October 26, 2010

Telling the Truth

Filed under: Story, Youth — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Linea @ 12:00 pm

Recently I went to see my psychiatrist. I told him that I am feeling slightly moody and find myself creeping into these unintended, uncontrollable moments of frustration, hyperactivity, or utter exhaustion. We talked about the need to “tweak” my meds, and we talked about the likelihood of changing one out completely sometime in the near future.

I have been stable for a long time, aside from small yearly depressions that come around the anniversary of hospitalizations and traumatic events. This time however, it is more than a simple yearly depression, but that anxious rumbling of a depressed/hypo-manic mixed state. I don’t necessarily consider myself “unstable” but affected enough that I had to skip a couple of weeks of blog posts. Stability is really a funny thing. While I still consider myself “stable” I continue to have these little hiccups of symptoms. Moments where I would feel much better jumping on the bed for hours than I would trying to attempt even a partial night’s sleep. Moments where I feel so exhausted after having lunch with someone that I come home and pass out in seconds. Nights where I can’t help but cry myself to sleep. These things come and go, but in learning to manage these symptoms I have been able to remain steady and solid.

When I go through these hiccups and these “tweaks” in my meds I am always scared to tell people. I travel the country telling people my story,  and sharing frightening and often horrifying events but always reassuring them with the ending, “but I’m stable now”. And I am. Just maybe not perfect. And I fear telling people, “I’m great but I have been having issues with my meds”, or “I’m wonderful, but have been having small worrisome mood swings lately”, because I’m afraid they won’t get it. I’m afraid they will still be afraid for me. So I often tell them I’m fine no matter what.

As I speak and travel I meet lots of people with similar stories. And meeting people who share your story and hearing their struggles not only feels comforting as you are swiftly pulled from the aloneness of a diagnosis, but it also reminds you of all the pain you experienced. It reminds each individual of how lonely you really were and how different your life would have been had you just had this new friend with you from the beginning. It is strangely validating, empowering, and comforting, and yet, it is often painful to meet people with such similar stories of agony, near suicide, self-harm, self-medication, and more. It is beautiful because everything is suddenly okay. You have found yourself on solid ground. But you can’t help but remember how terrifying it is to dangle from the cliff. Because of this I not only have strong feelings of pain and grief, but I also worry that I will hurt these new friends by telling them my truth, either because of their own memories or because of their worries for me. I get so scared not to be “okay” after being a “poster child of wellness.”

But that’s not truly telling my story. That’s not being authentically honest.  The whole reason I speak is to let others know that they are not alone in their feelings. It is to let them know that I have some of the same worries, moods, instability, chaos and fear that they do, even if I come across as stable and put together.

These mixed emotions, the joy of finding friends with similar stories and the worry of letting them know I am not always alright reminds me to keep sharing, to keep being honest. My fear of sharing only brings me back to that place of isolation and aloneness. People should not be alone in this fight. People should not feel the need to hide when their emotions or behavior isn’t “normal”. People should not have to feel fear when divulging their truth. We need to change things now. We cannot let this continue to happen. The stigma and misunderstanding (my own included) that comes with these illnesses makes us so afraid to say, “You know, today I am NOT okay.”

We need to change things now and speak out so people do not have to be afraid. We cannot let so many of our children end up on the streets, end up incarcerated, or end up losing their lives by self-medicating because they are afraid or have been given the message that we should not talk about these things. We cannot let a treatable enemy like suicide claim so many victims because they are alone and scared. We need to talk about this. We need to change things fast. Please help us change things by sharing stories, by letting people know that they are not alone. In my mind the biggest way to fight stigma is to talk. Share your truth. We need to remind the nation that 1 in 6 adults suffers from a mental illness by sharing real stories from the heart. Please have courage, for all of us, and share your truth, whatever that may be.

Here is mine:
I am Linea. I have bipolar disorder and have been experiencing a somewhat extended hypo-manic, depressed mixed state, causing me to have to make small adjustments to my medications and it makes me anxious. However, I am completely fine. I am capable and happy doing all the work that I do because I know how to take care of myself. Things will not happen as they did in the past because I know how to handle my stress levels, how to keep myself from coping in unhealthy ways, and how to ask for help when I need it. I am stable. I have bumps. And it’s okay.

