But there’s something I’m not telling you. Something that relates directly to having a mental illness. It’s the weight I’ve gained from taking medication that is causing these aches and pains. It’s the hunger that comes with some medications and the lack of direction on how to avoid that weight gain. Now I’m on the warpath about weight gain and how unnecessary it is for those of us who take medication and who are experiencing these bad side-effects.
Here is a question: are those who struggle with mental health disorders (or who have struggled with them) outsiders? A majority of the world may say that they are because stigma is so prevalent around the topic. I looked at my daughter last night though and told her we are the most amazing outsiders there are, the survivors and the fighters of mental health disorders. We can lend a voice to the world and vast perspectives. Together we can open doors and we will!!
We are dealing with (in most cases) a chronic illness that will have periods of remission and periods of relapse. Mental illness is complex, our children are growing and developing, changing at a very rapid pace. So treatments that worked at one point may not at another. And, treatments that were unsuccessful at one age may be very successful a year or two later. Over and over we were told ‘this is a marathon, not a sprint’ so pace yourself. We are told on airplanes to put on our own oxygen masks before helping our child. The same holds true here – if we are run down, depleted, and spent, we cannot adequately help our child. Self-care is not indulgent, it’s a matter of survival.
I share these symptomatic stories in an effort to better define for you the meaning of bipolar psychosis. But for me, these memories are like a string around my finger, helping me remember why it’s so important to stay healthy. Knowing I’ve survived this experience humbly makes me proud. For 18 years I’ve held these memories close, because returning to planet mania is not an option.
With regards to living with anxiety (agoraphobia) and depersonalization/de-realization, every day is an often silent battle, as is the case with the majority of us. I realize that, logically, a five minute walk to the corner shop may not seem as challenging as getting on a bus and travelling into my local village, but please know that, in my eyes, I have just conquered Everest.
As a person living with schizophrenia, I am thoroughly convinced that going public with my diagnosis was the right idea. I stand behind my ideals because it is not fair for our culture to make us the target of ridicule and shame. Being authentic is the only thing that matters. We were born this way, mutant and proud. As the day we were born. Each and every one of us.
People assumed that since I worked in medicine I had an abundance of support, but to be honest I believe I felt more pressure to keep my dark friend hidden. There is even a stigma that exists in the medical field because mental health disorders still come with a lack of understanding and fear. They are not necessarily something you can see with an ultrasound or view under a microscope, so it is that unknown that causes misunderstanding.
Since my depression and mental breakdown, my life has changed. One aspect is how I now see myself and others. Kindness has become an important aspect of life that I now recognize more readily. I have a more complete understanding of myself and the world around me. Being kind is so important. It’s the most powerful way to have a positive impact on people. And it’s readily accessible to all.