My fourth (and last) episode, a catastrophic, cyclone of Super-Mania with psychosis that resulted in me being hospitalized, was the turning point in my life. I always referred to this episode as being the best thing that ever happened to me and it is. I thought the universe had finally decided to work for me not against me for once. I also began to play with the possibility that there might be more to my life than I recognized.
My major manic cycle corresponded with the busiest time of year (the high holidays of Christmas and New Year) which meant mental health facilities were full to the brim with stressed out and budget minded folks seeking respite from a cycle of excess. I, therefore, ended up in a facility that was pricey but surprisingly wonderful. I owe it all to those in my support team that noticed something was wrong and took initiative to get me the help I needed.
I liked this facility because they had an alternative view to managing your mental health; it wasn’t solely medication based. They taught us coping skills using art, music, crafts, writing and producing vision-boards of what we wanted our life to be like. They had us try acupuncture, acupressure, massage, yoga, guided meditation and other mindfulness activities. We had group therapy, individual therapy and family therapy which is awesome because honestly it is hard for friends and family to fully grasp what is happening and it aids in strengthening the at home support. The staff, upon your release, holds out patient group therapy for patients and their loved ones which I found helpful.
You are given an exit interview upon release, which can be a bit odd because they read back your delusional/hallucinogenic intake interviews (there is a method to the madness), but they also give you a list of literature to read so you can better understand your condition. You are supplied with healthy suggestions you can utilize at home for coping and self-management of your disorder. They help you set up goals to make your transition smoother (from finding a doctor/therapist to assurance that one day you can be in control). I loved that they really cared and wanted you to be pro-active.
They also gave me a warning, which was to avoid my parents until I was stable. Upon my arrival they had contacted my parents (mom, actually) and wanted to talk about my childhood and extended family history, to determine when I first started exhibiting and who else in the family, if anyone, also might be or have been bipolar.
My mother informed the doctors that she wasn’t going to entertain them because it was me just trying to get attention and they shouldn’t believe my lies. I would like to take this moment to tell you that my sister had been diagnosed with bipolar ten years before, and my mother dropped everything and rushed to her side that time and every time since. This probably would have stung a bit if I had been in a more lucid state but I wasn’t and so it didn’t…until later and thankfully by that time I was firmly entrenched in therapy.
I did have, luckily, friends and other family members that were willing to talk with my doctors and given their input and what I had already given the doctors, they were able to pinpoint my first episode and each one after that up to my hospitalization. It was determined that bipolar was prevalent on both sides of my family and explains why their are two siblings in the family unit with the same disorder (a rare occurrence).
What I learned was that it was neither my fault nor the fault of my parents. It was just a genetic luck of the draw and although they could have been a bit more observant it undoubtedly didn’t help that my first episode corresponded with life as we had known it imploding into a Black Hole. We were all stressed and simply trying to survive something that seemed to be in survivable.
Photo: Pink; flora from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Taken by Pamela with a Nikon DSLR 5300, macro lens and rouge filter.