My Secret Closet…..Bipolar Disorder

“I never connected your being Bipolar with mental illness”.  That was what my son said to me yesterday. He said he knew I had extreme highs and lows, because I had told him that years ago when I was formally diagnosed in my late 40’s. He has known me for his 50 plus years and said that he has never considered me abnormal, just an out of the box mom and grandma. I told him that extreme depression also rested under the umbrella of mental illness. He said ” Well lots of people fit that picture”. I said “Pretty much”. I started thinking  about all of  the labels and behaviors that are linked to being Bipolar. I wondered why I had  never shared any of that information with him before now.  Answer, I wanted to shield him form what it was really like having this life long sentence. I didn’t want him to know the extent of the pain I had suffered. I HAVE BEEN HIDING IN THE CLOSET WITH ALL OF THE RIDICULOUS SHAME AND STIGMA ATTACHED, WHICH IS UNFOUNDED, UNFAIR AND IMPOSED ON BY SOCIETY.

Guess it is time to memorialize what some of my experiences have been and some of the consequences attached to them. Two words come to mind that are closely connected, obsessive and compulsive. Those words are joined at the hip to manic episodes, which is the top extreme of the Bipolar spectrum.

Here is a story that might clarify life with a manic theme. My love of quilting has led me to many manic, obsessive and compulsive episodes. I love fabric. Over the years I have bought a lot of it. I was never able to go into a shop without walking out with hundreds of dollars worth of fabric. When a local quilt shop went out of business and had a huge going out of business sale I was their best customer. I bought bolts. There is not a quitter in the world who doesn’t have more fabric than they need, but I doubt they have three closets packed full of fabric, and a room with boxes filled with material that goes from floor to ceiling. I had a four tiered shelf in the laundry room that went from floor to ceiling as well stacked with material, and a row of  built-in cupboards also filled with supplies relating to my hobby. I had numerous storage boxes full of cloth lining my garage walls. When I moved into my little apartment where I now live I had to rent two storage units for all of my treasures and supplies. That is an example of being  obsessive and compulsive, big time.

The consequences have been many. I have had to face the fact that I could never  live long enough to turn my stash  into my dream designs even if I sewed 24/7, and sewed 365 days a year. I was also wasting money paying for storage units. Out of sight out of mind.  I temporarily forgot what I had stored. I started giving my stash away to two charities.  I gave seven boxes to a cousin who was visiting WA from TX, was a quitter and was traveling in a pick-up truck. I literally felt my heart-break when I let my fabric leave my life forever. When viewing each piece I was giving away I could remember where I bought it, how much I paid for it, and could picture the project I had planned for it to be a part of.  I opened up each box I gave my cousin and said a silent good-bye. To this day I can’t go into a fabric shop, or a quilt show because I cannot trust myself to act responsibly. I don’t look at quilt books because I have more ideas in my head that are much more interesting to me and are more creative than anything I see on the pages of fiber-art publications. After four years I still have at least 15 to 20 boxes of fabric sitting in my apartment. It has become a burden, as I haven’t worked on a project in over a year. I still get sad when I think about giving what stash I have left away, but know I must sooner or later.  At least I have gotten rid of enough that I no longer need the storage units.

Depression is the other extreme of being Bipolar. I think the general subject has been well documented, and society understands its definition. I cannot predict when I will go  “underground” as I call it. But I have figured out one trigger I have experienced  in the past. After I have finished a big quilting project I have felt down after I have given it away. It was my baby. I had put my heart and soul into it. I really wanted it to have the home it was made for. I just missed it . When this has happened I tell myself that I am not depressed,even though I know I am. I say to myself that I just need some rest to refill my tank that I emptied completing the quilt. I usually don’t stay down for long. The downs usually match the ups in their intensity.

This is only a birds eyed view of my experiences. Explaining my disorder will take many more keystrokes to fully explain how being Bipolar has affected me in my journey. I have said it before and will keep on saying that, I look at “Me” as having no filter connected to my emotions. My wiring and chemistry make up are factors in my being Bipolar, and I truly believe God never makes junk.  I believe people in society have similar feelings that I have, mine are just enhanced…………………………………………………………………………………………………


I wrote this a number of years ago and am doing pretty good. I have made many more quilts and given away hundreds more yards of fabric without a lot of difficulty or pain. I have made four auction quilts. I plan on writing a story about them, because each of the four have a story attached, especially one and four, and my model for making the auction quilts will be a big part of the story as well, because they brought in between $1000.00 and $3000.00 and ranged from a lap to a queen sized quilt. I just spent a couple of weeks in heaven making items for a Great Grand Son who surprised us, coming three weeks early. I loved handling and sewing on my treasured fabric, and it was vintage that nothing I made could be duplicated, truly one of a kind items.

As far as living with being Bipolar I have managed it in some interesting ways. I took a break for a couple of years away from blogging. I am back at it with a vengeance, and this activity seems to help keep me pretty level. I am writing about more than mental issues, although I am not dodging the subject when I have something to say that I think is important. I love writing about parenting and education in the field of mental health, because that is where stopping mental disease from taking hold can benefit society. Also I want to destroy the closet of shame and stigmas that interfere with educating society. I have lived a productive life and so can others, and many do.

