Reshared from my FB page earlier this week:
Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. In 2009, I was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder and I laughed. Within a single session of first meeting me, a Pine Rest therapist named it. After some thought and years of perspective looking at symptoms it fit. My first mania clearly in 1997, suicidal thought since 1990. All the misdiagnosis of ADD and unipolar depression. The meds they gave me then aggravating the true condition underneath. I didn’t fully accept it until 2010 after my first psychiatric hospitalization. The gravity of how this would affect the rest of my life was not fully realized for some time after. After 7 inpatient stays 1-2 weeks long, a cycling of med choices ever changing, 11 electroshock therapies, regular ongoing talk therapy, there were things I had to accept that I didn’t want to. My fiercely independent and workaholic nature would be challenged again and again. Living with severe mental illness has affected my ability to work, to socialize, to drive at times, nearly destroyed my marriage, and also continually impacts my ability to care for myself in terms of daily living. I’ve had hallucinations, delusions, suicidial ideation, memory loss, confusion, extreme insomnia, and times when I could not even move for fear I would tear every hair out of my head if I did. I once forgot where I lived and could not get home without help. Another time, I mentally blacked out on the freeway while driving to work and didn’t know where I was or why I was in the car. There isn’t an aspect of my life that is not affected. I’ve said a lot of hurtful things to people and about people that haunts me. I’d like to say I am in control but the truth is that I had other plans, things I had to give up because bipolar disorder does not take a holiday. Some enjoy long periods of stability but I am a rapid cycler and go thru several cycles in a single year. The most difficult decision as a result of this was filing for disability and declaring honestly to the world I was no longer capable of holding down a full time career, much less a part time one in public without sudden and substantial time off to recover from episodes. Our society is not set up to accommodate disability of such an encompassing nature. You can’t take three breaks in the middle of doing the dishes. I’ve tried my best to squeeze my round person into the square hole but getting stuck costs more than if I had just admitted in the first place that I can’t do it anymore. I admire the tenacity of many of my mentally ill friends with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and schizoaffective disorder. I have friends who work, go to school, raise families. The most important thing you can understand on World Mental Health Day is that any mental health illness is a highly personal and unique journey. There is no one lifestyle, med combo, non med alternative, or therapy type that will fit all of us. We must be free to adapt and choose what’s best or appoint someone to make that decision for us. This year, I need the public to understand the entirety of mental health and not blanket judge us. I don’t hear voices but some do. I take 120 psych pills a month but some choose zero. I do not work outside the home or have children but others can. We cope on the go, so if you see someone out there who needs some spare change or a hug, why don’t you give it?