Friday, November 4, 2011

My Very Personal Struggle

I'm bi-polar. It is something that I was 'blessed' with and 'cursed' with. Mental illness runs in my family. I was officially diagnosed in college when I went through some very dark and trying times. I've seen an array of psychiatrists and psychologists. I've been on every medication under the sun. I went through a few years of counseling.

I made the decision a long time ago to not take medication. It made me feel like a walking zombie. It made me numb and void of any emotions. I felt like it was better to feel, no matter what the feelings were, than to not feel at all.

I've seen a lot of people in the blog world share their very personal stories of depression. And I can relate to those very well. However, my situation is slightly different, because coupled with bouts of depression, I also have bouts of mania. It makes my life somewhat like a real live emotional roller coaster. Through counseling I've learned about 'triggers' and what might cause me to swing in either direction. I've also learned to see these 'episodes' for what they are and push through them. It is in no way easy.

It's hard for friends to understand mental illness if they have no personal experience with it. I've heard it all – 'what do you have to be depressed about', 'why don't you just get over it', 'you seem normal, how do you have problems.' And the list goes on and on. Which is why I got to the point where I barely talked about it or shared with anyone. I hated being made to feel like my issues weren't truly issues. That people thought I was 'making it up' or making more of something than what was truly there.

It's hard being in a relationship and having to teach someone how to deal with you. It's hard to teach something that you barely know how to do yourself. Mind you, I've become much healthier and capable of dealing over the years, but I still have trying times. I have moments of complete and utter despair, hatred for myself and my life, sadness that fills every ounce of me to the point I feel as if I'm drowning. I have weeks that I just don't want to get out of bed, get dressed or even interact with anyone else.

The flip side of that is I have weeks of pure elation. I'm on top of the world. My thoughts run faster than my mind can process. I have ideas and I'm inspired and I feel beautiful and like nothing can bring me down. I clean a lot! And tend to want to spend lots of money and go out and see friends and party and drink and have fun. This is just as dangerous as depression. It brings with it frustration when I can't possibly do the six million things I have thought up to do. Annoyance that there's not enough time in the day or money in the bank. And can cause bad behaviors that I've worked very hard to break from sneaking back into my life.

I used to be a 'cutter' and I used to drink heavily to deal with everything. I thank God that I got the help to get away from such destructive behavior. But it's a daily struggle to keep life going in the right direction and stay on track. And the risks are even bigger now – because I have 4 kids to set a good example for and who rely on me – and understand nothing of mental illness.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, I'm having a manic type week. I have a lot on my mind. But more importantly, I know that there are other people out there just like me. People who are scared to speak up because of what others may say. Women who fear being judged and ridiculed, but need to have a voice. Because there are individuals out there who have yet to be diagnosed and get the help they need!

I just want you to know you're not alone. And I'm a friend to anyone who needs a friend. And there is hope.


  1. It's so amazing how open you are...& I love it! I haven't known you very long, but from your openness about things I do know you are a truly amazing & beautiful lady! Any time you need a reminder, just come find me!

  2. You're so brave for sharing. We all have hard things to deal with and your illness should never be devalued. You are so lucky to have people in your life who love you and understand. Thank you for sharing.

  3. You are so brave and so beautiful. The courage to be so wonderfully inspire me! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Letting others know about the things you deal with in your life (good or bad) can be so helpful for everyone. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  5. Thank you, Manda Jane, for sharing this with us!
    I 'just' struggle with depression, but people are very willing to tell me how to deal with it and that it isn't all that bad, not even knowing what it is and how it feels.

  6. I'm bi-polar too. I've been pretty open on my blog about my struggle with the bouts of depression, but I don't talk so much about the mania... 'just' depression is pretty mainstream now... but I've learnt from experience that people look differently at me when they know I am bipolar.

    I too used to drink heavily, and am a 'cutter' too.

    Thank you so much for being brave enough to share this with us :)

  7. I know how hard it is to talk about these "taboo" things. I don't know about you, but I get so frustrated at the "hush hush" attitude towards mental illnesses when so many people deal with them on a daily basis. My mom has dealt with anxiety, panic, and depression her whole life, and I've recently started dealing with anxiety and panic myself. It takes a lot to talk about it for fear of being judged or labeled as "crazy" because so many just don't understand. Thank you for sharing. You are not alone, and you're brave enough to make sure others don't feel alone. That's something special.

  8. This makes me happy that you posted this. Not because you have to deal with this stuff but I think people that deal with mental issues need to be more open about it. I've been really dealing with depression and self injury since like 2008 and at first I was like "no can't let anyone know about it. they will all think i'm crazy" but now I really feel like that's not the way that it should be dealt with. People judge people with mental illness as crazy because they don't know about it because we don't talk about! I definitely know it's not easy but I believe it's all around better for us to be open about it. That's the best way for people to learn that we aren't crazy but that there is actually something that doesn't flow properly in our brains and that we can't just snap out of it. Thank you for sharing this.

  9. This is the first posts of yours I'm reading. I deal with depression and anxiety for the past 9 years and it isn't something you can just "get over" Both of my parents have one or both issues, booth work in three mental health field, and watching them made out easier to notice those traits in myself. I know that around this time of year it starts to really try to get a hold of me, and I try to do my best to work through it. I've been to s counselor, and tried medication but had such a bad reaction after taking it once I couldn't take it again. I wish I was patient enough to take something, but after that experience I decided it's better do go without it and talk it out with those who understand it. If Ebert you want to talk. Just shoot me a tweet or email.

  10. you are so brave to post this. i'll let you in on a secret... I have panic disorder and have been on meds for it for over 13 years. you are amazing for battling it on your own (and sharing about it!)