A Decade Mental Health Reflection

10 years is a really freaking long time. Looking back I think this may have been the most transformative decade of my life because so many monumental things happened.

I graduated from high school and college. I got my first part time job at Wendy’s (a fast food restaurant in America) and first full time job (that I reluctantly quit). I fell in love twice, lost my virginity, had my heart broken many times and bought a house with my boyfriend of nearly 3 years.

**I’m going to be writing about self harm and suicide. If this may be triggering for you, I suggest waiting for my next post. Talking about self harm is triggering for me still but I want to talk about it openly and honestly.**

Self-Harm

During this decade I learned about depression and anxiety, finally labeling how I had felt for most of my life. I cut myself for the first time in 2011 in my college dorm room because I felt an overwhelming sense of depression and loneliness. This action impacted my life quite a lot. I used it to cope with my mental illness when I was at my lowest points for many years.

You can still see some of those early scars on my arms in the right light. I usually notice them in the summer when the sun shines the brightest. It takes me back to all of the pain I felt in those moments, when I thought this was the only way I could survive each day.

Therapy

Back in 2014 I was in my last year of university, I had returned to the main campus after spending a year in a big city and abroad in England. I struggled so much to readjust to life on campus but I couldn’t. I couldn’t focus, I had no energy and no drive to attend classes or do my assignments.

This brought me to seeing my first therapist, Jennifer. She was the total opposite of me personality wise, she was straight-laced, practical and put together while I walked into her office a total wreck. She was a counselor at my university that I saw every other week. She helped me take those first steps to sorting through my mental illness which lead me to the therapist I have been seeing since September 2016.

I love my current therapist. She has been with me through my very darkest times struggling with intense suicidal thoughts and daily self harm. I saw her twice a week for months until I got a grip on myself. Once I finally made it to once a week I was so proud of myself. I now see her more or less on an as needed basis which I never thought would be possible.

Suicide

After a bad breakup from my first love, my life was in shambles. Before this I had occasionally had suicidal thoughts but they were not even close to the level of intensity these were. “Kill yourself” was on repeat in my mind constantly. I couldn’t have a moment of silence without hearing that phrase.

I never attempted suicide, I think because I had such a strong team of professionals supporting me. My therapist, doctor and psychiatrist were helping me, I didn’t want to let them down by dying. And we were all working to find a medicine that would help me.

Since being on medicine I haven’t had intense suicidal thoughts. I have them occasionally  if I’m at a low point but other than that I am ok.

I’m sorry this post is so long but I wanted to write up a brief bit of my mental health journey from this past decade. In 2010 I wouldn’t have expected for all of this to happen. Life surprises us, it surprises me on a regular basis.

I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Having a Mental Illness as a Kid is Tough

I truly believe that I was born anxious.

I had serious separation anxiety as a baby up through most of elementary school when I was away from my mom. This lasted for way longer than it should have for a normal child.

As a kid, at least in my experience, I didn’t have the brain capacity to understand my emotions. I couldn’t express my feelings plus I didn’t want to. I thought that what went on in my brain wasn’t normal therefore I didn’t want anybody to know.

I struggled in school socially because of anxiety. I hated being with people I didn’t know, I didn’t like the focus to ever be on me and I always wanted to keep to myself or to my couple friends.

If I was put into a situation that made me anxious, I would cry. At 6 years old I couldn’t explain why I cried so often in school. Saying, “I cried because I didn’t like how everyone was looking at me when the teacher made me stand in front of the class.” never crossed my mind. Also if I said it, I’m not sure anybody would have understood what I really meant.

I remember taking a quiz or I was doing a worksheet in first grade. For some reason it made me upset, maybe I didn’t understand how to complete the sheet, I don’t know. Whatever triggered me made me cry which inspired the girl across from me to announce to the whole class that I was crying. My nightmare of everybody looking at me became a reality which made me cry even more.

When I reflect on being little, I so often think about the struggles that went on in my own head. I try to think about the fun things like my brother and I playing with our Crazy Daisy, going to the beach, eating ice cream and playing Pokemon Blue Version on my Gameboy Color.

I found childhood to be difficult and I think a lot of it has to do with my mental illness. Reflecting as an adult I would describe myself as being uncomfortable in my own skin. I always felt like I was in an itchy sweater that I wished I could take off so I could be anybody else but me.

I think that constant awkwardness was a result of anxiety and depression, two words I didn’t know until I was a teenager.

My awkwardness has decreased as I’ve grown but only in the last couple years have I felt comfortable in my skin. It’s been one long road to accepting myself for who I am.

Fellow Bipolar Writer readers and writers, did you have signs of mental illness as a child? If so, did you understand what was going on in your mind? Did adults around you see that you were struggling?

A Birthday Reflection

Yesterday I turned 26 years old. I had an absolutely wonderful day spent with my family and my boyfriend. There was nothing lavish or anything but it was time well spent and I felt appreciated by everyone.

One of my love languages is quality time so getting to spend time with the people I’m closest with was awesome.

It is amazing how a few years can change your perspective about life.

