Today was a hard day. Days similar to today have tried to break me and sometimes I think where I find my strength is keeping it all deep inside of me wrapped up tightly with all the other things I bury for the sake of others.
I often write about how being bipolar feels to me. How depression binds me. I tend to shy away from sharing the part of what it is I actually go through to heal, to survive. The experiences themselves I hide only showing the pretty words strung together in a useable quote. To protect myself, to protect other’s maybe. Not today. Today I had to start over with a re-assesment of my mental health and well-being. I have come quite far from when I started my self-care just over five years ago. Yet, I cannot seem to do more than survive.
I walked into the office feeling the same I do most days though it’s hard to describe. I mostly go through the motions of what needs to be done to get to the next day only to repeat the cycle. Lying to my brain that tomorrow, we can breathe, we can relax, we can have a good day and maybe we can do something we want to do without criticism, without guilt, without a time limit as my time has not been my own for such a long time now. So, I walk in and sit down and BamBam the therapy dog climbs up his giant stairs onto my psychiatrist’s desk and sits right in front of my face waiting for his pets.
Isn’t he adorable? So sweet and seemingly concerned of my well being. Throughout the session I would watch this look overtake my doctor filled with sadness, concern and so much empathy for what it is I endure. I was uncomfortable, I didn’t understand why? It seems that look is gone from so many familiar faces it was unrecognizable. Conditioned that what I endure is not as bad as it feels or not as severe because I am strong, because I survive, because I am a talented actress and the best performance of my life, is my life and because I am shown that I am selfish making such an experience feel unworthy. I fought tears during the 90 minute season as if crying was painful, or not allowed but really when I start I often cannot stop. Sure sometimes I want to be held, in silence but mostly I prefer these moments are when I am alone. I feel myself betraying myself by doing such a thing in front of another human being. Every part of my being screams to stop, Stop, STOP! I do temporarily, at least until she pokes another trigger.
I have control issues. Anytime I have “let go,” the consequences have been astronomical and I carry them always. They are as much a part of me as my bones, skin and blood is. The things that break me in session, are the same things that have been slowly killing me, making me sicker physically and mentally. It is part of who I am, to feel everything so intensely or feel nothing at all. I’m not really sure if that is part of my personality at this point or just a combination of Bipolar Disorder and all the other labels slapped on my chart. The main triggers, are naturally things I am not in control of. I drift while she types, watching BamBam now in his tiny dog bed, belly up and snoring louder than something so small should be able to. The third time she mentions how difficult my situation must be due to my son’s autism, I correct her firmly. “He is not a trigger.” My love for him and his for me is unconditional. WE accept each other exactly as we are. No one else does that. Maybe that is why the bond between mother and son or father and daughter seem to be so strong. I explained and she accepted.
After adding another diagnostic issue to my chart she asks cautiously if I would be wiling to see a trauma therapist. (Meanwhile I can still see my regular therapist.) Now of course how far I’ve come seems minuscule at this point. She says something along the lines of, “I know to you, you may not think what you have experienced is trauma but it doesn’t have to be physical to be considered trauma. You show classic sign of PTSD from the trauma you have experienced (specifically these 2 instances, including the sudden seemingly random onset of your disorder almost 18-19 years ago) and you have been in survival mode ever since.” My eyes filled quickly and suddenly. So much truth is, hard. I answer her questions, telling her things I would never tell another soul (but I want to feel better, so I do.) Telling her things I have told other’s but had received no reprieve or true help besides empty words, disinterest, judgment, etc. Blah, blah, blah.
We make a plan of action, the best we can with the hand we are dealt. BamBam wakes and comes over to me to say his goodbyes. I leave physically exhausted, mentally drained. Today was a hard day.
I left to pick my son up from school and we went home. Continued with all the things I am supposed to do, have to do to survive. Did all the things I can muster the strength to do with a smile; so my son is happy, healthy and feels loved for being exactly who he is, every single part of him that makes him who he is and allowing him to exist the way he needs ands wants to. My turn isn’t a real thing. It’s a wish list my doctor has on my chart and on this list there are other things she wants for me that I won’t allow myself to dwell on, to want (when I can help it), knowing there is always a barter to be made for a fraction of what I may want and sometimes a punishment of sorts for thinking about myself. Fighting for things I should have a right to, well I do not have the energy, will power or time for such silly things.
Tomorrow I will feel a little better, until I don’t again. Back and forth. My mental illness is a neurological (and genetic) condition I did nothing to aquire and no longer can tell if I deserve. But don’t worry, in a few days I’ll gather myself and be back to the approved version I have been shown, I am allowed to be.
Today was a hard day.
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.