For as long as I can remember, I have swung from “good” periods of productivity, success, (and yes, sometimes stupidity), to “bad” periods of depression and physical illness. Surprisingly, for someone doing a PhD in psychology perhaps, I never twigged that I had Bipolar disorder. My diagnosis was a complete surprise, but when I had time to process the information everything kind of clicked into place. “Ohhhhh!” I thought to myself. “Well. THAT explains a few things.”
When I first met my husband, and indeed, beforehand, I was in my late teens and keen on rebelling against any kind of authority (or “The Man”, as I often referred to it). During the week I worked full-time at a childcare centre in the kind of area you wouldn’t want to walk alone in at night. I inwardly mocked the business types I shared the train with in the morning. Slaves to “The Man”. I would think. (The fact that I, too, was taking the train to work to earn a living didn’t seem to occur to me. Oh, the innocence of youth!). On the weekends I lived in (as my husband fondly recalls) “golfer shorts and Nirvana t-shirts). I painted my nails black, stuck safety pins through my ears, grafittied my converse sneakers with random lines from songs I liked, and seemed to think I was some sort of new wave punk rocker or some shit. I was also manic.
I barely slept for the best part of a year. I would be lucky to get two or three hours a night, but yet I never felt tired. I drank, sometimes heavily. I went to random parties held by complete strangers, on occasion three different parties a night. I got into cars with people I didn’t know, drag racing down the main highway, laughing as the car slid on the slippery wet road, ending up in some God forsaken part of town where “Gangsta’s Paradise” was literally playing as we walked. I was fucking invincible.
And then I wasn’t.
I crashed and burned. Physically ill, I found myself fighting Glandular Fever for well over a year. Chronic Fatigue. Depression. Somedays I struggled to get out of bed. I hated myself. Eventually I had to quit my job. I changed track. Bought new clothes. Threw out my converse sneakers, enrolled at university and changed my persona to “nerd”. I studied and studied and studied. Through the night. Over the weekends. I received high grades and prestigious awards. I was productive. I was successful.
And then I wasn’t.
I fell into another depression. Lost weight. Contemplated suicide. Had to cut back on the number of university units I was enrolled in. I was sick and lethargic and found I had a gluten intolerance in the days before “raw” food was the shiz and it was “cool” to be gluten-free.
And so the pattern goes.
This year was by far the biggest crash I have ever had. I’ve been hospitalised before – but never in a locked ward. I’ve been suicidal before – but not to the extent of trying to off myself in the corner of a toilet while my one on one nurse waited outside. I’ve spent most of my life hearing voices – but I’ve never actually experienced visual hallucinations. I’ve taken medication before – but I’d never had ECT. I’ve been sick before. But I’ve never had to spend five months in hospital.
I look back and try to see if there was a trigger. For me, a depression is usually preceded by some sort of “high” or “productive” episode. And yeah. I was productive. I was studying a PhD (a full-time load in only three days a week), AND working as a research assistant, AND preparing for a national conference. I had a toddler. I did the lions share of cooking, washing, cleaning. My sleep was broken and interrupted, I often found myself working on my thesis at 3am when I couldn’t sleep.
“Balance!” my family and my medical team tell me. I need balance! I tip the scale and push myself and end up falling, only to claw my way out time and time again. Then tip the scale in the other direction because I have to make up for all the time I have lost.
I simply can’t do this anymore.
I just can’t.
I’m still in the tail end of a “low”. I’m physically sick and find it, some days more than others, hard to keep my spirits up. I’m scared, not just of the depression, but of the prospect of another “high” that may see me lose control. I will not, CANNOT be hospitalized again. My life has spiraled and spiraled and this year. It almost killed me. I’m a Mum. I need to be here for the child I created.
I don’t know how to recover, and I don’t know how to stay stable. But I do know that now is ENOUGH. From now on I refuse to become a slave, not to “The Man”, but to the illness that threatens my happiness, career, life and family. I will not go through this again.
I will not be beaten.
Photo credit: Pixabay
An amazing piece by STIGMAMA contributor, Kitt O’Malley regarding mysticism, spirituality, and mental health. Thank you, Kitt for putting words to the wisdom. Reblogged with permission of author.
Originally posted on Kitt O'Malley:
My grandfather died when I was twenty-one. Upon returning home from his memorial mass where I gave his eulogy, I experienced an altered state of consciousness when crossing the Bay Bridge. My skin tingled, I felt an energy push out of my skin, and I felt a new cleansing energy fill me to replace the old energy. At first the experience concerned me, for I was driving after all, but I signalled a lane change, safely changed lanes, found that I was still aware of my surroundings, and decided it was safer to continue driving that to stop in the middle of the bridge. I went on to experience at will, usually by staring into a candle flame, a series of altered states that felt either cleansing or seductive. Ever since that time, I have identified with mystics. Since I had a history of severe suicidal depression, I realized then that if I…
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