“Someone asked me how it felt living with bipolar, and this was my answer…” Jordon
The photo appeared in a photography group – a personal self portrait of what it was to experience “living with bipolar”. It was the description he had not been able to put into words. Right away others responded favorably. Those who also struggled with a bipolar disorder saw their own experience in the image. Others saw people they knew with a better understanding of what those others felt inside. Jordan’s picture spoke what pages of words could not say to the people who saw it.
When asked if I could share some of his story, Jordon’s agreement was instantaneous:
“Mental illness is such a misunderstood thing, and stigma is everywhere. I’m 24 years old and a year and a half ago bipolar disorder literally ruined my life and long-term relationship. So you can imagine that making sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else Is a priority for me…
I asked two questions:
• What led to your finding out your diagnosis?
• What are some ways you have found this impacts your life?
Here is his response:
What led to me being diagnosed as Bipolar Type I is a long road.
Being born with several defects, I grew up in and out of hospitals, and developed an angry disposition at all of the attention I was getting. At 4 years old I was put into child therapy where they could find nothing wrong with me. They dismissed it by telling my mother “You just don’t know how to handle him”. It would be 15 years before I finally understood just how true that was.
Throughout my childhood I was prone to outbursts, running away for days at a time, instigating fights if I felt offended though I didn’t win them. I was fearless.
By the time I was 12 I was considered a problem child. I would shut myself away for hours and not question it. I could go days without eating. Then I discovered self harm so I didn’t feel numb. I didn’t try to hide this from anyone, but I was also very clear I didn’t do it for attention.
This led to living in a group home for a year under 24 hour watch, where I was medicated with a minor anti-depressant and the diagnosis “Manic depressive”. Over the course of that year there was more outbursts, and many more fights… But I was bigger, stronger, and I had developed a tolerance for pain. I was winning these fights and believed this was how I could make people leave me alone. At the end of that year, I was again greeted with “This is just how he is.” and was released back to my parents.
This started an absolute downward spiral for me into my teenage years. I stopped fighting back the day in public school when I was charged with an aggressive offense against another student. At 15 years old I was “The weird quiet kid”. I was beaten, bullied by teachers and peers. My family had all but given up on me and had even stopped trying to find me if I disappeared for days. I had completely lost touch, let my emotions rampage because “That’s just how I am.”
By 18 years old I had become “The party guy”, binge drinking for days at a time and sleeping around. I had the rock star lifestyle that most young men dream of, and it was because of my no-care attitude.
Then I met Sarah (*name changed for privacy), She could deal with my sudden outbursts. We’d break up, get back together and repeat the cycle until one night when we were partying, and I snapped. To this day I don’t know exactly what made me go off… But in my rage I hurt 5 of my closest friends leading to further aggression charges and ultimately a short stay in a penitentiary where they said “You might be bipolar”…
At 19 years old I had never heard the term bipolar before. But I assumed it was another person saying “That’s just how you are” so I continued my crazy lifestyle.
Later that year after a family incident I made an attempt on my own life. Though my mom had found me barely breathing, I’m told that when the paramedics arrived I promptly punched one of them in the face. I was in a pill induced coma for 4 days. I’m told my mother was there for 3 days, but she was gone by the time I woke up. After staying in a mental health facility for a week I again heard the term “Manic depression”. I was given more medication and shipped on my way.
At this point I got back together with Sarah. One day while reading Cosmo she said “You need to read this”… My entire life changed in minutes.
She pointed me to an article a girl my own age had written about her troubled brother who eventually took his own life. Reading this article was so… Twilight Zone for me. I could have gone through and highlighted habits that were just like me. At the very end of the article there was a small bubble that stated “Up until recently, bipolar disorder was known as Manic Depression”.
They were right. They had all been right, I was wired wrong. It was my brain that had caused my life to turn into what it was… Never successful, always broke, always bored to the point of raging anger. The spiral got worse if possible. More drinking, I left Sarah, going from woman to woman, replacing my emotions with sweat and skin.
And then I met Jessica (*name change). Her mother was bipolar so she wasn’t afraid of me. She wasn’t afraid to get in my face and make me talk about things. Or hold me if I burst into tears for no reason. She understood it. But I was still binge drinking. And broke because of it.
I had stopped my medication because they had made me gain weight and I was tired all of the time. But alcohol had become my antidepressant, my drug, my crutch. I would spend hundreds of dollars in a couple of days’ worth of drinking, which became a perpetual cycle because I developed a gluten intolerance. I would wake up, be sick, start drinking and repeat.
Eventually Jessica had enough of this. She looked at me and said “I’m leaving, nobody should have to put up with this.” and was gone that night.
The next morning I found myself sitting in my favorite chair with a beer in one hand and a rope laid out on the floor. The choice was either tie the rope or get help… I poured my beer down the sink and walked to the hospital.
There I was admitted to a mental health unit again, where I sat with a nice foreign man for hours and told him almost exactly what I’m writing here. He looked at me and said “How has nobody noticed? You’re almost the textbook version of bipolar disorder… This isn’t very common.”
I was released from the unit after having self-detoxed and started a proper diet, as well as being put on a new medication. I started reading as much as I can about my illness, exercising, eating properly. To this day I don’t take my medication, and I probably never will because the side effects do worse things to me mentally than dealing with bipolar disorder. But I’m over 1 year sober, have learned to deal with my angry outbursts, managed to tone down my crying episodes…
I’m okay. I’m not allowed to work (multiple unmentioned health concerns) so money is a problem. But I find myself devoting most of my time and energy to helping people not go through what I went through, I have run anti-bullying programs for teens, and use multiple forms of anonymous social media to reach out to people who need help in these situations.
I have also turned my illness into a muse for photography… If I’m being honest, I don’t think I could be a photographer if it wasn’t for my mental illness. I still don’t talk to my family because we can’t relate to each other, and relationships are almost impossible for me because of how easily I can change my mind about things. But I’m alive, and I’m living with Bipolar Type I, and I’m extremely proud to be able to say that.
If anybody takes anything away from what I’ve just written, please let it be this;
Mental illness can be crippling, it can take things away from you, it can be devastating to your life. But if you take the time to understand it, it can lead to some absolutely amazing opportunities, and if you share those opportunities with other people like I have, you’ll find that having mental illness can give you a reason to keep going.
Thank you for your time – Jordon, 24 years old.
My thanks to you, Jordon, for allowing me to share your story to raise awareness and hopefully build more understanding.