I want to start off by saying, I don’t normally talk a lot about this topic in detail anymore, anymore being the key word. However, when I was on Time Hop yesterday, a post from four years ago inspired a not so awesome trip down memory lane. How, you might ask? Well, let me explain. And bare with me because it’ll be a long post, ten years worth of information kind of long.
I am bipolar. Or, I was bipolar. Actually, I prefer that I have no labels because in truth, I don’t know how I should refer to myself in regards to my “mental status”. I was told once you are diagnosed with something as “severe” as bipolar, it’s not something that goes away, kind of like an addict is always recovering and never recovered. Why I’m afraid to fully say I am not bipolar is probably something along the lines of superstition or a fear of being jinxed despite how silly that may sound. I’m sure this isn’t making much sense right now, but don’t worry, it will.
I’ve always been an anxious kid. I mean seriously, I was afraid of the world. I was always that one child that went to sleepovers only to call my parents at midnight, crying, and begging to come home. It wasn’t the boogie man or chuckie that filled me with fear causing me to be anxious all the time, it was just me, my chemical imbalance.
When I was 13 my school suggested that I get seen for ADD. My grades had dropped to a ridiculous low, and by that I mean I had a 0.67 GPA in 7th grade. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember feeling any different or realizing that there was this trigger that sent me flying into the depths of bad grades and a bleak future. Honestly, I just felt normal. Until I went to a child psychiatrist and suddenly the words normal were thrown out the window. I wasn’t normal. I remember the exact words she said in regards to what she thought my diagnosis was. She said I was “severely depressed.” To this day, I still remember being confused. I was 13, the idea of depression didn’t make that much of an impact. Sure, I understood the general definition of it, but I had no idea what the true picture of depression was. How in the hell had I become depressed when I wasn’t even old enough to live life or experience the shitty part of living to become depressed? The rest of that appointment was a blur. I remember my mom crying, my doctor explaining the pros and cons of medications, and me just sitting there kind of numb.
Medication ended up being the course of action for me, and at the time it made the most sense. I obviously wasn’t functioning normally and maybe it could get me in a place where I could be a normal kid with decent grades and a life lived without anxiety. But, I don’t think my family or I ever expected that one appointment to snow ball into a 10 year stint with what I like to call the Mental Illness Game.
Over the years, I struggled to maintain my normalcy as a teenager, going through the fun part of growing into a young woman, and maintaining the stableness of the rest of my fellow peers. You have to understand something. At this point in time, mental illness wasn’t what it is today. There wasn’t as much awareness and acceptance over it. I’m not saying that it wasn’t seen or that people weren’t diagnosed but it was definitely more taboo when I first got started out into this world. So, as you can imagine, it was hard for me to connect with other people when the only thing I could think of is; Am I acting okay? Are they looking at me weird? Can they tell something is wrong with me? What if I tell them? Because I really want to talk to someone, anyone that isn’t just a doctor. Will anyone ever love me despite my giant flaws? I hit a point about a year or so after my first appointment where the mix of meds wasn’t working, in a way the chemicals clashed and it sent me crashing into oblivion. I was in eight grade and I had to stay in the counselors office because I felt too dark, too much like if I was alone I would just fade into the black. At this point, I was no longer just severely depressed, I had ADD, a touch of ADHD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, AND a phobia of being in public, or so that’s what I was told. It seemed as if the longer I went to the doctors, the more fucked up I was, the more diagnosis I gained, and the more medication I was given.
It became daunting, you know, being young and worrying so much about whether I took my pills so I could handle the next panic attack, or is the medication working or am I building up a tolerance again? Am I loosing too much weight again? Will my next panic attack be in front of people or will I be completely alone and terrified? Did I cut the blue pill in half and the yellow pill in a quarter or did I mix it up again? God, even thinking back on it I feel overwhelmed.
And if I was overwhelmed only two years into the medication game I was destroyed by the time I got to high school. You can imagine how that went for me. Mean people tend to notice abnormalities like a shark can smell blood in the water. I wasn’t popular to say the least, but it wasn’t because I was ugly or a slut (despite being told such) or because I was poor or rich, it had everything to do with me being a little different and not conforming to the norm. (And now I sound like a hippie. Stick it to the man!) Anyways, I dressed like I felt, like a damn emo kid. And I stood up for the kids getting made fun of because truthfully I didn’t care what happened to me, I couldn’t stand to see others get beaten down for being different. I got a lot of shit for it, but why did it matter, I was already fucked up in the head, or so that’s how I saw it at the time.
