The AQ’s Liam McGuire talks about bipolar disorder and why it’s important to succumb to the help that surrounds you
I felt miserable for no particular reason. I wandered around uptown Fredericton with tears in my eyes, frustrated with that particular summer day last June. My heart was beating at an unnerving rate as I walked through the sliding doors at the Everett Chalmers hospital. For the first time, I willingly walked towards the emergency room.
Three people lined the chairs of the make-shift waiting room. One man smelled like he used vodka as a cologne. He had a gash on his hand, and had police officers watching over him. Beside him was a pregnant woman with a nervous partner sitting beside her, holding her hand, ensuring her that “everything would be all right.”
I was the next person to be seen and I kept telling myself I was there for a reason; to dispel my feelings of doubt for taking up a spot in front of people who seemingly needed help more than I did.
I waited about 20 minutes in the Emergency Room before the nurse asked me to come forward. She asked me for the basic information – name, health care number. And then she asked: “So what is wrong?”
I paused and thought for a second, wiped the tears out of my eyes and told her “I need help, and I need it now.”
The diagnosis was bipolar disorder. Merriam-Webster defines bipolar disorder as “any of several psychological disorders of mood characterized usually by alternating episodes of depression and mania.” Essentially it means that I’ve got problems dealing with emotions.
I used to get upset, punch walls and then instantly regret it. When something went wrong, I made it almost 10 times worse than it actually was. I had a habit of ignoring those closest to me. I also had a problem and couldn’t stay focused on one thing, jumping from one interest to the next and then dropping it a week later – Pokemon cards, skateboarding, comic books, Ricky Gervais – the list goes on and on.
I have always been an emotional guy. Growing up in Tracadie, Nova Scotia, I was quiet in school and lacked any social life. I didn’t go to parties, I didn’t drink – I essentially didn’t have any of the fun I was supposed to have as a teenager destined to face an overwhelming future.
Instead of socializing, I wrote a sports blog for Sportingnews, a now defunct blogger section. I wrote about everything to do with sports, because funny enough, I loved the emotions that erupted during the events.
Blogging was a get-a-way for me. It helped me get through my parent’s divorce as well as the constant problems with my older, autistic brother. In the span of four years, I had posted over 800 blog entries, had more than one-million page views and comments featured in Sportingnews magazine.
Then, I was diagnosed with depression – which is a family trait. I went to psychiatrists, where I would sit for over half an hour without saying a word. The last thing I wanted to do was talk about how my family’s issues affected me. I just wanted to get home and write blog entries and go back into my own world.
After that ER visit, I had multiple appointments that all lead to the same thing. They confirmed that I had bipolar disorder, but the shrinks wanted to see what other experts thought too. Six months later, while on Christmas break, I finally got the help I needed. I was prescribed two different medications – one, a low dose of a certain type of medicine that’s used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; the other, a light anti-depressant.
I started to take the medication – one in the morning and one at night – a routine that kept the reminder fresh: this was something that needed to happen.
This school year has corresponded with, not only, new medicine and but a great deal of madness. School seems overwhelmingly long, classes often seem to go on for double the length than they actually are. I feel almost lost. But ultimately the pain is worth the pleasure that will one day be provided.
For once in my life, I feel like I am in control. I have friends that are willing to listen to me bitch about my problems, and there have been people there for me academically and within the school who are willing to work with me in order to succeed.
Over the last six months, I’ve learned a lot about myself, where I want to be in the future and who I want to become. Having this disease can be scary at times, but I know that I am not facing it alone.
For the first time in my life, I feel normal because I was willing to get the help I really needed.
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