Disclaimer: This post may contain words and topics that may trigger people. Reader discretion is advised.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Every Wednesday in May, I’ll be featuring a post on mental health wellness and guidance. In this post, I’ll be sharing my mental health journey. It’s important to me to be transparent, so why not start this journey with a little background on me.
This post is going to have more of a personal edge to it. No headings, no tips or tricks, just my story.
Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I decided to break the stigma surrounding mental health and share my journey from my deepest lows to my highest highs. Mental health is very important to me now, but it hasn’t always been. Therapy and taking proper care of myself has shown me how important overall wellness is mentally and physically, and I want others to see just how important it is, too. Here’s my journey:
In 2018, I had reached my lowest low point. I felt stuck, worthless, unappreciated . . . every negative word you could find in the dictionary is what I thought of myself. I kept having It’s a Wonderful Life moments — How great would the world be if I never existed? I’d come home from work crying each and everyday, and people started to notice. I was encouraged to get help and that November, I took the first step towards wellness.
As I walked to my first psychiatry appointment, I kept thinking to myself I could just turn back around, I feel fine today! I even told my psychiatrist my doubts about coming, among other things. Then suddenly, words and experiences poured out of my mouth. I shared things I had never shared with anyone — how I felt inadequate because I was stuck in a toxic teaching job, how I contemplated suicide in grad school, and how intrusive thoughts consumed my mind. At the same time, I’d have periods of energy and positive thoughts even though negativity consumed my mind.
I spoke more than I ever had to a stranger in one sitting, and I felt oddly comfortable talking about the uncomfortable. It felt good to get all of this burden and pain off of my chest. At the end of our session, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I was put on a treatment plan.
I’ll admit that I was shocked at the diagnosis because of the stigma surrounding bipolar disorder. When we think of bipolar disorder, we think of a person that can be happy and content one minute immediately switching to full on anger and rage that next. That wasn’t me. Through my journey, I’ve realized that bipolar disorder is more than its stigma, and far from it entirely.
What bipolar disorder looks like to me is a wave on the beach. When the wave peaks, I feel energized like the Energizer Bunny — I could keep going and doing without rest or sleep. Like a huge wave that peaks feat above the shore, too much energy and not enough sleep would make me feel irritable and angry and I’d lash out. At some point, the wave crashes and I’d suddenly feel sad and depressed, and I could stay in bed all day and all night. There were times where I would zone out and just stare at the ceiling unaware of the amount minutes (and sometimes hours) that had passed by.
Waves will never stop forming just like the waves of bipolar disorder will never stop cycling. There will be periods where I’ll feel energized or “manic” just like there will be periods where I’ll feel sad or “depressed.” This is what having bipolar disorder is truly like.
For a long time, I kept it a secret because of the stigma. What would people think if I admitted it? Would my friends still be my friends, or would they drop me? What would my family think? I started to slowly tell people and all of my fears vanished because people still loved and accepted me for who I am and were very supportive.
Three years later and I’m feeling balanced. I still experience mania and depression physically, but the emotion behind them is gone. I no longer feel extreme anger or sadness, just “elevated” as my psychiatrist puts it. Right now, my focus is on regaining productivity and motivation in my lows, but like anything else, it takes time and planning. Most importantly, this journey has taught me to be vulnerable, and to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
I hope this post brought some insight and education. Spread love, light, and positivity this month and remember, it’s okay to not be okay.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: (800) 273-8255
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