You are not alone. I am not alone.

The truth. Something we all seek yet sometimes it’s more than we can bare. Here’s my truth, or I should say, truths. I am 31 years old. I’m a single mother of an amazing little boy. I have a strong support system so that I can go out into the world and do the things I love to do. Wether it be; writing novels, acting, cooking or whatever else my fingers outstretch to grab onto. When I was a teenager my dentist told me he suspected I had TMJ. Around the same time my doctor told me my gallbladder was bad, but if I ate healthy and stayed away from fatty foods I would be able to manage it well without surgery. My “female zone” doctor aka the gyno, told me she believed I had endometriosis. All the while I found myself in a dark place in my mind wondering what the hell was wrong with me. I went on for many years before my most difficult diagnosis was reached. Bipolar type 1. Here I am staring at those words on my screen and for the first time in God knows how long, it doesn’t make me angry. Over the years many more diagnoses appeared. Bipolar disorder type 1-rapid cycling, depression, anxiety, psoriasis, eczema, ADHD, severe acid reflux, abnormal mens. cycle, PCOS, IBS and hypothyroidism. (I honestly could have missed something here.) I was also told I could never have children. You can imagine my surprise when an ER doctor told me I was pregnant. Every single thing a doctor has told me I have, comes with its own list of symptoms. Every medication I take to rectify these things comes with their own side effects. Such as my mood stabilizer (lithium) caused my hypothyroidism and it is a permanent condition. I once had a doctor tell me if she didn’t see my age on the chart she would have assumed I was 40-50 years old. I was in my mid 20’s at the time. That was not a good sign. After searching high and low and trying things that didn’t work, with help I’ve found supplements that help with a huge amount of my issues and I am grateful I found them.

Why am I talking about all of the things “wrong” with me? Truth. My truth. The truth that no matter how many disorders they slap on my chart, they do not define me. They do not own me. I can only take care of myself the best I can and hope for a little compassion on days it’s hard to get out of bed. Having these issues has in part shaped me into who I am. I know from my mental disorders aka invisible illnesses, that you never know what someone else is going through. It’s possible that day at the grocery store where a stranger was rude in passing, it was just their “hard day” and who am I to judge? As if I haven’t experienced such a day. Sadly, for a very long time those were all of my days for weeks at a time. On the other side of that I do get very frustrated with the human race. Why is it I have all these things pulling me down and I can still offer a smile in passing, or a hello? Just be kind. You don’t have to agree with another’s POV and sometimes they are wrong but you can still treat them with respect.

Depression with or without the bipolar component is no joke. Seriously. It sucks. It drags you down by your ankle’s and holds you under water. You may feel like you’re drowning but it just won’t seem to end and you want it to desperately. I will tell you from experience, “Why can’t you just be happy” is the biggest asshole move you can make when talking to someone who suffers from it. We do suffer. That’s why all the books I write are very dark. To me, it has its own identity living inside of me. I call it the darkness. Similar to Dexter’s dark passenger I suppose, except I’m not a murderer! I don’t know if labeling it is healthy or not I just know it works for me. I know as quickly as it arrived and as short or long as it stays it will eventually go away. Truth. people who suffer from bipolar disorder will relapse. Period. With proper treatment (medication and therapy usually) it can become less often and not as severe. I’m proud to say that after 4 years of treatment that is true. I also know a lot of my creative talents are strongly linked to me being bipolar, so I suppose I wouldn’t want it gone completely. Getting used to it being less frequent was actually difficult. I know what you’re thinking, why on earth would she want to be depressed? That is not what I’m saying. Since I don’t have any other option, I’m glad I can use it for good. To help like-minded people. To use it and what I’ve gone through having it, in my work and be able to share how strongly I feel emotion. Rage, sadness, love. Everything is intensified during a swing in the cycle. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder know the one plus side to it is mania (at least for us.) It’s dangerous and can cause major issues but it’s almost like a high and once you’ve tasted it it’s hard to let it go. I could go on for days about being bipolar but I won’t. If you want an insider view, I did write a book of quotes that I published in May 2015 called, Ramblings From an Unusual Mind. All of the interior images were taken by me and all of the quotes are original by me from my personal journal I write in when I’m suffering from depression. It’s raw and honest and I decided to share it for two reasons. One, so that other’s like me may find comfort that they are not alone. Two, so that those who know someone who suffers from depression can see from an inside perspective what that truly feels like. There no longer is a reason for me to feel ashamed about how I feel. Especially when it is caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain.

When my son was only 1 month old he had to have emergency surgery for pyloric stenosis. I was a new mom, single and at the time not in therapy or medicated. It was brutal. He had surgery on Thanksgiving Day. To any parent having to watch your child go through something like that and feeling helpless is absolute torture. When my son was diagnosed with autism between 1 or 2 years old, my world came down hard. I was not taking very good care of myself, being I was 100% focused on my son and my well being was the last thing on my mind. I don’t regret that now but I am glad I’ve found balance to take care of both of us. I wouldn’t say I was shocked when they told me but I was definitely in denial for a little while. I now find it to be a blessing. He is the happiest kid I have ever seen and as we learn new ways to communicate the more excited and happy we both become. Truth. My bipolar swings were ruthless during that first year after his diagnosis. I finally broke down to the point that I said I needed help. How was I strong enough to do that for myself after living with it all of these years? There’s only one answer, my son. I wanted to be a stable force in his life. Not the bat shit crazy mom everyone wondered why she was aloud to have a kid in the first place. Any parents to a child knows it’s not all rainbows and butterfly’s when raising a kid. Parent’s of autistic children know that a meltdown from their child is like a major war being waged as opposed to a battle. There are days my darkness comes back and I fight it as long as I can while it tries to consume me. Reminding myself that I can get through this for myself and for my son. My loved ones stay strong for me which is a huge reason I am doing so well. Having a strong support system of family or friends or a combination of the both is vital in my opinion. Then there are those moments where I think I can’t pull myself out and then my son laughs this belly laugh and then I’m laughing and sometimes that’s all it takes to pull me up out of that damn water. I had no idea when I was pregnant that my son would be the one to save me.

I guess my point to this entire thing is this, just because it feels like a curse it doesn’t mean there isn’t some sort of silver lining or gift from it. Anyone could look at me at the corner coffee shop I like to write at and never know I have suffered, I do suffer, from a long list of things. Just because you can’t see it or feel it does not mean it isn’t there hiding under the skin. Treat each other kindly. Treat each other in a way that makes you proud of yourself. Actually, treat other kindly because your own child is watching you. You show them what is right and wrong and what you can get away with when no one is looking. Let’s raise our kids the right way. Take care of yourself, you deserve it. Also, you’d be amazed at how much a friendly hello, a smile, or a honest compliment to a stranger can change their attitude for the entire rest of the day. Hell, it does for me.

Remember, Simba… just kidding. Remember, you are not alone. I am not alone. Say it with me.

-Andrea

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