Of all the posts I have or will ever do, this one is by far the most scary & anxiety ridden. When I decided to start blogging publicly, I promised myself that I would be completely open and honest with myself and anyone that decided my writing was worth reading. Open and honest about my past, present, and hopes for the future. If sharing my story helps even a single person in the smallest of ways, it will be worth it. If you are or have struggled with mental illness, YOU ARE NOT ALONE, even if you are fighting through and “dealing” with it by yourself.. there has been someone else, there IS someone else that is fighting the same fight with you on the same second in the same hour on the same day as you. Draw strength from that, if you can, and keep pushing, keep fighting, keep waking up. I know it is scary and I know it is hard and I know it seems MUCH easier to just give up and give in.. Please don’t. I am living proof that IT DOES GET BETTER.. I promise you lovelies.. life will never be perfect, but it is worth living, even in the darkest of days and nights, IT IS WORTH LIVING and there is hope. I’ve been at the bottom, in that dark pit with slimy walls that won’t let you get a grip on to climb out of just as the flood waters start pouring in and you hold your breath as long as you can so you don’t drown.. I’ve been there, I’m still a visitor to that horrible place from time to time, but I no longer live there everyday. I did for over 19 years.. yea, you read that right.. from the time I was 13ish until JUST recently.. I lived and endured that slimy, water filling pit EVERY . SINGLE . DAY. So, if you are living there or even just a visitor, know that you are in very good company =) This is me “putting off” actually putting into words my past & present story with mental illness.. so, here it goes – the condensed “mental health timeline”
–post below may cause “triggers” in some, please proceed with caution if so.
Growing up, we knew my mom was clinically depressed. She was on medicine to manage it. My brother and I could always tell when she hadn’t had her medicine in a few days because she would get more sad and angry and anything little thing would make her mad/upset. It got worse after my dad died, but she managed it with strength and courage that makes me so proud to say that she’s my mom. AND she did it without the help of wine or alcohol of any kind, so that’s REALLY saying something! I’m ashamed to say it now, but as a kid/pre-teen all I can remember thinking was that I WAS NOT going to end up like my mom when it came to “life” aka depression/mental illness. I was not going to be sad or angry all the time, I was not going to have to be on medicine just to make it through the day, I was not going to be a bookworm or loner with few to no friends sitting with “no life” because I didn’t want to get dressed and go out.. I WAS NOT.. :: BIG FUCKING BRANCH – face smack :: –
I was 12 when it all first started. I became emotionally vacant and unbearably sad/distant. I couldn’t feel anything.. not anger or sadness but not happiness and joy either. I was teetering on the edge of a very dangerous slope & didn’t know how to voice it. This is when the hair plucking (trichotrillomania) and cutting began. I only cut on my thighs and right calf. This way, if anyone saw the cuts/scars, I could simply tell them I had gotten them while sliding during a softball game & no one would be the wiser. The next 2 years would forever be known as “the lying years”.. I lied about everything, for seemingly no reason. If mom asked me where i’d gone for lunch, I’d tell her burger king when I was obviously holding a McDonald’s cup. It was that bad, and no one, including myself, knew why I was doing it. After a particularly tough “life event” I was able to stop the lying, but it had already taken its toll on my life with friends & family. By the time I was 14, the bottom half of my legs were almost completely hairless, as I had damaged the hair follicle from plucking them so many times, and I had several permanent scars on my thighs and calf. This was also the year that I first remember having suicidal ideation type thoughts. I was 14 when I tried to commit suicide for the first time. I swallowed an entire carton of Nyquil, but thankfully, I have an incredibly high tolerance for medicine, still do actually. I was also 14 when I was first labeled with a mental illness, “depressive disorder with acute anxiety disorder” due to the stress and anxiety of things that had happened the previous year (more on this for another post) – I refused to be on medicine, I WAS NOT going to take medicine for the rest of my life for something, in my head, that was incredibly silly and ridiculous. I continued with the plucking and cutting as ways to deal with my ever present demon until everything finally came to a head during my sophomore year of high school. It was during this time that I spun dangerously out of control. I started stealing things, just for the fun and “thrill” of it. Nothing big, a lip gloss here.. a tank top or book there.. but even amongst the thrill seeking there was the ever present sadness and sense of no self worth or self esteem. On the outside, I was a smiling happy teenager. I had friends, I was dating, I was playing any sport they would allow me too, I was still getting good grades and I was still severely depressed, overly anxious, and dipping into dangerous thrill seeking “adventures.” I was 15 when I told my mom I was suicidal and we decided that I needed help, serious intervention type of help. I was 15 when I went into a mental hospital for 3 weeks. Yes, you read that correctly. During my sophomore year of high school, I spent 3 weeks in a mental hospital (one of which was spent on suicide watch) to try to help me “find the right medication & learn healthy coping mechanisms” for dealing with my depression and anxiety. Exactly 4 people outside of my family know this is where I actually was during this time, one of them being my now husband. So now, you know too… While the psychiatrists (that didn’t even listen), group therapy sessions (that were a joke) and medication (that didn’t do anything but “zombie” me out) were supposed to be the things “helping” me.. Real help for me came in the form of a nurse named Ms. Sherida & my roommate, Micki. If by some cosmic coincidence either of you ever read this post, please know you both saved my life, in the most literal sense, and I have not nor will I ever forget you. For the first time in my life, I had 2 people that knew what I felt and understood that had become my dungeon of darkness inside my own head. They helped me come out of the darkness and begin to see the little pin hole of light at the end of the tunnel. Although I haven’t spoken to or seen either of them since, I will be forever grateful for the life they gave me back.
