Stigma Fighters: Laurin M.

Who says you can’t live in the past. That’s only if you actually want to live. Truly.
So, the girl who could talk to a doorknob could no longer manage to string together four simple words, no less a phrase or two. What was happening? Was it a brain tumor? An infection? Countless doctors, medicines, and tests, and no one had the answer.

After a few weeks of falling completely apart, I was admitted to the 9th floor of the Barnes Hospital. Devastated. A mess. Most of all, I was really embarrassed. A conscientious student. A popular and well-liked girl. Now I was a random, young sick patient locked up in the psychiatric ward. Did I mention we were in Missouri? Might as well have been named Misery.

And here I am in a seriously unflattering light blue gown. I’m stuck behind barred windows. Could it get any worse? Well, at least I don’t have to write my exams this semester, was all I could think. Who knows if I’ll ever finish school? Lord knows the way I left, I may never be able to show my face at that university again. Hopefully I’ll muscle through.

Friends came to visit. Someone brought fancy chocolate covered pretzels from a lovely downtown boutique. Some days I still dream of those sweet treats.

More pills. More tests. Are they kidding with this? I was starting to feel what they would later call “high.” High as a kite, as a matter of fact. In retrospect, I was manic and loving every single minute of it. They let me out for good behaviour. I went to see a football game with parental supervision. One day we took a trip to watch hot air balloons. We even visited a botanical garden and then it was back to the ward.

Finally, I did such a good job convincing them I was well, that they sent me back to school. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. I wrote papers with rapid speed and precision. I joined clubs. I formed clubs. I danced. I spent way too much money on items ordered from the TV in the middle of the night. I drove other people’s cars. I never asked permission.

I apologize. I was high. I was what they would one day call manic. At this point no one really knew what to do. Not one of the smart and sophisticated doctors had a clue what ailed me.

It was winter. I was cold. I was still wearing tight jeans and a white v-neck shirt. I was still in Missouri (Misery). Then they asked me to leave school. Could it get any worse? Maybe you shouldn’t ask if you don’t want to hear the answer…

My parents were sure the doctors in NYC were better. Wasn’t that how everyone felt about New York City stuff? So they dragged me across the country with the hope of finding some relief. Maybe even an answer or two? The best the doctors could determine at that point was that too much Prozac had been given (it was the 90’s after all) and this had led to a potential manic episode. Sounded like a lot of probably and maybes for my family.

Didn’t anyone have a darn clue?

More drugs, more doctor visits. Parking was expensive in NYC. The hallways were scary and the doctors were worse. I was sure I’d wake up from the nightmare my life had become. Honestly, it had to end sooner or later.

Eventually, we found a kind and warm doctor who seemed to nap through ½ of my sessions. Aside from her fatigue, she was able to put together a drug cocktail that appeared to work. We saw each other often, maybe 3 or 4 times each week. When I wasn’t with her, I was at the lab getting my levels tested. I was miserable, but things were looking up.

Fast forward and condense this saga, I received my bipolar diagnosis back in 1995. I still managed to graduate university on time, in spite of the fact that I had missed so much school. I begged my doctors and even had the amazing opportunity to take a term in Spain. Life had fallen right back to normal and things had never been more exciting. After Europe I secured a great job with Mercedes-Benz and my world carried on.

I’m not going to say there haven’t been ups and downs, some months much worse than others, but I will say that in spite of my diagnosis, I’ve still completed a masters degree, married the love of my life, and give birth to two of my most favorite people. I also run my own small business.

I’d be lying if I said the road was always smooth. I’d be lying if I said that some weeks aren’t a huge struggle for me. There are most certainly times when I can’t leave the house. Days when again, I can’t form sentences. And still after all these years, there are some mornings where I’d truly rather the day not start. Those are the days where I have to work extra hard to just get dressed for the day.
I’m pretty sure my kids were sent down from heaven to keep me safe. No matter how dark the days can get, I have to do my best to keep it together for those babies. Sometimes I laugh, because often those two are the ones who remind me to take my medicine at night. It’s as though at 5 and 9 they know a lot better than I do about how to keep our lives on track.

While I’d never ask to have this disorder, I don’t think I’d be the same without it. When times are good, I think and live with more clarity and creativity than anyone I know. Yes, the lows are awful, but learning to live through them makes me exactly who I’m meant to be.

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Laurin is a mom, wife, sister and a daughter who lives in Toronto. Her favorite things to do in life are travel, read, practice hot yoga and explore the world with her family. In between making dinner and lunch for her kids, she runs her personalized music company http://www.justforme.com

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