By: Toni Whisenant
We all know that when growing up, the adolescent years are tough. Apart from hormones going haywire and the time in life when we experience the most and either gain the most from those experiences or lose the most, we also try to define ourselves and more or less find who we are. The adolescent years are also the most judgemental of our lives, especially for my generation. But what if you had depression since age 12? What if you got diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and an Anxiety Disorder at age 16? Can you imagine how much more difficult it is for someone to grow up around all those negative and positive experiences of a teenager and having judgemental factors of middle and high schools AND being Bipolar? It's not easy.
Let's start out by explaining what Manic Depression is. If you were to walk up to me on the street and ask me what my definition of Manic Depression was, I would most likely answer in a very serious voice, "Hell." But my definition doesn't really count. Or does it? A more politically correct way to phrase the definition of Manic Depression would generally start out with "One with Manic Depression", which would generally bring a "No, duh!" out of me. Let's move on to the more meaningful definition of Manic Depression. "One who suffers severe bouts of depression." Now, doesn't that sound more reasonable? I believe so. A little more in depth, perhaps? By my experiences, of course. My Manic Depression schedule consisted of wake up, go to school, come home from school, self harm, attempted suicide, dinner, cry, bed. (The only reason why dinner is in there is because my parents almost force fed me if I didn't want to eat. As If to say, I didn't like it that much.) I was only 12 years old when I started that schedule, and I held that schedule firm until I was 14. Which was when I traded my old hobby of cutting in for a new hobby of binge-purging. Not the best trade I've ever done, but it was a way for me to take control of my life. Unfortunately, or even rather fortunately, that trade didn't last long and I went back to self harm.
Now, let's try to define an Anxiety Disorder. Again, if randomly asked on the streets what my definition would be, I would simply reply with "Hell." And yet again, it doesn't really count. So, let's dig in further. An Anxiety Disorder simply means you're over-stressed. Unfortunately, being so over-stressed that I couldn't hardly go a day without an anxiety attack can do some pretty hefty damage both mentally and emotionally. Like some teens, family issues were the trigger of my anxiety Plus bouts of depression didn't help much, I assume. At this point, I was a sophmore in high school. Which was really awesome because I had moved in the middle of my school year into a totally different city in a totally different state. I felt like I was going to explode. What, with having to meet new people and hang out with new people and be judged harshly based on the fact that I was different. Again, I doubt that helped much of my stress problems. I went through friends like a baker uses yeast after the move, which, being such a loyal and trusting person, stressed me out even more. I needed a vacation away from my family, in which meant I resorted to friends. Friends who weren't there when I needed them. I owe myself a pat on the back for that one. I picked out the best people to use me. Which entailed what? More stress, Now, imagine all that as a normal teenager. Then bring on the super-stress monster that is anxiety, multiply that by about seven, and you have me in sophmore year.
Which brings me to my final "mental disorder": Bipolar Disorder. (Cue overly dramatic and overly cliche "Dun Dun Duuunnn".) Unlike my first two definitions of my "mental illnesses", if asked out of nowhere what my definition of Bipolar Disorder was, I might say something along the lines of "Imagine the worst anger you've experienced. Now imagine the worst sadness you've ever experienced. Finally, imagine the most happiness you've ever experienced. Add that all up, multiply it by five. Multiply that by Hell. And you have Bipolar Disorder." But, because no one is asking me on the side of a street what my personal definition of Bipolar Disorder is, again, we will take a closer look into it. Bipolar Disorder consists of severe mood swings (which I, to this day, still go through). My mood swings would literally be really jumpy and happy, and three minutes later would be throwing things against the wall. Another two minutes would pass and I would be in tears. Not only does Bipolar Disorder consist of severe mood swings, it also consists of a chemical embalance in the brain, the overloading of emotions, emotional breakdowns, and analyzing everything having to deal with emotion too emotionally for a proper response. Fights would break out in my household and I didn't understand why. I kept asking myself "Why is everyone against me?" or "Why does everyone hate me?" when really all it was was me taking everything WAY too personally. Every time my mom would ask me to clean the cat boxes, I would tell her I didn't want to do them at the moment, but I would do them later. She would keep nagging (yes, nagging) at me to clean them out until I got so angry about her coming down to my rooms just to tell me to do something that I would stomp and holler and scream. That would be one of my good days, too.