At 16, I was in a terrible car accident that should’ve taken my life. Instead, it took half of my right leg and all of the hopes and dreams I had for my future. However, what could’ve been one of the worst experiences of my life, which.. it’s been the toughest thing I’ve EVER had to overcome, it was also one of the best in terms of “life perspective.” Seriously almost dying gives one a new outlook on life. I had something to fight for.. myself & my ability to prove the Dr’s wrong. Originally, they said I would lose my leg, I told them there was no way in hell that was happening, but I went into my 5th surgery not knowing if I would come out with a leg or not. I did, but all of the skin and fat layer of my right calf was completely gone & all that was left was the muscle. Skin was taken from my thighs to complete skin grafts over the muscles.. and just like that, within 7 surgeries.. all of my cutting scars were gone. It was like a clean slate, metaphorically speaking, and I’ve never had another urge to cut since then. Once I was home, and trying to reteach myself how to walk, I got low again & had many more low/depressed points and even a few “manic/thrill seeking” points in my life after that, but it wouldn’t be until I was in my early 20’s that I would seek help again.
Stress is one of the absolute worst things for one’s body and mind. While I thrive in stressful environments and situations, it also takes a toll on me emotionally. By the time I was 24, I had gotten my GED @ 17 gone to and graduated culinary school, gotten married at 18 and had a horrible divorce by 20, began my teaching career at 21, and gotten married to my high school best friend .. known in my posts as “husband.” While our friendship and dating days had been fantastic and heaven on earth, our marriage was the complete opposite at the time. Once again, I began to spiral. This time my “thrill seeking” came in the form of extravagant gifts for husband, whether we had the money or not. I would overdraft our account or use up our emergency credit cards to buy him a $600 tv or playstation or hats because i’d convinced myself he HAD to have them to be happy, that buying these things is what made me a good wife. The low self esteem, feeling of dread, and zero self worth returned with a vengeance. On the outside, I was an incredibly successful woman, I was a college instructor at 21 for God’s sake & had a “life that I loved” with a hot husband and a great group of friends that got together almost every weekend. Inside, I was spiraling and a complete mess. I was 24 when I tried suicidefor the 3rd time, failing once again. I knew the drill & that I needed help. I told my dr. what was going on and she prescribed Zoloft and therapy. WORST decision of my life. The medicine made everything worse & the therapist made me feel like everything going on was my fault! So, I stopped therapy and was switched to Celexa. Same thing but with the “fog effect” that never went away. That was it for med’s & therapy for me. I learned to “just deal” with everything I was going through & accepted the fact that this was simply how my life was going to be forever so I might as well learn how to live with it since I obviously sucked at actually taking my own life. I still had the suicidal ideation most every day and my demons stayed clung to me like my shadow, and then… little human was born. Not that she will ever know it, but she was the 3rd person to save my life, but this time.. she was saving me from myself and in not letting the emotions overtake me again. I had a little person that I grew inside of me that needed me. I was a mom & that meant everything. She gave me someone to live for & I relished in it. I felt the “fog” begin to lift.. Then, the hell that is post partum depression hit me full swing & I was right back where I started.. to top it off, it was around then that we got the diagnosis of “failure to thrive & developmentally delayed” and that fucking branch smacked me in the face again. Everything I though was finally going away came back and then some. I felt that way and resolved to “just deal with it” up until September of 2017.
In August of 2017, I was rushed to the hospital after passing out at work. I ended up having a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs) — same thing that killed my dad- and the Dr. actually said he didn’t know how I was still alive. I was hospitalized for 4 days and also diagnosed with sleep apnea and intracranial hypertension on the left side of my skull/brain which put me at a high stroke risk. I was also told I could never get pregnant again because it was now a life or death situation should I get pregnant. I also had to take a leave of absence from my job that I loved & was perfect, which led to me being let go from said job because I didn’t have enough time in for FMLA to be active yet. My world was crumbling before my eyes with the addition of daily sometimes hourly panic attacks, but I was NOT about to go down this rabbit hole again, not with my precious and innocent little human here watching me and being with me every day. She gave me the strength to know I needed help NOW. If not for myself, then for her, to have the kind of mother every little human deserves.
