After my marriage failed, I remember the feelings that I had failed, I was 23 years old and I had a divorce under my belt. I had expected to get so much judgement from everyone around me, people saying ‘I told you so’, but the only judgement I received was myself, I judged myself because of my poor life decisions..
Being married so young, I remember feeling like I had missed out on the party scene, sure I had done some partying with my ex-boyfriend, but nothing really crazy. I had never taken drugs, I had never really been to nightclubs, I had never experienced what I thought was life.
Within a short period of time drugs and alcohol were creeping into my life. I fell back into the ‘wrong crowd’ and found myself in a situation where I was binge drinking on the weekends and smoking marijuana through the week and on the weekend. I did everything I could to escape myself and my thoughts.
Things like marriage and children shouldn’t have ever been on my brain, but that’s all I wanted to do and it was the one thing I couldn’t control. Because my life and my desires were so conflicted and my poor life decisions, I found myself in an extremely vulnerable and insecure space. On paper I should have been happy, but in reality I was miserable. I struggled to go to sleep at night by myself, I struggled to concentrate on things like work and study, and I constantly saw myself as a failure.
Drinking and smoking weed numbed that pain, it was my self prescribed medicine, being so young, my tolerance to alcohol wasn’t as developed and the hangovers were excruciating. After a wild Friday night, I would spend Saturdays on the couch, with last night’s make-up, binge watching whatever crap was on the TV.
No matter what I did, I could not escape my mind, I eventually sought help from a doctor who referred me to a psychiatrist who gave me a bi-polar diagnosis. I remember leaving the psychiatrists office with a wad of prescription scripts that when filled, resulted in a shopping bag full of medication,.
At the time, my bipolar diagnosis seemed apt, but in hindsight, I wasn’t suffering from bipolar, I was suffering from stress and depression which I was exacerbating with alcohol. I remember many years later, a very wise psychologist explaining to me that most people with a bipolar diagnosis will just end up being depressed.
One order the psychiatrist gave me was to stop drinking alcohol, something of course I didn’t do, and something that of course I told her I wasn’t doing. But the combination of marijuana, alcohol, Lexapro, Zoloft, Seroquel and Diazepam sent my brain into an overload. My mood and mental state was so vulnerable, so erratic, so uncontrollable.
After this mental health diagnosis, I made some significant life changes that kept everything at bay for a while, I commenced exercising, cut back on drinking and started eating healthily. I also isolated myself from other people, preferring my own company to that of others.
These changes worked for a while, and then I had a major relationship break up when I was about to turn 30, this triggered my drinking again. Whilst I managed to avoid depression, my alcoholism came back with a vengeance. I started drinking heavily and then I went travelling, but this time whilst I was travelling I started to drink really heavily and this continued once I got home. In fact, it continued non-stop (except when I was pregnant) until I landed myself in AA.
Now, 20 years on and I can look back at this dark stage in my life and realise that I never had bipolar, I am sure I had underlying depression that was exacerbated by stress, I just struggled with the shame from my perceived poor decision making. I never confronted my mistakes, but yet I still felt I learnt from them. I punished myself, I was hard on myself and I was ashamed of myself for my own actions.
The ironic thing about my perceived judgement, was that no-one was judging me, the only person that was punishing or judging me, was me.