I don’t know how to start this so I’ll dive right into it.
I never thought I would ever write that post. And then suddenly, I needed to get it off my chest. Probably because my mental illness has made a strong come-back in my life lately, and it’s been haunting my days- and nights.
I need to vent, but it’s not just that. I think that I have learned a few things from living with bipolar disorder that are universal- I learned them from my mental illness but they surpass it. And I wonder- maybe they could be useful to someone? I will write about these lessons in a (soon) future post.
Sometimes just reading about someone else’s story has helped me. I have no idea why. Perhaps I felt a connection, making me feel less alone with my craziness. Anyway, here goes a long and personal post. You’ve been warned 😉
MY MENTAL ILLNESS STORY (SUMMED UP)
As far as I can remember, I’ve always had a complicated mind. My first memory is an injection in the foot when I was a few days old. Then it’s a blur, until I was around 3. But from what I’ve been told, I wasn’t the easiest child.
Most of the time I was happy. I remember smiling all the time (I still do!). I had a loving family, a beautiful home in the countryside, friends. I was doing very well at school, and new dresses made me ecstatic.
But something was already off. I remember my brain going too fast or too loud for me to process my thoughts. I remember learning about infinity in maths class and being terrified of that concept. I remember crying over it because I couldn’t for the life of me understand how it was possible for something to know no beginning or end. I remember wetting my bed almost every night. I remember trying to cut my thumb with a swiss army knife, not out of sadness, but just to see what it would feel like. I remember being overwhelmed by my thoughts, my emotions, my mind. Like something in me was too much for me.
I don’t know if this was already an expression of bipolar disorder. Thinking back, and I’m saying this with absolutely no medical background, I think I had a genetic predisposition, and had the illness triggered by a traumatic event. Or let’s stop with bowdlerized words and say it out loud: I was raped when I was 9, and that’s when mental instability started taking more space in my life.
Middle school was not easy, but it went okay. I had mood swings and ups and downs, like all teenagers do, probably just in a more intense way. I skipped school quite a lot.
High school is where it really began being serious. I went through a dark path of eating disorders, self injury, and pits of depression alternating with manic phases where I would read Shakespeare in half an hour, talk super fast, and feel superior to every single human. At school I alternated between F and A+. I remember the exact feelings I had- they were overwhelmingly intense. I thought I was the only one experiencing life. Others were just living a dull version of it- that’s why they thought they were happy. It was exhausting and hard and too much, but I was proud. I thought I was on top on the world, even when I was crying all night long.
At that time I met my soulmate. She was both a child and a woman, a human and an animal. She was the first person, apart from my family, that I truly loved. We had a very, very intense relationship, with really high highs and really low lows. She committed suicide when we were 19 and I thought I would never recover from it. I will always love her.
When I was 17, I started seeing a psychiatrist. She helped me finally starting to understand myself, even if only by tiny fragments. She tested my IQ and explained to me that it was abnormally high. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that a high IQ is a mental illness, or an illness at all. I think, and once again I say that with absolutely no proof whatsoever, that in my case it may have been a kind of co-morbidity.
My psychiatrist talked to me about bipolar disorder. I was in a very depressive phase and it didn’t make much sense to me. We had a lot to discuss and we left that on the side. I started eating a little more (by that time I had lost a lot of weight), and reducing self-injury a little. Depression was still quite severe.
I started university. I felt so smart. I felt like everybody was more or less stupid. I was disappointed because I thought I would enter a world of knowledge and intellectual challenges and everything seemed so easy. I didn’t consider my friends to be my friends, because I was feeling so superior to them. I’m not bragging. These were my thoughts, my feelings at that time. I passed the first year with a general A+ without working the slightest bit. Today I think that I could never do that again. I probably lost a lot of brain cells 😉
I started my second year at university. That’s when my friend, my soulmate, committed suicide. I dropped everything, left university. I went back to anorexia and self injury, my refuges.
Depression went really bad and I went to a mental health facility for a couple of months. I continued seeing my psychiatrist. I was under a lot (a whole LOT) of meds, some being so strong that I didn’t have the strength to lift a glass of water to take them. I was numb and tired and barely there.
Little by little, it went better. I met my actual partner, my heartmate, my better half, when I was about 20. We started being friends. It probably saved my life. I was still in a very bad place, but I was starting to foresee a possible future betterment. I struggled. I barely ate, barely slept, but I fought. A tiny thread of hope is sometimes all it takes.
My psychiatrist (I was still seeing the same one) retired. I felt like my world was falling apart- again. Like my safe place was burning down. We had a few sessions where all we talked about was her retirement, but talking didn’t sweeten the reality of me losing my one and only not self destructive refuge.
In our last session before she retired, she convinced me to visit a bipolar disorder center and get a diagnosis. I went. I was told I had bipolar disorder- no doubt about it. Learning about it was a weird feeling. My medication changed. I gained a lot of weight, and by a lot, I mean over 50 lbs in a few months (I had no idea that weight was so easy to gain, and so hard to lose, but that’s another story).
I learned to tame myself. I learned to trust, to lean on loved ones, to breathe. Little by little, I got better. Way better. At one point I even thought I was cured. I don’t know if it’s even possible to be cured from this illness, but I know I wasn’t.
I still experience phases, but they’re way milder than they used to be… Until two weeks ago. The illness is making a strong come-back. I barely sleep and I don’t feel tired. I barely eat and I don’t feel hungry. All I can think about is walking, walking for hours, walking fast. I’m euphoric and all of a sudden I’m depressed. I start tons of projects and leave them half-done. I have DIY projects that I want to share here: I started taking step-by-step pictures, then stopped with the tutorial half-finished. Started a new one in the same fashion, then a new one… But nothing is finished and ready to post. I’m neglecting the blog. I’m at loss. I’m making wrong choices, playing havoc with everything I care about. I’m terrified of the long-term effects this could have on my life and my relationship. And I know that my mental illness is playing with me, putting on the mask of an ally and confidant, while at the same time being a detractor and prosecutor.
I refuse to think that I have no power over the illness. Or more accurately, I know that I have power over it. I have developed strategies and learned lessons that I’ll share soon in a future post and that will hopefully be more interesting than this never-ending personal post.
Anyhow, I’ll be back on Monday with a roundup of my favorite Valentine’s Day projects and printables- so many adorable things!