Stigma Fighters: Maddie R.

August 11th 1994. I was 15 and for quite some time my mind had been
spinning out of control. The previous year I had been sexually
assaulted. And I had been harboring the secret. It had catapulted me
into a life of confusion. I was in the midst of a serious eating
disorder. I could not concentrate at school. I was having blackouts
where I would not remember extended periods of time. There was a rage
bubbling under the surface.

This day was the day that my mind could take no more, the thoughts
that were running rampant convinced me that I the only choice I had
was to end my life. It would be better for everyone. My parents would
have less stress, the pain would be over. Or so my thoughts would have
me to believe.

And so I found every possible pill in my house. Over 500 and I took
them. Death beckoned me. And within 20 minutes I had suffered a grand
mal seizure. My younger brothers found me and I was rushed to the
hospital where I suffered cardiac arrest and congestive heart failure.
The oxygen was cut off to my brain for roughly 35 seconds and it was
recommended my parents call our pastor in as they didn’t believe I
would make it through the night. And they prepared them that if I did,
the likelihood that I would have somewhat severe brain damage was
significant.

But three days later…I woke up. Or I believe I woke up intermittently
before then, but this was the first time I was awake and have any
coherent memories. And I was mad. Why wasn’t I dead? How had I failed?
I couldn’t even manage to kill myself properly.

After spending another week in intensive care, I was moved to the
children’s psychiatric unit for the next two weeks. And here was the
start of a 20 year battle involving multiple diagnosis, suicide
attempts, numerous hospitals and more medicines than a stocked
pharmacy.

In other words, I was set up for failure. And so I did, so many times.

I was diagnosed with severe depression and bipolar. And, but for a
moment, I remember being so relieved. There was actually a term for
what was wrong with me. There was an answer. But the relief was short
lived.

I abhorred the medicines, they made me feel insane and worse than I
did before. The side effects were horrible. I also hadn’t told my
parents that I had been sexually assaulted the year before and it only
came out three years later that I had also been sexually abused as a
child. I was so ashamed, it just seemed easier to keep it to myself.
Only later would I ascertain just how devastating this would be.

I would come home from the hospitals and pull off “normal” for a while
before life would once again begin to fall apart. I graduated school
early and started college. I had an amazing job. But I was also
involved in abusive relationships. I would leave the house and go on
road trips, not telling anyone where I was going.

The cycle seemed never ending.

I began to develop seizures from the brain damage and at one point was
having hundreds per week. Having been in over ten hospitals at this
point, I was shuttled to one in North Carolina that also had a seizure
unit. I left with a new medicine that seemed to handle my seizures but
somehow left my emotions even more out of whack.

The next year I was placed in a hospital that specialized not only in
bipolar, but dissociation, as I was still blacking out serious moments
of time. The doctors could not agree on diagnosis and while there, I
tore my esophagus and my secret was out. While my family knew I had
battled anorexia a few years prior, none of them had any idea I was
seriously bulimic. The hospital shipped me to an in patient center for
eating disorders and to this day, it is still one of the most horrific
experiences of my life.

They took me off of all my medicines without talking with my other
doctors. The effects from coming off of them so quickly were ten fold.
They tried to make me eat foods that I was allergic to. I begged my
mother to come get me and eventually she did, two weeks later after
getting a court order because the hospital refused to release me. A
few months later they were on twenty twenty for mistreatment of
patients and all my feelings were validated.

For the next thirteen years, I somehow pulled off living life with out
medication. I got married. I worked jobs. And all the while, my mind
slowly. but surely, losing all control. My husband would insist I take
medicine. I would for a few days and then I would lie and say I was.
And then it would fall apart again. And other than my close circle,
very few people knew the turmoil. The effects of the sexual abuse and
assault plagued me at every turn. I was incapable of a healthy sexual
relationship.

Fast forward to 2011, my life spun completely out of control and I
could no longer keep of the facade. I was suicidal and non
functioning. I rarely cleaned or took baths. I would hardly leave the
bed. The tears would come at a moments notice and then, just like
that, I would go days with no sleep. My thoughts running so fast, no
one could keep up. I would be awake all hours of the day. I would
leave the house and go places at two in the morning. Telling no one.

I was stuck in a cycle of manic desperation. An endless roller coaster
ride and every time I would think it was over, slowly the grinding
noise to the top was happening again and I could find no way to get
off. There was no escape, because how can you get away when it is your
own mind that is your worst enemy.

I once again went to the place I swore I would never return to: in
patient care. And it started out just as all the previous ones had. So
drugged up I could barely stay awake, chills and vomiting. and I was
left with the belief it would always be this way. There was no hope
for me. Then something that had never happened before, happened. They
listened to me. They took me off the medicines that didn’t work and
got me on ones that actually allowed me to live a life worth living.

I was also diagnosed with PTSD along side my bipolar & anxiety for the
sexual abuse and assault I had endured. I had to sign a contract and
enter into a two year program for PTSD. I was enrolled in DBT and CBT
therapy. It was one of the most hellish and grueling processes to get
through. It was filled with nightmares that plagued my every sleep.
Memories that were so deep in the recesses of my mind, making their
way to the forefront.

But the moment that I graduated, there was a sense of pride I didn’t
know was possible.

I cannot express how vital a role my family has played in my recovery.
I had parents who did everything humanly possible to get me well, who
loved me even at my worst. and most of all, I had a husband that loved
me in spite of my flaws and who stayed when most would have left. He
personifies what it meant to take in sickness and health to heart.

I still struggle all the time. But this therapy equipped me with the
ability to deal with my illness and emotions in a way that I was not
capable of before. And it also allowed me to understand how I look
when I am healthy and to know the difference when the demons come
creeping in.

The bipolar and PTSD are a huge part of my life and always will be,
but I am at the point where I am finally showing them who’s boss.

maddiehair

Madison Rae lives in North Carolina and true to her Southern roots,
enjoys sippin on sweet tea and bourbon, but not at the same time. She
loves to get lost in used book stores and writes about her love of
food and travel while sharing her struggles of infertility, bipolar
and PTSD. She blogs at The Whimsy One
http://tingeofwhimsy.blogspot.com/ and The ThankFull Tummy
http://thankfulltummy.blogspot.com/ Follow her on Twitter at:
https://twitter.com/thewhimsy1