Melissa's Story


There’s a picture of a stranger on my desk in my office. She looks like she’s on her way to a ball. Her bright blue dress stands out in the greenery of a lush garden. Beautiful flowers surround her, her smile magnificent. It’s one of those snapshots you take before you get to where you’re going. You know, the type you take before a grand event? Like a wedding or a wonderful dance?

Who is this woman? She seems vaguely familiar…maybe a cousin, or perhaps a sister? I want to know who she is, so self- assured. If only I could have just one tenth of an ounce of her confidence…

My mind races, I become angry. Who is she? And who put her here? Is she taunting me because she’s everything I’m not? She’s pretty. She’s serene. I hate her. I want to rip the picture to shreds. How dare someone so calm and lovely make me feel ugly and agitated?

Almost two months ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was put on paxil for depression when I couldn’t get out of bed for weeks. The antidepressant kicked in and I went into a hyperspace. I literally began to paint anything that wasn’t nailed down in the house. I also began having problems concentrating.

The fence was my first casualty. It is very hard to back out of the driveway in reverse when you are already half way down the street. Luckily I have insurance, but it’s really too bad I spent the claim money on a shopping spree. I also began to dance around the house "nekkid".

Now, my boyfriend thought it was pretty cute at first. But the chicken dance quickly turned to screaming matches. When he could get me to speak without yelling, the words came out like scrambled eggs.

Uh oh. Time to see the doctor… I was diagnosed with panic disorder when I was almost 24…and like many others I didn’t know what bipolar was. I felt so good on the meds they prescribed I thought, “This is how great everyone else feels!” I also equated my horrible credit rating or incredibly high credit card bills to being a bit impulsive. I have 75 pair of shoes in my closet, a suit for everyday of the month, blue jeans, corduroys, 5 little black dresses, leather pants, 3 ball gowns, 20 sweaters, and so on, and so on. These were all purchased in the last couple of years. And those are just the winter clothes in my bedroom closet. If you ever come to visit, please give me some notice. I will try to clear some space in the guest room closet.

All these symptoms were here, but no one caught it for almost ten years? I’m bipolar. How can this be?

I am just like anybody else. If I was driving in the car and pulled up at a stoplight, you couldn’t tell the difference between you and me? Could you?

I write and paint. So my family has always blamed my moods on my artistic temperament. But I’ve learned this is a family disease. Is this why mother raged? And grandma became a religious fanatic? What will I do now? How will I take care of myself?

So many questions… Last Saturday I came to believe that I could not make my loved ones slaves to my ever-changing moods. So I decided the world would be a better place without me.

Why should I ask for help? I’ve always been independent. I never really needed anyone. My pride landed me in the bathroom with a bottle of pills in my hand, cigarette burns and scrapes on my wrists.

I was so lucky my significant other intervened. I could have refused to unlock the bathroom door. But I didn’t. Somewhere deep inside me was a confused little girl begging for help. I spent the night in the hospital. I now have contracts with people that I will call first if I feel that way again. And someone much wiser than me asked how dare I think what other people can handle and what they can’t? I just had to take that one little step, just one…in asking for help.

Sunday afternoon I came to my office and found the picture on my desk. My boyfriend had put it there. “Who is this?” I asked. “That’s the girl I miss,” he replied. “Do you love this girl in the blue dress?” I questioned. “Yes, I do. But I love the lady I spent watching over in the hospital, too, “ he answered. “I just want you to be okay. I want to see that smile again.”

We have gotten me appointments for a counselor, couple’s counseling, meetings through a support group, and my family has told me they will help at any cost.

I have no insurance and they will pay if I must go to the hospital and get adjusted on my meds. My significant other will take out a loan if necessary. And you know what? The support I’ve gotten here at and through my family makes me feel I am going to be okay.

It has given me the strength to fight the good fight. It’s going to be hard, this road to recovery. But I have to try. I have to accept what being bipolar means. I have to take my meds. I have to call others like me. I have to be willing. I have to give back to others. And I have to ask for help.

I may never be that girl in the blue dress again. But that’s okay. One day she won’t look like a stranger anymore.

contact Melissa


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