How I Accepted My Bipolar Disorder and Learned to Thrive

By Carrie Cantwell, as informed to Stephanie Watson

After I was 22, I misplaced my father to suicide. He’d been in a downward spiral from bipolar dysfunction for years, getting sicker and sicker. After I was recognized with the identical dysfunction a couple of years later, I noticed it as a demise sentence. However I used to be flawed.

I got here perilously near following in my father’s footsteps.


I all the time bear in mind my father being quiet and introverted. I, alternatively, was filled with vitality. I used to be all the time entering into hassle for speaking an excessive amount of in class. Somewhat than let myself get teased about it, I completely owned my hyperactivity, nicknaming myself “hyper spaz.”

This was within the 1980s. What I now notice was most likely hypomania, my docs again then recognized as consideration deficit dysfunction (ADD) and put me on Ritalin to manage. It made sense on the time.

It wasn’t stunning that I used to be hyperactive. My life was filled with stimulation and pleasure. We lived in Saudi Arabia, the place my dad labored as a administration coach and my mother was a psychotherapist. The corporate that employed them paid for us to journey everywhere in the world. Any child would have been stimulated by that sort of life.

Brooding Father

My dad had lots of the basic bipolar dysfunction signs. Throughout his manic phases, he’d go on journeys and spend hundreds of {dollars} on issues like stereo tools, CDs, and Rolex watches. Then he’d go into these extreme bouts of despair the place he’d lock himself in his room. When he was in one among his irritable, remoted phases, he’d develop into this scary, brooding individual that I used to be afraid to disturb.

Whereas I used to be away at school, he began declining fairly quickly. He was actually clever and well-read, however he abruptly could not string two sentences collectively. His mind was beginning to deteriorate. He had one episode the place he washed all of my mother’s wool enterprise fits till they shrunk, after which hung them again up in her closet. He purchased weapons and threatened to kill himself. My mom lastly left him, however she all the time tried to guard me from him.

After I graduated from school, issues escalated. Sooner or later, I went over to our former home, the place my father now lived alone. After I tried to play my outdated piano, no sounds got here out. My father had reduce all of the wires with hedge clippers. He was actually going off the deep finish.

Falling Aside

When my father killed himself on April 22, 1998, it did not come as a shock. My mom and I had seen his demise coming for a very long time.

Somewhat than being upset, I went utterly numb. My mom and I had all the time been shut, however when she cried I wasn’t in a position to console her. I used to be impassive.

By that point, I would already had a collection of depressive and manic episodes in school. I went on spending sprees and had intercourse indiscriminately. I would even shoplifted, which is completely out of character for me. I simply figured I used to be being a usually impulsive school scholar.

However then, 4 years to the day after my father died, I fell aside. My first actual depressive episode knocked me off my ft. I cried nonstop. I ended consuming. I did not need to speak to anybody. The best issues, like brushing my tooth, turned nearly unattainable.

My mother introduced me to a psychotherapist, who recognized me with bipolar dysfunction. My first thought after I was recognized was, “This can be a demise sentence.” I would seen what had occurred to my dad.

I made a decision I wasn’t going let his destiny develop into my very own, so I went on an entire bunch of medication — SSRI antidepressants, temper stabilizers, and anti-anxiety medicines. When one drugs did not work, I attempted one other one. I struggled with negative effects. I gained weight and misplaced weight. I slept an excessive amount of or too little.

I stored attempting medication till I lastly discovered two that leveled me out — an antipsychotic drug mixed with an anti-seizure drug. I have been on them for 12 years now.

For probably the most half, they’ve stored me secure.

Breaking Level

In 2012, I used to be married to my second husband. My first marriage, after I was 20 years outdated, hadn’t lasted very lengthy. I’ve all the time chosen males like my dad — fragile or damaged males who I believed I may save. It is by no means labored.

My new husband was verbally abusive. On prime of that, we had been renovating a condominium we had purchased, and I used to be in-between jobs. It was the right storm of a very unhealthy relationship that was pushing all my insecurity and daddy points buttons, and a ton of stress.

Though I used to be on an efficient bipolar remedy, I found that my medicine did not assist me after I did not deal with myself. I wasn’t sleeping, and I used to be consuming greater than I ought to have been to deal with my state of affairs. My marriage was falling aside. I felt utterly hopeless.

I sank into this horrible despair. I felt an entire sense of despair at my state of affairs.

For the primary time, I considered ending my very own life. I used to be on the Web, trying up all types of horrible methods to die. Finally, I took an entire bunch of capsules. I ended up within the hospital and was transferred to an inpatient psychiatric ward.

Regardless of how a lot I would used my father for instance of what I did not need to occur to me, I would come terrifyingly near ending up like him. I noticed I nonetheless had a variety of work to do.

Into the Gentle

For the primary time, I ended working away from my father’s reminiscence and began to look extra deeply inside myself. I actually examined the issues about myself that I did not like — together with my low sense of self-worth, and the way I always wanted approval from males. I ended my unhealthy marriage and began relationship somebody who treats me the best way I need to be handled. I obtained a job working as a graphic designer within the movie business.

I additionally began writing articles about psychological well being, in addition to a e book, Daddy Points: A Bipolar Memoir, which helped with my self-reflection. As soon as I began writing, a variety of issues fell into place. I discovered to just accept myself, settle for my prognosis, and, for the primary time in my life, actually love myself from inside. And as soon as I began to grasp myself, I used to be in a position to forgive my dad.

It is taken me a couple of years, however I’ve discovered {that a} bipolar dysfunction prognosis shouldn’t be a demise sentence. Daily that I’m alive and daily that I proceed to put in writing about and advocate for psychological well being, I show that somebody with bipolar dysfunction can have a life that is each bit as full and satisfying as somebody with out this prognosis.

Carrie Cantwell is an Emmy-nominated movie business graphic designer with bipolar dysfunction. She grew up with a dad who had bipolar and whom she misplaced to suicide. She has written a e book entitled Daddy Points: A Bipolar Memoir, about how accepting her prognosis taught her to forgive her dad and herself. Her weblog is 

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