We are not defined by our illness!
It's only been about four months now, since I was correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Prior to this diagnosis, I had been dianosed as having clinical depression. Now, it is bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I did quite a bit of research prior to this diagnosis, so I had a strong feeling that this would be the outcome.
I'd had some childhood trauma (I won't get into), so it pretty much began with that. Then, I had identity issues... stemming from the fact that I had been adopted. So, I always felt like the "odd one out," so-to-speak. In school, I felt that way, as well. Not just around my family. It's hard to explain if you haven't lived it. Then, in late middle-early high school, I began dating a guy... a guy about 4 years older than me. Of course, like most girls in their 1st-time relationship with a boy, I fell hard. Then, when the guy went away to school, he met another girl and dropped me hard;( I was very broken-hearted and didn't know what to do. All I knew was, I was in a ton of pain. I took some pills and passed out. I went to sleep, for quite some time, and just remember being woken up by my mother.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and I was with another boy. The only problem was, it was a guy my best friend really liked. He claimed, he didn't like her, anyway, but he liked me, so... it was "o.k." Stupid me! I went along with it, sneaking around so no one knew. Then, I'd go to school and seeing my best friend, pretend everything was o.k. I hated lying! I decided to come clean to her... telling her everything. Once I did that, she was devistated. She was so hurt and so angry... she vowed not to talk to me again. So, weeks went by without the two of us so much as looking at each other. It killed me;( Eventually, we made up and things went back to normal.
Then (I believe it was around the same time), a bunch of my friends and I... we began hanging out, and drinking. We'd get together every, single weekend and drink. I did a lot of bad things when I drank... things I'm not proud of. Our senior year of high school, a few of us went to a party... at a neighboring school student's house. Anyhow, everyone was getting (or already was, when we got there) wasted. So... that's, basically, what we all did. At some point, during the party, I met this guy (who attended the neighboring school). We began kissing and making out and, somewhere along the line, he led me back to a secluded area... where no one would be. The remaining details are sketchy, but, I gather, that we were close to/engaging in sexual intercourse. Then, I heard voices behind us. I turned around, and there were about 5 guys watching the entire thing... talking and laughing. I was so, extremely embarassed. I got up, off the ground, looking for my clothes. These guys continued to laugh and taunt me, as one of the guys told me I was not leaving. I was scared to death! I had no idea what to do or what they were going to do to me. All I recall is one thing I don't want to mention. To this day... I am still not sure, exactly, what all those guys did to me that night. All I know is... if I could go back and do it all over again, I most certainly would.
I went into the worst depression after this happened. It lasted for YEARS, and... part of it still remains, to this day. I've attempted suicide over this several times. I've had the absolute WORST panic attacks (being taken to the E.R. several times for chest pains). I have had the worst nightmares and problems in relationships that you can imagine. Panic and anxiety are prevalent in my life, and that is something I'm continually working on.
I've also experiences physical abuse, in two of my relationships. This, definitely, never made things easier with my bipolar, depression, suicide attempts, anxiety and panic... as you can surely imagine. After my last violent relationship, my young child and I became homeless. We were homeless for exactly 1 yr, 2 mos. That was another VERY tough time in our lives. Now, we're in a very different place... fairly happy, safe and dealing with the things, in life, we need to deal with.
All of these, individual, experiences in my life have obviously compounded every symptom I exhibit in my bipolar disorder. Life is tough, but is much more tough when you have to deal with mental illness, day in and day out. Things that help me cope are #1) medication, #2) therapy (both individual and group), #3) taking one day at a time, #4) saying, "NO!" and #5) taking time out to do things I like to do.
Medication is a huge part of my life. I used to hate it, not enjoying taking a bunch of pills in the first place. It's like being a diabetic and not taking your meds. If a diabetic were to neglect that crucial part of caring for their illness, what do you think would happen? Well... they'd get sick! The same way with someone who suffers from a mental illness. If we don't take our meds. (WHEN we're supposed to and EXACTLY how they're prescribed), we, too, get very sick. Your body depends on these meds. to keep it well... specifically, your brain.
The next part of the treatment plan involves therapy. As far as individual therapy goes... you will be assigned a therapist, who will meet with you, either, once a week, or whatever you both work out. You will come up with what is called a treatment plain, outlining the main goals you'd like to accomplish in therapy. Would you like to be less angry, say, or develop coping skills for when you do become angry? These are just a couple of the points you might consider. Then, there's group therapy, which... now that I attend, I believe is just as important to your improving mental health as is individual therapy. In group, you get together will other people who have some of the same mental health issues you do. The group is run by a licensed professional (psychiatrist, social worker, therapist, etc.), who will guide the group into discussions dealing with issues the individuals in the group may face. It's really good for those who need to know there are others "like them" out there. I know, hearing other stories like my own makes me feel that... maybe, my life isn't the absolute worst out there, and there are other people who deal with the exact, same things I do... on a daily basis.
The last few points were things, given my own coping ability (or lack, thereof), I came up with for myself. Taking things one day at a time... this is pretty self-explanatory, but I will explain anyway. We live in a world that is constantly on the go, rushing and rushing to go... where? No where! Then, we take on all these, different responsibilities... all these demands we really don't need. We start to get worn out, edgy and may even have a meltdown. This is our body's way of telling us to SLOW DOWN. So... all I'm saying here, is... I make sure, if I'm feeling tired, I rest. If I'm angry, I take time out so I'm NOT angry. If I'm sad and I want to cry, I cry. If I'm bored, I find something I love to do, and... I do it! Do what you LOVE to do. Life is toooo short!
This one kind-of goes with the previous one. Say, "NO!" I think, many people view NO as the proverbial "bad" word. We come from a society that makes it seem like there's something wrong with us, or that we're not doing our share, if we say NO. That is not true. The truth IS... everyone wants something. I figure, if a half a dozen people want a piece of me (theoretically speaking), what's going to be left for ME? Not a lot! Because I want to be at my best (physically AND MENTALLY), I'm learning that, there are going to be times when I have to say, "NO!" And, you know what? I'm o.k. with that=)
The last point is... find time to do things you love to do. I believe in this statement 110 percent! If it means going to the art store and getting a drawing pad and some charcoal pencils (if you like to draw)... If you like to sing, SING!... If you like to write stories, then... WRITE! If you like to paint... PAINT! Something I learned, a while ago, about doing what you love to do was... think of what brought you joy as a child. Was it coloring, or swinging on a swing, or jumping rope? Maybe you enjoyed helping mom bake cupcakes, or Aunt Martha make pies. Do you like working in a garden, playing with play-doh or clay, writing songs, taking pictures? Whatever it is, DO IT, because... again... life is too short!
So... I've given some experiences that I've been through, explained a bit about different mental health issues and given examples of ways we can cope. Each person within the mental health spectrum is their own individual. Certainly, what helps for one person may not help for someone else, and the treatment I've gone through may not be what someone else needs/wants. These are things you should discuss with your own mental health care providers.
The thing I want people to remember, is... no matter where you've been, what you've been through and what you're currently enduring, THERE IS HOPE!