My strange bipolar life -the early years
I am not new to being the odd one out and living a strange life.
I have decided to document my bipolar life as I attempt to find a pathway to some kind of normality and joy.
This is an honest post and any mention of people and events are not intended to put anyone in a bad light, but rather to document my journey.
Here is the start of my strangeness ;-
I was born six weeks premature, my mother had pre-eclampsia and my birth needed to be sped up in order to save both our lives.
I was a tiny baby and spent some time in an incubator with no human touch or interaction. My mother believes that this was the primary contributor to my mental problems.
Unfortunately my birth date was the 26th of December and consequently most people forget this day due to post-Christmas exhaustion or post-Christmas depression.
I suffered, really suffered, from extreme separation anxiety. I doubted whether my parents loved me. When I wasn’t with them I believed that they would leave me. I was worried and anxious every minute of every day.
When I went to school I was the youngest in my class. Intellectually I was way ahead of my classmates but emotionally I was light years behind. This coupled with my separation anxiety spelled emotional disaster.
I had several extreme meltdowns in my first year at school because I experienced sensory overload. I couldn’t deal with loud noises, sudden movements or anything extreme. Every time I was faced with something that caused a sensory overload I would run away, hide and cry. This happened during lessons too and was completely out of my control. I became the butt of many jokes and was continually teased because I was a ‘stupid baby’.
- On several occasions my parents were summoned to school to discuss my emotional problems. However, neither my parents nor my teachers knew how to fix me.
On top of that both my father and then brother contracted scarlet fever which was considered an extremely dangerous disease. I spent six weeks away from school to ensure that no one at school was infected by this scourge. This did irreparable damage to my social standing and self-image.
My mother taught me to read when I was two years old. She used flash cards and I would memorise the words. ( I was too young to spell them out). When I started school I was a fluent reader and could read almost anything. This did not help me, it singled me. My teachers would give me advanced books to read and this made an even greater spectacle of me.
However on a good note I discovered my voice and landed a leading role in the junior primary production. I later realised that my teachers selected me for this role in an attempt to boost my confidence and redeem my reputation.
I must mention at this point that my dad decided to stop working and pursue full-time study to become a man of the cloth. We went from money to no money.
This distressed my mother and I felt that it was my responsibility to keep her happy. I took this very seriously and whenever my emotions were out of control I believed I had let her down. I felt ashamed and worthless. Emotions were my downfall especially because I couldn’t control them.
Just before this time my brother was born. I adored him. I still do. At age one he fell very ill and his doctors didn’t think that he would make it. He did, he survived but that added another layer of responsibility to my already laden 5-year-old shoulders. I felt that it was my duty to protect him and keep him safe from any harm. I still do.
Then, just before the musical production my parents decided to move from Pretoria to Johannesburg as they had been offered free accommodation. I lost my role and I was devastated.
In the second last month of the year I started at a new school. This brought on such trauma that one week into attending my new school I became very ill. I wasn’t able to return to school for the remainder of the year.
It was quite a year, but looking back, if I hadn’t experienced such extreme emotions I probably would have coped far better with the situation.
This was the beginning phase of my mental issues. I think my parents registered this, but because of the stigma attached to psychological disorders they chose to do nothing about it.
My strange bipolar life – the junior years
For those of you who haven’t read my previous post ;- ‘My strange bipolar life, the early years’, this new post might make more sense if you read that one first.
If you have already read my earlier post, thank you so much! Here’s the next chapter.
The strangeness continues ;-
From the early years in my life, I knew that I wasn’t a ‘run of the mill’ kid, I was different, I behaved differently, I thought differently, my reactions where different and sometimes completely illogical. Illogical, but also beyond my control.
Having changed schools when I was six and needing to fit into a new environment, I purposed to find at least one friend. I did not want to feel lonely and isolated like I had before. My overriding desire was to belong and feel normal. Well, at least what I thought normal was.
Fortunately I was welcomed by two friendly girls. They were kind and caring. I ‘fell in love’ with them. I bent over backwards to make them feel happy and appreciated. In my desperation to belong and please them, I started telling lies. I told all sorts of lies thinking I would be able to elevate myself to their level.
I lied about what my father did (I was embarrassed that he was a full-time theological student). I lied about being wealthy, when in fact we were more poor than wealthy. I lied about my extra-curricular activities. I lied about my mother’s glamorous past. I lied just about everything.
Well, lies eventually catch up with you. And, they did. I couldn’t remember what lie I had told to whom and gradually my credibility was eroded. My lies were uncovered and I was embarrassed and mortified. No one liked me or trusted me anymore. As you can well imagine this just perpetuated the situation.
In addition to this, I was forced to wear ‘hand me downs’ that were distributed via missionary parcels. This made me feel like such a loser. To be honest, I looked like a loser too. We wore uniforms to school, but on one occasion we were allowed to wear our weekend gear. I chose the prettiest of tall the dresses I had. The children at school mocked me for my outdated, old-lady attire. I then knew that I was a loser.
I must add here that my Grandmother made me clothes, they were exquisitely made, but they wore more for Sunday best wear. They weren’t cool and casual.
Fortunately I excelled academically despite my emotional shortcomings. This was the only thing I had going for me and I took this way too seriously. Each school term someone won the overall academic prize. It was always me. My teacher however pulled me aside one day and asked if I would be prepared to relinquish my prize. She wanted other children to have a chance to win and be motivated.
I can’t remember exactly what I did or what I said, but I do know that my reaction was extreme and the teacher panicked. The principle was eventually called in to defuse the situation. My status as a crazy, lying, loser was firmly established and I was banished to loneliness again (but deservedly so from an onlooker’s perspective).
I hated school, I hated my life, I hated myself. I sank into the black hole of depression for the first time ever. Instead of doing something positive about this, I began behaving badly. I clearly remember one incident where I left the classroom and threw every single toilet roll I could find, into a toilet. I then proceeded to tell the teacher that I had discovered this. In my crazy little mind I thought that by doing this, I would demonstrate that someone else was crazy too.
Every time I did something like this, I drew more attention to myself and highlighted my problems. It was a vicious cycle and I was back to being all alone.
I must say at this point, that I don’t blame my parents for any of this. I did for a really long time, but through therapy I have come to understand that:
- My parents did what they thought was best at the time.
- There was little knowledge of childhood psychological disorders. You were either good, naughty, spoiled or irritating. There wasn’t anything in between.
- I confused them. They weren’t sure how to handle me. My mother says at the time they thought because I was so academically advanced I was behaving out of frustration and boredom.
There were good times too. Outside of my school environment, I discovered music and started piano lessons. I was really good at this and this boosted my confidence. I also took up ballet dancing. The physical activity helped manage my stress levels and I was calmer than before.
On a lighter note, I was desperate to become a ballerina. My parents on the other hand felt that ballet was a hedonistic practise and they told me NO! on many occasions. I was persistent but clearly not persistent enough. Then one day it came to me, if I could convince them on a ‘spiritual level’ that I was meant to dance, they might capitulate and I would get to dance.
I eventually came up with a plan (once again a lie, but ingenious this time). I told my parents that ‘I had been praying about this’ and that God had come to me in a dream and told me that He wanted me to dance. They couldn’t turn me down this time as they would then be dismissing the principle of ‘God answers prayers’. This was my introduction to strategy.
I am now a strategist. I guess good things can come from bad. I must mention that I am not a lying strategist now, I base my strategies on sound facts, gleaned knowledge, experience and credible processes.