For as long as I can remember, I was always the nervous kid. You know the type; the one that couldn’t spend an entire night at a sleepover without calling her parents. The one that feared rule breaking and things that meant taking risks like roller coasters and sneaking out. The one that feared life itself from the start without even knowing what that meant.
That trait stayed with me through my childhood and into my teen years where I was diagnosed with my first mental illness, severe depression, my second, anxiety, and my third, insomnia. At the ripe age of thirteen I was given three labels for myself, and for my life, that I didn’t understand, and I wouldn’t’ for years to come. It was strange to me that I could have something that I never really knew existed. How was I depressed when the definition itself made no sense to me? I had a roof over my head, family, friends, even a dog and a pool in the backyard. I should have been happy, but in reality, I wasn’t. Sometimes, that’s just how it works.
I struggled. I struggled through my teen years to be a normal girl when I was anything but. I struggled to connect to anyone, because at the time, having a mental illness was something you didn’t speak openly about. It wasn’t something people generally accepted and that made it hard for me to exist in a world where I had so many people around me, so many people to talk to, but no one to really get me. Because at the end of the day, I had no idea what triggered my depression, only that as soon as the label was given to me, it worsened.
It continued that way through high school and into my early adult life where I spent a couple of years making bad decision after bad decision. I fell in with some less than desirable people and focused all my energy on them. This is the part of my life where I hit rock bottom. It’s the part of my life I no longer speak about, not out of fear, but out of letting go. It’s something I left in my past, and have every intention of letting it stay there.
I spent too much time making decisions out of my extreme emotions, and not out of logic. I also spent most of my time on an emotional roller coaster that seemed to just be going up, and up, and up, until my emotional high was at its limits. At the time, it seemed great. Everything was amazing, at its absolute best, and nothing could ruin what I had; until it did, until it came crashing down. And so did I, falling further and faster to the ground. I remember the exact moment where I hit rock bottom. I was driving home after it seemed like everything around me was falling apart, and I kept wondering how fast I had to go, how hard I had to jerk the wheel, to make it so it all stopped. I don’t know what made it so I didn’t follow through, but whatever the reason, it made me see that whatever I had going on in my mind, it wasn’t as simple as those same three labels I had when I was a kid.
Reaching out to a doctor was the smartest move I could have made, because I was re-evaluated and was accurately diagnosed with panic disorder, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. It killed me to realize that as I got older, my diagnosis continued to worsen. It hurt me even more to hear, from multiple doctors, that my life was no longer going to have a bright future. I would never have a normal life. If I involved myself with someone personally, they had to be aware of what they were getting into, they had to weigh the pros and cons of being with someone who was unstable; my worth was hanging in the balance with my mood swings. The future I had planned for myself, the one I thought would eventually come when I got older, would never come true. I was told that becoming a mother was out of reach because I would be a danger to them, to myself. And that I would more than likely spend most of my life in a hospital, than out of one. Things became bleak. After hearing something like that, there’s not much hope to hold on to, is there?
I waded through the next couple of years, getting used to my new life, one where I had to dissect every thought, every emotion. One where I would go from being so manic that I would stay up until two in the morning scrubbing the same spot in the sink with a smile on my face, or so low that I wouldn’t be able to move the next day, or when I could get stuck in the calm before the storm, trying to figure out what mood I would be hit with next.
Each day that passed, I struggled, and it wasn’t until I hit my mid twenties, when I was married, living states away from family and friends, that I started to realize a lot. The medications I had been taking on and off for ten years were starting to cause my body to fail. I was having seizures, developing twitches, gaining weight, and feeling sick, slow, disgusting. The doctors I went through were all the same; a continuous cycle of dissecting the past. I didn’t want to be in my present. It was all the same. “Watch your moods, plan for the next swing, think about your emotions, talk about them, be your illness, and emerge yourself in it because your life now revolves around it.” That’s what I did, until the day came that I was tired of it. I was hurting myself, I was hurting my marriage, I was just hurting.
My husband provided me with the support I needed to wean myself off of the seven different medications I was on. It wasn’t easy, in fact the withdrawals were something that will be forever burned in my memory, but I did it. I stopped seeing the doctors, and started doing my own form of therapy. One that involved me, myself, and I speaking every day, all day. It involved working through each swing, each emotion, each moment where I felt like I wanted to give up and go back to the medicines and the doctors. It meant taking one fleeting and rapid thought at a time. I was my own personal form of therapy, one that entailed walking myself through every twist and turn with a level head, with a firm hand, with the positivity I needed, the positivity I craved when the negative was all but drowning me.
It was a bold move, one filled with risk, one that put me out of my comfort zone, one that was out of character, but it worked. Each month that passed where I was medicine free, was something I couldn’t even fathom. I spent the better half of my life going through therapies of all sorts, medication from every shelf, hospitals, you name it, I did it. But what worked for me in the end, was to break free of the dependence I had on other people, other vices, to keep me stable. I needed to rely on myself. The medication was only ever a way for me to mask the symptoms, and the therapy only lasted so long every day, what I needed was to build inner strength, the inner confidence, to build myself up for a mental war.
Each day, I fought with myself, I worked with myself, and I strengthened myself. Each day, those labels that plagued me, fell away. When the year mark neared, the dreams that felt so impossible for me, came true. At the near two year mark, I became a mom, to these incredible twins. They gave me the motivation to push past the postpartum depression that was biting at my heels, and the panic attacks that came with sleep deprivation. The love of my husband, the love of my family, the love of my children became my main focus and the rest of it, the mood swings, the panic attacks, the self loathing, they fell to the side, only coming to check in occasionally. And when they did, I was armed and ready to fight them off.
Every day is a fight to stay sane. It always will be. Each morning is a new day with a new potential for the bipolar, depression, and anxiety to wiggle its way in. Some days, it wins, some days, I’m not at my personal best, some days I’m too tired to deal. But each morning, I wake up with the intention of fighting it off with the strength of a warrior, because I realized that I am worth the life I was told I wouldn’t have because I was mentally ill. I was worth the risk and I was worth the work. I had to go through it all to understand, and I had to go through trial and error to find my way, but I don’t regret a moment of it, because it built me up in the same way I hope I can teach my kids to build themselves up, to value themselves, to know that they can have the life they deserve, labels and all. Having a mental illness doesn’t make us incapable of following our dreams or having the life we always wanted with ourselves, it just makes us the strongest of them all to achieve them while battling the invisible war that no one sees.
Danielle is a twin mom, a military wife, and a romance writer. Along side her passion for reading, she adores the freedom and peace that comes from writing. She has a passion for sharing her experiences, in hopes that one day her story might help someone.
If you enjoyed this post, please take a few moments to leave a comment, or share with your friends using the share buttons below.