Mikaela s Story
"I can remember the first time I finally realized that something wasn’t right. It was the summer before I started high school, and it was dusk. I was listening to music and lying in the backyard of the house I grew up in. Suddenly, but quietly, I realized that I was depressed.
Change had never been easy for me. Transitioning from middle school to high school was especially tricky, and though I managed to stay afloat for several months that first semester, by spring of my freshman year I was at a new low. I began self-harming. Life was heavy and the days were long.
By the fall of the following year, however, I had seemingly transformed. No longer was I the quiet, anxious, and shy girl I had been; suddenly, I possessed a confidence that was borderline reckless. This lasted for nearly a year, and then I tanked again.
It wasn’t until a few months after my 18th birthday, nearly three years later, that I began seeing a mental health professional for my intense and rapid mood swings and instability. After several sessions with a psychiatrist, a diagnosis was made: bipolar disorder.
Coming to terms with having a chronic and lifelong illness is not easy, especially when it lives in your head. However, after years of anxiety, self-harm, disordered eating, and debilitating mood swings, it was comforting to know that there was a name to describe what was causing me such distress. I began psychotherapy and mood stabilizers, and things finally felt better after years of being so dark and confusing.
However, the start of college came with greatly unexpected challenges and change, and in the spring of my freshman year of college, I was hospitalized for major bipolar depression following a suicide attempt. Trying to pick up the pieces and live again after a suicide attempt is terrifying.
But, with time, I began to notice the beauty around me. I fell in love with the little things. I learned how to knit. I began surfing again. Once you live through wanting to die, you realize that you really can do anything.
This is not to say that in the several years since my hospitalization it has been easy. It most definitely hasn’t. I began experiencing hallucinations due to the severity of my bipolar depression, and at times have been so paranoid that it was difficult to leave the house. More recently, I have come to find out, after rigorous testing, that I have ADHD. With that diagnosis, too, came relief.
However, these illnesses will not define me. I am still Kaela: I love horses, punk concerts, grilled cheese sandwiches, slam poetry, and my sheepdog. I love sunlight through the trees, and cool water in the summertime, and very fluffy blankets.
One of my all-time favorite slam poets, Neil Hilborn, has a poem entitled 'The Future', in which he artfully describes his personal experience with bipolar disorder. In the poem, he says, 'I saw the future, I did, and in it, I was alive.'
I have seen two futures. One that I am apart of, and one that I am not. Every day, I wake up and decide to choose life. And every night, as I am falling asleep, I am immensely glad for that decision."