I’ve been reading through people’s stories, their struggles, their battles, and one thing repeatedly stands out to me. Most people start their stories with the age that they felt their mental illness really took a hold, usually around 13 or 15, thereabouts. But what if you always felt it? What if from the young ages of 5 and 6, when you were just starting to be able to form your own coherent, independent thoughts and opinions, what if you knew then that you were different? What if you realized and understood that your brain worked entirely different from everyone else’s?? I did. I’m 32 years old. I have seen more therapists and psychiatrists than I can remember. I have yet to tell any of them this right here. I don’t really know why. Maybe I felt like no one would believe that? But I have very vivid memories of first and second grade, sitting in school at my little desk as the teacher paced back and forth in front of the room, and the only thing running through my brain was “What am I doing here? Who am I? I don’t belong here….in this life.” Needless to say, those thoughts are, yes, still with me today.
But, alas, at age 15 was when the real battle finally started. At age 15 was when the immense self loathing just sort of appeared out of nowhere. I began cutting myself. My whole life I have always said that I have no idea what in my brain ever told me it would be ok or a good idea to pickup a knife and just start slicing away at my flesh…no idea…but it worked. It was my only coping mechanism for many years. Sadly I still struggle with it today. When I feel too much inner emotional pain and I can’t breathe and I can actually feel my heart start breaking; that is the only release there is. Now we’re talking this was almost 20 years ago and cutting and self harm were still very taboo and misunderstood. I kept it secret for a few years, but my parents did find out eventually. I’ll never forget their tears and their just utter lack of understanding, and I don’t blame them.
Since the age of 15 I have consistently been on medication and been in therapy. So why does it still seem so hopeless?? I had my first real breakdown four years ago and had to be hospitalized in a psych ward. It’s just this horrible vicious cycle. I take my meds and go to therapy and slowly I get better and I can function and then, without fail, a year or two will go by and I have a complete breakdown yet again, but they’re always worse than before. I guess I decided to write this because I am in the middle of one of those lovely breakdowns right now, and it is by far the most terrifying. I don’t trust my own brain.
For some reason in the midst of all this, my brain did once all me to form one coherent thought and that was when I saw myself barreling pell-mell down the mountain of self control, demolishing everything in my path. I hit rock freaking bottom when for weeks I wasn’t eating, but I was downing bottles of tequila, smoking pot from whoever stranger I met. My self loathing I’ve been battling my whole entire life…that I’m used to. But this was so far past self loathing. I literally broke all the mirrors in my apartment so that I didn’t have to even look at myself. I despised myself for being pretty and attractive because that is all the men that I met ever saw. It was like that is all I was. They never wanted to get to know me or love me. I was just a pretty face. And I hated that face.
I am so unbelievably grateful, though, that I have an amazing therapist and psychiatrist. To me, that is the number one MOST important thing. People with mental illness…we feel alone all the time. We feel weighted down and heavy because we have to carry this HUGE secret around with us. I don’t know about anyone else, but the loneliness to me is the hardest. Even when I’m in a room full of people, I’m still alone. If it weren’t for the mental health professionals in my life that I have now, I can say with certainty and conviction that I would not still be here today. Because as I said before, this time around the merry-go-round is so much worse and absolutely terrifying than it has ever been in the past.
I have been suicidal more times that I could even guess a number. I hated myself because basically my whole life I was told I was “mentally ill”…like rotten food…”no good”. I had a disease in my brain and I intentionally would hurt myself to cope with all this emotional pain. I can’t count the number of times I was told that wasn’t “normal”. HA! Personally, I scoff at the word “normal” anyways.
I stumbled up on this blog today totally by accident and I have never ever done anything like this before. I just happened upon an article online about a girl who was bipolar and committed suicide. And I just sobbed while I read the article because it just resonated with me so as one struggling with bipolar. It was me. It is me. And I’ll be completely frank, I am scared.
Nothing in this world is a certainty. But I can say one thing I’m absolutely certain about. I am a warrior. I am a fighter. Instead of this stigma surrounding mental illness, if people only knew the battle, the WAR, that we with mental illness fight every single day and win…we are the strong ones. I am still here. I am still fighting. I plan on winning.
Leah D. is a 32 year old high strung, neurotic lover of her chihuahuas. As a former court reporter her favorite pastime is to argue and debate the justices and injustices of our legal system. She has never blogged, or for that matter, done anything like this before. But there comes a time for everything…