I stopped hiding my mental illness when I was a freshman. I was open about it, and I’m embarrassed to admit this but I was a little too open about it. I went as far as to not cover the cuts covering my arms. God I was ridiculous. But, I felt okay about it because I fell into a group of people that may not have been on heavy meds like I was, but they understood me. They were depressed and anxious and they were there for me when I had my panic attacks and freak outs and when I was crying for no reason. And from that point on, I stopped hiding. I couldn’t give a damn whether or not people had an opinion over it, it was my reality and I was refusing to hide from it anymore. I was going to embrace it regardless of what that meant.
Fast forward a few years. I thought at some point, and I’m sure the rest of my family did too, that this would all kind of clear up once I was done with puberty. And in reality, it probably should have, but that’s not how it works, not when you’re so far in the mental illness game that you know nothing but what your diagnosis is.
I graduated high school, and I seemed to be getting better in school, although still on medications. Throughout my high school career, I was on and off of them, but never without medications for longer than a few months. Things seemed to be going great, until I graduated and I had NO idea what I was doing, where I was going, and what my purpose was. I spent my time focused in the wrong areas of life, like my dating life and friends and my social life. I’m sure everyone does that a time or two in life, but what happened next screwed me.
I’m going to go ahead and say this now, I am not going to rehash all these horrid details of the next part of my life. I probably should, to further make my point (that I have yet to reach) but it doesn’t do me or anyone else any good to bring these things up. So let’s just say that I met some bad people, became dependent, lost myself, and became blissfully unaware to how unhealthy my relationships were and how unstable I was. I didn’t know it then, but I had become the most unstable I had ever, or will ever be.
I was manic.
God, was I manic.
And I was obsessed with the people around me further dragging me into the rabbit hole of a life going nowhere. My main focus was these people and my mental illness. My days were spent hyper focused on their lives and how I could involve myself more within this group and how they loved me regardless of my flaws. They needed me regardless. They needed and loved me regardless of my crazy side, they accepted me, and I needed that. But, that need, that obsessive desire to be with these people came to bite me in the ass in the worst of ways, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
When all was said and done and things started to die down with these friends of mine, I felt sick, crazy, numb, and just gone. Long gone was the girl that I struggled to become, the one who would eventually find her way, the one who would become close with her family again, the one that would be normal at some point or another, and in it’s place was a girl who had done too many bad things and had officially let her mental unstableness run her life.
I was completely empty.
And so incredibly lost.
I went to yet another doctor only to discover my new diagnosis; I was bipolar. Just like my dad (that’s a story for another time), just like the people you hear so much about and are warned to stay away from, just like the people who end up in the hospital. At that point, my step sister invited me to live with her and move close to 2,000 miles away from home, to help her nanny in exchange for me getting away from that and to get my head on straight. For awhile it worked, I was in school, I loved interacting with my nieces and my sister, I was starting to become happy. But that only emotion only ever lasted a few months for me no matter what my situation was. There would always be a down fall, and that down fall was always hard. After about a year or so I had to move home. I was at the point where I called my mom to tell her how bad it was. I couldn’t tell you exactly what I told her, and in truth, I don’t want to know, but it was enough that when she heard me crying hysterically, rambling on about the extreme emotions I was feeling, trying to make sense of the impossibly fast racing thoughts in my head, she told me it was time to come home. There was no arguing. There was no question. It was time to come home, it was time to get well.
It took awhile, but things eventually turned around for me because really when you hit rock bottom all you can do is go up, right? I met my husband a few months after returning home. Yes, for those of you who didn’t know, I met my husband when I was sick. And for those of you who know K, this may come as a surprise. He’s the “no bullshit, no drama” type so how he saw past all of my crap and stuck around, I’ll never know, but I do know that I am eternally grateful that he did.
We had a fast romance, only after two weeks of dating we got engaged. I know, I know, insane, but it worked for us. Before we had a chance to get married I got bad again and ended up in the mental hospital. I checked myself in. I knew myself well enough to know that I didn’t trust the alone time I had. I couldn’t get a job because I couldn’t handle turning an application without panicking, and I couldn’t be left alone for fear I would harm myself. It sucked. I sucked. And I was sucking the life out of myself and those around me.
