Stigma Fighters: Roni Askey-Doran

From Suicidal To Sensational

The first time anyone asked if I was out of my mind, I was six years old. With an old towel tied around my neck, I had climbed up to the garage roof and jumped off. If Superman could do it, so could I, right? Even at that tender age, I wanted to fly away from my life and never come back. Clearly, there was more going on than a normal six year old girl should have to handle. At eleven, during an astral-travel experience, I hovered under the ceiling of my bedroom, deciding whether or not to re-enter my body and continue living the nightmare that encompassed my childhood. Suicidal, and out of my mind with rage and resentment, I came back. A few years later, I ended up in a hospital psych-ward after a thwarted suicide attempt. An insane death-wish ruled my life for decades but, by some miracle, I survived all the craziness. Now, I admit, yes, I am out of my mind, and I don’t have any intention of going back in there any time soon.

Believe me, if you saw what’s going on in there, you’d give it a wide berth too. My mind is a labyrinthine combat zone filled with salivating demons and shrieking monsters armed with weapons of mass self-destruction. The scariest Ghost Train in the world is a walk in the park compared to this gallery of unspeakable abominations. Guys like Tim Burton would have a field day in there, creeping around to discover horrors even he has never imagined lurking around every corner. My damaged mind is an emotional minefield, dark and messy, hazardous and harrowing, a dangerous place to venture, even on a good day. It’s not just the bipolarity. Once you get your head around that monster, there are the goblins of childhood trauma, sexual abuse, PTSD and OCD to contend with. All of them with sharpened fangs, leaping around armed with razor-tipped spears and howling so loudly that you can’t hear yourself scream. That I am still here to tell the story is somewhat mystifying. I don’t know how to explain that. Destiny?

I don’t remember a time between my failed Superman stunt and now when I didn’t have Bipolar Disorder. The depression and mood swings, crazy thoughts and suicidal tendencies, as well as repetitive rewind-playback thoughts, absurd obsessions that make no sense, and that erratic feeling of being like a living emotional explosion just waiting for the right set of circumstances to set off my hair-trigger. My mental illness went undiagnosed for three decades as I roller-coastered along, believing the insanity was just part of the wild woman I became, even though I didn’t like her very much – I thought she was nuts! Once I knew what I was facing, I recognized the distinctive signs of bipolarity in every aspect of my tumultuous journey through childhood, adolescence and adulthood. It was the diagnosis that stopped a lot of the random craziness, like that “Oh!” moment, when you finally understand: “I’m not crazy. I have Bipolar Disorder. I have PTSD. And I’m obsessive-compulsive. Those are diseases, not personality types! I’m sick! There is treatment! Yay!”

Even so, people who don’t understand the tangled wiring of a messed up mind can be cruel. The stigma attached to mental illness, however diagnosable and treatable, sticks like fresh doggy doodoo to a shoe.

“She’s crazy!”

People eager to stigmatize aren’t usually interested in learning about the inner-workings of mental illness. They don’t have great reserves of compassion or understanding stored in their rock-hard little hearts and withered minds. However, they are not my problem. What they think, say, and do is of no interest to me. I know Bipolar Disorder doesn’t define me. Mental illness is not who I am.

Despite seemingly insurmountable odds, I’m here, a living breathing bipolaroid that sometimes makes sense and sometimes doesn’t, that is sometimes friendly and sometimes anti-social, that is sometimes creative and sometimes feels dead. And sometimes feels sensational – as long as I’m out of my mind. Getting out of my mind has been a life-long project resulting in histrionics and hilarity and a modicum of balance. I’m Bipolar And I Know It is part of my success; a non-fiction book documenting the path I took to find ways to live with my illness without prescribed medications, and the challenges encountered along the way. It was written neither in the pit of depression nor on the peak of mania, but from the delicate balance of emotional stability that resulted from hard work and perseverance. Too bad one can’t become famous solely on the basis of battling mental illness with epic heroism and eternal optimism. Many people renowned for their other achievements have in recent years made the über-private battle for sanity more publicly acceptable. Now, as education and understanding spreads, we can shine spotlights on depression and emerge from behind the stigma.

Making the transformation from suicidal to sensational has taken a lifetime of training, practice, freak-outs and failures, all of which paved the way to success in living with emotional balance, inner peace and happiness. Getting out of my mind was the most important factor. Things haven’t changed much in there over the years: my mind could still give a Ghost Train a run for its money. However, my attitude to what is in there has changed. My actions and reactions to the environment both inside and outside of my head make a difference to my mental health. The way I perceive myself from within and without can make or break my day. Allowing myself to feel what I feel without judgment, criticism or fear of reprisals helps achieve an emotional balance I once thought impossible. Not allowing anyone to judge me based on their superficiality helps me hold my head high and reject the “shame” of stigma. What I feed my mind, body, and soul is also an integral part of my healing process. These are my secrets to becoming bipolarly sensational.

Roni Askey-DoranSM

Roni Askey-Doran

Blog: http://imbipolarandiknowit.wordpress.com

  • Tony Spagnoli

    Omg! Sometimes I dream of flying. Just me. Above the treetops. Quiet and calm. That’s the happiest feeling I have ever had. Thank you for your story.

  • Mariah

    Wow, what a moving piece. It IS too bad there is no fame in conquering the beasts within, but in sharing this, you allow us to recognize you for your bravery and perseverance. Thank you!