Yesterday I opened an email from The Girl - an email containing a request to guest post and a piece of writing. And just like that, my Mother’s heart filled with all manner of warm and fuzzy feelings, pride being the frontrunner.
Back in April I wrote about the guilt I felt over having a child with a mental illness. I also said I wouldn’t write about their journey because it was their story to tell, if and when they were ready.
That email I mentioned? Said she was ready.
The Girl’s Story
Over the course of my twenty-two years I’ve let a lot of things define me. I am a writer, a poet, a dreamer, a sister, a daughter and a student. I have a 3.0 GPA in college and am working on a degree that only three other people are going for in my school. Four people in an entire school are working toward and English Literature degree, that astounds me beyond words. I am nearly finished with my path to conversion and will, as of next week, be Jewish. I cannot begin to express the joy that all of the things bring into my life, but that is something to discuss another day.
What I refuse to let define me is the very thing I’ve been hiding for over a year, something that started at the beginning of the school year last fall and hasn’t gone away. I was scared and maybe even in a bit of denial, not wanting to admit that what was going on was getting bad until it was so out of hand that I couldn’t hide it and had no choice but to talk to someone.
A couple of my close friends will know I’ve been bouncing through therapists since early April. By “Bouncing through” I mean I was having trouble finding someone who would listen to me. Living in a small town, surrounded by other small towns unless you want to drive an hour, there weren’t a lot of options on where to go. It took me three months just to find one who listens to me, who I feel comfortable enough with that I can talk about what’s really going on. Since February, my parents and brothers have been my rocks. They’ve been with me every step of the way. My mom’s been my biggest supporter, even going to appointments with me and listening to all the crazy days of tears or angry screams, reminding me that problems like this often takes years to be diagnosed.
It took me about four months and a bad decision to be diagnosed. A few weeks ago I finally managed to get an appointment with a psychiatrist in a town about half an hour away, close to where my therapy appointments are. I calmly explained to her my symptoms and it’s been determined that stress has been the trigger for everything. I swallow my stress, in doing so I’ve given myself some pretty bad anxiety and a lot of other problems, I didn’t even know how bad it was until it became out of control. As a way to try and lessen the stress and maybe help some of the symptoms, I was prescribed some antidepressant and antipsychotic medication. And that is how I found myself where I am now.
The antidepressant didn’t take away my anxiety. In fact, it made it worse and spiraled me into a manic phase that I’m only beginning to come down from. I felt fine, I felt like I could run a marathon or swim miles through the ocean. I wasn’t sleeping and was living off soda and candy bars. I had all these brilliant ideas that seemed like the best thing ever, but before I could follow through with one I’d think of another, my thoughts moving so fast that I couldn’t focus on anything to save my life. But I felt fine, I wanted to cut my hair and tattoo myself. I even thought about giving myself new piercings, who needs to go pay someone for that, anyway? I wanted to run around and party. I felt like I could do anything and I never had to sleep.
I didn’t do any of that. Not because I didn’t want to, but when I started acting differently my family, specifically my mom and dad, were aware enough of it that they sat me down. My mom told me that she thought I was entering a manic phase and was watching me. I asked her if she’d accompany me to my next appointment and took the action of locking myself inside the house. I wanted to do so many things, stupid things just for the hell of it. Because, why not? I was bored. But I didn’t.
Enter the second psychiatrist appointment. I was so distracted by silly things, like the pictures on the wall or my own thoughts, that I couldn’t finish most of my sentences, fortunately mom was following my disjointed thought pattern and finished every one of them, even adding her own comments. The doctor told me I should’ve called, and instructed me to stop taking the antidepressants, promptly starting me on a heavy dose of lithium.
I am bipolar. Because of the reasons I began to go to start with, I’m Bipolar Type One. The diagnosis was a mixed bag of things. At the time it was given I was so relieved to finally have an answer, especially one that explained why I was experiencing what I was. But, as I come down from the manic phase and am able to think more clearly, I’m finding that while I’m relieved, I have to remind myself again and again that this changes nothing. I’m still the same person I was before. I’m not the disorder and I won’t let the stigma define me. I remind myself that I may not need to be on medication my entire life, but for now it is necessary to get myself back into a healthy lifestyle. I tell myself I need to stop some of the things I’ve been doing, things that aren’t healthy and will only make the disorder worse.
Now, of course, all I want to do is sleep. It feels as though all the weeks of sleep I missed out on is catching up to me all at once. Each day I feel a little more like the ‘me’ I know and less like ‘manic me’ that can’t tell anything’s wrong. I have an answer, and I was lucky and got it a lot faster than I expected I would. Now my goal is to focus on getting myself into a better place, and learning new ways to deal with it.
One thing I can’t shake is the idea that some of my friends will stop speaking to me after this comes out, that they’ll hear the name of the beast and think I’m a freak or that somehow overnight I’ve changed. But the thing is, I haven’t. I’m still the same girl I’ve always been, that hasn’t changed. What’s changed is there’s a name to call the beast, a way to address it when I tell it I am stronger than it is. I will not let it consume me and I am not my disorder. I refuse to let the stigma push me down and hide part of me like it’s something I should be ashamed of. I’m choosing not to be ashamed; I’m choosing not to hide because I have no reason why I should. I am not my disorder, I’m stronger than it and I haven’t changed. I’m the same girl I’ve always been.
I Am Not My Disorder
I am not my disorder
I am in charge of my life,
What I know is right
I’m a survivor, a fighter
I’m the decider of my destiny
I am not my disorder
I will not let the stigma define me
Or be all that people see.
I am the same beautiful, caring girl I was before
The same me you’ve always seen
I am my friend and my own worst enemy
My mind is my safe haven
And my toughest battle
I am in charge of my fate
I am the master of my life
I will fight the stigma
I am not my disorder
I am simply me, the same me you’ve always seen.