by Maricela Estrada
This week instead of our regular mental health column, author Maricela Estrada shares with us the first chapter of her book Bipolar Girl–a book where she shares her struggles with bipolar disorder. Info on ordering the book at the end of this post.
When I saw Britney Spears on the news on a gurney with paramedics, sirens blaring, a team of policemen, two helicopters, chaos, and a lot of paparazzi and she was placed on a 5150 my heart was breaking and tears filled my eyes. I said to myself, “Oh my God! Even a pop princess can have a mental breakdown.”
Suddenly, I started having flashbacks of all the times I was strapped down on a gurney being taken to a mental hospital. I could still hear the sirens in my head and feel my heart being torn apart at the thought that my beloved pop star was going through the horrors of psychosis and depression, all while being in the public eye. I had been feeling manically depressed for months and just couldn’t get out of the cycle.
I had thought about putting myself voluntarily in a mental hospital, but the thought of my freedom being taken away terrified me. I went out to a night club with my friend Joel and then came home feeling unstable, thinking that maybe I shouldn’t have had the red bull and vodka. I took my meds but kept thinking of poor Britney caged in Cedars Sinai’s psych ward. “I have to break-in the hospital! I must meet her and tell her that everything is going to be okay.”
I called 911. I know the system. All I have to say to be put in a mental hospital is that I’m suicidal. I had called the Cedars Sinai earlier during the day to make sure they accepted my insurance and they did! My plan to get into the Cedars Sinai’s psych ward could actually become a reality. I drove down the street and had the paramedics pick me up on a small street a few miles away from my house. I didn’t want to make a scene or worry my family. I had developed an obsession with Britney Spears. I thought that maybe we could become best friends in the mental hospital. I felt like we had so much in common. Ever since she shaved her head, I saw it as a sign. I knew that she had bipolar disorder and did it at a manic episode. I know the illness far too well. I have been gifted with bipolar radar.
The paramedics drove me to the emergency room and I showed the doctor some of my medical records. He immediately saw the severity of my mental illness. “Bipolar Disorder, Manic, with Psychotic Features.” What’s that mean? Pretty much that I’m insane. I experience manic depression, suicidal ideations, delusions, visual and auditory hallucinations, manias, and much more psychotic-ness.
The ER doctor called the Psychiatric Emergency Team (PET) to come evaluate me. Now that I had a career in mental health services and insurance benefits, I could be transferred to Cedars Sinai and meet my Britney. The PET Team member placed me on a 5150 me after he read the suicidal poem I wrote, but by then I had second thoughts about going into a mental hospital. I had to go to bankruptcy court; my manic shopping sprees caused me to go bankrupt. I knew based on my over eight mental hospital hospitalizations and 5150s they would keep me more than seventy-two hours.
Well, unfortunately my plan to get transferred to Cedars Sinai and meet Britney didn’t work. I got transferred to Del Amo in Torrance, CA, about one hour from my home. I was lonely, depressed, and eventually even became suicidal. I was taking thousands of milligrams of medications, anti-psychotics, mood stabilizers, and anti-depressants and I still suffered from episodes. I was hospitalized for five days and nights.
I realized that my fantasy about being in the same hospital as Britney Spears was part of my mental illness taking control of me. My hospitalization caused me to relapse into an episode worse than I could ever imagine, but the positive thing about it was that I started an anti-depressant, Prozac, that really helped me. I watched Britney Spears on the news in the mental hospital’s day room. My heart was really breaking to see something that tragic happen to her. All I can say to people who are bipolar is that you learn to conquer the illness and it helps you grow into a stronger person. Having bipolar disorder changed my entire life. I don’t resent having this illness because it built me up to the sky and made me realize that I could never falter. Even when I relapse, it doesn’t mean that I have faltered, because I learn something new after every episode I experience.
Bipolar disorder is an illness that will change the way you think, feel, and perceive; thoughts of death flood your mind, suicide symbolizes freedom and escape, waking up is a nightmare, facing life is a challenge, everything is dark and gloomy and when you’re manic, it just causes risks—a happy high but lethal behavior, things that you will most definitely regret the next day, shopping sprees, and wild sex. Then with that are the psychotic features like delusions and hallucinations. You’re in another world. It’s a foreign land that only you know the language of; the land is of angels and demons that haunt you on earth, and through your chemically imbalanced brain. It is the world where you are Moses or Jesus himself. These are known as delusions of grandeur. It is the world where my favorite pop star speaks in a British accent. In the rollercoaster of your brain, you’ll soon discover that you feel like you are falling off and aren’t even buckled in. Among all the chaos your spirit resides, trembling with fear. In one heartbeat, you realize that the true beauty of it is that at the end you will find that the person with the glory is the one that knows that she was always strong enough to survive the rollercoaster ride.
Check out an earlier guest post by Maricela here at KRL & a review of Bipolar Girl. And check out our Mental Health section for more articles on mental health and bipolar disorder.