Writers on Mental Health gives a window into real experiences to paint a picture of mental health without taboo, stigma or caricature.
Topics include therapy, medication, depression, anxiety & more. Each installment takes the form of an essay or interview.
Episode X: An essay by Kimberly Kim
In this installment, Kimberly Kim writes about bipolar disorder.
I don't want to be me when I write. Sometimes I want to be someone else: hide in a persona, in another life beyond my own. At times, I even feel a sense of guilt with my writing: "Why write? Why my voice and my story among so many others?" But, I continue to feel salvation behind the words on the page; I continue to feel lifted, liberated in a voice, such as when I went to my first poetry reading. I felt reconnected, I rejoiced, and silently gave a “Thank you, world.”
A lot of my writing has gotten me through even some of my darkest moments in my life. I realize this now. I look back on my writings, my blog in this case, and am thankful for its existence--reflective during my various mental stages that I’ve been through, the different departures and returns to my mind--especially with uncovering, unraveling, and discovering my Bipolar diagnosis and mental illness. I didn't realize I had a mental illness until after I graduated from college, until after I lived as an English teacher in Hongik, Seoul for two years--a super liberal, artsy district in South Korea's capital city.
I was 27, just one month before turning 28, and about six months after returning to the US from living abroad in Seoul. That was when I first was hospitalized for two weeks for having a mental breakdown. It was my first episode, and my first experience at a psych ward within the heartbeats and rhythms of life in the bustling New York City. I mumbled my way out of a weekday night classroom period at The New School, studying the personal essay and talking about publishing with Professor S., when she realized something was not right about my mental state as class ended.
That same night I was admitted into Beth Israel Hospital. I remember waking up in a hospital bed, feeling alone but surrounded by medical professionals busily attending to other patients in the ER, and that I was constantly mumbling to myself all night. I don’t remember what exactly I was saying to myself, but something about someone stalking me. Eyes wide open, strange “Christmas light”- like activity going on in my mind, I could see what was in front of me, I could describe it in strange, exact detail, but I couldn't really comprehend what was going around about me, not fully, not logically. I didn't really know that I had lost touch with people around me, lost in my thoughts, lost in my ability to reconnect with the world, I was rambling and rambling for hours on end.
That night, my brother drove from Detroit, Michigan to New York City, and met me 12 hours later in the psych ward of the hospital where I was still mumbling to myself hours later about people in my life following me, about people wanting to stalk me. I remember seeing him in front of me, patiently waiting for me to respond, patiently listening to my incoherent talking, my jabbering, my fractured voice, the lost meaning behind my words; and yet his seeking to understand what was behind what I was saying, and how I had lost my way through my path in life. How had I gotten there? What was I doing in New York City? What had I been doing earlier that night? I remember sensing his worry, his disbelief, and his shock. I was looking downwards, but I could see him in the corner of my eye. He sat on the bed beside me, quiet worry behind his brow, a sense of serenity in the chaos that was his little sister's mind. I tried once to look up and talk to him, but made no connection in my conversation. Soon after, I was then given some medicine and felt subdued and soon fell asleep shortly after attempting more communication.
This isn’t the whole story of that night I was hospitalized. A fractured moment in time, a partial piece in my memory. I remember most of it, like making a friend in the psych ward, one that was there for attempting suicide. I remember sleeping a lot and being fed three meals a day. There is more to this story, sure, but this is just the beginning of my stories, realizations, and epiphanies on writing and writers on mental health.
The next day at Beth Israel, I was given my second dose of Abilify. The doctors said I had Schizophrenia. But a few months later when I returned to my parents' home in Michigan, my diagnosis was honed in on as Bipolar. I now feel, think, realize that I do have Bipolar disorder. I am now on Latuda and Zoloft and am blogging regularly, as if to save my life? Yes, to live my life, to save my soul, I write.