May is Mental Health Month and I’m at a place in my mental health journey where I feel comfortable sharing my story with you. When I was 14 years old, I was tested for ADD, I was put on medication until my doctor lost his license for prescribing non-regulated drugs to his patients.
In high school I was diagnosed with anxiety and was prescribed medication. The pills didn’t work, next my GP told me I had depression and wrote me a new prescription. When that didn’t work I stopped taking pharmaceutical drugs and began self-medicating myself with alcohol and street drugs. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I was properly diagnosed with Bipolar 2. The medication worked, I stopped drinking and using when I was 27 and the only problem left was my brain. You see I was convinced that because I felt better, I must be cured and I would stop taking my medication. This happened countless times until finally it registered that the reason why I felt “better” was because I was taking my medication and if I wanted to continue to feel good, I would have to take these pills for the rest of my life.
When I would stop taking my pills my mood would drop drastically, I would become depressed/suicidal – often ending up in the hospital.
It wasn’t until three years ago – at age 34 I began taking my medication daily and haven’t stopped since. I am a different person when I’m taking my medication. Getting a good night sleep, eating a balanced diet and living a stress free life are absolutely necessary in order for me to feel “normal”.
I surround myself with people who are healthy minded folks and who I get along with.
I work for a company called League – they have great values – one of them being “Health is my Priority.” They offer free corporate wellness services like yoga, meditation on and 1:1 visits with a therapist within the office.
League also has a progressive work environment where talking about mental health is ENCOURAGED – all of this really helps in making my health a priority an achievable goal.
I read books, listen to pod casts and follow people online who suffer as well, who have managed to find a way to live a “normal” life and who share openly about their journey. Their truth is educational, I think we should always learn about how, why and who else is struggling, how to get out of this alive and help one another. I’ve created this support group dream team in my mind which allows me to feel like i’m part of something bigger then just my own struggle. It gives me the hope to believe that when I share maybe I’m helping the way my dream team helps me.
I didn’t always feel comfortable talking about having bipolar. For a long time I felt like I didn’t know how to explain myself. I mean when I was diagnosed, my doctor said “OK you have bipolar 2” I asked “what is that?” and MY DOCTOR said “you’re nuts, not completely, but pretty much.” I also hated taking pills every day and would insist on taking them privately, hidden away from the eyes of people who love and accept me.
If you battle mental illness please know you do not have to suffer in silence. You can be in my dream team. We can lean on each other. My only rule is you have to take care of yourself.
So, take your pills (if they are working), eat your vegetables, get some solid z’s and walk outside in the shining sun. You deserve it, we deserve and if we do that, we will have our undeniable, unbreakable, little gang and we will grow, we will be OK and we will show the world that we are shiny happy people too (most of the time).