It all began with a panic attack.
I was 17 when I first started to notice symptoms. It was toward the end of summer before my senior year of high school.
My heart started to race, my chest tightened, and my palms grew sweaty. What was happening to me? Was I having a heart attack? I quickly dismissed that thought. I was too young for that, wasn’t I?
I tried to shrug off the symptoms. They were only happening once or twice a week. I was about to start my senior year of high school. I concluded I was just anxious about what to expect this next school year. So I held off telling anyone about my problem. It was just a phase. It would pass.
Until November. It was about 3 a.m. when the symptoms got worse. This time I couldn’t breath, my chest got heavier and heavier, my hands balled up into fists and I couldn’t pry them open. I started to freak out. My body was tense all over. My heart was racing so incredibly fast that I thought I was going to die. What was happening?
I went to the doctor the next day. After hearing just a few bits and pieces of my symptoms, he immediately knew what was going on.
“You’re suffering from a panic disorder.”
“A what?” I exclaimed.
“You’re having panic attacks” he replied. “I’m going to refer you to a psychiatrist to get you some help. In the meantime, start taking these.” He handed me samples of medicine called Xanax. He also taught me some breathing techniques to try whenever I suffered another attack.
About a month later, after having gone to a psychiatrist for a few sessions, things got worse. I started lashing out at my family. I grew distant, cold, and downright mean. I began to lose all interest in everything. My grades instantly dropped. Being an honor student all these years, it should have bothered me. But I didn’t care about my grades. I didn’t even care about going to school.
I started fighting with my mom on a constant basis. Yelling, screaming, slamming doors—that became a typical day in our house. I knew this was tearing up my mom but I just did not care. We argued about everything.
I started losing tons of weight. None of my clothes fit right. My jeans started sagging on me. My family grew worried, especially when I started sleeping more and more. They were scared I was severely depressed.
Come to find out, I was. So along with the Xanax, I was put on Zoloft to help with my depression. It didn’t help. In December 2000, I tried to end my life. I was put in the hospital for a few days. Nothing mattered to me anymore. I was downright miserable. I had lost all will to live.
But God had other plans for me.
In March 2003 I made the best decision of my life when I gave my life to Christ. I had grown up in church but never fully surrendered my life. I immediately felt a change. I knew I would still have my bad days but with God on my side I would be able to get through it!
I started to get better. I could feel it. I was even taken off one of my medications.
Then in January 2008, I had a major relapse. I had started noticing the symptoms a couple months prior and so I did everything I could to help myself.
Nothing worked. I fell back into my depression. It became so severe I knew I needed to get help so I voluntarily checked myself into the hospital. After several sessions with a counselor, she made a diagnosis that made sense: I was bipolar.
As I thought about all of my episodes over the years, it started to make so much sense! Why didn’t the doctors notice it back then? Had I been bipolar all this time and the doctors just misdiagnosed me? It was definitely possible. In fact, I think a part of me knew it all along.
Jeremiah 29:11 says God knows the plans He has for me. I may not know these plans just yet but I firmly believe becoming bipolar is a part of the plan. He has used this difficult time in my life in order for me to grow closer to Him.
I recently rededicated my life to the Lord. I still have those down days but this time I turn to God and my Bible for answers. I don’t want to become the person I was my senior year of high school. That person scares me and I hope never to be like her again.
My life verse, Jeremiah 29:11, keeps me going. God has a purpose for me. He has plans I’m not able to see yet but they are there. And while I may suffer from a mental disorder I will continue to look to Him for guidance and understanding.
I have had people tell me that my faith wasn’t strong enough and that was why I was suffering from depression. I firmly believe they are wrong. A child of God is not exempt from worldly problems. Mental disorders do not discriminate. As long as we live in this world we will have problems.
It’s how we handle those problems that set us apart.
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