For so very long I was convinced that my life would never be “normal,” again. I was drowning so deeply in the misery of mental illness, that I simply couldn’t see that there would ever be a life beyond the anguish. But low and behold, all of the people who told me it would get better were right! Eventually I landed with the best doctor and was finally given the correct diagnosis. I wouldn’t say anything went easily after that, but at least it shifted in a better direction.
Since we last talked, so much has changed. It’s a lot. I want to slow down and visit each of these topics in great detail, and eventually I know I will. But the truth is that each of these stories deserve a post (or five) of their own. So for today, I want to address the obvious, and in my opinion, most significant of these changes; my newfound mental stability.
When my psychosis symptoms began, I didn’t tell anyone the true extent of what I was experiencing. I had heard of postpartum depression and anxiety and was fairly certain that MUST be what I was dealing with. I also figured that if I could just get on some sort of medication to treat it I would be fine. (Quickly. Truthfully, I was ashamed of how horrifying my symptoms were, and nervous of the reaction and response I would get if I was forthcoming with all of the gory details. Would anyone trust me with Ollie anymore? Would my partner and family judge me or look at me differently? I know this sounds ridiculous, especially considering the downright incredible and supportive tribe of people I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by. But the feelings I felt and the thoughts I had were darker than I can convey. They were unspeakably morbid, and I don’t use that word lightly. Anyway, my discretion ended up prolonging my torture and I didn’t get the proper diagnosis or treatment for many months longer than I otherwise could have. I was put on antidepressants, which only worsened my symptoms and sent me further into psychosis. Anyone who’s been on any mental health medication knows that they are not fast-acting. They can take days, and more often weeks to show their effects. So, as you can imagine the road was long. I was on and off of multiple antidepressants before eventually getting the correct diagnosis. I had to wean off of my existing meds while weaning on to new ones that served completely different purposes. Each medication brought with it an array of shitty side effects,and left behind some damage for the next ones to hopefully address. What I thought would be a quick and easy fix, turned out to be the longest and most defeating journey I have yet to endure.
But I made it. And I really want you all to know what life for me looks like, after the beautiful wreckage.
My existence never went back to what it used to be. The sense of self, the innocence, the blind confidence, and the wild carelessness I obsessed over getting back never returned. And for a while I mourned that loss. Oh, did I mourn. But then in the midst of my loss and sadness, I looked up to realize that the life and existence I had now was just as, if not more, beautiful than the one I had left behind. I was stronger, wiser, and so painfully, stunningly aware of my capability to overcome anything that lay ahead of me.
Don’t be mistaken, I didn’t just wake up this way. I worked, inside the room of my therapist and out, to pick up the pieces and climb onward and upward. And that was the real ticket to my current and ever-growing happiness.
Although the worst of my postpartum psychosis seems to be a thing of the past, I will continue to live with a more permanent diagnosis of bipolar disorder (which as some of you know, is no easy feat.) Currently my balance of medications and weekly therapy, is peacefully maintaining a moderately level state of being. That doesn’t, however, mean that every day is good or normal. My mental health is sensitive to: changes in my sleep patterns, my relationship with alcohol, my diet, different amounts of stress, and any other variables that a “normal” brain can more easily tolerate. It is a common misconception that when you are bipolar, your brain just cycles on it’s own schedule and you are more or less “along for the ride”. While that is true, it’s not the only truth. Throughout my life my brain will continue to cycle up and down in varying degrees, and that is out of my control. But I will also forever have to be aware of my incredibly sensitive and temperamental brain. My capacity for stress and the ever-changing currents of life, will forever be a little lower. But with the help of two professionals working in conjunction with me and ALL of my support team, I will always rise to the occasion and continue to kick mental illness’ ass. Besides, who doesn’t need another reason to practice self-care?
If you’re still with me, consider this a friendly reminder to tend to YOU.
Get the extra few hours of sleep that your body and mind need. Trust me, I know that good sleep can often seem impossible to obtain, but it is just as necessary as it is scarce. Go to bed earlier, take that cat nap, and snooze your alarm when you can. Feed your body WELL. I’ve learned that the value of nutrition and diet is immeasurable, and that we all need to step our game up in the eating department. If you don’t take in nutritious foods, your brain and body aren’t able to function properly. So go eat your proteins, healthy fats and a heaping load of veggies. After all, you wouldn’t expect a car to run on water, would you? Speak sweetly to yourself. Self-love and positive affirmations from within are food for the soul. Water your garden, and don’t forget to take pause for mindfulness. Set aside time to be present in your mind, body, and soul. Give yourself a break. You deserve it.