One day, in December, 2006, I made a decision that would change my life. It was a bad day. I couldn’t get of bed. My preschooler and toddler begged me to come play with them. “Mommy’s too tired. Play with each other. “But we want to play with you, Mommy,” my eldest begged. I saw the sad look of rejection in her eyes and knew what I suspected all along. I had a mental illness, and I needed to get help. My babies deserved it. My husband deserved it. I deserved it.
I knew it was not simply depression. Thinking back to a 6-week time period earlier that year of euphoria, frustration at the inability to follow by big dreams, and even my thoughts of leaving my family in order to do the things I was destined to do, I knew I had bipolar.
I didn’t really know where to go for help. It’s not like you can just ask your neighbor that sort of thing. I did know of one person who I knew would not judge, had the knowledge to point me in the right direction, and was bound by confidentiality. My pastor was the man to see. Being a recently recovering alcoholic with depression himself, I knew he could and would help.
I am one of the lucky few who found a great therapist, medication that works, and a great psychiatric nurse practitioner right away. I know what a miracle that is, and I am grateful every day.
I also know that the other thing working in my favor was that I don’t drink alcohol ever, don’t use drugs, and, before the bipolar set in, was resilient with a strong spirit and healthy coping skills.
Sparing you the details of the last 7 years of my life, I will tell you where I am now. I have my good days and bad, but overall I am healthy and happy. I am successful with a good job that I love, my two children, a home in a nice and safe neighborhood, friends, and a fairly stable mood. I know how to monitor myself and am willing to take action to keep myself out of potentially bad situations and fix what’s wrong when I need to. This could include changing my diet, getting more sleep, organizing my house or desk at work, hanging out more with friends, eliminating negative influences in my life, and/or seeing my doctor. I do whatever it takes to remain as stable as possible for both me and my children.
Why have I just told a bunch of strangers this personal story? First, because I believe the only way to break the stigma is for “normal looking” folks like myself to step out of the shadows and break the silence.
Secondly, to let others know there is hope. Mental illness can be treated. You can have a good and meaningful life. You are not alone.
May will be Mental Health Awareness Month, however mental health is such an important issue, please don’t save these conversations for just one month out of the year. If you have a mental illness, consider speaking up. If you don’t have a mental illness, become advocate. The more we talk, the more good we can do. >