On August 30thmy best friend and love of my life asked me, and Ollie, to spend the rest of our lives with him. And of course, we responded with a unanimous and very certain “YES!”. That moment and day were overflowing with an excitement and euphoric happiness that I truly can’t even describe. I was in a state of shock and disbelief that somehow this was MY life. How on earth did I land this incredible, gracious, and sweet man who not only didn’t run from the shit storm but loved me and Ollie through it all? It’s like I had suffered so long, that I had lost sight of how happy I was capable of being. I couldn’t wrap my head around it all but that didn’t matter. I was genuinely full and complete for the first time since I could really remember. I was on cloud nine.
Within the first few days of getting engaged the “honeymoon” phase of giddy bliss passed much too quickly. Not only was I not on cloud nine anymore, I was significantly below my normal mood and I genuinely couldn’t figure out why. I was irritable, lethargic, sad, and numb. Chris and I weren’t connecting, I was floundering at my job, and falling short as a mother. I rationalized with myself offering a million reasons why I was feeling “off”: the school year had just started which always brings exhaustion, Ollie was being extra testy and I just couldn’t handle it, I wasn’t getting enough sleep, Chris was traveling for work a lot…the list went on. It didn’t even begin to cross my mind that I could actually be cycling down into depression, because things in my life were SO right and “normal”. But I was, and I was falling hard. After weeks of suffering it finally clicked. My boss had noticed, my family had noticed, but I somehow hadn’t. I guess I’ve perfected the art of “faking it ‘til you make it” but only performed well enough to make myself believe it. The minute I saw the reality of where I was at, everything that had occurred in the few weeks prior made sense. It was all MUCH more than me just being tired or overwhelmed and I was finally ready to face that.
It was about two days after the realization of my downward spiral when I began (on top of my remaining depression) having symptoms of psychosis and mania. Unlike the symptoms of depression they came on suddenly. For me these symptoms cannot be mistaken or misconstrued and they are huge, terrifying red flags. I started to feel derealization, paranoia, anxiety, and agitation. Because of what I’ve been through before I know that I can’t “mess around” and need to take action immediately. So I did. The evening that it all hit me I made an appointment with my psychiatrist and therapist for the next day. I made it through the night and saw my psychiatrist in the morning. She put me back on Abilify, the antipsychotic I used to be on and raised the dosage of my Lamictal, the mood stabilizer I was currently on. Following that appointment I talked with my boss, my family, my friends, and basically my whole world about what I was going through and immediately received the outpouring of love, support, and grace that I so desperately needed. I felt a sense of relief to know that I had taken the steps to get better, and quickly, and that I was going to feel better.
It has been so incredibly hard for me to comprehend this shift in my mental state. Usually my bipolar cycling is triggered by negative things; lack of sleep, a negative or traumatic experience, high stress levels, the stress of taxing relationships in my life, or a culmination of all of the above. But as my doctor has explained to me, happy stress is still stress. Joyful euphoric emotion is still extreme emotion. And what goes up must come down.
This shift in my mental state has been a huge reminder of things that I need to constantly remember and want to encourage everyone else to remember too:
We are strong and we will always come out of this hell. No matter how deep.
It is more than okay to advocate for our needs and give ourselves permission to be selfish. Selfish holds such a negative connotation but it doesn’t always have to. Selfishness can mean putting yourself as first priority because you’re truly the only one who can. This is something that feels yucky to me as I am constantly worrying about who I’m letting down or upsetting. But I am consistently told by my mind and body (and my family) that I can’t compromise my own health and well-being for the sake of others. And you can’t either.
Always, ALWAYS talk about it. Even when you feel you “should be” happy. Even when you feel embarrassed, ashamed, prideful, or scared. Even when you fear judgement or lack of understanding. There are, and always will be, people around you who are suffering more than you’re probably aware of. Everyone has their own battles and if we can all find the strength within to talk about them no one has to feel isolated or alone. We’re all in this together and the ONLY way we can fully heal and be better is to lean on those around us and seek the help and support we need. It is unspeakably hard to break the silence but there is nothing more relieving and so, so needed.
Mental illness is real and it does not discriminate against people, age, or time in your life. Here I am, at what is expected to be the happiest time in my life, struggling profoundly. This battle is just as real as the battles that I faced in the unhappy and hard times. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed of. It is an illness just like any other and needs to be seen and heard as such. In order to normalize it, then we have to accept that it IS an illness, something IS wrong and we need to accept and treat the illness and care for the sufferers. Speaking up about your suffering is nothing to shy away from, in fact it shows the upmost strength and bravery to do so.
If you are suffering with mental illness know that you are never ever alone. You have support. Your people are here. I am here.
– Honest Mama