Mental illness sucks.I have struggled with depression for almost as long as I can remember.

But in 2005, at the age of 29, I experienced my first episode of mania. The high I experienced  had me convinced I’d had a breakthrough…that I had somehow broken the chains of depression and that I was going to be just fine from there on out.

Well, if you have bipolar disorder, you know how this story (or at least this ‘episode’ ends).

Six months later, I would cycle through the mania and crash again. Another terrifying experience for my family. And a humiliating one for me.

I had a longer reprieve the next time around. But the next time I cycled through mania and depression, I was a brand new mom.

My post-partum depression lasted seven excruciating months. It was absolutely debilitating.

I was in a constant fog. I barely spoke. I was barely able to speak. But the cruel voice in my head was relentless.  It kept telling me that I would never have a relationship with my daughter – that I didn’t have what it took to be a mom. It told me that she would grow up and resent me for all of this. I was convinced that my she would be better off without me.

I wished  – even prayed  – for death daily. I tried to research exactly what quantity of my current meds would kill me. I toyed with excessive prescription doses.

In the seventh month, my family dictated that I be sent away to a long-term facility in Maryland for treatment. Several members of my family pooled their resources to send me to this clinic with a price tag of $30,000. This was a big deal. My family was desperate.

But I didn’t want to be treated. I just wanted to die.

I was prescribed the well known mood stabilizer, Lithium. And I started to get better. To this day, I am not sure if it was the medication or the therapy or a combination of the two that actually saved me.

Two years later, a family member extremely close to me manifested bipolar symptoms for the first time in her late fifties. Her episodes were much less intense than mine but they would recur with much more frequency. It was hard for me to witness the manic madness in my mother. I was for the time the stable one – the concerned one. I was on the other side of the mental illness, but I felt as if I might has well have been looking  in the mirror, and it was extremely uncomfortable.

I went four years without another manic episode. I even convinced my therapist (a relatively new one for me) that I didn’t need to be on Lithium. I thought I was out of the woods.

Truth is, I had one of my most dangerous episodes of mania in September 2011. It involved another hospital stay, Haldol injections – even police officers and physical restraints.

It’s been another 15 months since I’ve been  manic. It’s quite possible that I may never have another manic episode.

I wrote this post a little less than a year ago but never published it until now. I am now on the downswing of another intense manic episode.

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