Mental illness; a condition that causes severe disorder in a person’s thinking or behavior.
Recently I went and got evaluated psychologically, something that’s been a long overdue necessity. After so many nights of waking up screaming from nightmares, days where inability to find energy just to get out of bed were more often than not, and moods that are so intense and so consuming you find yourself thinking “I really need some help.”
So that’s what I did, I went to my family doctor in search for help and she recommended me to the flexman clinic where I took an emotional exhausting and extensive testing and talked one on one with a 9 year degree. And with what I discovered about myself I felt like I should really talk about. Because it’s easy to show your best self on the internet and hide the parts you’re ashamaed of. But I’m not perfect, I struggle a lot and I want to be unashamed of that.
So here’s what I found out:
More specifically I’m bipolar II.
I also didn’t realize there were 2 different types so let me clarify them for you:
Bipolar I; is a bipolar spectrum disorder characterized by the occurrence of at least one manic or mixed episode. Most patients also, at other times, have one or more depressive episodes, and all experience a hypomanic stage before progressing to full mania.
Bipolar II; is a bipolar spectrum disorder characterized by at least one episode of hypomania and at least one episode of major depression. … The hypomanic episodes associated with bipolar II disorder must last for at least four days and one episode of major depression can last up to months at a time.
Essentially I experience shorter episodes of happiness and longer episodes of sadness. I also help make up about 2.5% of the US population which is about 6 million people.
I remember hearing this news and instantaneously sobbing.
Half relief and half fear.
Because my association of bipolar was with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde association,these two extremes that collided and were incompatible. I watched all my dreams of becoming a wife and mom become tainted as I realized that I now carry this genetic burden that’s caused me so much pain and so much heartache for years and years.
How can I accomplish anything feeling on top of the world one day and the exact opposite the next? My life had always been in extremes and inconsistency. I never got a grasp on the severity of my shifting demeanor because it was just always my normal.
The hardest part for me is constantly being unaware of what episode I am in. I’m constantly having an episode, and if I’m not careful I give into the racing thoughts and “no need for sleep.” Dealing with the painful consequences of spending too much money or being drawn to the fire that burns. My self control is nonexistent most of the time and I react more naturally than I respond to things.
I never knew you could feel something and then not react to it. The thought of thinking before you react to something was never a thing I had control of.
Then there’s the depressive state. It includes insomnia and hypersonia. Loss in all my interests and fighting just to do the basic responsibilities of life. Fatigue and severe weight loss and gain from shrinkage and growth in appetite.
Grey is unfamiliar to a girl like me that’s constantly living in extremes.
But wait there’s more!
PTSD aka post-traumatic stress disorder; a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.
As you’re all aware if you’ve read my blog I was raped in my first real relationship and because of that I struggle with the reprocussions more than I would like to. When I am stressed out I’ll have vivid nightmares that jolt me out of my sleep and I feel my face and its wet from crying in my sleep. I walk home alone and I’m paranoid that every guy who looks at me just wants to hurt me and I have this tight feeling in my chest that never really goes away.
I don’t trust love, I believe in it but my experience gives me some trust issues with the one thing that’s supposed to keep us all warm. And every time I think I’m getting over it or better I realize I’m not. Every day is still an uphill battle to conquer this demon that grabs hold of every part of me. I’m haunted.
ADD aka Attention Defficit Disorder; a neurobehavioral disorder characterized by a combination of inattentiveness, distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. … More than half the children diagnosed with AD/HD continue to have symptoms during their adolescent years and into adulthood.
Retaining things for me is like a child playing outside with a ballon and then accidentally letting go of it. And no matter how quickly I try and grasp at the ballon again it’s quickly floating away into a sky-blue abyss.
Being overstimulated or underestimated is a real workout for me considering the fact I have a million ideas inside my head fighting for my attention no matter what I do or where I go. My to-do lists never get done because I’m constantly getting caught up in new things and forget about the rest. My friends get irritated with me when I forget to text them back and appointments that are pressing and important rarely get scheduled.
My mind loves knowledge but doesn’t know how to keep it. Most of the time in order for things to set with me it’s got to be catchy or repeated at least a dozen times. I got you if you need to know every word to any Taylor Swift song but basic math is not my thing. Or basic grammar or any helpful skill really.
Time isn’t a concept I’m familiar with and my brain is often as scattered as all my makeup on my bathroom sink. They’re good ideas in there even great ones, but you’ve got to dig and be willing to get frustrated. Cause that’s just how I’ve learned that I work. I’m always running late or rushing, my life is always moving too fast and I find myself often out of breath.
High functioning anxiety; one of the most common forms of mental illness in the United States. Usually paired with depression. Excessive worrying, uncontrollable ticks/ mannerisms and tightening of chest may occur. Anxiety attacks are also frequent with this condition.
I also have this heavy burden that there needs to be so much that has to get done, like I have to conquer the world in the matter of 24 hours and I stress so much about it. It’s easy for me to get fixated and obsessed with something that doesn’t even matter in retrospect. I’m constantly trying to keep up with all of life’s responsibilities and getting worried and paranoid when I can’t get them done. Even though these tasks are basic every day ones, I still feel a heavy weight in them.
