HEALTHY LIVING
08/26/2014 08:24 am ET Updated Aug 26, 2014

After An Arrest, A Student With Bipolar Disorder Realized She Needed Help

Mary Lynn R. is a journalist in Rome, Georgia. After being arrested over an Internet comment, she realized that she needed help managing her bipolar disorder. This is her story.

I’ve been told I’m really funny. I know I’m funny, actually.

I have bipolar disorder, so I created this alter ego to be hilarious in person with other people. It sounds crazy, but I didn’t want to show anyone any sort of negative reaction.

But I was very, very volatile by myself. I would blame myself for literally everything and tell myself what I was feeling was wrong. It’s like tunnel vision -- you can only see one part of yourself and it’s the worst part of yourself.

When I was in college in 2008, it just got a lot worse. I was in school and I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted out of the situation. I called my parents and told them I wanted to drop out of that school, and my parents told me I needed to get my associate’s degree there.

I made a statement on the internet, kind of lashing out for help. And I got in trouble for an online threat. I was ordered to go to court-ordered therapy, and the charges were dropped. I was banned from campus and I had to go to court-ordered therapy wherever I went to college, from there on out.

I guess it was kind of a self-sabotaging incident, because [my parents] told me I had to stay there and I wanted to leave ... Not to say it wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own.

I came back home and I got my associate’s degree at a community college here, and then I went to Statesboro, Georgia. That’s about five hours south of Rome. When I first started school there, I did not know anyone and I was just clinically depressed. I was just going to class and going home and looking out from my apartment and watching everyone have fun, and I just thought to myself, I really can’t do this anymore.

My dad found me a good therapist down there. But to be honest, when I first started going to my counselor in Statesboro, I did my alter ego, where I was just hilarious all the time.

She kind of saw right through that, after a couple of sessions in. So I was just doing my usual self-deprecation, like in a funny way (or what I thought was funny), and she just called me out on it. I remember I was making fun of these people in one of my classes and then making fun of myself, talking about how I hated everything -- you know, just trying to be funny.

And then she said, "I don’t think you’re very funny. I think you’re a really sad individual and I think you need to talk through that.”

And then I just started crying. That was the first time I cried in front of someone in probably 10 years. That was when I had my first breakthrough, and ever since then, it’s been an uphill battle.

Everything changed. Whereas I was self-destructive and reclusive and just hung out with myself, I called on friends with substance instead of party friends who just go out and have a good time and laugh at everything. I started dating someone. Because of therapy and because of my own hard work, I was more willing to open up to people and be myself.

But every now and then someone will say, “Have you taken your medicine today?" if I say something they don’t agree with. Sometimes people can be assholes, but for the most part people think it’s kind of brave that I talk about it. They’re pretty respectful and treat me like a normal person, and the people that don’t are just kind of ignorant.

I think therapy does work, but you have to want it. I also take medicine, too. You have to disregard all the stigma associated with this illness and put in the work. All therapists do is talk to you. You have to provide all the breakthroughs.

I want people to know, mainly, that they’re not alone. This affects a large population. If people don’t talk about it, it’s because there’s stigma associated with it. It doesn’t have to define who you are.

As told to Anna Almendrala. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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