Bipolar Bandit’s Story

Michelle L clark

DEALING WITH DEPRESSION FOR THE FIRST TIME 

part one

I have written a brief story about my battle with my mental illness, but have decided to elaborate on it and break it down to focus on small parts of my life at a time.

I hope that by writing these particular blogs I can help at least someone else by letting them know they are not alone.

I am going to start with when I first showing signs of my mental illness.

I had a happy childhood. My family took several vacations, played games together, and were very close. I don’t remember the day I first felt depressed. I do know it was when I was thirteen.

However, I do know that at some point that I started crying for no reason, couldn’t concentrate on anything and just felt like everything in my world was awful. I remember going to school and crying through class. I knew the other kids were noticing and gathered they laughed about me after class. I was a very good student. However, due to my lack of concentration, I could not focus on what the teacher had to say. While doing my homework, I would read the same sentence over and over again and could not comprehend it.

Thank goodness my mom tried to understand what I was going through. She is kind, compassionate person and would listen to me as I sobbed constantly. There was no reason why I crying.

I would not sleep well at night and then dread going to school again. I isolated myself and felt like I had no friends. Maybe at those times of depression, I didn’t have any friends. I remember going to the guidance department and eating my lunch in there as I wasn’t sure if anyone would allow me to sit at their table. (When I came out of my depression, I would then have people to sit with.)

Eventually, my parents realized that sending me to school didn’t make sense. My mom went to the school and talk to my teachers. I was then allowed to miss school. My mom would go get my work and I would attempt to do it. It would take me ten times as long that it would if I was not depressed if not longer.

Since I was not going to school, my mom would give me chores to do at home. However, even vacuuming up the stairs I could not do because I just couldn’t concentrate and just kept crying uncontrollably.

I would not enjoy things I normally would. I wouldn’t want to watch tv with my family because it meant that it was close to bedtime. That meant often that I would have a difficult night sleeping through the night.  Often times, one of my parents would sleep with  me like they did when I was a kid. It was also another day wasted.

My mom told me that the teachers really did not understand. They were what I would call clueless to what depression was and is. I was embarrassed as I was now known as a student with depression.

Since I was not going to school, my mom would give me chores to do at home. However, even vacuuming up the stairs I could not do because I just couldn’t concentrate and just kept crying uncontrollably.

Up until I started getting depressed, I felt like people who suffer from depression are weak, crazy individuals who could just snap out of it. I now was one of those people.

 

part 2 bCONTINUING TO LIVE WITH DEPRESSION

After realizing that I had to accept that I was one of those “crazy” people, I had to start dealing with it. Of course, during these times of depression, I would have bouts where I was totally fine and was able to catch up on work quickly. (This was later identified as mini manic episodes.)

My depression was not understood by many people including several family members. My sisters were young at the time and they just knew that their sister was getting a lot of attention. This is one thing that I feel badly about even today.

I remember my uncle who was a cop going for a walk with me. My mom and dad had suggested that because in his line of work as someone who dealt with battered wives and abused children, that he could find out what was wrong and gather some insight. I do remember the walk. However, I don’t think we really talked. As previously stated, I didn’t have anything to talk about as nothing was wrong. I remember my grandma saying “Just snap out of it. You have no reason to be depressed.”

I remember not wanting to eat during these times. I had no appetite and felt like I was fat so took advantage of this. One time, I remember my mom forcing me to eat a cheese sandwich. I know she was watching out for me. However, this sticks out in my mind because I remember forgetting to eat it. She had to keep reminding me. It was not because I didn’t want it, but because I could not concentrate. I kept forgetting what the task at hand was.

Because my parents were very concerned about my depression, they brought me to two different doctors. The first kind one my mom had found out about via a friend. This doctor was an environmental allergist. (Back then, these kinds of doctors were considered whacks.)The allergist would talk about how it was my food and things in the environment causing my depression.

The doctor ran tests to find out I was allergic to many things and therefore I started getting shots. In addition, I was supposed to eat a very strict diet and we were supposed to remove things from my environment that would be causing me to get sick.

My mom was very diligent about helping me with this. However, I just didn’t see direct results from it. Because I was a teenager, I did not want to listen to my mom or that doctor. I would get allergy shots and often would stick to the diet. However, for it to all work, I really needed to stick to it all the time. Also, it was embarrassing to bring some of the foods to school. ( I had to stick to the diet while depressed and when I was ok.)