Now please tell me yours.



  1. Linea: You are such an inspiration. Although I do not have bi-polar, I do suffer from a “depression” that comes from my view of the world as hostile and not wanting me around. It makes it difficult to do all the things I want to do, which sounds like what you are saying. I am working hard to change that world view through counseling and, like you, I am stable and okay – able to do things I never thought I could do – and yet there are bumps in the road that slow me down from time to time.
    I feel so blessed to know you and love you.

    Comment by Kathy Otto — October 26, 2010 @ 12:21 pm

  2. Hello Linea,

    I would like to share my feelings and thoughts about your blog entry here. I think it is heartening to see that you stepped out of your comfort zone to admit to the people around you and the world about your “not okay” moments. I too have those and minor relapses even if I am stable with medication.

    I have psychosis and I was very severe. I had 2 hospitalizations and I freaked out a lot of people when I was talking to myself, hearing voices and seeing hallucinations. Even if I have worked hard to become stable now, I still have amnesia bouts about myself. I look at my own reflection in the mirror and my own hands wondering who the heck that stranger is. I still have “not okay” moments and it is okay to have “not okay” moments, because I am only human. There have been suicidal moments when I feared revealing my mental illness to people around me or to employers at job interviews but ultimately I discovered that I don’t need to fear people knowing I have mental illness. So I have self published a book that is part memoir and part journal therapy workbook. I told the world I have psychosis.

    Comment by Huishan — October 26, 2010 @ 1:50 pm

  3. Linea, you bring up an excellent point. A lot of people, including those who have mental health issues, don’t realize that “being stable” is far from a perfect state of being. There are still ups and downs, and adjustments; it just means you can recognize the problems as they’re happening and handle them better.

    Here’s my story: After being depressed for years, and on various medications (and sometimes not, but that’s another story), I recently got a formal diagnosis of dysthymia. Basically long-term, less severe symptom depression. For me, even “being stable” is a temporary, fleeting thing. It’s a constant balancing act, though I’ve taken steps to make it better by getting in to a therapist and seeing a psychiatrist for my medications. I’ve found that identifying with my disease, while painful for me in the past, has become a comfort for me.

    Comment by Pam Komarnicki — October 26, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

  4. Hey sweetie – of course you know your family loves you!!

    My story: even after 10 years on depression meds I still have those days when I feel trapped in a teeny-tiny phone booth sized life with no way out. Everywhere I turn in my mind is blocked, and frustrating, and makes me angry. At that point I usually recognize I need to go to bed, take care of myself (which includes extended dog petting sessions with Skyla). I do go through hypo-manic swings too, when going to bed doesn’t help because sleep is quite elusive. On a side note: recent diet changes have made those much less severe and much less frequent. Yay!

    Keep being honest Mia – it keeps the rest of us honest.

    Comment by Colleen — October 26, 2010 @ 7:50 pm

  5. Linea,
    Thanks for your honesty. I recall learning about your story and feeling excited that someone out there is willing to speak out on behalf of those who suffer from mental health problems. However, it often becomes discouraging when people who have appear to have suffered from similar thoughts and feelings suddenly seem “cured” and well. I always think someone is out there thinking “Well, she’s ‘fixed’ so now she can talk to people about it while I’m left still suffering.”

    The part that draws people into you, I think, is your honesty and candidness (wc?). Anyway, thanks for being real today. I know that I often feel “stable” and “balanced” and then have sudden breakdowns which lead me to fear “falling off the wagon” again and facing the pit I/we had hoped to never face again. It then becomes a mental challenge: Do you brush yourself off and say ‘I’m ok’ or face it full on and risk dragging yourself down to the place you secretly fear all the time? As a student of psychology and a new educator, I remind myself that talking about suicide and other negative thoughts does NOT generally induce those feelings if they aren’t already there, nor the desire to kill oneself; However, despite what the research says, it’s always a challenge for me to separate those things into “professional” and “personal” categories…I wonder if you are faced with similar challenges as someone who simultaneously experiences AND educates others about mental health problems…?

