My Story: Nicole Shaw

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

Leading up to my diagnosis was beautiful and intense. Then that stopped and I found myself in complete psychosis with no clue anything was wrong. I was manic for almost a year before my diagnosis.

I pieced a timeline together with old Facebook posts and pictures and texts to help pinpoint when my episodes started.

My episode started when I began working 60-hour weeks to be out of my dark apartment and drinking a fifth of alcohol a day to try and balance life. I couldn't stand myself, and I had no problem reminding myself of that statement either.

I was delusional and hallucinating. Also, I thought I was God and that I changed the radio station with my mind!

There was this one time I was driving out of Seattle, I passed Safeco field and then blacked out for a few hours. Yes hours. I ended up in a little town on a back road and was pulled over. Right before I got out of the car, I told myself to be merciful, and I thought about the people I said goodbye to, and then I got out of the car and said "I will kill you all" and ran straight at them. I had my hands in the air the whole time, they could have easily killed me, but they tased me instead. This happened back in 2011. The cops were kind to me after they got me up off the ground. The universe took care of me, they released me to my Mother.

The next morning I went to the ER. I spent 13 hours in the hallway of a local hospital. My delusions were in overdrive and the hallucinations were mesmerizing at times. I had my own world while under a blanket in that hallway. Then another world in the bathroom where I talked to a few friends and asked God questions that he answered through the smoke detector, one red blink for yes and two for no.

I firmly believed that all of the hospital staff were my friends and family. I thought that they really looked like the staff and that what they used to look like was an illusion. I started to get anxious, and I couldn't keep my eyes off the clock. I was getting close to "that" time, and I hadn't figured out the puzzle yet. Well, the time ran out and I lost it! Next thing I knew there was like six guys on top of me. They threw me in a bed and tried to strap me down. When they got me strapped down I was so upset, I missed the deadline in my head, and that meant that "they" were going to kill my family.

The nurse turned her back and I bit one of the straps and almost had the second one but then she shot me up with something crazy strong and I woke up two days later, terrified. I had tongue curling anxiety so bad they did a CT scan. Then I made it to the psych ward, met my doctor and received my diagnosis.

Who has been there for you? How?

I have a few people in my life who have been there for me. My mother has been there for me. She loves me and wants the best for. She has done a lot to help me have a better life. I know she feels guilty about my childhood but she did the best she could.

My brothers and I don't talk to or see, but they managed to marry two of the best women ever made. My two sisters-in-law have been and always will be there for me. They both know how to talk to me in a way that gets me to see a situation on a calm level.

My best friend also has that ability and she always makes sure to remind and help me to take care of the basics. I'm lucky.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

A sleeping and medications schedule. I watch my alcohol intake and try to stay away from some old coping skills – which means drugs.

I have had to pay close attention to who I spend my time with. I'm very affected by the people around me and by their energy.

I have to pay close attention to the little things like water, food and grooming otherwise I will forget about them.

A huge change I needed to make was getting into therapy. It took me a long time to admit to myself that I needed to start seeing a therapist.

In the black community, we don't do therapy and we don't even talk about it. Typically, our family business is kept private, and we shouldn't have to tell some stranger our problems or anything. Which sucks because I would bet money that at least two-thirds of the black community has complex PTSD and would benefit from some counseling. It's hard when the field isn't diverse.

I found a therapist who is excellent! I actually finally changed my mind about not telling her everything and I let her rip. Truly life changing.

Leading up to my diagnosis was beautiful and intense.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

An accomplishment that I am proud of is staying alive. When I was a kid I got raped a lot and bullied a lot. I learned that I wasn't a person and that my body didn't belong to me.

I should be a sociopath, but I didn't give up on myself or others. I see beauty in places and people you wouldn't expect. Sometimes it's overwhelming.

I guess the accomplishment is not just staying alive but being knee deep in life and grateful.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

An accomplishment that I am proud of is staying alive. When I was a kid I got raped a lot and bullied a lot. I learned that I wasn't a person and that my body didn't belong to me.

I should be a sociopath, but I didn't give up on myself or others. I see beauty in places and people you wouldn't expect. Sometimes it's overwhelming.

I guess the accomplishment is not just staying alive but being knee deep in life and grateful.

I'm proud of staying alive.

I'm proud of staying alive.

What's your advice to someone else living with bipolar disorder?

Go easy on yourself, but not too easy. Find your people, the ones that are true and understanding. Support is so important and that includes therapy.

Believe in yourself which is easy to say but hard in real life. What helps me is giving myself pep talks. My go-to is "ain't nothing to it, but to do it" and "okay, reel it in."

Don't go on WebMD and look at a bunch of disorders that have a couple of similarities and believe you have them. Keep a list of symptoms you are experiencing or do a mood chart. Knowledge is power.

Lastly, you can't help yourself if you can't see yourself!

Keep a list of symptoms you are experiencing or do a mood chart. Knowledge is power.

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