Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Hi. My name is Kay. This is my story...

Greetings and salutations! Welcome to my first ever blog about living with mental illness. As anyone who suffers this affliction will tell you, the stigma can be unbearable. Most people attempt to hide their illness (which only makes it worse usually), because the general population doesn't understand it. Even in today's day and age of Internet, people don't get it. And frankly the fact that everyone and their brother is taking Zoloft, Paxil, or the like for what is essentially a temporary case of mild depression, is actually making the situation worse if you ask me.

If I had a penny for everyone I know who has taken an antidepressant for a short period of time, well let's just say I would have a pretty big jar of pennies. These normal, average, healthy people are not mentally ill. They do not have an illness that will be with them forever. They will not be learning coping mechanisms, defining boundaries, and accepting limitations. They will take their low dose of whatever for a little while and keep on going. They will realise one day they hadn't taken the drug for a week and still felt great and will forget why they took it to begin with. I am not one of those people.

I can remember not feeling "normal" all the way back to early childhood.  And as I got older, it only got worse. By my early teens, mood swings, severe depression, and anxiety were becoming the standard. I had no idea what was going on and I knew it wasn't normal. My friends weren't like this. When it got really bad I isolated myself. The rest of the time I created a facade for friends, family, and strangers. The character I created was very self-assured and charismatic. Everything I wasn't. Most people had no idea what was going on behind the scenes. But playing this part was exhausting and in retrospect probably exasperated my mental deterioration. The cracks started to appear to close family and keeping up the facade became more difficult so I went back to isolating myself. It wasn't long before I had my first complete breakdown at age sixteen and was subsequently hospitalised for five months.

Prior to my first institutionalisation and even for years after, whenever I was in a depression, my mom who clearly had no idea how to deal with me, would just say "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" and keep going. It took her some 20 odd years to realise it wasn't that easy. And frankly, if you are like me, someone trying to simplify the situation like that just makes things worse. If it were so simple to just "be happy", don't you think I would? Who would choose to be mentally ill? I didn't choose this anymore than someone with diabetes chose their disease. If they could just wake up and will themselves into having normal insulin levels, I'm pretty sure they would.

Well mom, my bootstraps are broken. But I'm still alive and kicking!

This is my story, my life. I am bipolar with borderline personality disorder. I have panic attacks and I get depressed. But I've learned to live with my illness. Most of the time now, I'm very content (I say content because to me that's a state of being, not just a raw emotion like happy). I still have bad days or even weeks, but I'm surviving and thriving. I have embraced my "crazy". I'm not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I have spent the last 25 years learning to live with my illness, educating myself, making every day better than the day before. I'm not an expert. I'm just a woman with a story to tell. And I hope it helps someone get through another day.

Let's begin...