Solo Girl Chronicles: the beast that is my bipolar
I looked over at the psychiatrist’s clipboard, tucked mostly under his arm, as he silently walked me to the checkout window, where he said goodbye with a disingenuous smile, and saw his neat penmanship had scrawled those numbers across the top near my name. I didn’t know what they meant at the time, so I recited the numbers over and over again in my head; nodding and smiling at receptionists—296.89—walking through the stark light down the long hallway back to the waiting room—296.89—past the tired looking woman with her young son, waiting half-heartedly—296.89—pushing my way out into the sun of the late afternoon—296.89—unlocking my car—269.89. Reaching for a pen in the cup holder of my console I jotted them down on my palm: 296.89.
When I got home later that afternoon, I looked the numbers up online and saw that they were a diagnosis. A way for psychiatrists and psychologists to communicate with insurance companies mostly. Those are the numbers became an inherent part of my personality, a version of myself I love and hate. Those are the numbers that identify bipolar 2 disorder.
It wasn’t a shock to me that I was bipolar. My behavior had always aired on the dramatic side, but it had moved beyond theatrics to a world I didn’t recognize when I reached my early twenties. It was dark there, hopeless and empty sometimes, with occasional sparks and blazing fires. I was always free falling with no end in sight. It became a constant buzzing in the back of my head, even when I was doing well, I could feel it there—in romantic relationships, in friendships, there in the morning next to me in bed, there when I was trying to read a book, when I was doing laundry, when I wanted to go out but didn’t want to be social simultaneously. On top of bipolar disorder, I have OCD tendencies and anxiety.
That day quietly changed my life though. It lead to multiple, wonderful therapists, multiple mood stabilizing medications, and a way into myself I didn’t have before.
Being bipolar actually gave me a gift: raw vulnerability. I’ve always been very candid about my teetering pile of baggage—even with strangers—but being bipolar gave me a bridge. And I felt everyone deserved to know my realest, truest, rawest self, which lead to them feeling like they could be open with me in return. It was how I had always envisioned my life—being deeply connected to everyone, and I wanted that to translate into my photography. My main goal was to photograph someone’s soul. To capture intimacy and love.
But I quickly discovered being a business owner isn’t always some beautiful, profound thing. It is a lot of time researching online (alone), hours and hours of editing (alone); it is building and rebuilding and adding to your website/blog/facebook page/Instagram account on a constant loop; it is lying in bed, staring out my window, trying to convince myself that I have to get up because my to-do list is taller than I am (and I am not a short gal), but just meeting a wall. It is picking books on business and creativity and technique over outings with friends. It is being endlessly single because, on top of my busy day job, having a business is in every tiny space and hole of my day, and I literally have no time to invest in love. It has showed me the ugly side of people.
296.89—it’s all the terrible and lovely things inside me wrapped up into a nice, neat little number. But I am finding balance. I borrow strength when I need it from the glorious women in my life who are kind and supportive and inspiring. I invest my time in things that make me happy, which is mostly art in some form, and give myself time to heal, even if it means I have to set aside work for bit—work will be there when I get back. I try to chase the things that make me better in any way. I don’t beat myself for getting something wrong or just being utterly human.
Being in business is a struggle. It is. It’s worth what you make it worth. Things will ebb and flow over time in ways that make us happy and in ways that chip at us. But maybe, in the end, it’s all good. It’s all helpful; everything is a stepping stone for great change in one way or another…so go with it! See where it takes you. See what it teaches you. Decide it’s okay to be bipolar or depressed or joyous or anxious or anything! Because it is okay. Inspire and surprise yourself, even if it’s from the deep, dark, unknown places inside you.
Pamela Perez is owner and photographer at P.S. Photography + Design; capturing light and writing down everything keep me the most sane. I studied art in school, mostly focusing on photography and graphic design, but my interests have always been deeply varied. I solidified my love of photography (and being in creative environments) when I started working for Rosetta Stone--the language learning software company's photography department. I don't do many things traditionally, you will always find at least one journal in my purse, and I strongly believe in surrounding yourself with beautiful, inspiring, strong people who challenge you.
Solo Girl Chronicles is a new weekly series on the blog. I am opening up the blog to admirable girls I have come across from years of "living" online who surprisingly have a lot more in common with my story, and maybe even yours, of anxiety disorders and social mental blocks than anyone would realize. Sometimes you just a need a chance to share your voice. After that, we all realize how similar we really are, and how no one is alone when it comes to the human experience. If you'd like to share your story, please see my new submissions page here.