“I still remember the day I knew something was terribly wrong. I was in my third year of Law School about to collapse on the floor of my University dorm room when I realized my life would never be the same again. At our first welcome back party after spring break, a friend of mine was found dead in her bed the morning after our university pub crawl. If that wasn’t shocking enough, a couple of days after that I watched the light drain out of the eyes of the woman I called Mom after having a stroke. I had every reason in the book of grief to be depressed. But something happened inside me that still, to this day, I find hard to describe. Something snapped like a glow stick being cracked. The lights came on, but they rapidly flickered on and off. I was surrounded by total darkness that would suddenly become illuminated with the brightest of magical white light. Before long, it was an all-night-long strobe light party in my brain. Fireworks and all. Stability was no longer in my vocabulary.
I spent weeks curled up on the floor of the communal dorm showers until the water ran cold, often covered in my own vomit from the alcohol I’d hide in my room and consume whenever I needed to escape. Which was always. As a university student though, partying and using drugs and alcohol seems normal. Nobody thought I had a problem, I was just the life of the party. Before long, the entire university knew my name. I was the definition of fun! From jelly wrestling to body shots, crowd surfing to tabletop dancing – there wasn’t a party I didn’t attend. 5 nights a week I hit the clubs and was seen at every uni event. I won ‘most likely to be at the uni bar’ semester after semester. Featured in the weekly student magazine in almost every photo from every event. It became a running joke that every week there was guaranteed to be a photo of me making out with a really hot chick… I even made it into promotional videos for the nightclubs shooting 10 shots in a row.
I remember waking up one day in a hotel room wearing a giant sombrero to a bride and her bridesmaids getting ready for her Greek wedding, inviting me to her wedding at her bachelorette party seemed like a good idea at the time. Vomiting in taxis, out the side of buses, getting blackout drunk and exposing myself were regular occurrences. I was mixing painkillers and alcohol just to get drunk quicker because I couldn’t stomach enough alcohol daily to actually get drunk. My tolerance was becoming so high, a bottle of tequila and 24 Panadol tablets was pre-drinks for me. I started smoking 40 or 50 cigarettes a day. I couldn’t sleep. I was losing control. I thought this was the lowest I would ever sink. But I was wrong. I had a bird’s eye view of the world’s worst horror film, that just happens to be my life.
My life took a much different path than the one I was promised. The law school scholarship recipient that received impeccable grades at school and won awards across multiple fields and participated in every extracurricular activity possible had fallen off her pedestal. I had lost everything that made me, ME. It was like that Freaky Friday Lindsay Lohan movie. I just seemed to be not in my own body anymore. I felt like I had been pushed out of a helicopter and dropped into the middle of the ocean. I was adrift in the rough Seas of Mental Illness for 6 years at the mercy of the changing tide and strong moody currents. I was tormented by the storms that always seemed to be brewing on the horizon. When the hurricanes of mania and torrential rain of depression hit, I wondered what hope there was for me? How can I signal help? Who can help me? Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? I didn’t want to die. But I couldn’t see any other way out.
The very real possibility of drowning out there sunk in. Each day I became a little more exhausted and tried to take my life multiple times. But I was such a failure I couldn’t even kill myself successfully. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. All I wanted was to go home. But with nothing on the horizon in every direction I turned, I felt more like Toto running into the witch’s den. NO ONE talks about mental health like it’s something that will ever happen to you. NO ONE prepares you for what it will be like if you are the 1 in 4 unlucky enough to lose your mind. NO ONE teaches you what to do or who to turn to. I had no idea what the hell was going on, let alone how to fix it! But I had to. I couldn’t live like this anymore! That I knew for sure. I could not take one more minute of this hell. I desperately needed to escape this prison. To unshackle myself from whatever was holding me back. To rid myself of whatever had possessed my body! I had to get back to shore. But I had no idea where that was.
My grades at law school began to slide, I lost both my jobs, I was constantly switching between crippling depression and reckless mania. I was self-medicating with alcohol and weed daily. I was reaching out for help, but most doctors didn’t believe me. I saw therapist after therapist, took medication after medication. I was a lab rat. I did everything I could think of to make this life bearable. I moved houses, cities, states and even got married. I dropped out of law school and went to art school. Eventually I was sober but I was housebound. I bounced around between jobs from working at Flemington Race Course as stable hand to customer service, bartending and sales. But it’s hard to tell what came first, the chicken or the egg. Was my life a mess because of my illness? Or was I sick because my life was a mess?
