I’ll start with a confession: my anxiety and paranoia made it a struggle to write this. Why should I air my dirty laundry? I thought. Why should other people hear about my problems? If they know my brain is broken, will all my friends think I’m weird?
But here it goes. I’m doing this for all the people out there who struggle with a mental health issue like I do.
Life was good before mental illness invaded my world. Everyone knew me as a sweet person who loved children and always wanted to be a great wife and mother. But deep down I had mind issues I didn’t want to face myself, and when it came down to it, I had no option but to face them. It was staring me straight in the face.
What I know now is bipolar disorder told me I wasn’t smart or fun anymore. My anxiety attacked me until I curled up in the fetal position (and I wasn’t crying from laughter). My depression told me I had nothing left to live for. It shot vivid images into my subconscious and I couldn’t shut them out.
I didn’t want to see those images; I didn’t want to think those thoughts anymore. I wanted them gone. I had everyone telling me what to do or how to deal with it—but how could they even begin to fathom what I was going through? I was a burden to them and they didn’t want to deal with it, either. My reputation was shot to hell (or at least it felt like it)—how could I be seen as a sweet person and great wife and mother if I had bipolar disorder? I had no idea how I was going to pick up the pieces of my life that were shattered all over the floor.
People that cared about me thought medication was the answer, but for me the four different medications I tried only made it worse, trapping me even deeper in my mind to the point that many times I figured the fastest and easiest way out was death. But then I’d think of my children, and they kept me going.
My husband and I fought a lot during those times. I’d get so upset about the smallest thing—it’d be a big deal to me, but it wouldn’t even matter to him. And that would upset and anger me even more, adding fuel to the fire—and thus creating an explosion. I was so strong-headed that I rarely apologized; I felt I was right all the time. I wasn’t always wrong. Because, no, it’s not an excuse, but I am bipolar and there are things that flip a switch and it sometimes feels like there is no shutting it off.
I had to get help because it was confusing my children, my husband, and me. My mind was in a whirlwind: I might be happy one minute, but the slightest bit of doubt would make me anxious, then sad and terrified by the horrible things popping up in my mind. My struggle with bipolar was affecting my husband and kids.
I was tired of dealing with bipolar alone, so one day I broke down and decided to visit a counselor. Honestly, the only reason I went to see a counselor was because everyone kept nagging me. I was like, “Okay, I’m going to do this just so they’ll shut up.” But then after a while I started realizing that it was actually really helping me. It gave me a chance to talk to someone who had no opinion about who I used to be, or who I should be, and what I was dealing with.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I still have to fight that battle every day, every argument, every doubt. But through counseling I’ve also learned some ways to manage it, and I’ve also found that coloring and doing arts and crafts helps a lot. If I can keep my hands busy, it is keeping my mind busy. Being alone is the worst thing—so one important thing is to surround myself with friends and family and supportive people.
I hope that by airing my dirty laundry I can help someone. Because someone in the world is suffering from the same mental health disorder I have. I think of the potential of the person who is reaching the end of his rope. He has lost almost all hope, but randomly one night, he finds himself online searching for how to overcome depression, or how to stop anxious thoughts. And the next thing he knows, he’s reading my words. It’s what makes telling my story okay: to make life okay for someone else.