by ‘The Bipolar Bandit’
My name is Michelle Hughes and I started suffering from severe depression at the age of thirteen. I would just cry and cry for no reason, and I could not concentrate or do simplest tasks like vacuuming. I would miss two weeks of school at a time.
I had a severe manic episode at the age of seventeen that resulted in a hospitalization. It was during the month at the hospital that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
I was always a good student and high achiever. After missing two weeks of school, I would make up all my work in two to three days. It is now thought that those were mini manic episodes that enabled me to do that.
I got mainly As in school, was the president of several clubs in high school and graduated from college with a degree in elementary education. I was the manager of a movie theater, a trainer at Walt Disney World, and taught school for about ten years. I was even named Teacher of the Year in 2004. I am not telling you about these accomplishments to brag, but to make you realize that even though I had this mental illness, I was still able to achieve a lot.
I have been hospitalized more times than I can count. Although most of the time it was for psychiatric reasons, I was also hospitalized several times for ailments that were thought to be caused by the medications I was on for bipolar disorder. I had pancreatitis, my gall bladder removed, numerous stomach problems severe enough for hospitalizations, tardive dyskenisia and heart problems bad enough to put me in the ICU. The worst was when I developed dystonia and my chin was “stuck” to my chest for about four months. I was really lucky this was not permanent.
After being in the hospital for various reasons sixteen times in one year, I was forced to stop teaching and go on disability.
I have always tried to fight for the rights of the mentally ill. I am also on a mission to fight the stigma of mental illness. I have written numerous letters to politicians trying to change the way those who have mental illnesses are treated.
I fight the battle every day. I mainly stay somewhat depressed, but am mostly worried about the manic episodes. The last time I was hospitalized was for ten days and that was about four months ago. I keep fighting the fight, although some days it seems hopeless. I have a strong support system, a loving family, and a strong faith, and am determined to rise above this illness. These things help me every day.
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