My Bipolar Journey

Who I Was, Who I Am, and Who Am I Going to be When I Finish

My birth certificate and new bosses think my name is Elizabeth, but mom never called me that. I was always Beth growing up. 

In my early 20s I fed my adventurous spirit and left home, landing in central Florida where I lived with some amazing girls. The four of us quickly became friends and ended up giving each other cutesy names. I was graced with Muffin (which is a great conversation starter!).

So, I grew up in South Jersey, a small farming community that hardly anyone knows exists. My ENTIRE family has lived there, and continues to live there. I needed to see something new, have adventure, see the world! I spent my 20s in Florida with amazing friends and eventually met the man I married. He had spent some time living in Vegas and convinced me to move out there with him. I LOVED the Las Vegas valley, and I made it my home until my divorce ten years later.

In my late 30s I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after my husband suggested I get help for the irrational way my mind was working and my emotional outbursts and loss of reasoning. I changed. I had become another person and I didn’t like who I was anymore. 

I went to a doctor, followed instructions, tried medication after medication, and experienced all of the normal and very crazy side effects that come with mental health medications. I did what I was supposed to do and my marriage failed anyway. The thing is, I can clearly recall  the EXACT moment that he realized he could no longer put himself through the anguish and craziness that comes with loving someone with a mental illness. It wasn’t that he didn’t love and care for me, he just couldn’t help me, and I think that hurt him almost as much as it hurt me.

For the last two years I have been trying hard to find my place in the world again. I am no longer taking the medications (I do not advocate going off medications without being under a doctors care). After my grandmother and father passed in 2018 I tried moving back home to be closer to my family, but my wandering gypsy spirit can’t stay in a sleepy little farming town. I need adventure in my life! I need change! 

I live in North Carolina at the moment, I have minimized my belongings over the last two years so that I am able to relocate whenever I get restless. The everyday life, going to the same job, doing the same thing, to pay the same bills for the same house in the same neighborhood with the same people every day? That’s not for me! 

Why am I hiking the AT in 2020? Well, for my 40th birthday I wanted to show myself that I could do anything I put my mind to. So I completed the Badass Dash in Las Vegas, which happened to fall on my actual birthday: May 23, 2015. It was a 5k obstacle course mud run and while I don’t EVER run and had to do more burpees than anyone should ever have to do on one day, I finished it! At 40 years old, a smoker, at 5 feet 2 inches, 220 pounds! 

May 23, 2020, will be my 45th year on this earth and I just have to top what I did for my 40th!  I want to hike for hours on end. I want to accomplish that mountain! I want that 2,000-miler status! I want to prove to myself that anything is possible, even with the struggles of bipolar disorder! I want to spend this year exploring Mother Earth. I want to wake up to a green forest and hike through lakes and rivers. I want to watch the seasons change, see the greens turn to gold in all their glory. I want to snuggle down at night with the whispering night creatures and the frigid air surrounding me.  I want to meet other people who have tired of the everyday sequence of life and just want to actually LIVE!

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Comments 8

  • Lynn May : Nov 12th

    You go! I’m inspired by your story & your struggles. I’ll definitely be following your posts. I’m recently separated after almost 40 years and feel relief at not being weighed down by material “stuff.” My journey is different but similar. We are all going through something and I agree that time in the woods can ease a lot of burdens. At 58 I still aspire to hit the AT.
    Let us know when you have a start date!!

    • Beth : Nov 12th

      Thank you for your kind words! I hope this journey helps other people struggling to fit in to “normal society” find their own peace.

  • Shannon : Nov 12th

    Hi Beth! I think you are amazing for taking care of yourself. I suffer from Bipolar II disorder and have written about it on the PCT portion of this site. I am medicated, but I completely identify with you as my diagnosis happened around the same time. I hope the AT can fuel that fire you have inside to do great things! Best of Luck!

    • Beth : Nov 14th

      Hey Shannon! I tried medication, but after 2 years of side effects and adjusting and more side effects I just couldn’t do that to myself anymore! At the end I was experiencing zero emotions, I was completley flatlined and devoid of every piece of sadness, joy and caring. I simply existed. And the sexual side effects of the medication…bye Felicia! Not doing that to myself. I’m learning everyday how to recognize my triggers and when my mood is “off” and practicing other techniques to get through those patches. A lot of the time the solution is 24 hours of seclusion. I’ll be writing a bit about my experiences. Can’t wait to take a minute to read about your PCT adventure!

  • Gene : Nov 13th

    Hi Beth
    Do you have a start date yet?
    You had said your birthday will that be your start date?
    I am 62 and will start 2-1-2020 hope to see you out there and I wish you the very best .

    • Beth : Nov 13th

      Hey gene! I’m attempting a mid March start. Before I did any actual research my plan was to start on my birthday. I quickly realized that a NOBO start on May 23rd would mean not being able to summit Katahdin. I’ll be celebrating my 45th on the trail instead! Being the 23rd of May, my birthdays don’t always fall on memorial weekend but this year it does so I expect I’ll find a party wherever I happen to be.

  • Jim Clements : Nov 14th

    Hey Beth lived in Las Vegas 6 yrs loved it but missed the ocean so back to NH I am 64 and doing the AT in 2020. Leaving Springer March 18th NOBO maybe see you out there!

    • Beth : Nov 14th


      I grew up very close to the Jersey Shore my family would caravan from our hometown and take over my great grandfather’s home 2 blocks from the beach in Somers point, NJ. I’m not an ocean/beach fan. Honestly? Salt water stings!! And that sand? A week after a beach trip you’re still trying to get it all out of your “private places” and 3 months later there is still a small sandbox in your trunk! Lol! I miss Vegas like crazy some days, mostly because in Vegas you can enjoy what a big city has to offer but its full of tourists who don’t stay long. I’m able to get to know new people and make new friendships without getting “too close” for comfort. Part of BPD for me is the need for space from people and Vegas is good for that. I think I’ve finally narrowed my start date to the first two weeks of March. I’d like to hit the trail by the 20th. I’m sure I’ll see you out there!


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