After my fall sophomore semester, I thought my life couldn’t get any worse. I was so defeated. My life was crumbling. I didn’t have hope and didn’t see any way out. Suddenly though, I thought I was living the dream and was filled with euphoria and had a new-found exuberant and colorful personality. Despite all the good feels, I had so much pain and struggle when I got back to school. My anxiety was through the roof. My mind was spiraling like a vortex and I couldn’t even read a paragraph without losing my train of thought. I couldn’t sleep because of my racing thoughts and rush of constant energy. One morning I woke up I barely knew where I was. I couldn’t remember what day it was or if I had showered the previous day. Somehow, I dragged myself out of bed and found my way to class.
I felt so incredibly misunderstood and I had never felt so alone in my life. Nobody knew what was going on with me. Nobody could understand my thoughts, which felt so right and true, even though many were far from the truth. It was painful as people in my life would back away from me because of my irrationality, meanwhile I didn’t see what was wrong. When reality hit, shame washed over as I realized that I was the crazy one. Weeks would go by and the symptoms started exasperating. My sleeping got worse and for two days I didn’t sleep at all because of my racing thoughts racking my brain that were trying to make sense of the mess I was in.
I soon slipped into an alternate reality and became psychotic. I had delusions that trivial remarks and events had personal meaning and significance. I was connecting dots to everything that was happening, putting it into some grand story that made absolutely no sense to anybody yet seemed incredibly true to me, and it angered me when people would say I was wrong. By the grace of God, I was rushed just in time to the ER, though I was so defiant, believing that nothing was wrong with me. I started believing that my whole life was a lie. I didn’t think my parents were really my parents and didn’t know who my family was. I sat in the waiting room for what seemed like hours as they prepared a room for me. I saw a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit with chains around his ankles. I soon started believing that I was God and that I had special powers and would save the world. The next few days I felt like a prisoner falling into a nightmarish abyss I felt I would never escape from. I didn’t know where I was and why I was there. I was so unstable and filled with rage and a couple nurses had to come into my room to settle me down. Every 15 minutes, a nurse would open my door and make sure I was ok for several days when I was on suicide watch (I was not and never have been suicidal, it was just protocol). I thought they were spying on me and were out to get me. I heard ear-piercing screams in the middle of the night of suicidal patients that petrified me with their twisted thoughts.
Every day we would have various sessions with aides and social workers, where we would share our stories and work on coping skills. I heard heart-wrenching stories of abuse of all kinds. I was 20 years younger than the vast-majority of people. I felt so scared trapped in the dungeon-like facilities and living with some people who were on and off the streets, some even from prison or jail. I had never felt so out of place in my life.
For the first few days, my mom came in twice a day to see me. I spoke to her for two hours straight every time. I barely remember doing this or have much of an idea what I told her. When things started to settle down, I started to be more conscious of everything. I would for short seconds, when I saw my mom, come back to reality. When that happened though, I broke every time. More shame came over again, when I realized how messed up I was and that what I thought was real wasn’t. One of the worst and most painful moments of my life occurred when my mom came to see me one day. For the past maybe 5 days, I didn’t think she was really my mom and thought she was just a stranger. When reality clicked, I burst into tears and cried harder and longer than I had ever before in my life. As well, I felt the weight of my past crushing me like a brick. I was reminded and was reliving basically all the major struggles I had ever faced and some of them I tried to rationalize never even happened—deaths of friends and family, my parent’s divorce, and others. I thought I would never get out of there or get better. After many attempts to get the right medications though, I left the hospital after 2 weeks.
I don’t know if there are words that could accurately describe my pain and range and depth of emotions I experienced, but looking back 4 years later, I can see so much beauty and the presence of God so clearly. It’s a miracle that I am alive. I nearly escaped possibly deadly crashes on the road when I was driving in my hypomanic state. It’s not uncommon for bipolar patients to die during manic episodes or get into perilous situations. For the most part I went untouched. I also got into a psychiatrist right away because there was a sudden cancelation after I called the first time. This psychiatrist ended up advocating for me in the hospital. She is the reason I was able to leave after she was able to subscribe me the right drugs when the psychiatrist there went on vacation. Some of the patients in the hospital looked out for me and by the end of this long journey, they almost felt like family. God gave me an incredible Mom would do absolutely anything to help me and I don’t know how I would have gotten through without her. Many of the nurses were so caring and one day an aide played music on her phone for us. I don’t think she was allowed to do that but it gave us such great joy and made me feel like a real person and that there was life beyond the hospital walls. There were moments of peace as I would write poems and express my thoughts on paper and through art. I came to appreciate the little things in life, of simply being outside when we could go out for 20 minutes and after I finally escaped, and the freedom to do what I wanted.
For the first time in my life, I also saw a clearer picture of the brokenness of the world—not only through my illness, but also the struggles of people around me. Up till then, I had been pretty sheltered, but interacting with and living with people who had experienced incredible hardship was life-changing. Often now, when I see homeless people or others on the streets, I see them as people, not the poverty or broken homes they were born into or their mistakes, but people who are just as deserving of love as I am. Today, I am usually not afraid to approach people on streets. In fact, God pulls my heart to do so and I have genuinely enjoyed most of my interactions. I have had deep conversations with people about their lives and their faith journeys. What is so sweet, is that some of these people will be in heaven one day with me and will never have to face another hardship in their life.
I don’t believe that God wanted me to experience so much pain and that this was the life he intended for me. I don’t know why all of this happened, however I still wouldn’t give up my life for anything. I have learned so many things about myself and the world. My life is certainly more colorful. I have some pretty funny stories of my hospital days and can now laugh at some ridiculous things I did. Most importantly God used this to bring me to Him. I desperately needed hope and for the first time was genuinely open about learning about God. He provided me more healing than any form of therapy or support group. I don’t remember the last time I was seriously depressed. Anxiety is not a huge part of my life anymore. For the past 6 months, I have been healthier and happier than I ever have been.
That said, my life isn’t always rosy and I can’t live the carefree life I once enjoyed. If I don’t get enough sleep or am overwhelmed with stress, there is a real possibility my life could come crashing down. I experienced that 2 years ago when I entered the hospital once again. I still have broken relationships and trauma from my past. There are very few people I know who can relate with what I have gone through, and it can often be lonely.
I don’t know what you may be dealing with in your life now. Whether you are struggling yourself or have close people in your life who are, I can’t guarantee that things will get better soon. However, I can fully attest that life-changing recovery is possible and I hope this has brought you at least an ounce of comfort. Just know, there is always hope to be found in this world.
“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” –Mark 10:27