If I had to do it all over again, I would have stuck with this doctor and probably would not have had the problems that I have today. Note: I could still do it, but for whatever reason, just don’t. I did try taking out wheat from my diet and I think it helped with my depression somewhat. However, after about eight months, I just didn’t think it was worth it.

The other doctor I saw was a psychiatrist. While in his office I would just stare at the plants behind him and not say anything. We just sat there in silence. There was nothing to talk about. I was depressed or had been depressed, but in both cases there was not a reason. Thus, there was nothing to talk about. He did, however, get me into a group with other teenagers that he had started running.

From that group, I realized I was not alone. The others mostly had reasons why they were depressed and things to talk about, but I don’t remember sharing very much. I did, however, meet someone who I ended up having a great friendship with. His name was Brian and becomes a major player in my next blog entry.

 

part 3MY FIRST FULL BLOWN MANIC EPISODE

I actually don’t remember a lot about this episode and this is common with mania. Another thing that happens is that I get different manic episodes confused with other ones. However, I will tell you what I know and or remember. I was 17 years old.

I had not been sleeping and was doing odd things. My parents were concerned. So, my mom gave me several benadryl to get me to sleep. My great aunt was a nurse practitioner on a psychiatric floor at a local hospital. My parents contacted her to see what they should do. I eventually ended up at my friend Brian’s house. I met Brian in the group set up by the psychiatrist for teens that were struggling. We had been friends for almost three years.

I was over at his house and my parents received a call from him saying that they needed to come get me. I was doing odd things with his mom’s heating system and with water and he was afraid that I was going to damage the house. He also was scared as I was just overall acting very strangely. I remember thinking that I was cleansing the world. I don’t remember exactly what I was using, but I think it was some kind of soap with a lavender smell to it. What I was doing was irrational and so was what I was thinking. I thought by cleaning his house and allowing there to be a circular pattern throughout it, that it would keep it going throughout the world and we would have a planet free of pollution.

I don’t remember my parents getting there or the trip to the hospital. I do remember sitting in the ER and seeing my math teacher who was doing janitorial work at the hospital to earn extra money. I remember being what I would learn later to be very manic. I vaguely remember being given a shot and then I woke up in a psychiatric hospital.

I later learned that I had had a manic episode. My doctor, Dr. Rich, told my parents and me that I had bipolar disorder. I had no idea what that was and little did I know that over 25 years later I still battle the disease every day.

I was in the ICU part of the psychiatric hospital just to give you an idea of how bad I was. My roommate was an elderly lady and had problems of her own of course, but we did create a bond. I actually still have a ring she gave me. However, I was told that I was going into other patient’s rooms. I think there were only 5-6 rooms. Across the hallway from my room was a woman who kept having epileptic seizures. I showered a lot and that was something that concerned the staff. I also was so confused regarding my clothes, that I was only allowed two outfits. I remember a very friendly nurse who would listen and sincerely care. I can’t say that the others weren’t caring, I just know she was. She had blonde hair and her name was Kathie.

I remember standing by one of the locked doors that had a small window and watching out it. I don’t think I wanted to go out there, but I remember the door was near a corner. I could watch people from the psychiatric hospital who were not in the ICU go by in each direction.

Eventually, I was released to that part of the hospital. I was in the adult’s section. Back then, bipolar disorder was not a diagnosis that was common in people the age of 17. I remember wanting to eat all the time. There was a food station we could help ourselves to and I was constantly making sandwiches. Now that I was in the “normal” part of the psychiatric hospital, I was able to attend church services. I don’t remember very much about this part of my hospital stay. I don’t remember group sessions or really anything of significance. I do remember a few times seeing my psychiatrist.

ImageBack to The Hospital

I was not out of the hospital very long when I ended up back in.

This time, I was in the teenager section of the psychiatric hospital. I do remember a lot about that stay. We had a board that controlled our behavior and we got points for doing certain things like getting out of bed. Each night we gathered around the pool table and did the serenity prayer.

One time, one of the drugs I was given caused my body to be rigid. I could barely make it to my bed. The staff noticed and gave me cogentin.