About Martha (Marty) Dickson Patterson

Marty: Retired from sales and management near Seattle, Washington.
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Blogging, Cause & Effect, Child Rearing, communication, depression, education, Emotional Health, Family, Life Process, Mental Illness, Parenting and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to My Secret Closet…..Bipolar Disorder

  1. Terri B'Hymer says:

    You are so right about most of us sharing your feelings of loss on sending a quilt on its way, or divesting of fabric that wasn’t used for its intended project. I feel that way after a big performance, as well. Just, as you say, I don’t feel the loss as intensely as you do – and I’ve always got the next thing to focus on. I so appreciate your sharing, and the lovely way you phrase things!


  2. ahuelon says:

    I will try to post in the future on the connection as much as I can..When I am high there is no reasoning. If your friend loves cars it makes sense he would want to surround himself with them whether he can afford them or not. Fabric is the only area in buying things I cannot control, so I force restriction on myself and that in it’s self causes pain. I miss the buying experience and the design high I get bringing the fabric home. NO FILTER remember. No control. Lot of people who have huge collections have this same connection I think. Bipolar sufferers are usually very smart and artistic in some areas when they are in manic states. The compulsive and obsessive things in my life now are ideas, strange as that may seem. Thanks for stopping by. I relish your comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ahuelon says:

    Does the manic state scare you? Or is it their down side that is frightening. Are you afraid of their safety? Or yours? I have gotten rather opinionated at times when in a manic state which I plan to address. I verbally kicked out a bridge player who was bulling beginner players. Usually depression is fairly private for me. I become a turtle with my head hidden.. I was once with a lady who was in a manic state who was so uninhibited that I was embarrassed with her behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh this is such a refreshingly honest post. I applaud you. I have suffered from severe bouts of depression in the past and I know I have compulsive tendencies but I have never been diagnosed as Bipolar. My obsession crazy as it may seem is being helpful. I just can’t stop! My elderly neighbour said he needed meals cooking for him now and then and I have been obsessively cooking and filling his freezer ever since. This is just one example ~ I could give many more! It wears me out but I don’t know how to stop!


    • ahuelon says:

      I think helping can become addicting. It gives us a high. But if it is wearing you out maybe you could put yourself on the front burner for a while. You could just tell the person that you need to take a little time off for yourself. If that person is a kind person he will understand and not want to burden you. If you find that the person is just taking advantage of your kindness they needs to be dealt with. They will figure it out and find food on their own. There are people out there that pick up our feeling of wanting to help and take us for a ride until we decide that we are important and our spirit needs protecting. When my husband died 9 years ago I went into a deep depression. I was use to being a mom, and wife. I didn’t know how to take care of me. Now I am active in a charity called The Linus Project. We make quilts and blankets for children in hospitals ages birth to 18. What is great is that we sew together if we want once a week for the companionship . Other times we sew at home. We show up when we like. No one calls us if we are not present. No pressure on how many or the kind of quilts we make. It is so free and fun to be in a group like this. You might find something like this that fills your need to help but without pressure. Just a thought. Taking care of yourself is more important than being used by anyone in my humble opinion. Thanks for following my blog. I have only been doing it for a couple of weeks and am loving the people I am getting to know. Speaking of not being diagnosis. We don’t need labels to find our own weaknesses. We all have them. Being a caring person is a gift. Just give that care to those who deserve it and really appreciate you.


      • Thanks for the thoughtful reply and good advice. I’ve joined groups in the past that have become a millstone round my neck so your Linus project sounds brilliant.
        Welcome to the blogging world, the people I’ve “met” have all been lovely open honest creative people x

        Liked by 1 person

  5. PS thanks for visiting my blog!


  6. ahuelon says:

    When I write it is purely form my own experiences. I am not much for spouting a lot of professional jargon. That can be found easily on- line. It is hard to find real people expressing their real experiences. I use a scale of 1 to 100 with 1 being the lowest of depression and 100 being the highest of manic. I consider 50 to be in the middle. I have never been so out of control that people felt fearful or in danger from my actions or presence. I don’t think anyone would have ever guessed I was Bipolar except for a couple of doctors. I stayed isolated when I was down and when I was up most people considered me full of energy and happy. Only a handful knew until recently because I told them and now that knowledge is open to the world. I hope whoever you are thinking about is under medical supervision and on medication. I believe there are ranges that sufferwes fall into. The ones who have become mass murders are in the highest range, maybe even schizophrenics. All mental disorders are connected in my opinion. I will be writing my views on that subject. So much information out there by Doctors and professionals is based on second-hand information and observations. Like I said in my very first Face Book post that you read right after Robin Williams death, you have to have been depressed to really understand it I am following a few blogs of some great writers sharing their pain. I will invite anyone who has experienced the highest end of being manic to share with me their story and if I read any I will direct you to their blog or reblog it to my sight. I will do some searches as well. Have you talked to anyone directly about their experiences? Lot of times sufferers are in denial. Hope this answers some of you questions.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ahuelon says:

    I have no experience with anyone like you describe. If I run across anyone or read about such a person I will blog about it. I will request sharing on the subject as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. abodyofhope says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I understand how difficult it is just writing down the hard stuff- while therapeutic also.
    Always love to hear when someone else uses her struggles in a transformative way such as the arts, as you do. I would love to invite you to Chronically Inspired art/craft sharing group on facebook.

    Wouldn’t we all love to shield our families from our pain? You said it! Thank you for writing this. Bless you on your path,

    Liked by 1 person

  9. ahuelon says:

    Reblogged this on AHUELON NEWS JOURNAL and commented:

    I wrote this in Sept 2014. My story shows a pretty clear picture of some Bipolar experiences, and then I have added an update as of 2017.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. ahuelon says:

    Thanks for the like. Everything above still rings true.


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