This is the story of Shireda Thorpe.
As a youth, Shireda Thorpe craved attention. One sure fire way to get attention, she realized, was to do things that got her into trouble. Her actions were a cry for help that went unrecognized. For years she acted out on this negative energy. It was all she knew, and it caused a great deal of pain and trouble in her life. She seemed to be running from something, but she didn’t know what that something was. (more…)
Mom, Dad, and my friend Meredith tell me that we are going for a ride. When I was a baby this is how my parents would get me to fall asleep, perhaps that’s what they are aiming for. But I am restless. They say that if we go to the hospital then I will sleep.
We are driving through the town in which I grew up. I know it well, but today everything looks clearer, closer. The autumn leaves are beginning to fall, making piles of red and orange on the front lawns of houses that we pass. I ask Meredith if I can wear her thick glasses; for some reason I want to see things differently. I put them on and take them off, allowing my eyes to adjust and readjust. I repeat this pattern, fixating on the red and orange. I watch as the shapes morph through the lenses of the glasses. The car is in motion but it still can’t keep up with the pace of my thoughts, or my eyes. I take the glasses on and off and it feels as though my eyes are changing, growing stronger.
We arrive at the hospital quickly (as if my need to be there willed the car to move faster). I am on an important mission. The hospital will prove that I am ready to go on to the next stage of this quest and I can return to New York, to school, my friends, and boyfriend with new information. It is all very important.
Living with bipolar disorder is not for the faint-hearted. It’s exhausting, and your will to live must be strong. You must win the same battle over and over again. The thing is, it doesn’t get easier. The brain is cunning. It turns right where it once went left. It’s slippery, elusive, and difficult to pin down. As soon as you think you’ve mastered it, the cycle repeats itself. Of course, I’m talking about when my bipolar is treated and well-managed. Undiagnosed bipolar disorder is a monster in its own right. It causes pain, destruction, and chaos. It rips apart families and it can be lethal. Frankly, I’m lucky to be alive.
Intense childhood panic attacks mark the beginning of my story. My family would push me out the front door toward the school bus as I would hysterically cry and push back. “Oh she’ll outgrow them,” my pediatrician said. So, instead of therapeutic intervention, spankings answered my literal cries for help.
Middle school brought with it depression and self-harm, which were also minimized. I believe that’s when I “toughened-up.” That is, I began wearing a figurative mask and learned to act as if nothing was wrong.
But it was in adulthood that living undiagnosed became most problematic.
Not even my mask could hide the madness within me. (more…)
More often than not, mental health workers are anonymous players in any story about mental health recovery. Understandably, words like “strength” and “courage” are reserved for people who struggle daily with mental health issues, striving to improve their lived experience.
This post salutes a team of men and women who work at Montgomery County Emergency Service (MCES), a private, not-for-profit, psychiatric hospital in West Norriton, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
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