Eventually, I had earned enough points to go on trips. One of the trips we went to was for ice cream. I can’t remember if the van was marked, but I remember being so concerned that someone from school would see me. In addition, I was at some point allowed to go home for a few hours. Several students and I went to school a few blocks down. The school was just for kids who were on the psych ward.

I went in to the hospital manic. However, I ended up crashing into depression. I was depressed for a large amount of time while at the hospital that time. Actually, that was the only time I have been in the hospital for depression. Every other time since then, it has been for mania.

 

part 5Never Knowing in Junior/ High School 

I have painted a life where I was either depressed or full blow manic. However, this was not how it always was. I was able to stay on the honor roll. I was the first girl to be on the golf team. I started a group at my school for Amnesty International. I was the President of a Junior Achievement company and was the president of a 4-H group.

I had friends who I would do things with including having them over, going to their house, going to movies, going roller skating, and to football games. I went to dances at my school.

Our family had a pool so I would have friends over often.

My dad would play his guitar around the campfire and all the people in the neighborhood would come and enjoy it.

The other kids and I would play ghost in the graveyard or kick ball.

My family and I went on a lot of great trips and I enjoyed them all except for one when I was slightly depressed. I loved playing in the band at school and also played the violin.

I would have parties at my house.

There were many times that I was happy and depression was not even present. However, I knew that it was lurking and never knew when it was going to appear again. This made it hard to plan things in advance. I also missed out on things. For example, I enjoyed golfing with the guys. However, after the season, I entered a depression phase and didn’t go to the party.

I went away to camp and really enjoyed it. This was where I got my first kiss. I had great times with the girls in my cabin. I have so many great memories and pictures from that camping trip. I got the opportunity to go back a few weeks after that and sunk into a deep depression. I didn’t have fun at all. I did endure it and made it through the week.

I had friends that I would sit with at lunch. Then, would miss school for a few weeks. When I came back, I didn’t feel welcomed anymore. They had moved on.

part 6My Senior Year of High School and Beginning of College

Because I had missed most of my junior year in high school, I had to go to a different school so I could still graduate on time. The guidance counselor there helped me figure out a way to make it work. I was a year ahead in math so I didn’t have to take math (Calculus was not a requirement). I did have to take Chemistry over again. I had to take two English classes and two social studies classes (11th and 12thgrade).

I felt different than everyone else. I had friends in both classes. I didn’t fit because this was my first year there and mostly everyone had been there for four years together. There was some shame in that I had to go to that school because I was depressed. I didn’t explain it to anyone that I remember, but I am sure that they knew. Two of my cousins went there. I felt like they tried to avoid me when I saw them. That was painful. Once in awhile, one of them would say hi when he passed me in the hallway. However, this was usually when no one else was around. I did have about 8 friends, but more of them were in 11ththan in 12th. When it was time to go on one of the senior trips, I didn’t really no anyone. I felt so alone and was embarrassed that I was there without friends. I was a person who had been in the psychiatric hospital and I am sure most of them knew it. When it came to the big senior trip, I didn’t go.

I did not go to my senior prom. (I didn’t go to my junior prom either.)

The strong support of my family got me through it all.

I did graduate on time and with a Regent’s diploma. In NY state is harder to get than a regular diploma.

I had been working during my junior year. I worked a lot during that summer.

Then, it was off to college. I was depressed most of the time. This meant that I could not concentrate and therefore could not read and comprehend the books. I went to every single class, but that was not enough. I ended up with a D in one of my classes and an F in another.

THE UNEXPECTED TRIP HOME 

story divided part 7 I have had so many manic episodes that I have really had to think of some of the specifics of the this next manic episode.

I had moved to Florida and my relationship with my first boyfriend was over.  My parents had to sell the house I was living in forcing me to move. I eventually moved in with someone who I went to school with. By then, I was officially going to school to become a teacher.

Things were going pretty well. I had been passing all my classes and had been going out every night dancing with my new friend and roommate.  Then, I went to see my family for a holiday.

I was to take the bus back to Florida.  My dad says now that he knew when he put me on that bus, he just had the feeling that he shouldn’t have.

Needless to say, I met a guy on the bus who was wearing an all yellow outfit. I felt that was a sign from God that I was to be with him.  Therefore, I got off the bus with him in Georgia.

