Tonight, I am going to take a chance and turn this blog into a complete confessional. Now, don’t get too excited. I don’t have any real deep, dark secrets to spill.
Tonight, I am going to give everyone a look into what it’s like to live with bi-polar disorder, anxiety disorder, panic attacks and my good friend, depression. Quite the mash up there, isn’t it? But, please let me start by making sure that everyone knows that no matter what I tell you about living with these disorders, I am not suicidal or homicidal. I do not want to hurt myself or anyone else around me. I have a mental illness. I am NOT crazy.
Tonight, what I want to do is to tell you what it feels like FOR ME. I don’t mean the symptoms that you will find in an online article or some medical journal. This is what MY disorders feel like. I don’t presume to speak for anyone else that may suffer from one or more of the aforementioned.
Where to begin?
I come from a long line of mental health cases. My father is an alcoholic (as am I) and suffers from diagnosed depression. My mother comes from a home with an abusive mother. Mentally and physically. Although I don’t know of any clinical diagnoses that she (my mother) may have, I honestly believe that there are some. I have one brother that is bi-polar (diagnosed) and from what I can tell, possibly schizophrenic, ODD and severe anger issues. He was hospitalized at the age of 7 for ADD.
Now that you have a brief history of what I am working with genetically, let’s get started.
My depression. I start here because this has been the most prevalent of my diagnosis throughout my adult life. It was well managed with medication for the majority of the time but let’s face it, at times I thought that I was Superwoman and that I could come off the meds and still be okay. Wrong answer there, slick. My depression is sneaky. Most of the time I can identify the symptoms and take ahold of the sadness, the moodiness, the loneliness. Other times. I find myself caught up so much in the self pity that I overlook the obvious. The wishing that I would not wake up in the morning. The ignoring of the needs of not only myself but my family. I neglect the things that I know need to get done. I cry for what seems to be no reason. I yell at my kids for no good reason. Why? Fuck if I know. I am sad and want acknowledgement? Maybe. I go silent. I get angry. Which leads me to the even more fun part… mania.
I never had manic episodes before the last few years. I don’t know what changed for me chemically (in my brain) since everything else in my life has remained relatively the same. In fact, I was actually diagnosed as manic depressive in 2003. But, after seeing other doctors and each one saying that it didn’t make sense to classify me as “manic” since I didn’t have manic periods. Ever. I didn’t get aggressive. I didn’t go on shopping sprees. I wasn’t out there sleeping around because of an episode. All the tell tale signs just weren’t there. At least until 2009. I began seeing a psychiatrist when I was released from a 22 day stint in rehab. I remember talking to him and telling him of my previous diagnosis. I remember asking him jokingly about my “OCD” with cleaning. As funny as it was at the time, his answer was, “Do you think that your kids are going to die if you don’t clean the counter every second of every day?” Well no, of course not. That’s just ridiculous. He told me that we should revisit the cleaning if that every popped into my head but for now, consider it exercise. Funny guy, right? Little did I know that something as simple as cleaning could be the beginning of something bigger. My friends and I joke about my “OCD”, my love of bleach and my organization. But, he and I both should have delved just a bit deeper. Now, my “exercise” as he called it, is triggered by my depression which is triggered by something not being in it’s place which is triggered by aggravation with daily life. If I can’t clean, I can’t relax. If I can’t relax, there is nothing for me but to be sad. Or angry. And that can sometimes mean not only screaming at anyone around me but, I throw things. I break things. I wish that I had the nerve and the gun to just end it all. (Trust, when it has gotten THIS far, I have trained myself to reign it in.) It truly is a vicious cycle. And it hurts. Mentally and physically. Manic episodes are also exhausting. My body shuts down. I can’t eat. I feel guilt. I feel regret. But, most of all I ask over and over why the fuck it had to be me that deals with this.
Now, to bring in the anxiety and panic attacks. These are completely new to me. I once had a panic attack. ONCE in 2005. I was driving with my newborn in the car and out of the blue, I couldn’t breathe. All that I could see was having an accident and not being able to save my son. It was like a video on repeat. I began to sweat and within minutes, had to pull off the interstate to calm myself. And never had another one. Until a year or so ago. But, my panics always come in phases. And, they always start as anxiety. Anxiety over something as small as not having anything thawed for dinner and what am I going to do? It starts in my stomach. Like an ulcer or just an aching feeling. Then, depending on my frame of mind, it moves into my chest. Breathing gets harder and sometimes I sweat. By this time, I know that something has to give because the next step is the BEST! And, the strangest by my accounts. The feeling from my stomach to my chest moves into my teeth. Yes, my TEETH. They ache and within a few minutes, I am so panicked that I can’t breathe at all. My stomach is telling me to vomit. My heart is beating out of my chest. It’s a feeling that I don’t wish on anyone. It’s debilitating and trying to explain it at that moment is futile. I can’t put into words WHY I need to get out of wherever I am when it happens. I can’t even tell you what brings it on. It’s miserable and tiring. Not just to me. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be on the receiving end of all of my shit. I want to run away. I want to leave my family. And at that moment, I know that if I did it would most likely be the best scenario for everyone.
So, I left quite a few no, MANY things out tonight. Maybe I will touch on them later but, for now THIS is what I needed to get out there. I need not only my husband and my boys to know that I adore them but also, my friends to know that I CHERISH them, to know that I LOVE them and I sometimes can’t help the way that I am. All that I can do is try to keep ahead of my issues and tell them that I APPRECIATE YOU. And promise that I try every single day to smile and go forward. It’s not easy. I’m not easy. But, although it has taken me a long time to realize it, I am WORTH IT.
And, so are you. You are so, so worth it.
…grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change. The power to change the things that I can and the WISDOM to know the difference.