I’m Afro-Latina, And I don’t Struggle with Bi-Polar Disorder. I’m Co-existing With It. – Gabrielle Banks

Sigh… I don’t even know where to begin. This has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. The only difference between then and now is that I am diagnosed and on medication…The earliest memory I ever had is when my parents got into an argument and my mom put her elbow through the wall. I was about 6 years old. I know, crazy. That should never be a child’s earliest memory, but hey, it happens.

When my parents divorced, I was devastated. I was 8 years old and all around me, I saw kids that had their parents together. I felt like such an outcast, but I just rolled with the punches. I thought that although they were divorcing, things would get better. I was very wrong.My dad was a very, very angry man. He was like a thunderstorm over the ocean and this was to be the case for the next decade. I tried to understand him, tried my hardest to love him, but at that time he did not love me back. Not because he didn’t want to, but because he didn’t know-how.When he looked at me, he saw my mother and because of this, he would always take his anger out on me. He did not hit me, but sometimes I wish he did because his words stung and stuck with me more. I remember one specific time when I was in middle school he told me that he didn’t like me and didn’t care if I ever came back to his house. There was another time when he called me while I was in class and yelled at me over the phone. I was so embarrassed because it was something he should have talked to my mom about instead of bringing me into it. Also, all my classmates heard it.

At 17 almost 18 years old, I had enough. I decided it was time for me to get away from the toxicity and emotional abuse. I moved to New York hoping I would leave all my problems from home behind. That was not the case. My problems manifested and became worst. It was like gum being stuck at the bottom of your shoe. However, I did not know this. I was blinded while in college; I thought that I didn’t need help and that I was fine, it was other people that were the problem. As I got older, I started seeing a little more that I needed to work on myself, but 2019 was the eye-opener. About 6 months after I graduated from college, my life began spiraling: reckless sex, reckless drinking and partying, overall just reckless. I did not care about myself, or whoever I was hurting around me. I put my family through hell to be honest, always worried about me, but I did not care. I dated a guy who was amazing to me, but I wasn’t amazing to him. I sabotaged our relationship. When I found out he moved on last year, it was like salt to a wound (now, in 2021, I have found peace and I am very happy for him and his new little family). However, in 2019, I was very selfish… Even in 2020, I was selfish, even though that is when I began working on myself.

In late 2019, my mom and aunt found out about a one-night stand I had with a stranger at his house in Philadelphia and found out I was recklessly sleeping with a guy back in New York. This is when they intervened. My mom, obviously being upset, told me I needed counseling. She put her foot down and between her, my Aunt, and cousin being very hurt by my actions, I realized it was time for me to change. I did not want to hurt anyone anymore.

I started counseling at the beginning of 2020 and while the woman was very nice, I felt like I was going nowhere with her. Nothing in my life was being worked on. I needed a new therapist. Fast forward to June of 2020, my mom set me up with her therapist, Dr. Spence. What was great was that she was doing Telehealth from Detroit and she is an educated Black woman. This was it, I felt good about this one.My first session with Dr. Spence was impactful. I knew in my heart she was the one for me. Ever since I have been with her. Dr. Spence. She was the first person to ever bring up Bipolar Disorder to me.

I had a mental break at the beginning of September 2020 and was very close to just ending it all. This scared my mother and my dad. Since I refused to go to the hospital, Dr. Spence hopped on the phone with me every day that week to make sure I was okay and to talk about how I was feeling. My mom also called me every day to check on me. Dr. Spence then mentioned Bipolar Disorder and how she has been evaluating me since our first session. While it stayed in the back of my head, I always thought “yeah right, I don’t have Bipolar Disorder.”….OL, I played myself.

In December, Dr. Spence told me in our session that she believed that I have Bipolar Disorder and that I needed to find a psychiatrist. Due to the negative stigma, I cried. I knew nothing about Bipolar, just the bad things about it. I called my mom crying and she said “I figured you had Bipolar, but it’s okay! So many people suffer from Bipolar Disorder. It’s not a bad thing.” What my mom said on that chilly, sunny day in December will always stay with me. Since being unofficially diagnosed with Bipolar, I started doing more research, asking questions, and learning about others’ fights with Bipolar Disorder. I then learned for myself that it wasn’t a bad thing. I took this as a blessing because so many people in this world go undiagnosed with a mental illness and end up living a more difficult life.

It took me forever to find a psychiatrist, but thanks to my lovely friend Jules, she recommended an NP, Jon, to me. He was booked until May and it was March at that time. So I just had to keep holding out. However, my few months of feeling good would come to an end. In March, I was assaulted by someone while on a date. From then until the end of May I slowly started spiraling but didn’t know it. I dated another guy I had no business dating because he treated me like a doormat. I wasn’t taking my antidepressants like I was supposed to, or when I did take my antidepressants I would also be drinking alcohol. I was drinking A LOT and misusing the Xanax prescribed to me for airplane flights ONLY.

I was going through it, to say the least. Memorial Day weekend 2021, was my lowest. Even worst than September of 2020. I got some upsetting news that Friday and pushed me further into a deeper hole. I shut out my friends and family. I stayed high on Xanax while taking my anti-depressants. That Sunday, I went to see a guy I was dating and we ended up ending things the next day because of how he didn’t care about canceling our plans. That was breaking point number one.
The final breaking point is when my aunt came home, yelling at me about my behavior, not knowing what was going on (not her fault, I didn’t share with anyone). I proceeded to go into my room, grab a pair of scissors, and dug it deep into my wrist until I bled. I kept doing it and even called my mom angrily and told her. My mom then called my aunt who came into my room and saw what happened. I was then rushed to a Crisis Center where I talked to a social worker for over an hour. She let me go home, but I had to be in the care of someone. Fast forward to that Saturday, I was sent to the hospital for a severe panic attack. It was just an awful week, to be honest. However, I am glad I went through this. I learned a lot about myself and started practicing self-love and learning how to not feel like I need a man in my life. I also learned I wanted to work in social work, being inspired by the social worker I talked with.

Finally, I met my psychiatrist on June 12th (we had to reschedule our May appointment). Jon officially diagnosed me with Bipolar 1 and prescribed me a mood stabilizer. I never knew how much I needed it until I had to get off of it this past weekend to start a new one due to the side effects of the last medication. I felt sad Friday the 25th that I decided to start taking the medication then instead of Saturday (with the okay from my therapist). I heard voices in my head talking so loud that next day. I called my therapist in tears because it was becoming unbearable. However, once I took the second dose of the new medication, I started feeling so much better. I noticed how much my mood stabilizes while on medication.I have gone through so much with my Bipolar, but I am so happy to have been diagnosed. I am thankful for my friends and family being in my corner. I am blessed to have my therapist and psychiatrist working to make sure I live a successful and healthy life.

Bipolar has taught me so much about myself and others around me. It has taught me patience and understanding. It has taught me that being on medication is okay and normal. That medication is needed for some people, me being an example.My name is Gabrielle Banks and I don’t struggle with Bipolar. I am co-existing with it. I learned to accept this and will work every day to live an amazing, joyous, successful, and healthy life while co-existing with this illness! We are all different, but that is what makes us unique! Thank you everyone for listening to my story!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Gabrielle, thank you for being so brave in sharing your story. What a rollercoaster ride bipolar can take us on. I’m really happy for you that you’ve accepted your diagnosis and have found medication, especially a mood stabilizer that helps you. It took me much longer to accept it. Since I have been following my treatment plan (more than 20 years) I have had the blessing of a stable life. I have a blog Life Adventures that is about mental health: https://fakeflamenco.wordpress.com/2021/04/12/flower-therapy/


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