There’s a lot of stigma that comes along with having a mental illness. I was raised in a culture where mental disorders simply did not exist. We don’t take medicine for depression, depression just means you’re sad and that was temporary. Even now, in this culture, the stigma exists. It’s all in your head. Of course it is. Not a lot of people will admit to having been diagnosed. I have a close few that discuss it with me, and I’ve compared it to a sort of Alcoholics Anonymous group. We’re there to support, and hold each other accountable, but not to out each other.
If I think back to when I first realized I was thinking different that everyone else I would go back to when I was 16. That’s when I first experimented with cutting and/or burning myself. At 16 though, you chalk it up to teenage angst. I was sheltered. Despite the attitude problems, I was a good student, and I rarely spent time outside the house. I had friends at school, but I didn’t have close friends I hung out with outside of school. At 18 it started getting worse, and by then, I knew something was wrong and I did write suicide letters just in case, one for my parents, and one for my sister. I kept them inside my journal cover, and still have them to this day.
Around 20, a doctor suggested I was suffering depression. We tried a multitude of medications that just didn’t work. By 23, I saw a specialist, and was diagnosed Bipolar Manic Depressive. To this day I still question the diagnosis. I remember the doctor asking me, “Why do you think you act the way you do?” I simply stated “My mother is emotional. My father is temperamental. I’m both.”
The doctor placed me on a new medication that did work. It had its side effects of course. The manic went away. I lost my passion to be creative, my motivation to be productive, I lost my drive to live. I woke up every morning, went to work, did my chores, and lived like a zombie. I was referred to a therapist. She was actually very helpful. I communicated that I wanted to live without the medicine. She gave me projects to focus on. Things like concentrate on your blog, try going back to school, reevaluate your relationship with your parents. So then I had things to focus on and I was happy to write in my journal again, because I saw them as challenges I needed to accomplish. I think this was when my OCD with to-do lists started. We both agreed that since I knew what my triggers were, I could safely get off my medication, but I had to promise to start immediately when I felt I wasn’t going to be able to handle myself anymore.
Years passed. I had many slip ups, but nothing big. I had big life changes occur, but I still managed to keep my drive. Whenever I got in my depressive state, I’d give my friends the heads up. I would refuse social invites. I would stay home and read or watch movies. I kept to myself until it passed. I looked forward to the manic stages. I took advantage of the excess energy. Got super productive, super active, super social. That’s how I lived. I am an in-betweener.
Last year, during Tallgrass Film Festival A Light Beneath Their Feet was screened as one of the independent films, I watched it and it made me think of many things:
- I could be worse, I could be like her
- What if I end up like her?
- What can I do not to end up like her?
- Is this how I seem to everyone else around me?
I am still struggling with my own inner demons, there is absolutely no denying that. I am paranoid of how others perceive me, and I am attacking myself with makeshift scenarios that may or may not occur, or have or haven’t occured. I’m trying to keep my focus, I am trying to be productive, and I am trying to be accountable. This is going to be my life, for as long as I choose to live it.
I don’t think I can sum up all the battles I have to fight on a daily basis in one blog. So I choose to just site a webpage with the symptoms. These are not all inclusive. And if anyone reading this, wants to reach out, give advice or ask for advice, I hope you feel free to.
Symptoms of a depressive mood episode may include:
• feelings of emptiness or worthlessness
• loss of interest in once pleasurable activities such as sex
• behavioral changes
• fatigue or low energy
• problems with concentration, decision-making, or forgetfulness
• restlessness or irritability
• changes in eating or sleeping habits
• suicidal ideation or a suicide attempt
On the other extreme side of the spectrum are manic episodes. Symptoms of mania may include:
• long periods of intense joy, excitement, or euphoria
• extreme irritability, agitation, or a feeling of being “wired” (jumpiness)
• being easily distracted or restless
• having racing thoughts
• speaking very quickly (often so fast others are unable to keep up)
• taking on more new projects than one can handle (excessively goal directed)
• having little need for sleep
• unrealistic beliefs about one’s abilities
• participating in impulsive or high-risk behaviors such as gambling or spending sprees, unsafe sex, or making unwise investments
Some people with bipolar disorder experience “mixed mood states” in which depressive and manic symptoms coexist. In a mixed state, a person will often have symptoms that include:
• extreme changes in appetite
• suicidal ideation
For those that want to watch A Light Beneath Their Feet it is currently available on Netflix.
*One day at a time. Tomorrow, again by heart.