We had a grand time.  We went all the way to where I lived and got my car. We traded it in for a convertible.  We used my parent’s credit card to buy an engagement ring for myself.  I don’t remember too much about it other than that. I thought the guy was a really nice guy.  I do have a recollection of being on the beach at night and a police officer asking me if I was ok.  I told him no and meant it.

Meanwhile, as you can imagine, my parents were worried sick. At the time, they had a problem with sex rings going on in Georgia.  They could trace my credit cards, but by the time they could track them, I had left.

The “fun” was over you could say one night when we got a knock on the hotel room saying that it was the police. I never saw the guy again. He told me that his name was Derick, but my parents later told me that that was not the name he used when he checked us in.

It is scary to think of what could have happened to me.

After my parents rescued me with the help of the police, I at the time was not happy. In my mania, I was in love with this man and now they had taken him away.

Because I was manic, my parents had to step in.  I could say I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have my parents, I doubt very highly I would still be here.

We drove back to where I had gotten the car and somehow my dad was able to trade my new car back in for my old car. Then, we got my stuff and drove back to New York.  That is where I was again hospitalized.  I don’t remember how long I was in the hospital this time. What I do know is that I remember thinking how the patients including me were not being treated right.  If I only knew.  When I was submitted to psychiatric hospitals in Florida and North Carolina, that was when I found out how bad it could be.

story divided part 8Note: This is not in sequential order from the other blog entries regarding my story.

I started going to a bipolar support group.  This is where I met a friend named Erich.  We hit it off right away. It seemed like the others in the group were either drugged up with meds and/or very low functioning.  All they wanted to do was complain and talk about medications.

Erich and I had a more positive approach to life. We went out afterwards and had a good talk.  This lead to  more “dates” that lead to a very long relationship that still exists today.

While my relationship with Erich was developing, I learned that a new roommate had bipolar disorder. We were friends for awhile until she got paranoid and wrote me off.

I moved out of the house I had been living in and moved in to Erich’s mom’s house. It was across the street from him and she was sick so it all worked.

I graduated from college with a B.S. in Elementary Education.  I remember my parents coming down for my graduation.

I was so embarrassed by Erich’s actions at the ceremony. He went up and yelled my name over and over again from the upper bleachers. I think this was the first time my parents met Erich. He unfortunately was in a manic phase at the time.

Erich was carrying a cross bow down the street when my dad first encountered him.  My dad told me later that he hid it.

At some point, Erich and I got engaged.  One of my sisters told me that if I did not break things off with him that she would not talk to me anymore.

Erich and I went through a lot together. I could not find a job as a teacher so I ended up working at Disney World.

He had his manic episodes and hospitalizations and I had mine.  It showed me the other side of seeing someone who was in the hospital and manic.

One time, he went outside the post office and had an axe on him. He was brought to the mental hospital.  I could not tell his mom the truth because her health was failing so badly.

Another time, he locked his mom and I out of her house.

part 9

SIDE NOTES

Before I continue telling my story, I want you to know that obviously parts of my life have been skipped and some of them are rather significant.  The things that have had the most impact on my life, however, have been my manic episodes and that is why I seem to be talking the most about them.

However, I do want to point out that I spent most of my life depressed.   There were many days I would think about how I just wish it would all end.  I didn’t enjoy anything in life. I felt guilty and ashamed.  Somehow, I was able to work. However, I would just come home and wouldn’t do anything.  The medications I took were more mania. I could not take medications for depression as they could trigger a manic episode.

I do not let my illness define me. I also don’t think I should use it as an excuse as to the mistakes I have made and will make. However, some of the things that had the most impact in my life were when I got manic.

I oftentimes feel ashamed, embarassed and guilty.  I do know that I would not have done them if I was not in a manic episode. It helps in some ways.  However, it is really hard to deal with.  Over time, I am able to put them in my past and move on.  I just want to point out too that after a manic episode, I would crash into a deep depression. The longer I was manic, the worse the depression was.

Because I try to move on, I think I also make the choice to move on from friendships. For the longest time, I had convinced myself that I lost friendships because they didn’t want to have anything to do with me after they saw me act so crazily.

