by Jo Anne in Arizona
I can remember being a toddler and thinking that the rest of the people in the world were somehow very different from me. I did not understand why I felt so sad to be here and everyone else seemed to know what to do and enjoyed their lives. I could excel in school and be the best at various sports or activities, but even so, I was not happy. I wanted more and did more than most.
I thought about jumping off buildings or jumping out of the car when in my teens. Early on I discovered what I called the elixir of life (beer). I felt much calmer and more normal when I drank. I graduated a year early from high school and went to college for a couple years.
During my first marriage, I attempted suicide. I was hospitalized briefly and put on meds for depression. I married again to someone I did not even date first--we just left to a no-waiting state and got married. I had a daughter from that marriage and married two more times to varying degrees of success. During this time I battled alcoholism and had numerous suicide attempts.
I graduated from college in 1995 with a BS. My jobs were very diverse and I was very good at them until my alcoholism and mental illness left me unable to work due to my mood swings and sheer panic, resulting in me hiding under desks or some such shenanigans. If I wasn't trying to kill myself or at least thinking about it, I was flying off to Las Vegas, buying all kinds of things, running up my credit cards and getting involved with all kinds of men and wild situations.
Finally, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I am treated with medication for depression, anxiety, and bipolar. I take many medications and now for the last few years--except for minor adjustments--I have been stabilized. I have been on disability for 10 years. For the past five years, I have been going to a place for people with mental illness to do art work. I haven't attempted suicide or been hospitalized for the past four years, even though I have had suicidal ideations and/or manic episodes. The painting has given me a direction and a purpose for my life. I work hard at it and enjoy it very much. I have even been selling some of my paintings for decent prices and want to become a self-sustaining artist even though it is difficult.
I would like the people who are suffering from mental illness to have hope, as hard as that can be at times, and to hang in there to get the right mix of meds (and take them). I really want the other people to realize that yes, I am different, but it can be a controlled difference that can be used for a positive outcome. I used to want a magic wand to wave over my head and fix me, but I really don't need to because I have discovered that even though I am seriously mentally ill, I have value and deserve to live.
I have a great angel for a boyfriend, a wonderful best friend and lots of other people who offer me support when I need it, and I am able to return the support when they need it. I still ask myself why I am so different, but I really don't need an answer. I just am.