I got the news about a year ago.
For someone who shares every detail about her personal life on the radio every day, it was weird feeling like I had a part of me I wanted to hide. Over the years, I've shared my demons with drinking. I've held forums to discuss postpartum depression with listeners. And I've recounted childhood traumas on my podcast.
It's not only to be transparent as I believe any broadcaster should be, but it's also cathartic for me. Every time I've shared a personal struggle or problem, it's taken away some of its power. I've always been an open book.
So when the psychiatrist uttered the words 'Bipolar 2 disorder'...the feeling of my world melting into the pit of my stomach, was an unfamiliar one. I was devastated. I was paralyzed. I was....embarrassed and ashamed. I wanted to lock it away in a vault and never tell a soul. I didn't even want to tell my husband about it.
How would I ever be taken seriously again? How will my husband believe me when I'm upset or ecstatic about something? He'll just think it's part of the 'mental' disorder and dismiss my feelings however legitimate they may really be...even if he never said it out loud, that's what he would be thinking. My family will all assume anything extreme I've ever done or said was part of an 'episode'.
Those were the first few fears. Then came the sadness and realization that OF COURSE it was true. I felt so defeated. I felt like I had failed myself.
For 35 years I had patted myself on the back for not becoming my Father. I had congratulated myself for dodging the bipolar bullet. He was such a sick man and suffered so much while putting us through hell in the process.
He spent time in a psychiatric institution after having hallucinations, paranoia, delusions of grandeur. All of those buzzy phrases. He has Bipolar 1 disorder (the worst kind) and depending on which doctor you ask, schizophrenia as well.
So by the time I was old enough to understand genetics and how mental disorders are passed along just like eye colors, I was aware of the possibility that I could 'get it' too.
But as life goes on, our priorities become crowded with matters requiring us to be in the moment and we stop worrying as much about what may or may not happen in the future.
When I would go 4 days on just a few hours of sleep, it didn't occur to me that maybe there was something deeper. I felt great. Better than ever actually. I didn't feel the need for sleep.
When I shaved my entire head, it didn't hit me then either. I told myself and everyone else, "I just wanted to and so I did." That same day, I spent thousands of dollars online shopping.
I once started a fight with my husband so serious that I told him to leave and never come back because he had moved where I kept the plates in the cabinet. I was paranoid and assumed he wanted me to divorce him so he did it on purpose. (I never cared about the plates before, by the way) He had to drive to his Mom's house a few hours away that day just to make sure he wasn't the one going crazy.
The truth is, I was. I am. The word is controversial for some people. Mental health professionals hate it. It creates an easy way for society to lump hundreds of very different disorders under one big, stigmatized umbrella.
For me, the word crazy wasn't the problem. It doesn't offend me at all. It was the fact that I had to come to grips with having a mood disorder...that same one (although much less severe) that my Father has.
I remember when my daughter said, "Mommy, are you okay?"... I couldn't seem to spit out a coherent thought and kept telling her all the different things we were going to do that day and then changing my mind and then beginning to clean. I now know I was experiencing 'racing thoughts'. I've had that a lot. Your mind races faster than a Kentucky Derby, but no one wins. The end result is chaos. I can't capitalize on the heightened emotions and creative ideas being born every 10 seconds, because nothing sticks. It was too fast.
When the time would come to inevitably crash, I fell into a deep depression. Suicidal thoughts, the whole nine. And that happened over and over with 'normalcy' sprinkled in between.
The 'downtime' was when my body and mind were able rest up until the next 'storm' as I call it. That's what it feels like. Like a storm is brewing. You can feel the wind getting stronger and you can see the dark clouds ahead.
It's like I saw the hurricane warnings but never evacuated. I picture it as me standing out in the rain with my hands up in the air, staring at the sky. I welcomed the 'episodes'. They were exciting when you didn't know what they were stemming from. I just thought it was me getting 'inspired'. It was when I felt most alive.
But that's not a realistic or healthy way to live when you're a Mom of two young children. My family needed me to be stable. A general idea of what to expect every day from the person in charge is essential for children to feel safe. My kids needed to know Mommy wasn't going to cry and stay in bed for a week straight for no reason at all or be so hyped up that you'd have to take cover to avoid the tornado coming.
They needed me to let go of the person I was, at least the extreme parts of myself. It wasn't safe and it wasn't fair to them anymore.
And believe it or not, it was hard to do. I actually grieved thinking about losing the fire that's fueled me my entire life. I didn't realize it then, but so much of my identity was wrapped up in my 'disorder'.
"Oh that Laura Diaz. She's so crazy." 'Passionate' and 'opinionated' and 'outspoken'. All of those things are still true, but it's nothing like it once was.
I've been on the mood stabilizer for about a year. There's no doubt about a change in me. I'm calmer...but not quite apathetic. The same stress that would trigger me into a frenzy before, just doesn't bother me as much. Unfortunately, it also means that the passion I was once able to feel coursing through my veins, is also gone. It's a compromise I'm willing to make. I'm willing to give up the highs to get rid of the lows.
And I see the calm in my children now too.
Thank you for allowing me to share. I feel lighter already. xoxo
Feel free to reach out with any questions. You might have recognized a bit of yourself or your loved one in this and I'm happy to refer you to my psychiatrist. I have one in Orlando and now I'm with someone in Tampa.