I am sure there were some people who were like that. However, I think in many cases, it was my insecurities that prevented me from keeping those friendships.

part 10 by bipolar bandit

I had worked several jobs in high school and college.  For

 

MOVING TO FLORIDA, GOING TO COLLEGE and WORKING

For the most part, having bipolar disorder did not affect my job performance too much until the year before I had to go on disability.

When I first moved to Florida to finish up my college degree in teaching, I  started working at a movie theater;  I enjoyed it because I got to watch free movies and enjoy popcorn and drinks whenever I wanted it. This is where I met my first love.  I don’t remember when I told him that I had bipolar disorder or if there were signs of it and I had to tell him.  I just know that when he told me that he could never marry me since I had a mental illness,  I broke up with him. It was a hard break up for both of us.

While working at the same movie theater, I started dating someone who I lost my virginity to. I still regret that. One symptom of bipolar disorder is sexual promiscuity and in that case it was proven true.  I never loved him even though at the time, I thought I did.  It was his first time too and it was quickly realized that we did not care about each other. I had always thought I would wait until marriage and that was not a reality anymore.  Having bipolar disorder can sometimes rob you of so much and make you do things you would never do if you were in your “normal” state of mind.

I eventually quit that job. The manager was power hungry and so controlling. Although I liked the job, I was sick of her treating her employees and even customers the way she did.  I don’t remember exactly what had transpired, but I probably was somewhat manic as I quit on the spot one night.  I just said, “I quit.” and left.

That was and is out of character for me.  I have never done it before so I really think I was not stable at the time.  Unfortunately, I do not remember everything. In trying to write these blogs, it is really make me think.  I wrote in my last blog that I get different manic episodes confused and that is true.I also don’t remember everything I did while manic either.

While I had this job, I was a full time student.  I did have a car payment so I got another job working at a grocery store.  While working at the movie theater, I lived at my parent’s house and was renting it out to college students. Eventually, my parents sold that house and  and  I rented a room in a house. The room was big enough to hold a lot of the furniture from the house.  However, when I suspected them doing drugs, I got out of there asap. When I moved into that next house is when I slept with the guy I mentioned earlier.

I did not live there very long because she met a guy who moved in.  I don’t recollect everything from these times. I know that I struggled with depression and slight bouts of mania. However, I don’t think it was serious until my next move.  It seems like I was pretty much stable when I first moved to Florida up until my move into the next person’s house.  I must have been acting strangely at some point to break up with the man I loved and/or I was doing strange things. I also know that there were times that I went off my medications. Note:I have learned my lessons with that and although I try to stay on the minimum amount that I can, I know that I need to do everything I can to not get manic.

I then moved in with a girl who I went to school with who owned her own house. We had a great time together. I remember going out line dancing almost every night and really liking living there and being her friend. I don’t remember if I told her I had bipolar disorder, but she was soon to find out.

That is the next chapter in my life that I will talk about in my next blog.  I guarantee that will reveal a lot more of how my bipolar disorder can take over my life. I was in a very severe manic episode.

Either way, I don’t have many friends who know all about me, seen me at my worst and still are close friends. Unfortunately. I don’t even have close relationships with some of my own family members.

Things were not always the greatest, but for the most part, we had a great relationship.  I will most likely go into some of those manic episodes in the next Part of my blog series.

His mother eventually passed away and I went into the hospital that same day.

Erich sunk into a deep depression after that. He hardly ever got or gets depressed so this was different for him. It was mostly because of his mother.  He has told me since then that he was ready to kill himself one morning and thought that I would be the one who would find him and he changed his mind. I am so glad he made that choice for a lot of reasons.

Eventually, we broke off the engagement. We were too much alike and we would just not have been able to make a marriage work both having the same illness. (That is not to say people can’t, we just knew we couldn’t.) However, we are still friends today. He is like a brother to me.

After I got out of the hospital, I moved back home with my parents and one sister who still lived at home. I sunk into a deep depression. I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. I had lost all incentive to make anything of my life. I didn’t want to go into public because I didn’t want to run into people who would see I had made nothing of myself.  I do remember having some good times with my sister and parents playing cards.  I thank them for that.

I am not sure how long it took, but eventually, I looked on the computer and found a way that I could go back to Florida and still get my teaching degree.  So, I made the arrangements and my mom and I drove down there. I moved in with an elderly lady and another tenant.

