I am a bird, trapped on a raft in the middle of the ocean. My wings are tied around me, and I know one strong wave could toss me into the ocean below. I try to find my footing, balancing delicately on the too small raft, and somehow I feel the ropes around me loosen. My wings are free. I’m free. I fly from the raft towards the light. I am the light. I can see the shore, filling me with hope and joy. I soar as high and as far as I can. But, suddenly I’m ripped from the sky and plunged into the sea, down into the darkness. It’s cold and so big. It’s no use, I think, watching the light fade from sight. The darkness pulls me deeper, so heavy, so opaque that I know I may never see the light again. I’m drowning and my lungs are burning. My wings are broken. I am broken. It would be so easy to give up. But I can’t. I can’t, because I remember the light. I remember what it feels like to have its warmth on my face, and how it dances across the water. With everything I have, I fight, and kick, and claw my way back to the surface, pulling myself back onto the raft. There, I wait…until my wings are healed or I’m tossed back to the waves.
Journal entry – January, 2008
I don’t think there is any other way to describe how I feel every day. I wrote that journal entry before I knew I was battling a mental illness.
I’ve always been described as moody, and felt like I was jumping down a rabbit hole, not knowing what I was going to find each morning when I woke. Even as a child, my moods were quick to change and continued into my teens, where I experience my first bought of crippling depression.
My early twenties ushered in my first taste of mania. I found myself bouncing around from place to place, friend to friend, booze to drugs, and battling constant ups and downs. I lost jobs, lost dear friends, and lost a lot of weight. I was a 93 lb ball of energy, running barefoot around down town because I heard the sound of drums and I had to find them. I had to join them. I was fun, and unpredictable. I was charismatic and adventurous. Until I wasn’t.
I knew who I was this morning, but I’ve changed a few times since then.
– Lewis Carroll
I wasn’t that person anymore because I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t shower. I smelled like vomit because my bulimia was taking over my every waking thought. I couldn’t be that person because I wanted to hide. I didn’t want anyone to see the cuts and scars that zigzagged over my arms and legs and hips. I didn’t want anything.
Fast forward five years and I found myself sitting on a couch in a small, nicely decorated office. Across from me, a doctor about my age, asked me questions. I was nervous. My palms were sweaty and my stomach was in knots. I was also tired, and sad, but mostly, numb. I just had a baby, and still carried an extra 50 pounds of weight which felt like 100. I thought I was just dealing with postpartum depression. I answered her questions the best I could, shifting my uncomfortable and foreign body each time.
This was not my first time sitting on a couch discussing my past, my current behavior, or my feelings. This was, however, the first time I saw a psychiatrist. This was my first time to actually try to get some answers and find help. I felt the weight of my answers just as heavy as the extra pounds that still clung to my body. I couldn’t bullshit my way out of this appointment. My answers didn’t just affect me, I now had a little boy to care for.
After several appointments, different combinations of medication, and a few psych evaluations, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I felt a little of that weight lift knowing that I what I was dealing with had a name. Bipolar. But, that weight was quickly replaced with shame. What would my husband think? My family?
It took me awhile to come to terms with being diagnosed with a mental illness. I have, however, always been grateful that I am able to receive treatment. Thankful for an amazing doctor, for medications that keep my as stable as they can, and for the support I’ve been given.
“I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say, because of you I didn’t get up.”
I want to remind everyone, do not be ashamed of your story! Mental health is just as important as physical health. You can help end the stigma. We don’t have to feel ashamed. I am still the same person I was before you found out I had a mental illness and so is your family member, friend, sister, colleague…Share your story. You never know who might need to hear it.
Do you have a story that you want to share? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.