According to NAMI, 60 millions adults (1 in 4) in the US suffer from mental illness, such as depression and panic disorders. Out of these folks, 14 million people (4 in 100) have a serious mental illness, ranging form bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, and and severe depression. An estimated 15 million children (1 in 5) suffer from mental illness, with 20% of these kids, ranging from 13 to 18 years of age, that have a serious mental disorder.
When I was 17, I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 and ADHD. And I’ve struggled with self-harm for close to 30 years.
Bipolar 2 is a mild form of bipolar disorder. There are two sides…hypomania and depression. Every few weeks my moods can switch from being manic to be being depressed and vice versa. Highs of euphoria, rapid speech, lack of sleep, impulsive decision-making. My mind goes a million cycles a second. I sometimes can’t keep up. When I go through a manic streak, there are times in which I have no idea what the hell I’m going to do next. Things just happen with no rhyme or reason. Everything that happens is like being on the outside of the Japanese bullet train…while really fucking high on cocaine.
Although most people who are bipolar only experience one full-blown mania episode in their lifetime, I can honestly say I’ve had three. One when I was just diagnosed around 1988, one in 1997, and one in 2012. Mania episodes are scary. And can be deadly. There of my suicide attempts happened while under these main episodes.
My low points tend to be the worst. Depression is an evil, vile emotional state that the Devil himself would be proud to take the credit for inventing. I tend to spiral into very dark, endless holes of blackness. I can’t think…I can’t breathe…I can’t even feel. Anything. I feel like I’m void of a soul. During these hellish depression streaks, I feel as if I’m dying. It feels as if I’m sinking in quicksand…being pulled down into the muck and mire by ropes attached to my ankles.
I was 12 or 13 when I first cut. I couldn’t handle the bullying I was experiencing. I blamed myself that these kids didn’t like me so I punished myself. I thought that things would chill out after 8th grade, but it didn’t. High school got worse. The bullying got to be so unbearable that the cutting continued. I’ve had a lifetime with struggling with self-injury. Each time I cut, I justify by saying, like a mantra, that i deserve to be punished.
It’s been almost three months since I last cut and, at this time, I do not have the desire to cut on a daily basis. This is fantastic progress for me. I don’t know what to do to stop harming. People like me need objective, neutral people to counterbalance those in our life whose emotions can’t handle their sons, daughters, moms, dads, or significant others harming themselves.
People like YOU can change the world of people like me. All we need, sometimes, is a shoulder to cry on. An extra long hug does wonders. A kiss on the forehead and a caress of the face shows true, earnest empathy and tenderness when the world is imploding and we feel like we are shit. We need someone whom we can learn to trust to talk about our story…without feeling judged or pitied or preached on with religion or a fucking self-help book.
We are the heroes of our stories…we don’t need to saved as Regina Spektor once sang.
But sometimes heroes fall.
And when heroes fall, we tend fall hard.
And fall epically.
That’s where you come in.
We’re sick and tired of being judged. I didn’t want to publish this blog or even share this with Stigma Fighters because prospective employers, as well as prospective significant others, would read this and instantly assume I’ll pull a Columbine-style shooting or find me, hiding in a small part of the office, slicing my legs up.
I’d rather live a life in a padded cell, knowing at any time I could end my own life, rather than endure intolerance by insensitive assholes that really don’t give a fuck about me. I NEVER ASKED FOR THIS FUCKING MENTAL ILLNESS. I did nothing to deserve the hell in which I’ve experienced in the past 43 years.
What we need is for you help us up when we fall. Pick us up, dust us off, and carry us when we cannot carry ourselves. Our stories can get to even the most strongest will. Our holes in which you pull us out can be very deep and very dark. But with your light, and others around us, we can see the light again.
All I ask from you and everyone else on the Earth is some respect, support, and for someone…ANYONE…to just treat me like everyone else.
To those who struggle…Stay strong brothers and sisters. Tell others you WILL NOT be teased, bullied, or otherwise made to feel like you’re a lesser person. By using your voice you say “I am better than how you treat me!” By using your voice, you assert that YOU are the strong one.
Use your voice.
You are loved.
You are not alone.
Never EVER give up.
Peter M. Olsen is a Project Manager and the PR/Media Contact for the Semicolon Project, international non-profit dedicated to suicide, self-injury, and mental illness awareness. (projectsemicolon.org). He is a loyal Washington State Cougar and a Seattle Seahawks/Seattle Mariners fan. Peter has a blog called The Razor’s Edge. (razorcast.net) For more information, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org