I enrolled again to the college in Florida. My family came down for Christmas and we had a great time.

I was on the road back to success and things were looking up.

The next semester went a lot better.

However, there were many times that I was depressed and isolated. I would not go to the cafeteria because I didn’t want anyone to see me alone. I did have friends while at college and a few of them I have kept in touch with.

After going to two years at that school, I transferred to another school. I now found myself having to buy a car. This required me having to get a job. I was able to get an associate’s degree after one semester as most of my credits transferred.

It was at that job, that I met my first boyfriend. We were together for months. He knew I had bipolar disorder. He was pretty accepting of it. However, he said that it would prevent him from ever marrying me. So, I ended up leaving that relationship.

part 11 bipolar bandit

THE TIME I DISAPPEARED

I had gone up to see my family and took the bus. My dad said later that when he said good bye he wasn’t sure if I was ok. I was sitting on the bus when a guy dressed all in yellow sat down next to me.  Immediately, I felt that the two of us were supposed to save the world. He was very friendly and we decided to get off at the next stop together. We spent the night at a motel. Again, the sexual promiscuity of having bipolar disorder showed threw.  I have no idea of how this guy felt at any time of this.  I don’t think he ever meant to cause me harm in any way.

Eventually, we ended up going to where I lived in Florida.  We picked up my car and started heading north. I am not sure why,but you have to realize that I thought I was thinking I as saving the world. I think what I was thinking was that we needed to travel around the nation and then the world together to bring peace.  (Delusions of Grandeur is another symptom of bipolar disorder)

After leaving with my car, we traded my car in for a red convertible and we were off.

I have said before that I don’t remember everything about my manic episodes. I do remember deciding to get married to him within days. We bought a ring.  I remember being on the beach at night and a police officer asking me if I was ok and thinking that was a good sign that things were working.  Note: He did not have any money.

Meanwhile, my family was terrified. They knew that I was at some point in Georgia where there were sex rings going on where they were killing women.  Someone my sister knew worked for the FBI so somehow they were involved.  They were able to track where I was because of credit card purchases. I was using my parent’s credit cards. I think I was calling them during this time too.

I was happier than happy. I was on a high and was out to save the world. I have no idea what they guy was feeling or thinking during this time.

With the help with law enforcement, my parents would find out where I was, but before they could catch up with me, I was off again.

Then….came the KNOCK ON THE DOOR…..

The police rushed in and the guy was taken away. My parents then had to deal with taking me back to where I was living in Florida and bringing me home.  The things my parents have done for me over the years- I don’t think I could ever thank them enough. I am so lucky and blessed to have them in my life and know that many people who have mental illnesses lose their families because of their behavior.

I referred to this man as a guy up until now.  I do,however, remember his name. He told me his name was Derrick Stone.  My mom has told me that that was what he told me his name was.  I will never know if he was ever going to do me harm or not or if that was his name. This was the first full blown manic episode since I was first diagnosed.

part 12 bipolar bandit

SEVERE MANIC EPISODES THAT SUNK INTO A DEEP DEPRESSION:

My last blog talked about how out of control I had gotten and how severe my manic episode was.  I have learned over the years that the higher you go, the lower you sink. That is why I try and do everything I can to get manic.  People like to say that people with bipolar disorder like their highs. I don’t like them because I know what can follow.

My parents came and “rescued me”.  They somehow got the car dealership to take the car back and the jeweler to take the refund the money for the ring.

I went back with them and now was living with my parents again.  I was so depressed. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, depressed, and a failure.  I did not want to go anywhere because I did not want to run into anyone I knew.  I did not enjoy much of anything. I have to say that my sister who was still living at home was a godsend.  She could have been embarrassed by me and not wanted anything to do with me. Instead, she would spend time with me playing card games, etc. I remember watching her practicing on the soccer team and she never let me know that she was embarrassed by me.

I still feel badly that when she should have been having the happiest time of her life, she had her depressed sister at home.  She is such a wonderful, caring person, I don’ think she ever felt that way, but I am sorry.

I had no hope. I did not want to go back to school. I could not function at a job and probably could not get a job anyway with my lack of confidence.  Everything felt hopeless. I felt at times that suicide might be the only solution, but decided I just could not do that to my family.

