A little bit of patient history so you can get a feel for some of my behaviours and triggers. I will provide the robotic chart comparison version in an upcoming post so you can see exactly how neatly I fall into the BPII diagnosis.
I was only recently diagnosed in my mid-thirties. You might wonder how this could possibly be for a self-described “extreme BPII”. Our understanding and observation of this illness has graduated some over the last twenty years. However, it gets a little bit trickier to pin down this illness in certain environs without clear definitions and dividing lines between abnormal psychology driven behaviours and cognizant elected bad or “negative value” behaviours. In simple terms: is this guy off his nut or just being an asshole?
I was on my own early in life, I was bold, brash, arrogant, passionate, opinionated and zealous. In addition to these though I was also intelligent, eloquent, cultured, well read, for the most part polite and even incredibly poised when the situation required. One would think that the world would be my oyster. Holding me back however was the fact that I was woefully underachieved.
Long story short I had left secondary school and despite attending college, I didn’t manage to make it to second year. Incredible wells of frustration and anxiety would cause me to switch off. I wasn’t even worried. I was like Mel Gibson’s character in “Conspiracy Theory”. I would experience some deep frustration or anxiety and my programmed response was to find the nearest bar and get wasted. Like clockwork. Not alcoholism exactly, I would be sober all day and even a few nights a week. This was how I “coped”. This and occasionally drugs. And meaningless sex. Okay, so in my twenties we can see that I was a twenty-something. Except here is where it falls apart: I was going way harder and way deeper than my peers and I wasn’t concerned about whatever damage I might be doing to myself or my life. I wasn’t even aware that there was any damage to be done. We are SO resilient in our twenties. Sure, my friends drank and fooled around with women, but they carried on. They made deadlines and finished projects. They didn’t ride that wave of debauchery until they washed out. I did. Nobody was monitoring this. There wasn’t a guardian angel looking over my shoulder, none of my friends were worried for me. They were doing the same things, surely I was fine, obviously I could handle myself, I was a big boy. And there it is. This reckless behaviour hides itself in the standard shitty behaviour expected of young men. The old: “Boys will be boys” attitude that we have toward young males who often turn up as rapists because we didn’t check their behaviour. While there wasn’t an angel on my shoulder there was a devil on at least one, if not both.
I don’t think I need to cover my teens. Teenagers are still wrestling with fresh emotions and I think that we all understand that they are each characters in their own private Italian soap opera. I was a teenager, like any other. Amidst those raw nerves and growing pains bipolar can hide rather easily.
So here I am, in my thirties. Last winter I began to feel really bummed out. I always felt a touch worse toward the end of winter but this was worse and had been building. I had an epiphanous moment. I realized that I didn’t really have any interests. I was mentally taking note of things that I wanted to get done in my life, a bucket list if you will, and it dawned on me that I don’t have many interests. I haven’t traveled much, yet there aren’t many places that I was piqued to see that I felt that it would be worth the sheer terrifying hassle of travel. By this point in my life (as a former sous chef) I had eaten nearly every conceivable food. Between this and rampant alcohol binging I had drank more than my fill of beverages and figured there were no new experiences to be had there. I had consumed every imaginable drug known to man in some form or another. I was feeling very much like there wasn’t a thrill left available to me and the epiphany came: Life isn’t too short, it’s too long. In less than thirty years I had lived more life than all of my peers. I had partied harder, seen and done more. My hypomanic need for instant gratification had burnt me out. Now, in a state of depression (which was fairly regular for me, more on that later) with this new realization that I was looking at the last sixty percent of my life and it had NOTHING TO OFFER. This was very bleak. A total crash. It happened at work.
In the middle of a small fit I was throwing aloud in the smoking area about some trouble I was in about some such nonsensical thing, I let this out. I said to a friend and co-worker something to the effect of: “Life is too long, I have absolutely nothing left to live for.” In all sincerity. It didn’t even occur to me that this was a twisted thing for others to hear. I later realized that these little outburst, these “rants” I had been having since my late teens, were actually dysphoric episodes of hypomania. They were frequently coupled with hypermotor agitation (hands clenching or gesticulating). Little did I realize that I had these from around three to over a dozen times a day. Before this however I had been having little intrusive thoughts. Subtle, easily dismissed little thoughts of taking a walk on the frozen over lake in the middle of the night with a bottle of vodka and some sleeping pills. Driving my car into the woods, running a hose from the muffler to the back window and drinking the aforementioned vodka. I had been ignoring these little images flashing through my mind, attributing it to my seasonal moodiness.
Depression. I had no idea I was depressed. Seriously. I knew that I didn’t feel good most of the time and frequently felt downright horrible. I was convinced that everybody felt this way. That this was everyone’s default state. I was under the impression that depressed people had it somehow worse. That the pain that I felt anywhere from thirty to sixty percent of the time was average and if other people could manage I should too. Depression meant you were really messed up. I was really messed up. I pushed my way through depressive bouts by externalizing. I made it into anger and I fought. I fought my way through most days, fortunately I found myself in occupations where this wasn’t abnormal. Though once as a sous chef I had a young college student who was working with us for the summer, I am pretty sure she was a Psych major. One day while we were working together on the line before she really knew me she turned to me in all earnestness and asked rather excitedly: “Do you have tourettes?!” Apparently I had been muttering, ranting and swearing for a solid ten to fifteen minutes. So sometimes it can be comical, but often times it can also be frightening.
Back to my outburst and crash. My friend did the right thing. He went to my supervisor. My supervisor was actually one heck of a guy. He came to me and point blank hit me with the question: “You haven’t been thinking about killing yourself have you?” I don’t know why, maybe the frankness of it, but normally I think you would try to hide it. You would feel like someone was interloping. You would feel beset upon. Here in this moment, with heat behind my eyes, and a raw question hanging in the smoke and vapour in the cold air: I said “Yes”. This was the beginning to a fruitless and frustrating year. But, it was a start. An admittance. Having a disorder isn’t so much of a problem if you own up to it and can get help. If you let it though, it will hide and fester. It will hollow you out and nobody will help you.
The first year of my treatment will be covered in part two which I will post soon.