Updated: Jul 10
| This is the 20th story of Our Life Logs |
The thoughts come like unwanted waves of nausea. There is bound to be some negative outcome. Like nausea, you just want to vomit and get it over. But thoughts of death don’t just go away. They linger like the plague. They interject themselves at every turn and persuade you that life isn’t worth living anymore.
That’s how my adult life started: depression and later bipolar disorder. It has since been a journey of fighting and survival, filled up with the spirit of a warrior and cheered on by the joy of occasional victories. Life continues.
I started life in a family that had dysfunction. When I was little, I was molested by a family member and formed a barrier in my mind that shields memories of my childhood. I know I was born in Wilmington in 1974, grew up in Maryland till the age of 12, and moved to Virginia when my mom divorced my dad and moved on with my stepfather. Away from the sexual abuse thereon, my memories began to become clearer.
In high school, I was an overachiever but quite unconfident with myself. It was my mom’s marriage to an alcoholic that triggered me to become a quitter. I couldn’t quite believe I was worthy of success because it would only make my stepdad mad that mom’s little girl was special to her. Moreover, I was simply reminded that men didn’t want me to succeed so I did everything to cater to them and please them.
After high school, I went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Communications at Virginia Tech. I graduated summa cum laude in 1996 and relocated to Texas with my fiancé. We got married the next year. I started my career in graphic design. Everything seemed to be back on track.
Unfortunately, my marriage turned out to be different from what I had dreamed. The beginning was dominated with me leading a lonely life in a new, empty home. The loneliness soon led to depression. It was 1997 and I was seriously declining. That year I saw a psychiatrist for the first time. I was diagnosed with Chronic Major Depressive Order and was told I would need medication for the rest of my life. My days became dark.
But the darkest were yet to come. I was fighting depression for the next few years when mania came into play. I experienced my first manic episode when I was 29. Bipolar disorder fell on me like a death sentence. As if depression wasn’t enough of a burden!
From there on, my life was dotted with hospital visits, medicine, mood swings, and uncontrollable emotional outbreaks. The stigma of bipolar depression at early stages of my life led to feelings of lack of worth. I was almost certain I would never get well, never do anything important, and never be happy again.
Wading through the ebbs and flows of a mental illness is certainly a challenge. After I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2003, I spent the next eight years going in and out of hospitals, one after another. Mania took part of my life. It was as if there were voices placed in my brain that were constantly trying to convince me to act in the most unbecoming ways.
Once in my early series of psychotic episodes, my mom had to put out a missing person record on me because I had disappeared into another state and lost conscious memory for four days at a hospital. I couldn’t give the nurses a number to call until I became coherent. Another time, delusional thinking led me to having apartments in three states as I thought I had some mission in each city to complete that was divine. There was also a time I got hyper-spiritual and knelt in a most public place to praise God until I was dragged to my feet by a stranger.
It was an emotional torment for both me and my family. Working outside had become impossible, so I stopped. The relationship with my husband sadly deteriorated over the years. He felt completely helpless at the time and did not support me in any way except financially. The affection was gone. In 2008, my nine-year marriage ended. I had to go on SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) to survive. And, survive was all I did.
I made sure I stayed strong, strong enough to at least continue living. For the next two years, I developed a relationship with another man, but when a manic episode hit, it quickly ended. I then moved back to Virginia to live closer to my mom. When my stepdad died in 2013, I went to reunite with my mom in North Carolina where they had moved earlier that year. And there, nourished by the motherly love, I found my greatest improvement.
I am still fighting today–to make something of myself, to redefine the purpose of my life, and to love and cherish love as it comes by.
Predictability remains a thing of the past. There are bad days that I can only sleep and eat, and worry about nothing else. There are normal days when I get chores done and satisfy my curiosity about new paths in life. And then there are great days where I challenge myself to be the best me possible and win. But I am learning every day the coping skills to control my mood and live a positive life, even though it takes monumental efforts.
Hospital visits and medications are still part of my routine. Finding the right medicine was a challenge in itself. It took me ten years to finally find a regimen that worked well enough for me to hold down a part-time job again. I am glad that I found it. Over the years I have learnt how to work with my own limitation.
Meanwhile, I have gone back to school for a second degree and have been supporting myself financially with a part-time writing business running from home. My goal is to be able to work full time by 2020 and come off the disability benefits. The feeling of finally completing something is exhilarating.
Then there is love. Having a mother who fully supports me is a gift from above that I couldn’t possibly replace with anything else in my life. And I found a new boyfriend, who sticks with me through every curve and turn and gives me the affection I need. These are the truest blessings.
I have got a tattoo on my leg symbolizing my life. It is a picture of a cracked puzzle with angel’s wings and a halo. As I interpret it, “My life was broken but I was lifted up.”
Life is never complete. The moral to my story is to build a support system, face the adversity, and learn to smile and re-discover the meaning of life. That is my victory.
This is the story of Rebecca Christman
Rebecca is a driven, passionate woman who unfortunately was diagnosed with depression and bipolar disorder at an early age and has been fighting with the illness relentlessly. She loves to write, play with her dogs, and bake cookies. She is currently studying Paralegal Technology at a community college and dreams of working in the field full time one day. She lives in North Carolina with her mom and boyfriend who unconditionally support her. Her one desire is to better herself to the point that she doesn’t need government help anymore.
This story first touched our hearts on January 16, 2018.
| Writer: Rebecca Christman | Editor: MJ |