And this is where the whole Time Hop thing comes into play. Four years ago I was released from the hospital. When I read that I thought to myself, “Holy shit, had it really been four years? It feels like it was a decade ago.” And that’s when I realized that I haven’t been mentally stable for all that long, it just feels like it.
After the hospital and another year or so of therapy upon therapy, upon medications and more medications, we moved to our new home, a few states away from our families and friends. I had been getting sick for the last couple years, all of which could be blamed on the medicine I had been taking. Side effects, especially the rare ones became frequent. I had a seizure once, extreme weight gain, a twitch that only .5% of people taking this certain medication actually got, and I was constantly feeling sick, rundown, heavy. I think I finally had enough, because one day I woke up and I felt gross, mentally, physically, and I was done.
I was just done.
I decided to start weaning myself off of medications. It was not something most people supported, especially not my doctors, but I was determined to just try it. If I made it a week, or two weeks, hell even just a month, I would have been proud because I tried. I never expected to succeed, and I never thought my life would actually change, but it did.
I took my last set of meds in the end of 2012 or the start of 2013 I can’t remember exactly. Crazy, right? It’s now 2015 and I haven’t had a single relapse of mental stability. That’s saying something because between then and now, I’ve gone through a twin pregnancy (double the hormones), given birth with no pain meds to my beautiful babies, and have busted my ass to be the best stay at home mom I could be.
There were a lot of factors that went into this though. I was determined to get healthy for once but mostly it was my husband. Like I said he’s the no nonsense type of guy and he kicked my ass into gear. The babying me had since passed and it had been time to be blunt, upfront, honest with me. And the day after he did that everything changed, I changed and I never looked back. I refused to stay in this mental mindset that I was broken and I refused to continue to dwell on it. I wanted to be better so I became better. It took all I had in me, but I did it, I fought it, and I won.
Now, there’s another reason why I thought about writing this down and that’s because last week I started slipping. Not badly, just enough that I became distant from a lot of things. I’ve recently been dealing with some mystery health issues that I don’t want to go into detail about but it put me in this weird head space. I tried pulling out of it, and I thought it was working until today when I realized I was failing. I was being introverted and mopey and letting my thoughts become negative and it took that Time Hop post and some serious inner monologue to get me back to where I normally am, positive and happy; ready to kick this negativity’s ass.
I’ve come to realize I lot of things about mental illness and the way it works, at least for me. It’s ridiculously easy to fall into this depression or anxiety or whatever it is that’s plaguing you. It’s easy as hell. It’s always going to be there in the back of your mind because, as someone with a mental illness can tell you, it’s something like a habit, something you always go back to when things get rough because it’s familiar and it’s the easy way to deal with things by just not dealing with them, by letting the darkness consume you. But, let me tell you, that’s not the way life is supposed to be. You’re supposed to fight tooth and nail for the life you live because if you didn’t what would be the point? I didn’t have a rough life to start out. I lived in a two story house with a pool and a dog and a loving family. I had friends. I had boyfriends and girlfriends and I had a passion for anything artistic. I just had an imbalance that unfortunately lead to medicating someone who was too young and eventually too weak to fix their shit when it hit the fan. After I was away from it all, taking the seven different medications a day, going to three different doctors, one for medications, one for regular therapy, one for specialized therapy, I got to see what really happened.
I got sucked in.
I knew nothing else.
I was young and all I knew was what I was being told- I was sick, I was imbalanced, I was broken, and the only way to fix it was to stay involved with it. I became the victim of my disorder and I adopted that victims mindset, applying it to the rest of my life because that’s what I was taught through seeing countless amounts of doctors and speaking to other people going through the same thing.
Now, I know how this may come off and I apologize in advance if anyone becomes offended but as someone who has been there done that for ten years straight only to come out better let me tell you; YOU ARE NOT YOUR ILLNESS.
