From Tragedy to Triumph, Part 1

Things began to happen that I didn’t understand in 1991. I found myself not having the energy or even the desire to do the things that had meant so much to me. I became overwhelmed by emotions. Things that I had managed to breeze past for several years became huge points of frustration for me.

After years of thriving on the chaos of juggling appointments and working long hours and never having time to sit still, all I wanted to do was sit still. Unfortunately, while I knew there was a problem and began to seek medical attention for it, I refused to listen to my body’s need to slow down and pace myself better. I tried to continue at the same break-neck speed I had been going.

As time progressed, things began to fall by the wayside piece by piece. What initially seemed to the doctors to be simple depression, “clinical depression” to use their terminology, became more and more unpredictable. Sleep became completely elusive. Typical treatment for depression was ineffective. My moods and behavior became unpredictable and it became nearly impossible for me to function.

In 1993, I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I prefer the medical term to the popular term of manic depression, which immediately conjures up impressions of mad people to a large majority of the world. After a long struggle I was essentially forced to give up my career because it required long hours and more travel than I was capable of doing. In time, I also gave up almost all of the other things that required me to get out of bed or leave my house or that required me to be out in the world where people would know that I was “sick.”

I had gone from defining myself as a success to defining myself as a nutcase. It was irrelevant that this was biological, probably genetic, and eventually treatable. I labeled myself and assumed the rest of the world was doing the same. I hid for five years. I allowed myself to believe I had no choices, no resources and not much to offer. The obstacle in front of me blinded me.

But I had people around me who patiently waited for me to find out for myself what I needed and wanted. Even when I believed I would always be sick, they believed differently and encouraged me and struggled with me and put up with me.

When the time came for me to rise above the obstacles that I was facing, it was their support and my experience in learning and the memories of my college successes that were motivating factors that helped me start on the road back to a new life.

After years of trial and error with all the latest medical treatments I knew that more would be needed than new drugs. The first thing I needed was a desire to take that journey, to make a choice, to risk failure and to prove to myself that it was not my medical condition that defined me but all my life’s experiences, good and bad.