Hey! This story ends well! Read!
I can’t remember not being bipolar- the reason being is that I have been so since I was 3 or 4. Now I am 16.
My mother found herself pregnant as a 20 year old, single, broke, art student in college. Sure my biological father was “around” (more often than not at a loud frat party next a keg and a couple of young girls) but there was no support and for quite some time she was too afraid to tell her family for fear of further abandonment. Eventually she did disclose her “predicament” and soon I was born. There are two things I know about my first days of life: Firstly, my “baby blanket” was a white dishtowel, and secondly, mother planned to send me to an adoption agency. But something happened and I was “kept;” this was the single best and worst thing to happen to me.
Less than two years after my birth my mother found herself pregnant again, but this time the man was respectable and, naturally, did the right and respectable thing: Married her and adopted me. I believe my biological father visited me twice; once when his mother (my grandmother) pleaded him to do so and once in the Fargo court house where he signed off any connection to me.
I must explain a few things before I go on. Firstly, my adoptive father is a good man but was thrown into the role of being a father too soon, like most 20 year olds he was not prepared or mentally able to do so. Secondly, my childhood was not entirely horrible- in fact, most of the time I was quite happy. Lastly, I was an oddly energetic child. I stopped taking naps at 5 months, began full out chatter at 6 months (something I never stopped) and was diagnosed with ADHD (whether or not I truly have ADHD is yet to be seen-I as well as many health professionals suspect that I was simply a healthy and lively child…heaven forbid a child have more energy than an adult-but I digress,) this was something that my parents have difficulties dealing with. I ask that you not judge my father or mother (I will continue to address my adoptive father as so), for I truly believe that they were doing the best that they could at that time.
It became clear after some time that my father had anger issues. Over what seemed like simple child mistakes he would “blow up” and I was at his mercy. For about a year there was nothing more than screaming in my face or a rather zealous spanking, but it progressed. I was physically abused from ages 2 up until I was almost 14. Life was constantly a question of “is daddy happy or mad today?” and “what did I do?” The only way I can explain what I went through is to really explain what I went through (so If you have PTS in the areas of abuse I suggest skipping this part of my story.)
One night as my family sat together in our basement watching a movie my father said something and (being the smart ass I am) I talked back. The next thing I remember was my dad hitting me, somehow I got away and began running up stairs as fast as possible, my mother running after the two of us, her getting pushed, my dad catching me, lifted me up by my waist, I flipped upside down, and…I got hurt. Later that evening my mom brought me to her room and I remember saying simply “that’s the worse he’s ever hurt me,” and she responded “me too.” She advised me to stay away from him for a while, but that wasn’t me. I thought if I gave him a chance he would say sorry and everything would be all better. He refused to apologize…I don’t think he ever did, instead he refused to talk to me for roughly a week.
A couple years later I had grown accustom to “being hurt” and honest to God thought it was present in every household. So when during a party my dad (wanting me to be less energetic) gripped my arm so tight that it bruised and, later, my mom asked what happened I matter-of-factly replied “oh that, yeah dad did it when he was mad.” I didn’t understand why mom looked so sad or why she told me to keep it covered until it went away.
I think the worst was when I was 13. My little brother (who is now 3) had just been born and was currently napping. My mom and sister were our somewhere and I was doing my laundry. I think that’s what started it all: Laundry. I marvel now while writing this how something so trivial became the foundation for one of the worst moments I hope I ever have to go through. From what I can recall my dad was upset on how slow my laundry-process was going. I told him I was going as fast as I could and that that should be good enough for him (I’m actually not sure what I said, but if I know me-which I think I do-it would have been something around those lines). He did not take it well. I don’t really want to get into the details of what happened (it lasted close to 30 minutes) so I will write about the couple minutes that had the greatest effect on me. After being dragged across the house by my hair, up and down flights of stairs, my dad (for whatever crazed reason) “brought” me into his and my mom’s room, where at the time my brother (less than a year old) had been taking a nap. I just remember him screaming and crying. I didn’t care if I got hurt as long as my baby brother was ok. My maternal instinct (which is a fierce thing to behold when my brother is threatened) caused me to keep looking over my shoulder to make sure he was all right. But that angered my dad and he told me that if I looked over one more time I would wish I had never been born. I tried, so hard, not to look, but it was as if my head was connected to an invisible string and that string kept tugging in the direction of my brother’s crib. The next thing I knew was that I was on the floor, getting kicked while being screamed at to get up.
But it ended. All of it.
The day the abuse stopped was the second best and worst thing to ever happen to me. You see, with the absence of fear for my life I had the chance to think. I though about what happened. Why it happened. How my momma could have just let it happen. I couldn’t make sense of any of it. So I got mad. My floodgates of pain burst and I was set on having the world pay.
Some of you who know a fair amount about bipolar know one of the leading triggers is stress (although it is hereditary, stress can cause it to “show its self” earlier when else wise it may have been delayed and not be present until a later time) and, because my childhood had been so stressful, I had developed bipolar at a VERY young age. I was 14 when I began trying to rid myself of the pain, and any of you who have experienced that age know how messed up you are to start with.
I slept around. I drank. I stole. I snuck out almost nightly. I failed in school. I did every drug from weed to LSD to crystal meth. I cut myself. All I wanted was for the pain to end. Many teens, and even adults with bipolar know this path very well. Those who it doesn’t destroy, it kills. But, there are a lucky few who make it out, and I was one of them.
Towards the end of my 9th grade in high school I was sent to a part-time treatment center for teens and diagnosed with depression. Soon after that I was sent to the mental health “cubby” (that’s really what it was) of a local city hospital. I spent two weeks there and after, I found that I wanted to get better. Not just “get better” but to TRULY get better. I really can’t explain it better than that, perhaps you know what I mean, and perhaps you don’t- take what you will from it.
About 4 months later I was diagnosed with bipolar. That was the best thing to happen to me. Since then I am doing much better in school (with the occasional struggle) and in overall life. I’ve learned to forgive my parents (with many talks, bouts of crying, counseling, and a good dose of time) and above all, love and forgive myself. I now know that it was not my fault for what happened, I have nothing to be ashamed of, and that I’m a beautiful, smart, loveable girl whose life is full of delightful possibilities that stretch only as far as my imagination (and I happen to have a brilliant imagination.)
I am more than willing to email those struggling with bipolar and/or people struggling with someone with bipolar. I highly recommend DBT (dialectal behavior therapy) and reading “Child of Mine” (both helped my family-the book is my mother’s.)
(P.S. I do apologize for this hodgepodge of a story; I put it together in about 40 minutes.)
“We may not have caused all of our own problems, but we must be the one to fix them”
Amazing. Thanks you so much for sharing, Sophia.