I was feeling self pity. Why did I have this awful illness? Why me?  Why couldn’t I just have graduated? Why did I do all those stupid things? Why did I do those things that hurt my family in the long run?  Why?  I just did not know how I was going to ever live a “normal” life.  Was I ever going to doing anything with my life? I was always such a high achiever and now I was living at my parent’s house feeling like I had nothing to live for.

With my parents determination and encouragement, I started trying  to figure out how I could go back to school.  I am not sure how I got the confidence again, but I found out that I could go back to school in Florida and get into a program where I could still graduate with a teaching degree at the same school I had attended.

So, my mom and I drove back down to Florida.

part 13 bipolar bandit

A NEW START AFTER SEVERE MANIC AND DEPRESSION STATES

After spending awhile at my parent’s house depressed, I was on my way back to Florida for a fresh start. There was apprehension and I am sure my parents wondered if this was the smartest thing to do, but that was where I could get my degree the quickest.

My mom and I found a beautiful place for me to live. I rented out a room from someone who was an international flight attendant and was gone a lot.  I had a good house mate from Canada who I enjoyed spending time with. My family came down and spent Christmas with me that year.  I was doing well at school.  I started working as a manager of a movie theater.

The girl from Canada moved out and another girl moved in.  I had a friend come down and visit me.  The three of us were on the way to a club when my housemate told us that she had bipolar disorder.  I was in shock as I had not known her that long. At that point, it was not something that I shared with others.I did not tell her then,but did eventually.  The friend who was visiting did know and actually was the only friend that stuck by me when I struggled when I first was diagnosed.

I can’t remember exactly why I moved out of the house, but I might have been kicked out.  My memory is very foggy at that point. I did stay friends with that housemate and I think she left when I did.

Before I moved out, I had met Erich who I spoke about in Part 8.

I found a place to live where I had the floor of a dining room. The one and only night I stayed there I had fleas jumping on me.  Thank goodness Erich offered for me to stay at his mom’s house.  She was very ill and she wanted someone to take care of her and help clean, etc.

The story with Erich is a story on its own. Therefore, Part 13 will talk about after I met Erich and what transpired with that relationship.

 

part 14 bipolar bandit

HAVING MY OWN PLACE AND THE BEGINNING OF MY CAREER

After Erich’s mom died and we were no longer engaged, I moved out.  By then, I was working at Disney World.  I could not get a job as a teacher.

I loved working at Disney. It was fun and had so many benefits.  I ended up living with someone who worked at Disney who had three other people living there.

There were advantages and disadvantages of this place.  I did like my job.

Eventually, I found a job as a teacher and moved closer to where I worked. This was the first time I had a place of my own! It was an apartment. I was also using my degree and did what I thought I would love. Don’t get me wrong, I did love teaching in a lot of ways. However the stress was really hard on me.  The beginning of the years were the hardest so my mom would try to come down to help me.

While living at my apartment and working, I had a hard time with depression. A lot of it had to do with me trying to get over Erich. I still would see him, however, he moved about 3 hours away so eventually I saw him less. This was when I could access the internet and AOL started having the capability of having a way to talk to my mom often.  I also met a friend in a bipolar disorder chat room who I still am friends with today.  Between my mom and her, I was able to keep it together to work teaching. I was depressed, but also very stressed at times. I somehow got through the year without a manic episode.

My first class was made up of children who were hand selected by a teacher who wanted to work with challenging kids and then moved into another grade level.  So, I had a challenge on my hands. I rose to the occasion.

Before the school year started, I felt like I needed to tell someone I had bipolar disorder so I told the guidance counselor. I wanted someone to know in case I started to act strangely. She wanted me to tell the principal but I did not. She might have, but I don’t know.

He did find out,but it is not while I worked for him.  He actually became a second father to me down there.  I will mention him again later.

Even though I was working a stressful job, I did like it. I worked a lot of hours.I was an eager teacher who wanted to changed these children’s lives,  That first class will always be special to me.

That year I taught 4th grade.  I was encouraged to take  ESOL classes over that summer so that I could teach kids who didn’t know English.  The principal said that they might have to lay off new teachers the next year but that if I had that certification, it would really help me keep my job.  It paid off and I was transferred to 2nd grade.  I did not really like teaching 2nd grade, but I got through the year without any serious problems.

