Me vs. “Normal”: Living with Bipolar as a Teenager

Posted May 19, 2011 by Manoue

It all started really when I was 12. Most people would say that’s far too young for anyone to be considered bipolar, but then, I didn’t realise that was the case either. About midway through age 12, seemingly out of nowhere, I started to feel so extremely low. I would drag my feet through each day of life, wondering if I’d ever climb out of this emotional pit I had somehow fallen into. Not particularly helping my case, I didn’t listen to very inspirational music either. My playlist began to consist of singers exploring how negative their feelings were to heavy bass and whiny guitars. My friends were going through an “emo” phase, and so was I… or so I thought.

Half a year later, my 13th birthday arrived, along with a new year in school. I was in year 8 (7th grade) and the whole summer I’d been hurting on the inside. But something clicked and I don’t know what triggered it. That year of school, I completely changed. Suddenly, I didn’t care about school or grades or anything. My friends and I would spend most of our classes cracking jokes, passing notes and laughing with each other. But I was the worst. My laughter was out of control. If anyone would get into trouble for disruption, it would be me. But I didn’t care. I got aggressive to teachers and they all wondered what was wrong with me and what happened to that nice quiet girl who started secondary school the year before. My grades started to fail, but that meant nothing to me. I was on such a high, in the happiest place I could remember. My friends were out of the “emo” phase and from what I could see, so was I. I guess I wasn’t really depressed the year before. At least, that’s what I thought.

Year 9 was a mixed year for me. I’d sobered up upon looking at my end of year 8 report. I was in trouble, I was failing and I did feel like a failure. I dipped back into depression and low self-esteem and got stuck there. Some people self-medicate with drink or drugs. I did hit the bottle a bit and I smoked, but I masked my feelings for the most part with rock concerts. I would spend all my time listening to bands and looked forward to hearing them live. I tried to make an effort with my grades, but it seemed that I had lost out because of my time-wasting the previous year. I was also out of school a lot that year due to illnesses, which hindered my ability to catch up. I was destined to fail, and even some of my friends thought so too, though they wouldn’t tell me this until a couple years later.

Fast forward two years and I’d made a go of things at school. My mind was a mess, a constant jumble of ideas which I couldn’t shut up. I was distracted a lot, but I passed my exams and exceeded some expectations. I felt on top of the world, like I could do anything, be anything and achieve anything there and then. Whatever would take the average person 5 years to complete, I would be able to do it in a month, no sweat. So I piled on the plans, increased my stress levels, but still felt I had things under control. I was happy and my friends noticed it too. Some were happy for me, others confused. One actually made the observation that I was erratic. This was the same girl who had thought I would fail at school because of my manic and depressive phases aged 13 and 14. I didn’t believe her. I only realise now how observant she actually was.

Jump forward almost a year, and here I am. I’m 17 and a half and still switching between mania and depression. I’d never planned to talk about it because I had high expectations of myself and feared being carted off somewhere and having to put my dreams on hold. But, between the start at age 12 and now, two big things happened to change my life for the worse. So, now I see a counsellor. And it really helps to have someone non-judgmental and understanding to listen to me. I guess I haven’t really touched on this topic with him; we’ve only really discussed the two other things in my life. But still, any support is better than no support.

Sometimes I look down at the river below Putney Bridge in London and feel like if I jumped, I’d be able to fly. I feel like I’m invincible. Other times I look down and wonder if I’d even have the energy to jump and if so, if I’d even have the ability to drown and complete something for once. My mind races and my heart races all the time. But I’ve realised something: I may be around “normal” people all the time and wish I could be like them all the time, but we can’t all be the same and I can’t force my mind to do what it has to do! But I can have hope that maybe one day, more people around me will understand and not just my counsellor, because one day I’m going to be done with school and I won’t be able to see him anymore. And even if they don’t, I’m me, and for now, I know my limits. Hopefully, I always will.

2 Comments

  1. talk to your counselor about where to get help when you get out of school. I have to go to therapy and take medication. There is plenty of help and bipolar is treatable.

  2. I’m bipolar and it started when I was 14 and now I’m 17 but still I find it hard to pass my grades am still in 9 (8th grade) for 3 years now I failed it a lot of times 2 year of my life wasted I cannot see the light its still very dark I’m just lost

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