    Comment by M Anderson — October 26, 2010 @ 8:27 pm

  6. Thanks for sharing your story Linea, as a mom of a child with a mood disorder, it is so helpful to hear how adults are living with these illnesses. I appreciate your honesty. I agree that the way to fight stigma is to open up and talk, but it takes courage to do so. Thank you for being brave enough to do it.

    Comment by Mama Bear — October 26, 2010 @ 8:33 pm

  7. Linea, thanks so much for sharing your story. I think the reality with most forms of mental illness–I suffer from depression myself and have a child with BP–is that very few of us are ever “fixed” and live happily-ever-after once we find the right meds. That’s a myth. The truth is that it remains a life-long challenge, BUT it is one that we can learn to handle! And you are doing just that. Everyone has ups and downs–although the size of the peaks and valleys can differ greatly–and that is just normal life!

    I’m glad people are talking about it. And I’ll tell you that, even after being “stable” for about 7 or 8 years, I still get scared when I start to feel myself slipping towards the “hole.” Who wouldn’t? No one wants to go back. But I hope the fear subsides for you as the years pass and you trust yourself to take care of yourself… it does get better. Keep hanging in there and reaching out for support!

    Comment by BP mom — October 26, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

  8. Wow, I literally got teary eyed reading that, for it was so real and I could relate to it…the constant struggle to know how honest to be with ones self, with others…the pain and the compassion. Thank you for that beautifully written, fully authentic blog..and for encouraging all of us to fight for honesty in all areas of our lives! Delaney

    Comment by delaney — October 27, 2010 @ 12:46 am

  9. I think one of the hardest things about “getting better” for me is the fear that I’ll get sick again. Since I have had relapses and steps back, I know it’s not impossible, but I also know that I have so many more tools to deal with it now than I did the first time I was hospitalized. I think it’s hardest around the family and friends who know what I’ve been through–I always want to be able to say I’m doing great, and so then I find myself lying or glossing over my emotions to make things easier…except the longer I do that, the worse it gets. I suppose that the distaste for vulnerability in wired in us biologically, but I wish it wasn’t. I wish I could be more open with the people around me about things that are difficult to deal with, but so often it doesn’t seem worth the risk. But I will keep trying, because I think that if more people had shared their stories with me years ago, I might not have felt so isolated. The truth is, most people aren’t honest about their emotions most of the time, whether they have mental illness or not.

    My story: I have struggled with depression, an eating disorder, and anxiety. I have done things to hurt myself in the past, and at times I thought of doing more; but every time the right help came at the right time. I am safe and stable today, but that doesn’t mean I might feel sad tomorrow. And even if I do feel sad, it doesn’t mean that I’m depressed, or that things are getting bad again; instead, I have to be honest with my support group about my struggles and deal with them as they come. I know what it’s like to be at the edge, and as much as I don’t want to go back to that place, fearing the future will not make it any better either. This is my mantra for the year, and I need people who love me to hold me accountable! Considering all the support that people have given and continue to give, I think that if I could do this for a friend, too, it would be the greatest honor. It is much scarier to imagine her suffering alone because she is afraid she will disappoint me, worry me, or trigger painful memories. If I have learned anything over the past five years, it is that I cannot underestimate the value of people who care about me…and no one ever should!

    Comment by Beth — October 27, 2010 @ 3:27 am

  10. Hi Linea,
    Thank you for your honesty. I understand what it is like to have that experience of feeling like you are supposed to be “better”, but for the moment you are not quite there. I have Schizoaffective Disorder and have written a blog about it for five years. I have been doing well thanks to medication that works and therapy that helps. I speak publicly in my local area about my illness, about where I came from (a hellish nightmare of psychosis and suicide attempts) and the journey I went through to get where I am now (no longer psychotic or suicidal). Occassionally, though, I do have symptoms of psychosis like delusional thoughts or auditory hallucinations. I don’t talk about my illness at my workplace, so I do feel like somewhat a fraud because of that, but my reason for that is that I faced real discrimination at my last workplace when people found out I had been in a psychiatric hospital when I missed work for a few days. I am very honest elsewhere in my life, however. On my blog, when I speak, when I am at meetings of my local NAMI chapter (National Alliance on Mental Illness), or when I’m talking to people who really know me well, I don’t hide the illness. I agree with you, talking is what combats stigma. We need to tell our truths to change the world. We need to be the change we want to see. I firmly believe that, and try to create awareness about mental illness whenever possible in my life.

