me). Life soon returned to normal. I never stopped taking my medicine. I've continued to hold down a job. I graduated in the Fall of 2008. I became a teacher. I married the love of my life in 2011, and have been symptom free since February 2008. I could not of done this without the help of those around me and my will to press on. I live life with a glass half full mentality. I am now a behavior therapist for children with autism and related disorders. I teach 3 and 4 year old Sunday school at my church and own my own home. I'm Jeremy. I have bipolar I disorder, and I want to help.
My family has always been very supportive and had my best interests in mind. Only my best friends know that I have bipolar disorder. When it comes to stigma, ever since I got out of the hospital in 9th grade I thought there was something wrong with me. My stepmom always did her best to let me know that "I was not crazy" and that taking my medicine was just like someone with diabetes taking medicine. Personally, given my family history (mother with untreated bipolar, and her mother as well), I believe I have the genetic predisposition to the disorder. It was only a matter of time before a significant stressor took me for lack of a better term "over the edge." I do however, feel in control of my condition. I know that taking my medicine and prayer is the most important part of my life. I was afraid of the stigma because I always thought others were judging me, when in reality no one in high school had a clue. For all they know, I went on vacation. I didn't have a typical "Navy child" upbringing. When my dad would get stationed somewhere else, my mom would not go. Side note, my mom and dad divorced when I was only 9, they had been unofficially separated long before then. So I never really had the stress of leaving friends and making new ones. I believe the instability of my mother played a large role in the onset of my disorder. So for now I continue to take my medicine as prescribed, maintain several hobbies, and exercise when I can.