I lost my mother when I was 8 months pregnant. She was struggling with mental illness her entire life. I fought for her but she lost the battle. Only after her death did I find that I also had the same illness she lived with, bipolar disorder. I took action. I sought help. I didn’t want her death to be meaningless, misunderstood, and I surely didn’t want my son I suffer like I did growing up. I started talk therapy, then saw a psychiatrist, was properly diagnosed and medicated. I was hesitant to try the meds but reminded myself that it was worth a shot, my son was worth it. I’m glad I did because I have been in control of my life again and capable of maintaining things I was once unable to do. There is pride in seeking help. Pride in knowing yourself and knowing how much strength it takes to face your problems head on. You are NOT alone.
Do not look at my mental illnesses as a disease that is to be feared, and never listen to my real feelings. This is folly. This is foolishness of heart. No medication will replace what listening to the issue from those who live with so called mental illnesses.
I have been battling depression my entire life and yet I have managed to survive even after several attempts at suicide. My father committed suicide in my presence when I was a child and my Uncle committed suicide because he was terminally ill. They say it runs in families, but I’m trying to break the cycle. My diagnosis is Major Depressive Disorder and like many others who suffer from this mental illness, I’m aware of society’s outlook on it, but I also know it’s not my fault. My ability to get through this is not without help. I take antidepressants and go to therapy; the two go hand in hand. More importantly, I am learning why I hurt myself and why I’m self destructive. I think this is the first step in accepting one’s self and learning how to understand and deal with certain behaviors associated with depression. People have told me that my father was a coward for taking the easy way out and I grew up ashamed of him. When people asked about how he died I would lie and say “he was in a car accident” because people could handle that better and I wasn’t ousted. Now I am him and I understand what he was going through and I do not think he was a coward, I just think he was ill. My wish is that the public would become more educated on the subject.
I care deeply about the wellness of people’s lives and how the act of simply talking and truly caring about someone can potentially save other’s lives.
My first real art lesson was when my father taught me how draw a rose using basic shapes and shading. I don’t exactly remember my dad when I was little except that he was a really jolly fellow and as round as Santa. But today I’m really glad that I got my creativity and corny humor from him. My father had always prompted me to be creative and that was one of the greatest gifts he had left me with.
When I was in 6th grade and only 11 years old he passed away all too suddenly. I had arrive at the hospital the day he died from kidney problems and there were no last “I love yous” or “I’m proud of you.” I wanted to be strong, I wanted straight A’s and I wanted to do it all for my dad. This was my way of thinking that temporarily helped me to survive my 3 years in middle school. But the years of denial and the bottling in of my emotions caught up to me and strangled my health. I needed help but I wasn’t conditioned to ask for anything. In my graduating year in 8th grade I wasn’t only struggling with delayed grieving of my father but I was also having extreme difficulty making speeches as the student body president and preparing for the 8th grade oral presentation all at once.
I work as a peer supporter. I came down with schizophrenia in college when I was 22 years old. For the first seven years, getting the wrong treatment, I thought I didn’t have an illness, but was plagued by a conspiracy. I finally had to accept that it was an illness when I finally got on a medication that worked. I worked for my state NAMI and then for a peer-run wellness and recovery center, both of which have given me the peer support that allowed me to recover. I have also been in a support group run by a social worker for over half of my life, and the social worker has been in the group for over half of her life. About nine years ago, I found a spiritual community where I could fit in, which I never thought I would find. This has given me a spiritual teacher, meaning in life, a meditation practice, and holy company. With both my spiritual peers and my mental health community peers, I have a fulfilling life. In fact, a while ago I looked at an old song I wrote where I said: “I do not live, I merely exist.” I was surprised that I had ever felt this way, although in the old days I had periods when I was suicidal. I still have times when I am depressed and frustrated, but overall, cliched though it may sound, I have come a long way from where I used to be.Recovery is real.
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