How I Became the Freak in the Corner
My Bipolar Story. Trying to help people suffering from bipolar disorder. How to cope with the ailment.
In 2005, I worked in a bank’s call center. I liked my job, and I was good at it. I had opened over $250,000 in new accounts that year and been promoted to a supervisor position. Between calls, I had developed an intranet knowledge base that had become essential to operations and there was talk of installing it in each of our 200-plus banks.
I was respected by my bosses and admired by my peers. I was on my way up the corporate ladder. I had the big desk in the corner. Everything seemed to be going my way. So why did I feel so empty inside? Why did I never feel like I was good enough? Why did I find myself sitting at my desk one morning crying?
Because I have type II bipolar disorder.
Only I didn’t know it at the time. I only knew that for some reason life just didn’t seem worth the effort. My boss saw me crying and knew something was wrong. He also knew I had been working hard and deserved some time off anyway. He told me to take some vacation time and relax, dropping the hint that maybe I should talk to a counselor. I did, and that’s when I was diagnosed.
I had never considered it before. Aren’t bipolar people crazy and dangerous? I may be a little eccentric, but I’m not crazy. I’d never even THINK of hurting someone. Surely I can’t be bipolar! I knew that SOMETHING was wrong, though, and since I didn’t know what it was, I didn’t see that I had anything to lose by listening to a psychiatrist. After all, he’s a professional.
I started medication – an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer – and did a little reading about bipolar disorder. A lot of what I read sounded a lot like me, but not all of it. I learned that it affected less than 2% of the population; that it was characterized by alternating periods of depression and either mania or hypomania, often with periods of normal mood between; that it was one of the leading causes of homelessness; and that around 20% of those who have it commit suicide.
Needless to say, learning these statistics didn’t help my depression at all. In fact, it sent my anxiety level skyrocketing. To make matters worse, while this was happening to me, Rigoberto Alpizar was gunned down in Miami International Airport for running around, acting crazy and claiming he had a bomb. He didn’t, of course. He was just bipolar.
Was that going to happen to me? Would I be one of those people who freaked out and either got themselves killed or killed myself? I had to know, so I read more. What I learned next was more alarming than any of that.
This lowered my anxiety level significantly, but it upset me quite a bit. If bipolar disorder is so easy to treat, then why do so many people who have it wind up homeless? Why do so many commit suicide?
I didn’t have too much time to ponder this. At first, I was simply too depressed to do anything but lie around like a lump and worry my family. Then, the meds started working. I got to feeling better, and by the time I had caught up on all the family obligations I had been ignoring, it was time to go back to work.
When I returned, everyone was glad to have me back. Well, almost everyone. Though management hadn’t said anything about why I was gone, I wasn’t ashamed. It’s just a disease and it’s easily treatable, right? I told a few people, who told a few more people, etc. Pretty soon everyone knew. Most were supportive, but some weren’t.
To those who knew nothing about my disorder, I was no longer the funny guy who everyone liked, the bright guy with the computer skills, and the guy who was always willing to lend a hand. To them, I became the scary guy who cried at his desk, the dangerous wacko who could blow at any moment. To them, I was the freak in the corner, and no argument could persuade them otherwise. After all, they ALL saw what that one guy did at that airport.
In the seven years I worked for that bank, I never hurt anyone. But that’s enough about me for now. In my next article, I’ll address some of the common myths about bipolar disorder that may have caused my coworkers to think of me that way.
Until next time, keep fighting!
– Bruce Anderson
Read more here (1): Dispelling a Few Myths About Bipolar Disorder
Read more here (2): Words As Weapons And Another Bipolar Myth Dispelled
Read more here (3): Beyond Limitations Ruling the Galaxy With Bipolar Disorder
Read more here (4): Beyond The Twelve Days of Seasonal Depression and How To Survive Them
Read more here (5): Curse of the Ferrari Brain. (The Other Side of Bipolar Disorder)
Borderline Personality Disorder
Article 1: You Mean I am NOT Bipolar?
Article 6: It Is Not Just Our Own Boundaries BPD People Have Problems With (Boundaries and Borderline Personality Disorder – Part II)
Article 7: Suicide and Self-Harm with BPD
Article 9: Is It Really Borderline Personality Disorder