by Morgan in Illinois
As far back as I can remember, mental illness has affected my life. My diagnosis, like many, is one of many disorders. I can remember the fights my parents had because my father, who suffered from bi-polar disorder, refused to seek help but self-medicated with drugs, alcohol, and countless women. My mother overcompensated by keeping an immaculate home and starving herself to meet the unattainable expectations of my father...always with a smile on her face. Even at 4-years old, I felt like there was something I should be doing differently, that it was my job to fix everything, and mostly, that it was all my fault in the first place.
My mother recognized my depression early on. Though she had yet to deal with her own skeletons, she sought help for me immediately telling a number of doctors that I had bi-polar disorder. After many sessions of therapy, she seemed to back off of her theory about my disorder, but once she realized my battle with bulimia, she was put right back on her path. Numerous doctors were always willing to provide an abundance of prescriptions with very little counseling and even less follow-up. As long as I had a prescription, my mother seemed content, but no one seemed to realize how much it was wearing on me. The pills seemed to put my life in a fog. Either I was sleeping all of time, or I was sick. I couldn't stay organized or even focused for that matter.
Honestly, at 22 I had a horrific round with medication...so much so, that I don't really remember months of my life. At some point, the doctor determined that the pills were doing more harm than good. He decided to wean me off of all medication and left it to my husband to monitor my condition. Needless to say, even at this point, my marriage had been a rocky one. My husband, having no knowledge of or experience with mental illness,simply listened to my mother's advice. I had bi-polar disorder, and I was going to be just like my father. Any time there was a fight or a disagreement, his opinion was that I was irrational and I should be medicated...not because he knew, but because that was the wisdom that he was fed.
Finally, the time came that I was ready to leave. I had nowhere to go and no plan of attack, but I knew that the end of my marriage was nearing, and I knew that my husband would fight me for my children. With my mother's support, I felt he could win...because I knew how she fought to keep me by constantly using the mental illness argument. So, for the first time in my life, at 26 years old, I sought out a psychiatrist all on my own.
I knew that something wasn't quite right with me, and I knew that getting help was the only way to adequately fight for my children. After an extensive search, I found a psychiatrist who specialized in bi-polar disorder as well as educating families about the illness. Upon his evaluation, he determined that my disorder was OCD and anxiety. At that point, I was started on a new medication to help the situation. When my follow-up appointment came, my doctor was unavailable. The secretary made no recommendation as to what I should do. At that point, all I knew while the medication seemed to be helping, I was constantly nauseous which only exacerbated the other issues that I was dealing with. So, upon my own decision, I chose to discontinue my medication.
In turn, the last 2 months have been the hardest of my life. I was trying to juggle four jobs, including managing a business and owning another, a full-time school schedule, raising two young children, my marital faults, and having no sense of myself. For nearly a month, I immersed myself in being at work. I rarely came home. When I was around, my children were usually sleeping. I spent time with smooth-talkers who made me feel better about myself by telling me all the things that I wanted to hear. As far as I was concerned, I was no longer a wife...I had told him I wanted out, and I hardly noticed what a terrible mother I was being. My life was spinning so far out of control, and I was so depressed that I barely noticed...but really, I just didn't care. Then, my husband decided to stage an intervention. He and my mother decided to take my children from me. When the door closed behind them, I hit rock bottom. I was ready to hurt myself. Why not? They had taken away my reason for living. Not five minutes later, my husband came back through the door. Even after all of the terrible things that I had said to him, he stood by my bed and reminded me that he had always promised he would never leave. I realized I needed help.
I voluntarily admitted myself into an inpatient facility. That first night was the most terrifying night of my life. The sounds, the smells, everything is burned into my brain. There was no doctor there. No one spoke to me at all that night aside from getting my vitals. For two days, I didn't leave my bed for anything but a visit from the doctor. Along the way, something clicked. I was there because I needed help, and I was going to use this time to prove to the world that I was strong enough to get that help. By the time I left, I was helping to initiate group activities. I was welcoming people as they were admitted and I was trying to make sure that no one ever felt as neglected or as scared as I did that first night. My social worker sat with my husband and thoroughly explained my disorder with both of us sitting there. He asked questions, and he left feeling knowledgeable about my problems. That was the only time he visited me, per my request. Once I was ready to see him again, he showed up to surprise me with my release. No one had told me I was going home.
Yesterday was a week since my release, but I have a support system, my family. My husband holds my hand. My daughter reminds me to take my medication. I talk to my psychiatrist and my therapists. I was always scared to be happy because I was always scared that it would make me manic. In turn, I was always depressed. Now, I've never been so happy nor have I ever felt so loved. The irony to all of this, I've been trying my hand at pageantry. My platform...Overcoming Psychiatric Stigma. What a hypocrite I have been, knowing there was a problem and not seeking my own help.
Now, I strive to promote this issue head on, with sincerity. I'm no longer ashamed of the fact that I need help. I want to shout it from the rooftops. With a title, I have every intent to travel wherever I'm allowed to spread the word that problems exist in all types of people; that I am a beautiful, talented, successful woman, and I needed help. Not a day goes by when someone isn't promoting awareness for something. Why does mental illness have to be so secretive? With serenity, courage, and wisdom, we will overcome the stigma.