I was diagnosed as bipolar at age 29. I’m 32 now. And I’ve been on meds for 2 years. And I’m doing well with it. But my bipolar illness was unmedicated until age 30.
Right out of high school, someone befriended me and introduced me to gambling and betting on sports and blackjack, which induced the same feeling of bipolar mania. And as someone who is bipolar, you can get addicted to feeling the manias because the manias send dopamine to the brain and give you a high dopamine experience. So you don’t need to be on any drugs, you can just be going through your day and you’ll feel stronger more secure, more powerful.
The brain becomes addicted to chasing those feelings. So when the body goes through a depression where it feels like “I’m not going to accomplish anything” or that I’m the worse, I’m an addict, and I get suicidal, I would try to create the manias for the rush of dopamine to my system.
As a result, I made some bad decisions like going out and playing blackjack for 24 hours because I wanted to induce that mania and get that high.
Being unmedicated, not understanding my mental illness for most of my life, on top of it all, I’m human and made poor choices, so it’s not like any one thing can take all the blame. Rather it was a complex mix of how mental illness worked together with frustration and anger at God and life that led me to do stupid things.
When I was in my early 20s, I stole a wallet to gamble and ended up in jail for six months. I share that as a part of my story because it was from those lows that made me get down on my knees because I still had to find a way to be kind to myself and believe that I was a great person and that I had love in me. And to me, I felt like I had love and kindness in me, but the mental illness sometimes deceived me as I would do bad things, but I always meant well.
Being bipolar is not an emotional thing in the traditional sense. Your brain chemistry is different, and you are thrown into different realms. Sometimes, I would wake up and for six months I would see life as totally negative and have no faith in God and feel totally desperate. And then I would wake up for six months and feel everything was fine. And I didn’t know why. It just happened.
Bipolar illness is very hard to explain. Society is only now learning more about how it works, and I address it here because it’s such a large part of my story. The only way to explain my life is to give you this background.
Through these life experiences, I learned that kindness takes a giver and a receiver. I realized that I needed a lot of kindness. I struggled as I haven’t been able to support myself financially for most of my life with my illness. So I started letting other people be kind to me, too. And that taught me a lot about kindness.
When I let others start to help me with my addiction, I had all these supportive people who would call me and tell me, “You’re worth something. You’re going to be ok.” That helped grow kindness in me. And through that, I had more kindness to be kind to others.
I think learning how to receive kindness is as crucial as learning how to give it. You learn to trust that receiving kindness doesn’t make us a person of lower value. I think when you learn how to receive it, you’re also learning how important it is to give it. Because if no one is receiving it, no one is getting the blessing of giving it.