I had people tell me that throughout the years but I didn’t listen, I couldn’t, in a way. I spent the better half of my childhood and the start of my young adult life completely emerged in my illness. When you’re young and all you know is what you’re being told, and these things you’re being told you don’t quite understand to the fullest extent, things are bound to happen, you are bound to believe something and let it be engrained in you despite your lack of understanding. And within this world of mental illness it becomes this thing where you’re expected to talk about it all the time. At every doctors appointment you’re told to explain in grave detail the issues you’re facing, so you spend the first 45 minutes of the appointment pouring your heart out, rehashing every gory detail, only to have the last few minutes to sketch out some small coping plan and to remember to pay attention to your issues, to look for signs of improvement, and to watch for the inevitable sign that you are worsening. It’s not that’s it’s really the doctors fault, they’re covering their bases and trying to make you more aware but it’s not always helpful, not in the long run. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent going round and round about shit that happened to me years prior as if they happened an hour before. And all it did was keep it fresh within my mind twenty. four. seven. I dreamt about them and I thought about them more than I want to admit. And how could these issues not be fresh in your mind when you’re also having to remind yourself of the times you have to take your meds, when it’s time to make a new appointment with whatever doctor you need to see to talk about it all, and when it’s time to go get your blood tested to make sure these super awesome meds aren’t poisoning you. It’s a vicious cycle of hyper focusing on nothing but your issues. And maybe you resolve one, but when another one comes up it’ll take years to fix it, only to restart the process all over again.
Let me just say, I am not blaming the whole mental health department. It is my fault, and my fault entirely, that I ended up the way I did. I didn’t pull my head out of my ass quick enough and even when I wanted to change, I decided to listen to others instead of listening to my instinct screaming that I would be okay if I could just fight. But I am saying that it’s hard to see the reality of things when you are consumed by your illness. As an adult I didn’t even know how to introduce myself to people or make friends because I was told, by nearly every doctor I came across, that I had to make anyone involved in my life aware of how unstable I could be and how it may be just being my friend. Or how I needed to explain everything to the person I was dating that way they knew up front and could chose if they thought it was worth spending their life with me. I was told that I would never have children because I wouldn’t be mental sound enough to be a good mother and that one day I would be so sick I would ultimately end up spending more time in the hospital than out.
How are you suppose to succeed in life when you’re being told that your future isn’t bright, that in fact it will become desolate and that people will only be around if they feel you are worth the effort.
Or that your illness, something that you didn’t ask for, is the reason that you will not get the life you deserve. That is not how it should be and had I realized that before, I would have spent more years smiling and laughing and striving for a better life, the life I live right now, instead of fighting myself for stableness.
I don’t know how this post is going to be seen and in reality I guess it doesn’t matter. I have a very strange outlook on life now and the way I learned to deal with myself within my own mind, after the meds and the doctors were gone, isn’t for everyone because tough love isn’t for everyone, but I know that there are probably people out there struggling and in the same spot I was in two years ago, looking for someone to just understand. Maybe this post can be something that helps. I won’t always post these things, and like I said I rarely ever talk about this kind of thing in detail anymore. There’s usually not a point. I was sick, I went through ten years of struggle, I stopped, I have a beautiful family, and I’m following my dreams. The. End. But sometimes things need to be said to reach out to those that might need it. I also had to write this for me, because as I said I was slipping and sometimes a reality check is in order.
And here is my reality check.
I am married to my perfect match. He’s sarcastic and he’s hilarious. He’s an asshole but I genuinely love that about him because even though he has this tough exterior when it comes down to it, he cares with his entire heart and he loves our kids more than anything in this world. I’m pretty sure he would and does sacrifice his life for us every single day.
And I’m a mom to these two beautiful children who do nothing but try and make me smile and laugh all day. Take Oliver for example, as I was going through these medical exams, in near tears from being overwhelmed my son reaches over, smiles and shares his toy with me which he never actually does because he hates sharing. And Emma smiles, gives me a kiss, and does something silly because she hates seeing us do anything but laugh so then Oliver does the same.
I made these kids, something I was told wouldn’t happen and god, they are phenomenal.
Not only do I have them but I have my extended family and friends who are always there for me despite any disagreements or miles put between us. And I finally followed my dream, I have a book published and I’m writing more which is something I was always passionate about. This is my reality check because everything I have now is more powerful than the emotions lurking in the shadows of my mind, waiting to suck me in and destroy me.
I promise not every post will be this depressing, I’m actually a funny, sarcastic person, but this was needed, and you know what? I feel renewed.
***For those of you thinking this post sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a post from May on my old blog account. I thought it might be time to bring this back, to give a little inspiration, to give a little bit of hope.