After AmeriCorps, I decided to pursue a degree in nutrition. I was more hopeful than I had actually ever been. Sure, I would experience big spurts of energy and productivity with frequent but short-lived lulls of depression. However, it was manageable, and, quite frankly, it was the best I had ever felt, so things were good for a while.
Then I met a boy. At that point, I placed so much of my self-worth on being loved by someone–so it was devastating when he acted in a way that showed he didn’t and intoxicating when he showed he did. I was caught in an abuse cycle and wanted to fix him.
As a result, I started furiously reading and researching personality disorders, alcoholism, and bipolar to help me “understand” why my toxic boyfriend acted the way he did. One day, while reading Bipolar for Dummies, I thought, oh, this feels familiar. But it was just a passing thought.
The shear stress of the relationship was up-regulating my depression and hypomania and making me feel very unstable. To top it off, I wasn’t eating well, I was drinking even more and basically just beating up my body. At the time, I had no idea my lifestyle choices were causing such dramatic shifts in my moods and general well-being.
Around that time, I experimented with some drugs, which set off a cascade of debilitating anxiety and hypomania. There was one particular instance when I spent days gasping with anxiety, trying to catch my breath–it was so intense, I could barely get through a day. That was the first time in my life that I thought, “I understand why a person wouldn’t want to be alive anymore.” I didn’t believe I would take my life, but for the first time I understood not wanting to keep going. That was the day I reached out to a therapist.