Who Am I Without My Mental Illness?

Have you ever asked yourself that question? During moments when I’m frustrated with a wave of depression or a frantic zap of anxiety hits me, I wonder what my life would look like without mental illness.

I have lived with depression and anxiety for most of my life Especially as a child, I didn’t understand why I felt the ways that I did. I thought I was just weird, that nobody else felt such intense emotion like me.

If I could erase that part of myself, who would I be? Would I be a different person or relatively the same?

I have wondered where do I begin and my mental illness end? What parts are truly Megan and what are solely caused by anxiety and depression?

Maybe there is no beginning or end to it all. Maybe mental illness is just one part of what makes up each of us like our talents and passions.

What do you guys think? Do you think you would essentially be the same person without your mental illness(es)?

To Be(er), Or Not To Be(er)

“Please Drink Responsibly” is the phrase slapped across every product you must be twenty-one years of age to purchase in the United States. Alcohol has been, is, and always will be one of the most controversial matters in history for many reasons. Our grandfathers’ fathers made it hidden in the south eastern mountains to provide for their families in the most lucrative way they could. A tradition has been made out of its’ recipes and stories of bootlegging and prohibition. It’s the one thing that even the United States government couldn’t stop.

As with anything however, where there are pros, there are cons. As with anything, if enjoyed in excess there are many debilitating effects it can cause on your health and the health of others. Poor judgements and decisions are made which can impact many people for the rest of their lives. If you live just below the Bible belt as I do, don’t be surprised if some mega church preacher attempts to release you from the grasp of the Devils’ nectar as he lovingly embraces you while reaching for your wallet and groping every square inch of your wife with his eyes.

The point I am trying to make is that we live in a society that welcomes the use of alcohol like an old family friend. It’s as American as apple pie, baseball, McDonald’s, and this messed up obsession we all have over reality television. So if no one else seems to have a problem, and it all just is a natural part of life, do I really have as big of a problem as I think I do?

If you have followed me or my blog for any amount of time, you may have stumbled across my introduction or several works about alcohol and my battle with the bottle. Today I want to give you a little background about it, as the subject weighs heavily on my mind lately. I have been drinking since I was fourteen years old. It started out as simply as it typically would. Tall bottles of Smirnoff Ice which eventually led my curious tongue to tall cans of malt liquor. I drank A LOT of gut rot, gas station specials as an early teenager such as Steel Reserve 211 and the likes, until I finally calmed down into normal domestic beers.

At around the age of eighteen I began to indulge in liquor. Trying a little bit of anything I could get my hands on, I quickly discovered that vodka and gin were two of my least favorite liquors. As stereotypical as it will sound, I was a bourbon guy through and through just like my father. The smoky taste, the warm burn of eighty proof tingling down your throat, and that decadent smell of oak as it swirled around in my glass could make my mouth water with every sip. I had made it my mission to become a connoisseur of bottom shelf bourbon. Even when I moved out on my own, the only things I had to my name were a few pots and pans, a record player, a futon mattress, and most importantly… a bottle of rye whisky.

It wasn’t until last year in September that a panic attack made me really look at myself and question my life. Once I began my journey for better mental health, I realized I was using the alcohol to self medicate my anxieties and possibly even some of my bipolar tendencies when I look back in retrospect. I made a lot of changes to my lifestyle with help from my wife. I decided to not keep beer in the apartment we share and she agrees because she feels it’s a waste of money. We agree to only drink when we go to restaurants or concerts and I stopped buying liquor all together because if it’s in my reach, I will drink it.

It’s not uncommon for me to become my own worst enemy. I am my worst critic, my worst judge of character, and the last person I ever want to have to confront. Lately if I’m out somewhere and decide to have a beer, I look at myself in shame and feel regret over my decision. I feel as though I’m letting myself down and even you down. Even though I don’t drink for the same reason anymore, enjoying one beer throws so many questions into my mind, it almost makes me wonder if it’s worth it. On the other hand, I’m not drinking for the same reason anymore. I enjoy beer as a craft and a beverage. Taking barley and hops and creating a flavorful masterpiece is a skill I am honestly envious of. There are so many good things about beer that go far beyond alcohol content.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a situation that is different. I am not writing this to sway someone who is struggling with addiction to drink. If you are someone who is on the fence, I encourage you to please take the plunge and reach out to your local alcoholics anonymous program or outpatient rehabilitation center. What I am writing this for is to tell my story and to pose a question to my friends, the readers.

With the habits I continue to follow, I find myself wondering if I really have as big of a problem as I think I do. Am I more in control than I realize? Am I blowing this entirely out of proportion? If no one else seems to have an issue, then what is my problem? I am fine with not buying liquor, but am I wrong if I buy beer from time to time? What are your thoughts, and do you struggle this as well?

Asking: Is Medication the Answer?

Anxiety creeps in and doesn’t whisper sweet nothings into my ear. It screams at me, “You are weak! No way in hell can you do this! Quit! Go hide!” I shake my head, trying to relieve my brain from this damaging downward spiral. It’s no use, it won’t stop.

While I have made a lot of progress, I still feel as though there are things I should have overcome at this point in therapy. For years I have avoided medication. There are a lot of reasons for this, but mainly I think it’s because I’m scared. Sometimes I wonder if taking a pill would really calm the angry voices inside, the self-doubts, the mountain of fears. Is it really that simple? A daily regimen of drugs, foreign toxins introduced to our blood, recreating and shifting our brain chemistry. Would it leave me the same person I am, but a better version of myself? It’s so hard to believe it’s that simple.

Also, weight gain terrifies me. That is probably a stupid reason to avoid helpful medication, but it is the truth, please don’t shame me for speaking my truth.

With several friends openly taking medication I wonder if they are better off than I am. I want to break free from the cycles of self-doubt and fear. I feel like I’m on this plateau, stuck on progress. I had one goal, to be able to go into a store and walk through the check outline by myself. I have done this here and there. Though the anxiety that creeps in every time I consider doing this is haunting. So much so that I still avoid doing this whenever I can.

This is classic avoidance, I know this. I should care more, create a goal, but I don’t want to. The motivation to face my fears is strongly lacking. Would medication change this also? Maybe I would suddenly feel like joining a running team and volunteering at my son’s school. Hmmm, probably not. I have to fly out of state twice in the upcoming months. While flying has never been a trigger for me, there are a lot of triggers in an airport. All the LINES that don’t move!!! No way out!!! Oh my god, I am sweating just by typing that!

I have a prescription of Lexapro in my nightstand drawer, from over a year ago, that I never took.

This post is more of a question to followers of The Bipolar Writer. If you can share your story with medication, I am all ears and very grateful. I will never pass judgement on those taking or not taking medication. Shame free zone here!

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