a monthly Mental Health Awareness feature
by Maddie M. White
Check and Balance System
What mental illness do you suffer from?
When was the first time you noticed it and how?
I noticed it probably when I was in the 12th grade, I am now 23, and I didn’t seek help till probably after my first year of college. I truly noticed it, and the effects it had on my life when I was in an emotionally unstable relationship with a much older guy. I would have certain highs in life that I didn’t feel I would ever come down from and then when I got to the lows they were awful. I would push people away and pick fights with people I cared about over the stupidest things, there would be days I didn’t want to get out of bed or function, I went to work and I played the part I would smile but when I was alone I felt so deeply alone.
How does it affect your life as a while?
It’s tough some days, especially since I am married now and we are starting to think about our plans for a family. My husband has a hard time understanding some days why I’m fighting with him over wanting to go out when all I want to do is stay in. It’s very hard when my husband is the life of the party and I want to just be in the corner. Then there are the days where I feel invincible I’m at the top and I feel good. The housework is done I’ve cooked dinner all week the cat has fresh food and such. I have to remind myself to find a balance that it’s okay maybe the whole house doesn’t have to be clean but if I accomplish the laundry then I should feel good. It’s a big checks and balance system. I’ve learned and am still learning how not to get so upset over things just to breathe deeply, take a step back and think. It’s not always the answer but it works majority of the time. I also have a problem with just blowing up and going to the extremes. It’s literally one end of the spectrum to the next that’s why a balance is so important for me.
How does it affect your day-to-day?
There are days I let the laundry pile up and the dishes and I forget to call people back at work, it makes me a little flaky and unreliable. I give 10% not 100%. Then there are days I go into work and I get 5 things done in one day that sometimes would have taken me all week. A big part of my job is calling people on the phone and it’s also the part I hate the most. I have a big anxiety when it comes to talking to people over the phone. I’m afraid of sounding stupid and unknowledgeable. I also work with someone who is amazing at her job and it’s hard to not compare that’s the toughest part sometimes. I am also never on time for anything. I hit the snooze button 10 times in the morning. I’m always in a rush which in turn rises my anxiety levels but I can’t stop these habits some days. I’ve once explained these habits to my therapist as the “rabbit hole” once I start with these destructive behaviors I can’t stop till I reach that low point and just ride it out.
What have you learned about it?
That there are different forms and levels of bipolar depression. That bipolar is not a taboo word either. It’s something real and serious that a lot of people suffer from. I’ve learned it’s a roller coaster of emotions and it sucks some days, literally it sucks the life out of you. It doesn’t have to be all consuming though.
What has is taught you about yourself?
I am more than my depression. I’ve learned I’m a lot tougher than I thought. That it’s also okay to give yourself a break some days, if you don’t want to get out of bed that’s okay. I’ve learned that also going out of my comfort zone is good. Again it’s a big balance I’ve had to learn what’s good for me and what’s bad for me. I’ve learned that sometimes crying helps, locking myself away from civilization is okay for a few hours but after that I need to step out and talk with someone. That is literally okay to cry and show emotion and be vulnerable without the extremes.
Have you found anything helpful in coping with it?
Taking my medication routinely, and sleep! A proper amount of sleep. And talking with the right people. I’ve tried several different medications and combos and right now I’m on the best one for the right situation. I’ve recently discovered though it has some birth defects as a side effect so I might have to change that soon when I decide to start trying for a baby. I’ve learned that finding the right people or person to talk is very important. I’ve had one bad experience with a friend once and after that I’ve become guarded with who I open up to about my mental health but I’ve also learned that mental health needs better awareness. I’ve tried multiple things though but a lot of that was for anxiety, I’ve tried the adult coloring books, knitting, crafts, all sorts of things. The best coping mechanism is really just knowing my triggers.
Describe a time in which you felt empowered after doing something in spite of the disorder.
I feel empowered every day I wake up and go to work and accomplish the smallest tasks. I have felt the most empowered though at work, when I’ve gotten a really tough situation or client in front of me and I have a big responsibility to sell things and I’m not sure how to phrase things to people and I just muster up enough courage and I sometimes walk away with 3 products out of a simple question those are the days I feel empowered.
For a long time I was someone who was very happy but I didn’t want to admit there was something wrong or missing. I have a family history of mental illness and it was also something that no one ever talked about either, I searched for answers in a lot of wrong relationships. I tried a lot of different medications and therapy sessions. It was difficult because every time I got comfortable with a therapist they would leave the practice, I found it difficult to open up and trust anyone. It wasn’t until I got older that I decided it was time to put a stop to how I was living and feeling so lost and alone. That I’m a normal person regardless of my depression. I’m learning when something isn’t working to talk with my doctor and find something that does work. I’m learning to talk with people in my life about what’s going on and how to help me. I’m also learning to be an advocate for mental health and talking about the issues. This is a life long journey and I’m learning to live with it every day and not letting it control me but me control it.