“I feel like I’m on a seesaw” I recall saying starting as far back as the 8th or 9th grade. Not just any seesaw experience, but like that time when your mischievous older sibling or friend leaves you hanging way up in the air for a long time and then all of a sudden jumps off the seesaw letting you plummet to the ground. That was my life for years before the proper diagnosis and treatment.
After years of therapy and antidepressants that would either stop working or make me feel worse, I was finally diagnosed at the age of 26 with bipolar disorder. I embraced that diagnoses the way a small child embraces their teddy bear at night for comfort. I finally had the key so I could timidly walk through the door with the answer to why I was how I was. The temper, the euphoria, the racing thoughts, the sleepless nights, the deep depressions that I seemed to just fall into out of the clear blue sky sometimes. I was finally on a new journey; a journey to understanding myself. The new “bipolar me”, or as I have learned to say, the “me with bipolar disorder”. The first statement is how I referred to myself before I came to understand that bipolar disorder does not define me as a person. It is one aspect of my life. It is a disorder I live with every day. But it is definitely not a disorder that has to rule or reign over me.
I must be honest though and admit that for the first few years I was at the mercy of whatever new medication the doctors’ thought would work. After feeling like a zombie guinea pig and after my fair share of hospitals and day treatment programs I finally began to gain the stabilization I needed to find the strength to advocate for myself. I have always been an avid researcher and a pretty decent student, so I finally decided that the subject that was most important to study was myself. Now I am in no way saying play your own doctor. However, I had become sick and tired of being a guinea pig. I was so voiceless at some points in my journey that I would allow a doctor to prescribe a medicine that I had already been on and knew didn’t work well for me just because I figured they knew better than little old sick helpless me. WRONG!
Researching for me involved talking to other people with bipolar disorder, becoming vocal with my doctors and taking up space in the room. Space I deserve to take up because I am a human being with rights and a voice. After all, it is my body and my mind. My journey to a more stable life has involved not hiding behind the stigma that comes with living with a mental illness.
As a poet, I have allowed bipolar disorder to be my muse. I have let it inform my writing and have not been afraid to share that writing with others. So what if they now know a little something new about me. I do not hide anymore from family and friends. If I feel my story will benefit them, I do not hide from strangers either.
So while I still ride a bit of a seesaw at times, the highs are more controlled and I am cognizant of what is going on when I’m up in the sky and when I come down for a landing I do not bruise my butt nearly as bad. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even say I ride the seesaw anymore. I am more or less on a merry go round where the horses gracefully go up and down, and I enjoy the music and the ride while I’m on it, knowing that I will soon come off and go about my day as usual.
do not be afraid to use your own voice
for when it’s stuck on the inside of your throat
and no one knows what you know
that is not fun
no not fun at all
the spirals and falls will hurt even more
but your voice will protect you
from life’s awful spills
and you will have allies
lending you pads for your butt when you fall
and sometimes you will not have to fall at all
About The Author: Kamilah Simone Holtz is so much more than a person living with a mental illness. She is a daughter, sister, and a friend among other things. She is also a poet. Her rants and musings can sometimes be found on www.poetsimone.com. She is a bit of a wanderer who enjoys cooking and being outside under the blazing hot sun or bright moon and stars.