I remember when I turned 24 I reflected upon how I was celebrating my birthday while I struggled each day to live. This happened towards the end of my 7-month severe depressive episode, I had no idea that my suicidal thoughts were going to soon be quiet.

I thought to myself, “This is so odd. How can I celebrate my life when all I want to do is die?”

Soon after April 13, 2017, I found the right antidepressants and was finally able to attend therapy only once a week instead of twice. I got a new job plus a side gig that cut my stress level by over half.

I fell in love when I thought I never would again.

Later that year I got to see the most beautiful sunset ever in Las Vegas and go to the desert in California (two places I had never been before).

Right now my mental health is doing pretty well so in this reflection, I am glad that I didn’t kill myself. I’m glad that there was a light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.

If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, I hope that this post gives you perspective. In the moment you think that life will never get better. But it does.

Resolutions Undefined

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It’s that time again, time to list resolutions for the year ahead, defining a “new” start, a “new” year, a “new” you. Well, pardon me if I say, forget that noise. Don’t get me wrong, I believe setting goals and working toward them is healthy in all aspects of life, however I do not believe success or failures of your “list” should ever define you. Life has unexpected events, twists and turns, hardships and successes, and we are not given the play by play of what the next chapter will bring, so while we strive to be better every day, let us strive to accept who we are as enough.

That list, and whether or not we stop even looking at it in a week or in a few months does not define you, and is not the judge or jury on your track toward living your best life, but it can be a reminder. For me, I will be making a list of goals because I feel it’s important to visualize our dreams, but in the process I will also remind myself that this list is only a guide on the path of continuing to be the best version of me for the present moment of each day, and not a list that defines me, because while…

I will make healthier and realistic choices for me, my weight/body type, food choices and gym time do NOT define me;

I will make smarter financial decisions for me and my family, my wealth or material things do NOT define me;

I will strive to turn my “job” into my dream, my title does NOT define me; and

I will make attempts to forgive myself and those who have hurt me, my past does NOT define me.

These reminders not only allow me to see what does not define me but what does, and that is the love in my heart, the kindness I share and the peace in my soul. I am enough, and I wouldn’t trade this me for a “new” me any year, because this me is pretty darn awesome no matter where I am in the journey of this life.

You are enough, every little quirk, every scar, every smile, every choice and every piece that makes you, you. Set your goals for you, work to accomplish them for you, but always remember what truly defines you.

Reflecting on 2018, I am grateful for every lesson, fear overcome, goal reached, and connections made and look forward to each in the year to come.

Much love and happiness for the new year!

Lisa J.

Reflections on my Mental Health – 2018

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I can’t believe that we are already here at the end of another year. I grew a lot this year in my mental health, and I have seen the fruits of writing The Bipolar Writer blog.

This mental illness life is never easy, but I am glad where I am at with my illness. I still have a long way to go, but I can take what I learned into the new year. Perhaps the most significant win in my mental health in 2018 is with my depression. I had my share of depression. Going into 2018, I started with a small depression cycle that I got out of by early January. The worst of my depression started in March and ended in May, it was tough going, but this blog kept me whole.

The best thing was my decision in July to stop antidepressants all together (I have a long  history with antidepressants.) It was tough at first. I relied upon antidepressants for years, and the transition was a struggle. By October, I could see some real change. Being honest it was a fantastic experience because I have learned to deal with my depression without antidepressants. My depression has been at its lowest levels since I was a teen. I still have bad days. In this Bipolar life, depression will always be my most familiar companion.

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My greatest struggle 2018 has been my social anxiety. I knew this going into the year, and while I have been working on getting back to the time when anxiety was not an issue, there is a lot of work to be done.

The worst part comes from the isolation that tends to happen when my anxiety is spiraling. I get comfortable with being alone that it becomes an everyday thing. I tend to revert to my natural state which is being an introvert. I am comfortable staying in and working. Everything from being a writer, a student, and a freelance writer allows me to stay within my comfort zone. I end up losing weeks at a time to isolation, and to be honest, it is just easier. I know that has to change in the new year (I will write my goals for 2019 in another post.)

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Sleep.

It has been so elusive in my life. It is always a struggle to get sleep– getting to sleep–and having an uninterrupted sleep while sleeping. Wow, that was a more than a mouthful. I know this struggle is the hardest to understand what is going on because of the medication, I can’t sleep without my Seroquel.  Sleep was so hard for me going up and into my adult life. I would go days without sleep (this is possibly due to mania which is why I have always taken Seroquel) and it would be worse without having Seroquel in my system.

One thing that has been on my mind is my Seroquel. I am not sure if it right for me, but I am lost without it. I have a new psychiatrist (no idea how permanent this one is), and one of the areas I need to work on is sleep. I plan on going back to my sleep doctor who will help if I stick to what the doctor way says.

2018 has been a decent year, maybe my best. What I learned and everything that I have written over the past year has helped me grow. I have a better understanding of my mental health than I did in 2017. What I have learned most is that we can always keep fighting, and always keep getting better.

Always Keep Fighting

James

Photo Credit:

Crazy nana

meagan paddock

Claudia Mañas