Enter the 3rd & 4th psychiatrists that I’ve been to in my life. After some rigorous testing & questioning, psychiatrist #1 explained to me that the anti-depressants never worked on me because I DID NOT have depression.. I was *bi-polar and had **borderline personality disorder as well as chronic *** non specific anxiety disorder. I thought she was even more crazy than I was! Here I was at 32 years old having been told since I was 12 that I had severe depression when that wasn’t the case at all. So, I got a second opinion.. same diagnosis. I of course went home and googled the shit out of all of these, and suddenly the light bulb clicked on. In reading these “symptoms” and criteria for each diagnosis, I saw myself clearly for the first time since I was a 12 year old kid. It all finally made sense and I can’t explain the amount of relief that swept over me. There was FINALLY hope and something that could actually be managed. I was overwhelmed & frankly REALLY pissed off that had the 2 psychiatrists I’d seen before (plus those I saw during my hospital stay) would’ve taken the time to actually do the testing and probing questions, that I could’ve avoided 15 or so years of carrying these shadows around with me all this time. *-I started a mood stabilizer specifically made for bipolar depression, as well as an antianxiety medicine and 2 blood/brain barrier method supplements. Within 2 weeks I was feeling better and the anxiety had almost completely gone away. She and I have worked and tweaked medication added and taken away to see what works specifically for my type of bipolar/BPD/anxiety & (knock on wood) as of about 3 weeks ago, I have NEVER felt better. I can only explain it as the fog has finally lifted, and the drenching rain has left leaving only partly cloudy skies with sunshine coming through. It has taken almost 20 years, and I am finally coming out from under the shadow that mental illness has had over my life.
I am one of the lucky ones, despite what I have gone through and fought through to get to this point in my life. I was able to hang on and continue fighting for myself even through the stigma that surrounds mental illness. I was ill, I will always be ill, but now we have found a combination of medication that, while it is not a cure, can keep the symptoms from “flaring up” and causing havoc on my life. Life.. I have a life with my hot husband and my little human.. and I am so very grateful for it.
So lovelies.. that is the story of my past and present battle with mental illness. I am no longer ashamed to be the 1 in 9 that will develop a mental illness in their lifetime. I am happy and honored to be a voice and a face for those facing the same issues and stigma. To those 1 in 9 – find a psychiatrist/Dr who believes in you, who listens to you, and who will fight to get a CORRECT diagnosis so you can start treatment. Get a second and third opinion if something just feels off. Find a psychiatrist/Dr that has an open door policy as far as calling/emailing when a medication isn’t working or something just doesn’t feel right. There are people out there willing to fight for and with you, you just have to seek them out. Always remember.. you ARE NOT ALONE IN YOUR PAIN. There are literally thousand’s of us out there, hands extended, ready to help you up out of the slimy pit. You are better than your illness & I’m here to tell you that YOU TOO CAN BEAT IT.
Those of you that have never dealt with anything like this, or who are shocked at some of the events I mentioned as part of my past.. be gentle and kind. Look around you, it is more likely than not that someone in your circle or family (this includes kids too) is battling some sort of demon. Get involved, do not make anyone feel ashamed for feeling the way their brain is telling them to. Instead of judging something you have no idea of, extend a hand and a hug, let them know it will be ok and that someone out there cares enough to listen without judging and to help them get the help they need to become a better person. Talk to your kids about mental illness, not as a “buzz word” but as something they might experience in their lifetime, if only for a short while. Only we can break down the barriers of this dreadful and debilitating illness & we have to be in it together.
I am adding some link’s to a few books I found incredibly interesting and/or helpful during all of my research of my illnesses within the past several years. A few are “self help” type books & a few are stories/biographies from other people that have journeyed down the path I and many others have found ourselves on.
For those of you wondering, here are the definitions of the above mentioned illnesses/disorders & the current medication regime I am on.
*Bipolar disorder: a mental disorder marked by alternating periods of elation and depression.
**Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): Borderline personality disorder typically involves unusual and unstable mood levels, and ‘black and white’ thinking from one extreme to the other. Other characteristics include chaotic personal relationships, low levels of self-image, identity and behavior alongside a disturbance in a person’s sense of oneself.
–Depression: a state of feeling sad : dejection,anger, anxiety, and : a mood disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies
The Burn Journals: Fans of Thirteen Reasons Why, Running with Scissors and Girl, Interrupted will be entranced by this remarkable true story of teenage despair and recovery
Go Ask Alice: A teen plunges into a downward spiral of addiction in this classic cautionary tale.
I Wrote This For You: “I need you to understand something. I wrote this for you. I wrote this for you and only you. Everyone else who reads it, doesn’t get it.
Thirteen Reasons Why: if you’ve seen the series READ THE BOOK!! You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.
Self Compassion: Unlike self esteem or an inflated confidence level, self-compassion is a different way of looking at yourself and others, warts and all, and a way more realistic acceptance of the way things are.
Depression is the PITS!: I have lived with depression for thirty years and have learned a few things that help me to manage it, broken down into easy to follow steps, including hints for someone living with a person who has depression. I share my journey in the hope that it may help someone who is struggling the way I was.
I HATE YOU.. Don’t leave me: understanding the world of Borderline Personality Disorder: After more than two decades as the essential guide to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), this new edition now reflects the most up- to-date research that has opened doors to the neurobiological, genetic, and developmental roots of the disorder as well as connections between BPD and substance abuse, sexual abuse, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, ADHD, and eating disorders.