BringChange2Mind

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!

June 9, 2010

Finding Dry Land: Linea’s Story

There was a moment in my life when I almost drowned.

Living in the largest dorm in the country with three best friends, experiencing my first serious college boyfriend, living what I thought to be the perfect life of a college kid, I couldn’t have dreamt of anything better. That is, until I turned my back to the ocean and was swiftly and dramatically pulled in by the undertow.

One moment I was there and one moment I wasn’t. It was as if I had suddenly had my brain replaced by someone weaker, angrier, sadder. I didn’t know where I was or what I had set out to do anymore. I couldn’t understand what went wrong. I couldn’t understand why I was suddenly seeing violent images every time I closed my eyes.

Though I didn’t know it, this was a dramatic and intense case of depression. I stopped eating. I broke up with the man who was, at that time, the love of my life. I stopped leaving my room. I stopped all contact with the world, and whether I pretended I was there or not, my eyes were empty.

This went on for several weeks. Floating around Chicago, the city that I had worked so hard to get to. To me this went on for a lifetime. I floated out to sea.

Then my boyfriend, who was now just a friend-friend, called my parents. He called, and just as swiftly as I was pulled under, I was pulled out.

Completely.

My dad arrived from Seattle no less than ten hours after he was called. My life, my room, and my thoughts were packed up and shipped out. Flown back to Seattle and, in my mind, never to return.

Nothing could have been more painful. Nothing could have been more dramatic to me at that point and place in my life. Nineteen years old and suddenly I was forced to leave my friends, my life, my freedom and everything that I had built within the last two years of hard-earned independence.

I arrived home tired, cold, and wet, water still in my lungs.

The next couple of years moved from an undertow to a tsunami. My mind moved quickly from a “simple” depression to a devastating suicidal obsession. Looking back I am amazed I am even here to tell my story.

In the next year and a half I spent time in hospitals for suicide prevention and for overdose recovery. I spent time in apartments, manic and drugged and depressed and dangerous. I spent so many hours feeling completely out of control of my mind and so many hours trying to fight against it with every form of self-medication and self-harm I could find that I am amazed I have the ability to form thoughts or press my fingers to these keys.

It took me a long time to come to terms with what was happening. After having a “wait and see” diagnosis of bipolar disorder II at nineteen I spent many, many months fighting the label and implications before I received my final, “for sure” diagnosis of plain old bipolar I. My months and years of fighting only made things worse and it took me a long time before I realized that if I was good to myself and my body, my bipolar would be good to me. Who knew stimulants could make you manic or alcohol could make you devastatingly depressed? Though it seems obvious, I sure didn’t.

Once I finally gave in and decided to change my life things began to turn around again. Though it took lots of self-care and finding the right doctors, counselors, and meds, my stability allowed me to live the life I had always dreamed of living. My stability was more than just taking care of myself and finding the right help however, it was also my amazing luck to have the opportunities and support network I do. It was this fact that inspired me to begin to make a difference in the mental health world.

Having spent time in the worst psych units with the saddest cases I realized that things must change. I realized that people need to talk about these things. People need to be able to talk about their thoughts, lives, and feelings. We need to be able to share our stories.

So…here I am today, graduating, speaking at conferences, in classrooms and auditoriums, writing and collaborating with mental health and education professionals, working with amazing mental health organizations, writing a book, and volunteering with BC2M. Through my experiences I have realized that I needed to make a difference, and through my opportunities I have hopefully begun to do so. I am so excited and pleased that I have the opportunity to make the differences that I am seeing.

Today I have found my way back to dry land where I can finally stand on firm ground, and it is here that I will help others do the same.

Photo by Linea Johnson

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