My body physically takes my anxiety out on me and I’ll find myself with shortness of breath and my chest tightening. During an anxiety attack the symptoms mimic the feel of an asthma attack and I actually feel like I’m dying (and not in a dramatic sense.) It takes an outside force and mantra to get me out of them and they’re some of the scariest experiences I’ve ever had.
It prevents me from responding to emails, replying to texts, committing to long term plans. All these things are made nearly impossible thanks to anxiety.
Major depressive disorder (MDD) ; is a mental disorder characterized by at least two weeks of low mood that is present across most situations. It is often accompanied by low self-esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, low energy, and pain without a clear cause.
Weeks will go by and getting out of bed takes everything in me. I don’t want to eat or go out. I don’t want to make plans with anyone or do anything. I just want to sleep, because then I can shut my brain off for just one moment and feel nothing. Cause I’m always feeling, so much and so intensely I just want a break. And sleep gives that to me.
But sleep also makes me feel super unproductive and lazy. It’s more like a ball and chain than a recharge. I’m constantly looking for it. I’m distracted when someone’s talking to me cause I’m just tired, even though I slept 12 hours I’m just tired in a way sleep can’t fix. It is exhausting. I’ve canceled plans just to be alone and cry and I don’t understand why I’m even crying most of the time.
I don’t write this post for sympathy. This is not a “here’s all that’s wrong with me let me list out how you can cater to me” blog post. Because not only do I not agree with that approach, I don’t want that. I don’t want to be tip-toed around because I know the reality. I know the world doesn’t stop for anyone no matter what’s wrong with you. I write this because I know there are people out there who are scared they’re alone in this, and I want to be here to say “You are not alone! I’m right here.”
I’m right here with the harsh credibility eager to relate and cushion the blow.
I want to be the church God called me to be, that welcomes those who are struggling and can’t grasp their own mind. Showing how God can be in this even when Christianity tells us we should just be happy or pray more. There’s beauty in the breakdown, beautiful things rise from ashes and not only do we grow from it, we thrive. We’re made new because we are willing to go through what ever it takes to get us there.
I’ve realized that I’m a masterpiece and a work in progress simultaneously.
I’m constantly trying to be more understanding, more hopeful, more self-aware and more considerate. I have my mental illnesses to thank for that.
My bipolar gives me deep emotions to work with so I can create some pretty phenomenal blogs, sketches, paintings, and poetry. It helps me relate to my favorite artist of all time, Vincent Van Gogh, who also felt too much but just painted it all away. My PTSD let’s me connect with other victims of sexual assault who can feel comfortable enough to open up and heal with me. I get to be compassionate, I get to share the gospel first hand and what a beloved experience that is.
My ADD let’s me be creative and bursts of intelligence flow from me and I’m forced to use that time wisely before those impactful thoughts decide to flee. I see things in a different way, life to me is more than a perceivable concept. My anxiety, when controlled correctly, motivates me to get things done and to not stay complacent. My depression lets me paint in indigos, contrasting the brightness. It’s a reminder that some of my darkest times gave me my best memories, so I’m thankful for them and would never wish them away.
I always have this impending fear in the back of my mind that I’m too much yet not enough at the same time. But then I had to come to this conclusion:
You know for some people you will be too much. But that doesn’t mean something is wrong with you it means those people are wrong for you.
Keep unapologetically being yourself. If that means crying at sad movies never hide your tears. If that means loving the heck out of Taylor Swift when everyone else says she’s basic, do it. Or wearing different clothes than all your friends cause you like them and they make you feel pretty. Don’t ever try and fit yourself into a mold someone else made. The world needs more people willing to break free and simply be who they were destined to be.
My mental health has been an every day battle ever since I can remember. It’s been lots of slammed doors and numerous nights of tears and contemplation. I even spent a week in the hospital which was essentially like my own personal hell. But I’ve come to know and accept what I’m dealing with and it doesn’t make me any less of a person.If anything it forces me to be more. I’m more aware, I’m more introspective, I’m more approachable.
I personally do take medication and go through counseling and it helps me not be so hard pressed on everything. Music also aids my feelings and let’s me know how justified I am. Art museums are as welcoming as the church was meant to be, the walls are plastered with troubled souls like me that had a voice that needed to be shared and heard.
So I’m removing the negative connotation paired with mental illness, because there’s so much good that comes from it. This part of me is as significant as the parts I’m willingly proud of. In some ways life can be more difficult for me but it doesn’t stop me from trying my best. I refuse to let this limit me from anything I want to do. I’m still me, I’m still loving life and rolling with the punches.
You can have Bipolar and be kind. You can have ADD and focus on what’s important. You can have PTSD and live in a daydream. You can have high functioning anxiety and have peace. You can struggle with major depression and feel joy. I am here to change the image of mental illness, and I’m here because I fought really really hard to be. And I realize I’ve opened a door but that’s because I believe it should have never been closed.
People are going to know me by the way I love people with Christ’s love. It’s the most artistic way I can live and it’s the life I wanna live.