I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.
A little bit about my own struggle with what I choose to call mental “interestingness” because I refuse to labeled “ill.” I have been clinically diagnosed since I was a child with chronic depression which I struggled largely on my own. My parents were too involved in their own career ambitions and other “dramatic” situations to realize that I was suicidally depressed at the age of 12.
Most of my depression I now attribute to an organic chemical imbalance as well as the situation I lived in. I was bullied in school (starting in grammar school and continuing through high school) for being “different from the other students. For example, I was very bright and curious for my age so my parents had me tested for our school district’s “Gifted” student program which included an IQ test aimed at grade school students. I scored in the 98th percentile which meant that for one hour every day, I went to another class. The kids I went to school with thought that I was stuck-up and above everybody else because I got to leave the regular class. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
In reality, I was profoundly sad because I had no friends, I tried to make myself “small” so nobody would notice me, and I was extremely shy and inhibited. I cried easily which the other students used to my detriment. I cannot remember feeling anything close to happiness until college, and by then, I already had one serious suicide attempt under my belt. I had just convinced the psychiatrist I had been seeing and hating every minute of seeing that I was fine and no longer needed his services. About a week later, I swallowed a bottle of aspirin. Something in me wouldn’t let me go through with it though, and I called my best friend to come and get me. Even at that time, I would not try to get help from my family because by then, I also felt like a huge burden to them because there was clearly something wrong with me. I used to wonder why I couldn’t just be a little more like my younger sister who seemed to float through life. Why did everything for me have be difficult? I still have trouble listening to Metallica’s “Fade to Black” which is about suicide and the soundtrack I chose for my first attempt.
Later that year, I was assaulted by the guy I was seeing at the time. I was 16 and 4 months old. It was in the fall right after the State Fair had finished, so I am guessing October. After that I really couldn’t have cared less about anything least of all myself. I began to hang out with older kids, runaways, hippies, bikers, anyone who might have weed. I managed to keep myself away from the hard drugs until I was about 18. I had also applied for concurrent enrollment at the University here so I could finish my senior year and start my freshman year at the same time. I guess I was what people would call happy during that time, but I think that was an illusion. I spent a lot of my time self-medicating. There is too much to tell about that period of my life without writing a short story. We’ll just say it was a very dysfunctional happiness.
My current therapist of about 10 years think that I had moved beyond chronic depression somewhere in those late teen years. I had “graduated” to full blown Bipolar disorder. However, I was so thoroughly “medicated,” no doctor or counselor picked it up. There was about three or four more suicide attempts between then and the total and complete nuclear meltdown that I experienced in my very early 30’s. That was a depressive episode unlike anything I had ever experienced. I was agoraphobic, having panic attacks, and suffering from acute anxiety. How I made it to the first appointment with my therapist still eludes me. I guess I was determined to figure out what was wrong with me because something was really, really wrong this time. By this time, I had tried suicide about 4 times. was actively trying to drink myself to death, and had been through drug rehab and been arrested twice.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Depression type I with Psychotic Tendencies at the age of about 31 along with Panic Disorder with and with out Agoraphobia, Generalized Anxiety and ADD. As far as I was concerned life was over. I became a “frequent flyer” at the psych hospital where they tried numerous medications to stabilize my moods. I don’t know what was worse, the moods or the drugs.I was what they call treatment resistant although I was compliant, and did give each and every new medication a go until side effects would force me to stop. I think they finally stabilized me on atypical anti-psychotics, benzodiazepines and Adderall in 2006 when I was nearly 35. I can’t even imagine what mt parents went through. My mom hung in there to the best of her ability, and my father disengaged from me. My mom still hangs in there with me, and I haven’t seen my father for about three years. I have talked to him three times in that time frame.
Now that I have achieved what I call a “stable” madness, I will talk to people about what it is like to live with these challenges on a daily basis because I have come to view life as a challenge to be overcome not thrown away, I have become a practicing Buddhist, I have not tried to kill myself in 5 years, and I have started a blog detailing what life is like with a primary diagnosis of Bipolar disorder with all of its glorious ups and dismal downs. I have chosen to be minimally medicated so that I can still feel emotion in a relatively normal way, and I have chosen to be completely open about my “interestingness” in the hopes that someone else could possibly see themselves in me, and realize they are not suffering alone nor are they flawed in any way. I have chosen to do so in order to show people that those of us that they consider weird or different are not all that strange at all; we simply experience and perceive the world through a different lens just like everyone else, and that we are not the scary monsters the media turns us into. If I can change the mind of one person about what mental health issues are truly about, then I have made a dent.