Telling my story can be fearful and a hard one due to the stigma behind mental illness. I am living with an illness in which some people think is made up, or evil, or that needs to be disregarded, or perhaps can be willed under control. Some people may say let it go, or don’t let it define you. I say “Can you let go of Heart Disease?”. And yes, define me – it will not! It is the perceptions of my illness that I am trying to not let define me. When someone says, I have to make sure that I eat or I need to take my blood sugar before I eat due to diabetes, is that not acceptable? However when I say, I need to take it easy today my mind is racing or I need to stay home today because my anxiety is too much, the understanding of these topics is obscured with distortion of what mental illness is perceived to be.
I do need to accept my illness and thankfully achieved that goal. And yes, I need to leave things behind me. The acceptance for me has been a difficult experience. Due to my own perceptions of what mental illness is, I struggled with the idea that, “I am one of those?”. But ultimately it is with the acceptance that I was able to take control and maintain my illness. Taking responsibility for my own health care and not denying that there is a problem, with the knowledge of diagnosis and care has allowed me to grow . As well as leaving things behind creates a painful walk, but ultimately with leaving things behind, strength is gained and knowledge, acceptance, and the journey forward can continue.
Being diagnosed with Bipolar in my early twenties was unbelievable to me. Yet how could I deny that I had gone through a period of mania and stress that led to distortion of thoughts and delusions. There were particular stressful events that tipped me in that direction, and ultimately made me unable to handle the stress, but what occurred I could not deny.
What my mind did under stressful conditions with the component of a mental illness added is amazing. My mind was at that point so twisted that I could not make decisions without counting on my fingers because if I ended with the wrong numbers it could end in disaster. I was trying to maneuver my decisions based on “signs” from God, such as street signs, music, television programs guiding me with what my mind interpreted to be the right way to walk. I remember coloring with crayons in my basement and deciding whether I would go out that day based on whether the sun would shine that day. Bible verses were ingrained in my mind. Then I began with Delusions of Grandeur; my son was the new coming of Jesus Christ. Dear God, my mind was gone.
How the mind can take over with delusions and be totally in control of one’s life is a scary experience, and how to leave that experience behind is challenging and takes time. For me, I had to talk it out, and talk it out, and talk it out. It took me years to wrap my brain around what happened. Thankfully, it no longer controls me. Leave it behind and move forward I did!
Understanding that one is not crazy, but that it is an illness that needs medication and to be monitored is so needed. I recall that during this time of need, in my depression I asked for advise with these life stresses. It was a pastor that replied to me, “We all have a pity party now and again”. Just a response like that can break the spirit. It is the recognition of mental illness, treatment, and the respect for people living with this illness that is needed. Moving forward as a society to honor everyone inflicted with human dignity and recognition will be beautiful to see.