Why Me? In approximately 2003, I suffered what I refer to as a nuclear meltdown the size of Chernobyl. Others in the past have called it a nervous breakdown. I knew it was not my normal state of feeling slightly blue or down a good portion of the time. I have suffered from mood disorders and anxiety disorders since I was too small to identify them as such. This was not “ordinary” depression; I knew what that felt like. This was different. I called in sick to work for 11 days in a row. I could not make myself get out of bed. I could not bathe or groom properly. I wasn’t eating; I had no food, but I could not have cared less. After about four days, I became very concerned about what was happening to me and I emailed a list of psychologists to my primary care doctor. He came back with one person he thought I would work well with. This was the first time I had sought treatment on my own. My parents had tried, but I was very resistant. My first appointment with the woman who would become my therapist, my rabbi/priest/minister, my confidante and ultimately my savior was on September 3, 2003. Initially, she thought I had major depression, but after a few months of listening to me and observing my behavior and having me take a few tests, she became more and more certain that I was suffering from bipolar disorder type II. I had no full blown manic episodes; they were always more like a double shot of espresso. A lot of energy, no sleep, high productivity, but they always went away after a few days. So did my depressive episodes. Then, out of nowhere, I have a full blown manic episode. I was awake for what seemed like weeks, I had more energy than I knew what to do with and that expressed itself in inappropriate ways. I graduated. I was re-diagnosed as a bipolar type I with psychotic features. Apparently, somewhere in the mania, I became psychotic. I was ultimately let go from a position that I had worked hard to get, and thoroughly enjoyed because my behavior had become so erratic. I checked myself into the hospital for the first time and I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect. Everything that is seen in the media about mental illness is frightening and made to seem abnormal on a level that isn’t just “weird.” It was at this point that the psychiatrists began to try to stabilize me medically. I might point out that by now, I was about 32 years old, and the general consensus was that I had been actively bipolar since my late teens. I was treatment resistant which does not mean that I declined treatment. I would try anything they gave me to see if it could stop the journey down the rabbit hole. The problem lay in that bipolar, as well as others, is a chronic and progressive illness, and I was well into the progression. Life went on like this for several years. I was not stable. I was given to suicide attempts to try to make the pain stop; note the word attempts. I didn’t really want to die. I just wanted the pain to go away. And, on some level, I wanted to disappear. Oddly, I was always medication compliant. Anything to bring the roller coaster ride to an end. Due to the numerous hospitalizations and suicide attempts (the last of which almost succeeded), I lost the respect of my family and friends. My mother stopped interacting with me for nearly a year and a half. She told me not to call her, not to come to her house, and a bunch of other stuff. I was crushed and I do mean crushed. She was my only friend at that point, and she was withdrawing her support. That was a very bleak and dark time in my life which I care not to remember. There are still members of my family that will not associate with me due to my mental health problems. I do not think words can describe how much that hurts. These are people who used to babysit me, and now they want nothing to do with me. I am mentally ill. It doesn’t make sense to me for the simple fact that I have been relatively stable for the better part of eight years. What never seems to go away is a feeling that I did not live up to my “potential” as people are so fond of saying, the feeling that I am not a productive member of society and there is always a pervasive sense of sadness about me that you only see if you know me well. Otherwise, I am bubbly, personable and appear completely “normal.” There’s just always this sadness and feeling of failure that nothing I have tried will make go away. I feel that I have deeply disappointed my family and my friends. This is a mental issue that kills relationships. I’d like to know why. I think I feel too much and then try to use my intellect to understand what cannot be understood by the mind. I will probably forever feel that I have been betrayed by my own mind. I have a great psychologist, I have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for about nine years and I have a fantastic psychiatrist who happened to be the ward psychiatrist at one point when I was in the hospital. Although, I have never achieved full remission of symptoms, through proper medication, exercise, sleep, more than a good deal of faith, I have been able to live on my own with my little cat for the last 23 years. I am not going to sit here and say I have always been successful at it, but I have made it through. I continue to be active in my Buddhist community, I sit on a committee to help coordinate mental and behavioral health services in my community, and I live. Sometimes I live only by a shoestring, but now I know it will pass, and if it doesn’t, I talk to my psychiatrist about tweaking my medication a little bit. I never add anything new to the four I have narrowed it down too, but I am willing to try different doses of what I am on. I manage this and several other issues that I will not get into quite well, but I will never say I have it under control. I now also understand that the pain does not go away; it becomes manageable, some times more than others. Share your story, message, poem, quote, photo or video of hope, struggle or recovery. By sharing your experience, you can let others know that they are not alone.