You may have noticed that I put quotation marks around mental illness ("mental illness"). I did that for one good reason. Bipolar Disorder is not a mental illness. Now, I want to take a step back for a minute just to curse the day Sigmund Freud ever brought around our "mental illnesses" or "mental disorders". I do not in the least bit consider myself "crazy" because I am Bipolar. No, I don't consider myself "crazy" because I have severe anger issues. The only reason why I would consider myself "crazy" or anything remotely to it is because I'd be more than willing to try anything once, even if it ends in something ridiculous going wrong. Sigmund Freud basically got to tell us what is normal and what isn't, when in all actuality there is no such thing as normality nor average nor even usual. Everyone is different, thank you very much, and just because someone tells me that I have a mental disorder because I perceive something differently than them doesn't mean I believe them for one minute.
CM Sullivan from California on May 18, 2012:
I know how you feel, I have been through a lot of the same. I had to write about it as well. People who want to call someone crazy because of a personality difference usually have their own issues to handle anyway. Good read.
Endure Today from Louisiana on October 13, 2011:
Thank you for your deep honesty. You are not alone.
smcopywrite from all over the web on October 06, 2011:
well written and delivered with passion and concern. i like the way you put it together for everyone out there that is lost with definitions and trying to self evaluate. thanks for a wonderful hub.
Linda Rogers from Minnesota on August 23, 2011:
I'm sorry to hear about the struggles you have faced and want to thank you for sharing this personal journey. This hub will help people that are living with this. I can relate to the anxiety and panic attacks. I didn't know what was going on when I was young when I had anxiety and panic attacks. After going on vacation in highschool with a buddy and ending up in the emergency room, My dad realized something was up. I ended up going to school for a Masters degree in counseling Psychology and helping others. I specialized in helping those with anxiety because I felt it helps to know what your patient is going through.
Toni Whisenant (author) from Portland, OR on August 08, 2011:
@TheWhisper: Thank you. I was hoping to give insight into what Manic Depression feels like at the age of 12. It's difficult for someone at the age of 45, but even more so at the age of 12 due to the fact that you're still changing and growing at that point. The beginning of puberty. That's crazy enough alone, but put them both together and you don't want anything to do with anyone half the time.
@Trips: Thank you for reading. This is my first article ever written and the most non-chalant thing that I know most about that I could come up with. I don't believe people with physical disabilities should be call "crippled" or "handicapped", so why should someone with a different view point of the "normality" be considered "mentally ill" or "mentally unsound" or even "mentally disabled"? How I see it, someone calling someone else "crippled" or "handicapped" is like saying "You can't do anything for yourself." Which I know from a second hand view point that it's not at all true. Same with "mentally ill", "mentally unsound", or "mentally disabled" is like saying "You can't be a working part of society." Which, again, I know isn't true. You will be able to read my Part II, and it will probably be a little longer than just two parts. I'm hoping anyways. I'm trying to make this article into a three- or four-part article. Thank you for your comment. :)
Trips from Portland, Oregon on August 08, 2011:
Thank you for letting us hubbers into your very personal--and gut-wrenching battle with illness, Phoenixx. (Note that I didn't write "mental illness"...that was purposeful, because of the stigma intristically attached to that phrase. We don't call people with physical ailments having "bodily illness"; why qualify "mental"?) In articulating your experiences, you are enlightening and demystifying such conditions and diseases. For one, I'm extremely glad you never succeeded with your suicide attempts.
I very much look forward to hearing your "Part II", and hope it includes how you are faring now...and that you've found some relief.
Laura (a.k.a., Trips) :-)
TheWhisper from Macomb,MI on August 08, 2011:
Very informational and powerful hub phoenix. Depression can be one of the most misunderstood sicknesses out there, people need to realize that there is more to depression that a little sadness.