The following three-part post series is based on true events that happened to me at 24 years old. At the time, I was not yet formally diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1. I didn’t receive a formal diagnosis until I was 32 years old. I had, however, sought help earlier in my youth for depression, anxiety and what I now know were bipolar mixed episodes. This series of posts describes hypomania, mania, and depression half across the world.
After a grievous breakup from my very first love, I had to make the necessary arrangements to plan a new chapter in my life. It was clear that I could not stay with him for more than a few more weeks. I didn’t want to remain in California or return home to New Jersey. Since I had studied Mandarin Chinese in college, it was logical that I would want to improve my language skills in an actual Chinese-speaking nation. With a little research, I found a good job opportunity teaching English to children in Taiwan. Far, far away. That’s how far I felt I needed to go to separate myself from Mihai.
The application process for a job teaching English in Taiwan was a quick process for me. Within a few weeks, I got the proper paperwork needed for a work visa for teaching at Hess Language Institute.
My job in Taichung, Taiwan was to teach small children. Honestly, that was a less than ideal fit for me. My apologies for saying this, but I never really liked children and was not that good at interacting with them. That fact together with my grieving the loss of my boyfriend, and partial shock from the abrupt move to a foreign land, caused my equilibrium to deteriorate rather quickly toward a manic phase. Manic, as in bipolar disorder mania. My energy increased three or more fold. I was walking to and from the job, two hours at a shot, more than once per day. At night, I’d go out with some Taiwanese friends to local dance pubs and dance literally for hours, drinking all the while. Once, I went to a place and danced probably between 9 pm and 5 am (what closing hour?). I lost about 20 lbs. in three months without dieting. After each night at a club or pub, I’d find some miscellaneous guy to take me home, since my friends had left hours before. Most of them were more concerned than sinful-minded despite or maybe because my acting wild all night. Of course, I also had a few close calls with guys who had crazy ideas, such as when the handsome Italian drove me in his top down Camaro to a major multi-lane highway, where we got out and made out on the grassy median between the northbound and southbound traffic. Another time, I took a wild motorcycle ride at what seemed like 100 mph. Luckily, I managed to prevent each from coming up to my apartment, but the experiences were quite a “ride” all the same. I was completely high by the manic elation! During the work day, I struggled to teach properly. My behavior was getting out of hand. I was loud, speaking in a disjointed manner, getting angry at the kids, and once even left the classroom in a tirade. The Chinese assistant teachers complained about me. I received a warning to “tone it down”. Way down.
My mania brought back another typical habit that I grew accustomed to in Berkeley, the routine to self-medicate my moods with alcohol. I even hooked up with the bartender. I saw him a couple of times before he asked me to join him for a trip to Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city in the north. The weekend was coming up, so I happily agreed. Unfortunately, though, it was raining hard the whole time and the fiercely irritable side of my mania showed its face. I bitched and bitched and bitched. I hardly paid any attention to the guy because I was living in my own pissed off world. When it was time to return (still raining) and we found the bus station for the ride back to Taichung, I must have said something that finally pushed his buttons too far, because at that moment I saw him lift his arm as if he were to hit me! Boom! That threat seemed to slap my face even though it was only a threat. I somehow managed to shut my mouth for the whole rest of the time back on the bus, sitting five rows behind him. When I disembarked, I decided I wouldn’t see that potential beater again. No man would ever raise his hand at me. I wasn’t the type of a woman to ever put up with that kind of crap, even if I was acting like the most obnoxious brat that side of the Pacific Ocean.
It wasn’t long until my mania seemed to die down. Like falling from a mountain, quickly. I was teaching more classes than usual given teacher shortages. I hated teaching those kids even more as my depression slowly crept in. I started calling out sick almost daily and remember feeling so desperate, everything seemed to be scary and horrible. To top it off, there was an earthquake, one night. I started feeling totally hopeless. My boss with some other teachers then took me to the hospital. I only vaguely remember the trip and don’t even remember what I said to the doctors, but I do remember coming home to my apartment with piles and piles of pills. Each packet seemed to contain about 10 pills. I forget how long I took them, but soon after my mood began to switch. I then made a rather abrupt decision and quit the job. I decided to move to Thailand for a short while. I was first going to make a stopover in Hong Kong. I needed a change to get me fully out of the slump. I teetered between two extremes. I impulsively ran to shake myself out of the mood state.
My premature departure from the job in Taiwan cost me oodles of money. I paid a stiff penalty for breaking my work contract after only six of the 12 months, and also lost my apartment deposit of three months’ rent. But I didn’t care, not in the least bit. I was off to explore Asia on my own, away from the crappy job and on to an exciting exploration. I bought an open-ended ticket back to Taiwan for who knows when. I don’t remember even calling my parents in New Jersey to tell them anything about my plans. They never called me. For all they knew, I was still teaching in Taiwan. Actually, I spent a good three months outside of Taiwan with no contact with anyone.