    Comment by Jennifer — October 27, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  11. […] Recently I went to see my psychiatrist. I told him that I am feeling slightly moody and find myself creeping into these unintended, uncontrollable moments of frustration, hyperactivity, or utter exhaustion. We talked about the need to "tweak" my meds, and we talked about the likelihood of changing one out completely sometime in the near future. I have been stable for a long time, aside from small yearly depressions that come around the anniversar … Read More […]

    Pingback by Telling the Truth (via BringChange2Mind) « BIPOLAR REALITIES — October 27, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

  12. Linea,

    First of all, thank you so much for your honesty, I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this today. Hearing very simply that it’s okay to not be okay and to ask for help is exactly what I needed to hear right now.

    My story? I’m 24 years old, I have Bipolar Disorder, I moved to NYC for music school at age 18 and dropped out after 3 semesters for mental health reasons. Over the years my sleep and sleep patterns got really messed up which severely affected my ability to attend any kind of treatment. I went on to do several IOP’s and got discharged from all of them for not attending reliably. I eventually ended up at Fountain House at the end of 2008 but again my attendance was inconsistent because of my sleep.

    2 months ago I moved into a level II supported Fountain House residence that is staffed 24 hours a day. After moving to NYC at age 18 and living on my own for 6 years, this felt like a huge step backwards. The transition has been rough and although I have been relatively stable for the past 6-7 months and been on the same meds for a long time now and thought they were working okay, a week and a half ago I had a hypo-manic episode and am now crashing into depression.

    Since then I have not been honest with staff here and have missed two appointments with my psychiatrist and one with my therapist, continued to stay out late further putting me at risk to have another episode and also haven’t been telling anyone when I’ll be home, have not been leaving on time in the morning, have been skipping going to Fountain House altogether and doing things like going to the park and sleeping instead, and even managed to stay home all day today and hide in my room (we are supposed to be gone from 9-5)without anyone finding out until 3 in the afternoon.

    I guess I am just hating the idea of admitting I need help, hating the idea that I am where I am and sort of rebelling against the idea of being supervised. I am dreading having a conversation with my worker or the director about it, but you have given me some hope.

    So that’s where I’m at right now…not the most proud place but that’s where I am.

    On a completely different note, I know that you have some connections with Fountain house, from what I understand you went to the annual luncheon, but I was wondering if anyone had ever approached you about or if you would be interested in speaking to our young adult program? I don’t really know how that would be set up or how that works or where you even live for that matter! But I just really enjoy your blogs and it was just a thought…

    Comment by Ashley — October 27, 2010 @ 9:13 pm

  13. Well put.

    Comment by Crazy Mermaid — October 28, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

  14. I am a Mom of someone who did not survive being bipolar. That is the down side of who I am and what has happened that was tragic. The good side is that I get to empathize with a brave, young woman like yourself. I get to tell you, without, hopefully, sounding condescending that I am so proud of you. I wish my son could have gotten to the safe place that you work so hard at maintaining. Yet, while he didn’t, you have and hopefully others will, too. I am your unmet cheerleader. I have witnessed the pain of watching someone I loved dearly suffer the extremes that came with his journey and while I can no longer root for him, I am pleased beyond measure to encourage and support others who have managed to tame the nasty beast that has robbed so many beautiful people(including my son) of a full life, of their potential. Keep writing, keep fighting. You are doing a marvelous job and great work.

    Comment by Pam Curley — October 28, 2010 @ 11:16 pm

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