I have spent more of my life depressed and distressed. I was even suicidal on my wedding day. My marriage fell apart. My ex-husband drank even more than before. He disappeared for days at a time on benders and my own sobriety became even more difficult to keep. He became abusive and I escaped hoping my hometown would provide salvation. But the memories of a childhood I chose to forget came flooding back. My parents rejected me yet again. Family drama triggered me and I was more suicidal than ever. I was jobless, homeless, couch hoping and I realized that in 10 years, not much had changed but me. My future no longer seemed as bright as it did when I was a homeless teen trying to finish high school. I was drinking vodka orange juice for breakfast daily. I was hiding alcohol in coffee cups so my housemates wouldn’t get suspicious.
I clung to a man that promised love and financial support. But that soon became a volatile relationship that made me use again. I was so suicidal that I had to get high to save my life. I couldn’t live like this anymore so I had to find another way to live. At first it wasn’t the drugs or alcohol I was addicted to, it was the escape. I used anything I could find. I was desperate. I spent all my money on drugs and used my body to get what I couldn’t afford. I made friends with the wrong people and drank just to keep up with the crowd I had around. I blazed away my pain for days in a cloudy haze. Days turned into months and before long it was a couple of years. I moved houses at least 13 times in 16 months. I was hospitalized over 3 times spending more than 6 months in the psych ward. It was like being stuck in the spin cycle of a washing machine trying to get clean and find some stability. I was arrested for drink driving with a bag of weed and pills in my handbag. I lost my license and ended up in a derelict caravan in the backyard of a house in a dodgy neighborhood. I thought for sure that would be the end of me. I was kicked out of Woolworths for doing cartwheels in aisle 7 and jumped out of a moving car. I locked myself up in my house for months until I was finally hospitalized again for months. I’m not even sure if that was yet rock bottom.
The Psych Ward seems to be a revolving door I can never completely leave. I have spent the last 10 years chasing my sanity. Riding the ups and of downs of Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Anxiety and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. I’ve circumnavigated the severely inadequate Mental Health Care system.
I knew I needed a hero. That was obvious. I wanted my dad to save me. After all, he was the only real hero I’d ever known. But when I needed him most, he was nowhere to be found. I remember the day I called my dad to tell him for the first time that I wasn’t OK. I remember him hanging up on me. I remember how much it hurt as tears stream down my face right now to have my hero abandon me in my time of need. Why did daddy not want to save his little girl? I wanted him to drive to campus and take me home. I wanted him to care enough to take care of me. I didn’t care if I was in trouble. I didn’t care if he dragged me home by the ear kicking and screaming. I just wanted him to be there. But the day never came.
Climbing the hill of recovery as a lone wolf is not easy. The hardest walk you can make is the walk you make alone, but that is the walk that makes you the strongest. It is the walk that builds character. I got sober in 2016 with the help of Headspace Australia, but have relapsed a few times since. Recovery for me is like a very difficult video game. At first I thought it was a quest to find the key that unlocks the treasure. But after many long, fruitless years of searching, I realized recovery is a journey not a destination. It cannot be found. It has to be earned. Just when I got to the end I realize there’s another level. A much bigger journey I now have to navigate. Another even harder beast to conquer and new terrain I must discover. But it’s not all in vain. I accrue skill points along the way and level up. I can’t help but feel I lost myself in all this, but I guess looking back I also found myself in the depths of despair.
Why do I talk about Mental Health so openly and honestly? IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME NOT TO! People ask me why I chose the name Bipolar Barbie and it all started one Sunday afternoon. My housemate asked me why I have so many clothes and I replied, ‘because I have so many different personalities, they each need their own wardrobe.’ Then it dawned on me. I am just like a naked Barbie doll, waiting to see what outfit I will be dressed in each day, dressed by another hand.
Barbie has her outfits like nurse Barbie, horse riding Barbie, dancing Barbie and everything in between. I am just like that but, in the mentally ill world. My outfits include: Manic Barbie, Anxious Barbie, Depressed Barbie, Low self esteem barbie, Borderline Barbie, and every other emotion or symptom you can imagine. Never knowing what I am going to face each day, what obstacles will be in my path. Always having to get to know a different version of myself every day with completely new skill sets and weaknesses. Every day is a new adventure, a new burden to bare.
Now I am living the dreams of my inner child. In a way my struggles have given me everything I ever wanted. I am now a motivational speaker, an artist, a young author with a book coming out this year and a rapper working on my first album. For the first time in my life I can honestly say I have more good days than bad. I needed a Hero, so a HERO I became.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bipolar Barbie, 26, of Australia. You can follow her journey on Instagram and YouTube. Have you had similar struggles? We’d like to hear your journey. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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