I hope you don't think differently of me. I hope this doesn't make you avoid me when you see me out in public because you don't know what to say. That this doesn't make you shrink away from your glowing screen as if you had just watched a scary movie, sweating in silent terror. Just remember, I am still me. And I am still here. Quite frankly, I don't really mind if this does make you think differently of me…because I can handle that. I can handle the awkward stares and blatant avoidance this may induce out of pity and misunderstanding. I WILL handle it for those who can’t.
For those too choked with fear to speak out. To those so restrained by the chains of despair, guilt, and confusion that they cannot yet stand for themselves. I promise to be the one who bears what you can’t, so you can.
A year ago this month, I was formally diagnosed with Manic Depression and Anxiety. My doctor believes that I have been struggling with this burden since high school, so realistically 6 or 7 years. At a recent check-up with her to discuss treatment, she made the point of mentioning that Depression is a life-long illness, with many ups and downs. It is something that you cant really get rid of and deal with your entire life….but that’s the point I guess. You eventually, with healthy mind/body/soul practices, learn to DEAL with it. To lift yourself out of the cocoon you fall into exhausted every night, and to be able to continue on with your life. To learn how to live it with the added cargo of Mental Illness, and become stronger because of it.
Many think that as soon as you start treatment for Mental Illness, whether that be in the form of medication, traditional therapy, or other practices, you immediately make a miraculous recovery. And sometimes, that’s somewhat true.
When I first started taking Paxil, a year ago now, I felt so recovered I almost didn't believe it. It was almost as if the fog that had taken up residence in my brain was washed away by the warm sunny rays that hid beneath the film. I started going out in public voluntarily again, making grocery trips because I wanted to. I regained my ability to laugh, like seriously giggle at situations that would have frustrated me before. My communication with my friends and family improved greatly, and I enjoyed the monthly lunch plans made with friends, instead of dreading leaving the house like before. Things really seemed to improve, and stayed that way for a long time. Most importantly, the thoughts of death I constantly mulled over in my mind started to fade away.
I no longer considered what would happen if my car flipped over that railing on the freeway. Or who would show up to the hospital if I got seriously injured. Whether my friends or boyfriend would cry if I died. Whether anyone would miss me or even bother to come to my funeral. My hands are shaking as they glide over this keyboard writing these words, because I know what you must be thinking. She’s lost her damn mind. And for a long time, longer than I can remember, I thought these things and played out the scenarios in my minds so much that I was convinced that everyone did this. Everyone thought about dying as much as I did. As I sometimes still do.
See, that’s the scariest part. I am a year into treatment with two types of medications and I feel myself falling back into this intoxicating cycle. The dreams of falling and never getting up are happening more often, the thoughts of ‘life would be better for everyone if I wasn't here’ are still happening. There was a period of peace, a lull in the storm, a bright spot in the forest, that convinced me that my work was done. I stopped reminding myself every day how special I am and got lost in the swirling, churning waves that tossed me to and fro. And now I am reminded on the feelings and thoughts and ideas that haven't been eradicated. The truth is, I am not better. Not even close.
So there it is, the truth splayed out like an enticing feast for someone starving. A year in, and I am still on a big old hamster wheel, tiring myself out and going in circles. I have very high days at the top of the wheel and very low days at the bottom. I am still taking medication, but I am not healed. I am practicing healthy thoughts but still get into deep ruts. I am not 100% but I sure as hell am not done trying.
The point is- feeling anything, even terror- is a sign that you getting to the right track. It’s when you become numb that you start to really worry. Don't put your journey on an idealized timeline, because recovery is bumpy and nowhere near a straight shot. You may get lost, you may go in circles, but at least you ARE going. Don't give up, and I promise that I won’t either.
Keep Your Heads Up My Loves.
**These photos are apart of a series by my boyfriend attempting to tackle the physical personification or manifestation of Depression and Anxiety.