It’s not your fault you don’t understand mental illness. I mean, I wouldn’t either if I never had it. When I was a kid I would see people with the misfortune of being outright mentally ill. Meaning, they had some sort of tell. To be honest, it was scary to see. Scary for me, because I felt that it made them unpredictable. But also the thought of being them when I grew up scared the crap out of me.
Imagine how embarrassing?
I’d hate to be the crazy vieja with the cats.
What would people say?
Never once, did I think to worry or even wonder how that otherwise perfectly normal human being feels being trapped in whatever hell or wonderland his/her brain has them trapped in.
Are they aware of their mental state? Do they have any control? Are they getting help? Do they have support?
It didn’t matter. Even at 5 or 6 I knew being ‘crazy’ wasn’t allowed. It made you a burden. It was a blemish in the picture perfect world. It was the 5th cousin or family friend that no one had spoken to since “that episode”.
So, I couldn’t care less about the very real emotions they were feeling or going through. All I cared about was the stigma that accompanies mental illness. Fo’geddabout the person.
We used to sweep mental illness under the rug. If you can’t see it, is it really there?
Trust me, it’s there.
When I first felt the weight of depression, I was in middle school; it was like the world hated me. Kids bullied me, I couldn’t focus, I was mean to my friends. I started things and never finished. Math started to literally stress me out to the point where my anxiety would kick up and I’d become ill. Nauseous, sweaty, angry, nervous….Math.
Seriously? Math?? Yep, math.
Anyway, high school sucked. One suicide attempt, a bunch of useless therapy appointments, some meds and a bunch of weed later and I made it through high school(barely).
I learned to hide my depression and anxiety. Mask it when possible and blame it on the alcohol when there was no other explanation.
“Whats up with you?”
Unfiltered response: “I’m only a passenger on this ride. I have no control over where it takes me. I’m basically the bomber and the clean up crew all rolled into one unpredictable package. ”
Eventually, I was renamed Bipolar. Now, my life insurance, old “friends”, some family, health insurance company, and doctors all know me as Bipolar.
“Hi, my name is Bipolar”
Now, I know what it feels like to be caught up in the hell that my brain can trap me in. I know what it’s like to lose your family emotionally. I know, now, how people look at me when it shows. I know how it feels to be alone in a room full of people screaming your name. I know what it’s like to worry if I’ll be ‘normal’ in the morning or if it’ll be a ‘bad day’. I have cried over whether I’ll ever be ‘okay’ enough for someone to love me, cray cray and all. Worst of all, I’ve wondered if I’ve doomed my daughter to a similar fate, just by being me.
All of this through no fault of my own. No drug induced psychosis over here. No brain injury. No choice in the matter.
Although, I’m lucky, my meds work well and I can share my story with you. But, it has taken me a while to accept my new name and to come to think of it more as a badge of honor.
I’d like to think I’m a soldier, as are all of the many brave souls who battle mental illness everyday. Hopefully, when I am as old as the pyramids and I pass away, they’ll say:
“She was a brave, fierce fighter who may not have won all the battles but never gave into the pressure to surrender. Day in and day out she proved she was more than her name and the stigma it carried. Despite the obstacles of her very own mind, she was a badass mother, wife, and friend.”
I’m learning to live with the hand I’ve been dealt. I’m no longer apologetic. It’s here, it’s been here and it’s not going anywhere. Mental illness is real and it could happen to anyone.
On a lighter note…do me a favor and really try to think be fore you speak. Just a little, please1. I mean, I have impulse control issues and I put more thought into my words than some of you saney’s when you start getting curious about how it all works.
Thank goodness I still have some self-control.
“So” *long pause* “you’re crazy?”
Unfiltered response: “It depends on your choice of ways to define Crazy… If you mean extremely enthusiastic, then yes. I am extremely enthusiastic about punching you in your throat after that dumb question. Or, if you mean mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way then, well…yes. I feel… It… Coming… on… NOW! Run RUN! BEFORE ITS TOOOOO LATTTTTTEEEEE!!!”
“I get like that too! You think I’m Bipolar?” *said with a hint of excitement*
Unfiltered response: “OH-EM-GEE! Then we can be like twinsies and share our depressing stories together! And then and then we can become reclusive in our respective homes for days, sometimes weeks. If we’re lucky we will think of all the negatives in the world day and night, in an obsessive manner. Ooo then we can get really proactive and level-headed for a little while. Meet some new people, introduce them to the level headed versions of ourselves and have them fall for our charm. The best part, is when we pull the rug out from under them and take on a-whole-nother mood and personality.
Oh… you don’t get that? You don’t think you are bipolar? Oh, ok. You have to go?… Call me!”
Got to take it day by day, I suppose.
Lala…I mean, Liza….wait five minutes, Lisa will be back.