[TW: cutting mention] A writing submission about living with bipolar disorder by Rebecca Lombardo

As I entered my senior year of high school, I noticed that my mood could change at the drop of a hat. I may get to school feeling alright, but by the time the afternoon set in, I would be exhausted and dragging through my day.  Now and then, a teacher would approach me and ask if everything was OK at home. It was a humiliating experience, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I graduated in 1991. In 1992, I moved into an apartment with another girl that I barely knew.  I was working two jobs and taking classes when I could.

It didn’t take long for my excitement about being out on my own to turn into this horrible feeling of dread that took over my life.  I was having nightmares so I often couldn’t sleep.  I would down a handful of No-Doz to try to stay awake every day.  It all came crashing down around me one night when I quite literally had a nervous breakdown.  I was hiding in my closet, screaming and crying.  I finally found the strength to call my mom.  She sent my brother to pick me up, and I never spent another night in that apartment.

Not long after that, my parents found a doctor for me. I was put on Prozac, and I tried to go on with my life. I was 19 years old when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. From that point forward, life was a struggle. My moods were up, down, and back up again. I never knew what to expect.  In my late 20’s, I decided that I wanted to take my life.  In the end, I just couldn’t do it. However, I did succeed in teaching myself how to use self-injury as a coping mechanism.

After being committed on two separate occasions and losing every job I ever had, I had no clue where my life was headed. I would date here and there, and inevitably I was dumped due to my illness.  Relationships with horrible people that abused me soon followed. By the grace of God, I met the man who would eventually be my husband, and we were married in August of 2001. He was there for me when nobody else would take the risk.

As amazing as it felt to find happiness and my one true love, it didn’t take away my disease. I battled depression every single day. I often used self-injury as a way out of my pain. I tried medication after medication, and doctor after doctor.  It was clear that I wouldn’t be able to hold down a job, so I filed for disability.  In 2005, it was granted.  I hated myself for being such a waste of space, and I regularly beat myself up for it.  I needed to find the strength within myself to get stable.  The medical community sure as hell wasn’t helping.

My husband and I bought our first house in 2006, and we moved back to my old neighborhood.  We were close to my parents, and I was happy.  Things changed drastically when my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer in September of 2007.  I promised her I would be at her side for everything, and I was.  She passed away in January of 2008, and my life fell to pieces.  I was filled with grief that I was unable to overcome.  March 23, 2011, was my birthday.  It seemed like any other day until I got a phone call from my dad.  I thought it was a “happy birthday” call, but what he told me make my legs buckle.  One of my brothers was dead.  Just like that.  He was found brain dead in a hot tub.  He had always been an alcoholic, but I had no idea he was also into cocaine.  Every birthday since then has been a painful reminder of losing him.

In 2013, it felt like my life was starting to look up. I had a good group of friends and my husband and I were incredibly happy. Until that summer when the depression hit me like a brick. I tried to ignore it. I had better things to do. I wasn’t going through this crap again. Unfortunately, there is no stopping it. You can’t run from the pain. After a series of unfortunate events had left me feeling like a gigantic failure, I decided it was time to go. For real this time.  I missed my mom and my brother immensely. I couldn’t cope with my life any longer.

I cut myself repeatedly and took a full bottle of one of my medications. I sat on the floor and sobbed. My husband was at work, but via text message he sensed something was very wrong. He sent family members over to check on me. We sat in awkward silence until he got home and took me to the emergency room. Despite the fact that I begged him not to. I stayed in the hospital on suicide watch for five days. I was then told that the state was having me committed. I was strapped to a gurney and hauled off by ambulance to the most God forsaken place I have ever seen. I spent the next four horrible days locked away in that place with violence, threats, and no medical treatment whatsoever. There were people screaming in the hallway, and even people that smeared feces on door handles. I played the game and acted like the model patient. The closest we got to therapy was watching movies that were turned up way too loud or coloring. I spent most of my time doing word searches with a blue crayon.

Walking out of that hellhole, I knew my life had to change. I swore never to take another razor blade to my skin. I promised myself that I would never put my husband or my family through any of that again.  I would do the work. I would take my medication and do whatever I needed to do to fight this battle. I decided that if I told my story, it might help people. By helping others, I knew I would be helping myself. So, I started writing again. It had been a passion of mine since I was a child, and I was grateful to finally find my voice again.

I began writing a blog detailing all of my struggles with bipolar disorder and how I survived a suicide attempt.  Before long, it started to catch on, and a lot of people were reading it. Eventually, I would receive messages from people all over the world thanking me for coming forward.  It was an incredibly rewarding process, even if it was quite painful having to relive it all. It seems as if every day someone is coming to me for advice. I am glad to reach out to every one of them.

I am now 2 years and 8 months clean from self-injury.  Despite the physical pain I’ve been in, I started an exercise program, and I finally started eating right.  All organic, no dairy, no meat, no gluten. The back pain has subsided quite a bit.  A lot of the time, I’m happier than I have ever been.  My husband is still by my side.  We can’t spend enough time together. Am I depression free?  No, I won’t ever be free from it.  At least now I can say that the bad times don’t come as often and don’t last as long. I did the work.  I taught myself coping skills, and I lean on other people when I am too weak to stand for myself.  My writing has been the best therapy I have ever known.  I am extremely proud to be able to say that my blog has become a published novel!  I hope to reach more people than ever before that are in need of help. Most of all, I always keep in mind that if I’m having a bad day, it doesn’t mean I have a bad life.

Even though my life is going much better, I need to be realistic.  I will never be cured, and medication will forever be a part of my life.  I am OK with that.  If anyone I know isn’t, I don’t need them in my life. I’m taking care of myself for the first time. I’ve lost a lot of friends and even family members because of my suicide attempt.  There are people that consider me selfish.  I’m here to tell you that suicide has nothing to do with being selfish. Having bipolar disorder doesn’t make you selfish. I’m soon to be 43 years old, and I’m living proof that you can succeed despite your disability.  It will take a lot of work, and you will stumble more often than you sprint. It can be done. Just take the first step. (Click here to learn more about Rebecca’s journey).

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