My youth was spent in the late '70s, a time when depression was said in a whisper or with a hiss. My image of the word, if I had even heard it spoken in my home, was of my childhood friend's mother; a woman who rarely left her bedroom. Those few times I did glimpse her, bathrobe trailing, disheveled hair, and breath smelling of alcohol, my escape to a safer location was rapid and purposeful. It was time for me to leave. This woman was crazy.
Little did I realize all those years ago, that one of her mental illnesses would also become one of the disorders I would be diagnosed with in my 40s. Unlike her, however, my condition now has an actual name that doctors will pronounce (most of the time), and I am fortunate enough to have doctors who are acknowledging my mental illness and treating it. The problem, however, is mine. My issue. I am ashamed of my disorders.
Some disorders I have openly written about; others I'm not ready to speak out loud. I blog about mental illness, not only to perpetuate the acceptance of mental disorders by a society that is not yet fully sold on the existence of them, but also for myself. Because I'm not yet sold on my own mental illnesses.
I have yet to truly believe that those days where I remained a captive to the darkness in my tortured brain; those months in my late 20s when I would come home from work, crawl beneath the covers, and grip the mattress in an effort to remain afloat in a world that caused my heart to sear with pain; that those long days that stretched into weeks where the curtains remained drawn, and I didn't know and didn't care if it was day or night, whether I lived or died -- those moments were manifestations of my depression.
I have depression. Despite knowing, despite understanding that this is a real thing, I still can't wrap my sick mind around this...This disease that I considered shameful...This disease that I now finally know I have, and still believe is shameful, despite knowing it's not.
I write to embed into my consciousness the reality that long days, weeks, and months of deep sadness can suddenly shoot up into such euphoria that my mind is jerked into a frenzy of energy, and the hours spent sleeping transform into hours where my thoughts all race to the finish line, taking with them any innocent bystanders. In these states, I can conquer the world. I will win. I will push you out of the way or I will run you over. My mood is whipped from one extreme to the next; elation suddenly morphing into annoyance.
I have bipolar II disorder. This is even more shameful because I see this as beyond crazy. I am unpredictable. I am Jekyll and Hyde. How can I speak of this to others? How can I continue to advocate for mental health initiatives when my own self-perception is hazy and confused because of the generation I grew up in; because of the stereotypes inflicted by media and society? I will though.
I will continue to write. To speak out. Because every time I find the strength to say to someone, "I have Bipolar II," even though I may now have my eyes downcast as I say it, I am nonetheless slowly accepting my diagnosis. I am banishing the image of padded white walls and jackets that tie in the back, and instead am joining a movement to re-enforce the necessity for mental illness to be placed on a forum akin to physical illnesses. It is only through the admission that I have mental illnesses that I can further accomplish this.
By finding the courage to do this, in some small way, I am healing.
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