BringChange2Mind

February 18, 2011

Returning

Filed under: Story — Tags: , , , , , , — Linea @ 6:12 pm

The topic of today’s blog is about returning. Many of you may have noticed that I have disappeared from the world of computers, Facebook, and blogs. For health reasons I have needed to step back and take care of myself. But now I am back. Now it is time to talk about that very tricky act of returning after a mental health leave.

The act of returning is a mixed feeling, one of excitement, one of hesitation, one of “am I ready?” and sometimes one of pride. Returning to the world, whether it is the world of work or the world of friends is something fragile, scary, and intimidating. Though sharing our story of ill health after this leave may not be necessary, taking our time and energy to reemerge  into a past existence and those necessary life responsibilities is many times essential

So how do we do this you ask? How do we re-enter the world after it has crumbled at our feet? Do you tell your story or not? Co-workers, families, and friends may have missed you, become worried, become mad. How do you take care of yourself when you are so far behind in your responsibilities but have to catch up? I don’t have the universal answer to these questions but I do have my own experience. Perhaps sharing some of my own story will inspire you to reconnect yourself. Perhaps some of it will spark your own ideas about returning that you will hopefully share in our comments section.

So here is my path…I have disappeared for almost three months due to a severe depression and eating disorder. These are things that I’ve dealt with before but still remain difficult. This disclosure is not something that everyone should have to share and when asked, a mere, “I was dealing with some health issues that I would rather not discuss, but I am slowly getting better” will suffice. This has often times been my answer, but with close family and friends it is different. For them I tell the truth. However, even your closest friends may not fully grasp your struggles. For them I simply ask for support of my decisions. They may not agree, but it is my struggle and if they care they will stand beside my choices and intelligent attempt to seek what’s best for me.

The second struggle I am experiencing is getting back to my old responsibilities and work load while simultaneously taking care of my needs. This is something I have yet to master. How do I reemerge into such a busy life? How do I step back into relationships? Even the small things, like using Facebook feel overwhelming and exhausting. This is something I have to take one step at a time. I remember years ago when I was really sick for the first time someone told me to take things one step at a time. My wise grandma clarified however, saying some days you have to take minute by minute, but some days you have to take second by second. When getting out of bed in the morning feels like a second by second job, Facebook becomes minute by minute.

I am taking my time. Returning takes a lot of breaks and lots of time to breathe, sit and meditate. Re-emerging is like stepping out of a cave into the sun. Stunning yet blinding. But slowly I am adjusting, slowing I am emerging.

How do you return after a health crisis? What tricks have you or a loved one learned?

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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.

August 22, 2010

Acceptance

Filed under: Youth — Tags: , , , , , — Linea @ 4:56 pm

Building off of my last post, “What’s Going on Here?!” -The Diagnosis Story, I want to talk about the next step: Acceptance.

In my experience, the next step after the diagnosis is, “No no no no no no no!” It is the three year old rolling on the floor screaming, “I don’t want this!” “Make it go away!” As a person over sixteen however, we eventually have to pick ourselves up and go on with our day.

We cannot sulk forever, nor can we scream and kick for years, but unfortunately for many (myself included) we do this anyway. For me, screaming and kicking was drinking, partying and drugs. For me, it was self-harm and anger. I tried to accept the fact that this was something that would be a part of me (not all of me) for the entirety of my life. At nineteen years old I had a lot of life to live, which felt to me like hundreds of years of dealing with this burden.

I think one thing that might have been helpful for me was a list of things to accept, or at the very least, begin to think about accepting. I don’t know if I would have accepted these at first, but had I known what to plan for it may not have felt so confusing, endless, and terrifying.

Here are the things I would have told myself to accept:Photo by Linea

  • Accept the fact that this is a part of you, but not you. This one feels impossible, but in the end it is the most important thing to come to terms with. Say, “I have (insert diagnosis here). It is there. I cannot force it to go away. We must learn to live together in harmony because it is a piece of my body that I cannot remove.”
  • Accept the fact that you have to take care of yourself. If you take care of yourself you can begin to treat this and though it will not go away, it can start to feel better. It might even be something you forget about from time to time.
  • Accept the fact that you might have to take medication. Your brain has chemicals that you cannot control by thinking. Read brain science books. Learn what is really happening in there.
  • Accept that if you take medication you may have to adjust it once, twice, or constantly. This is one I wasn’t told, and am therefore still coming to terms with. I had the right cocktail, but it didn’t work forever. Now I have to accept that I must keep working and experimenting to find the right balance again.
  • Accept that not everyone gets it. Sad I know, but some people just don’t know what depression is or OCD or bipolar or schizoaffective disorder or borderline personality disorder or any number of other mental health disorders. Some people just don’t understand why you have a hard time leaving your apartment or why you have to wash your hands another time. But coming from the optimist I try to be, I think in the end everyone wants to understand and care, even if they don’t know how. And that is something they have to accept.
  • Accept that eventually you may have to tell people. You may even have to feign courage and go for it, because, whether you want it or not, it is a part of you. It does affect your life. It does affect your relationships. This part is hard, it sucks, but you have to accept it.

This is my list of things I wish people had told me. Maybe I wish it because I am a detail-oriented, type A, “plan your life” kind of person, or maybe it is just helpful for me to think about the bigger picture. You do not have to accept all of these things at once, and I suppose you don’t have to accept all of them ever, but I have to tell you from experience, had I not accepted these, or at least thought them through, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What are other things we can accept? Please help to start a conversation by writing some of the things you find important to accept in the comments section.

Next time…Self Advocacy!

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