I ended up changing schools after that year. I am not sure why, but I do know that the principal was moved to another school..

I taught 4th grade at that school for 2 years. I was grade level chair for the first year.  I told my principal that I had bipolar disorder.  I am not sure he really understood or wanted to understand. My next blog will talk about two things that came out of that school.

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DOING ODD THINGS

I enjoyed teaching at the second school.  It often stressed me out, but for the most part I held it together.  There were days that I was depressed and it was really hard to go to work. I was on autopilot.  There were other days that I was able to use my hypo manic energy to add great things to my lesson plans.  It was at this school that I had an evening class to teach some of our parents English.

During this time, I started “dating” a guy who I worked with. Yes-We slept together, but I learned later that it didn’t mean as much to him as it did to me.  It was nice to spend time together. We event took a trip together.  There was  a time that I got sick. I think I was physically sick as well as mentally sick.  Like I have said before, so many things blur together.  However, I don’t think this time I was ever hospitalized.

It was during this time, this guy and I  had planned to do something and he did not show up. I called him several times and he did not answer. I started to become worried. So, I called a friend. We went over there together.  His front door was opened.  I am not sure why, but I went in.  I found him hunched over in the closet hiding from me. Either he was scared of me or just plainly did not want to be involved any more.  It did not matter, I moved on and so did he.  I never really got a chance to explain my actions leading up to that point.

I think he knew I had bipolar disorder, but had never seen me like that.  It was hard to keep working with him after that, but we did.  I don’t think what he did was necessarily wrong as I probably would have been scared too if I was acting as strangely as I do sometimes.  I do think he should have answered the phone just to let me know that he was ok.

During this time, I had a guy friend who really liked me. We had fun together, but I was never attracted to him. I knew him before I started teaching about four years before.  I met  his parents and yes, once again, I did sleep with him.  I regret sleeping with him and all the others along the way. I know that if I did not have bipolar disorder, I would not have been doing these things.  There was a time when I was in the hospital. I was sleeping with the first guy and the second guy who I wan’t interested in other than friends and at this point was not sleeping with.

The first guy was in the ER with me.  He was supposed to drive me home. Instead, he just left.  The second guy was nice enough to come and get me and drive me home. I am not sure why he was so nice to me. I did use him and really fell badly about this to this day.

For the most part, everything I did at the school professionally was great. I believe I was a good teacher and taught my students a lot. There test scores showed it.  The stress did impact me, but I was able to get through the days. I would sometimes yell at the kids. I always felt badly afterwards and would tell them that. Many times, the kids would say things like that is ok, we deserved it. I don’t agree, but at the time, it made me feel a little better.

That year I had a student who was really a challenge. She would annoy the other students. She had major issues that I think started at home. She would sometimes just get mad at me or another student and run out of the room. I would have to call the office so someone could go look for her.

Another student, who had ADDHD, struggled in  my class.  He was a good kid and very intelligent, but often was disruptive to other students. His parents did not want to put him on meds and I respected that.

I had him the first year I was there. The end of the second year I was there, he was in another class. Because I was manic, I called them and told them that I had bipolar disorder and could relate to him having a mental illness.

Of course, they called my principal and that did not go over very well.  I chose to go to another school. I did not have to, but felt that that school was just not for me anymore. What came next was the best part of my career.

THIS IS NOT COMPLETE- I hope you check back later for more. 

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About Michelle Clark Bipolar Bandit

I am a strong advocate for the mentally ill and have been since I was first approached by a lawyer in a psychiatric facility as a teenager. He wanted me to help him fight how the mentally ill are mistreated. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17 after a full blown manic episode. Before that, I suffered from debilitating depression for 4 years. My goals are to help others by sharing my story and providing tips to deal with mania and depression. I often write blogs related to advocating for people like myself. I want to encourage, inspire, and educate those with #bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses and also include inspirational #quotes. I founded the group Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses and the page Mental Health Advocates United and have several social media sites that are related to bipolar disorder and/or advocacy. If you are an advocate or would like to be, I hope you join our FB group: Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses
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One Response to Bipolar Bandit’s Story

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