My Big Decision

Making a big change in life is always intimidating. Meaning, stuff can go wrong and by the time it does it may be too late to change your mind. My big decision was made nearly four years ago now, and it was a big decision, but one I never regretted!

After years of counseling, a variety of psychiatrists, and even a period of hospitalization, I made the decision to go off of my antidepressants and mood stabilizers. Big Decision! None of my friends and family could understand why. “You are finally stable and moving forward in life. Why would you want to risk changing that?” They all asked me.

Why? I hadn’t been ‘unmedicated’ for years. I hated it. I hated that my meds made me feel like a zombie, that they made me fat, and most of all I hated that I had to rely on a pill to be sane. I really felt as though I had learned enough about myself through all my therapy that I could manage my emotions and mood swings without medication.

I did a LOT of research on what might happen if I decided to wean off my meds. Really there were two possible outcomes.

1. I could go off the tracks. I could become the manic-depressive freight train that I had been all over again. All my years of hard work could be wasted, and worse, my meds might not work for me any more if I resumed taking them!

2. I could be ok. I could become a medicine free individual who used alternative ways to handle my episodes. I could rediscover who I was. I could embrace my ‘disease’ and go on to lead a wonderful life.

I promised myself I would have outcome number two. I took that leap of faith. With the help of my family, friends, and physiatrist I weaned off of my medicines. Life became beautiful.

I was a person again. I was able to regain my healthy weight, to get up off the couch, and to love my job. I was able to connect with friends and co-workers like never before because my mind wasn’t in this cloud of… nothing. I learned to meditate, take a deep breath, go for a run, or take a bubble bath when things got me down. I learned it was just fine to splurge on chocolate or a new outfit every now and then and not feel guilty about it. But the most important thing I learned was to love and accept myself. I found the ability to acknowledge that I might have more drastic emotions and mood swings than others, but it’s ok because that’s just part of who I am. And I am beautiful.

It makes me smile a bit when I see the look on people’s faces after telling them I’m Bipolar, clinically depressed, and have anxiety. They appear to be shocked that I would so blatantly offer this information. It is as if they expect me to be ashamed of my diagnosis and hide away from the world. At one point in my life I was ashamed of these things. I did hide them. I didn’t want to be ridiculed for my illness.

That all changed for me once I stopped taking my medication and started to embrace who I was. It become simple for me to explain to people, this is something I deal with every day, this makes me a little unique, but it doesn’t rule my life.

It’s sad, truly, that there is such a stigma around mental illness. Believe me, it’s not ‘all in your head’. People treat those of us with mental issues so differently when they know we have an illness. However if they are left unaware, they often will never even guess that we fight these daily battles.

The funny thing is, we aren’t ‘different’. No different from the man with cancer, the girl with asthma, the woman with high cholesterol. We have a chronic medical condition. A disease, an imbalance in hormones, that we fight, put up with, and embrace each day. We aren’t crazy. We aren’t lunatics. We aren’t faking it. We are humans, just like the rest of the world, fighting to make our way through life. Fighting for happiness and love. We want to be accepted.

Maybe there is a stigma because people don’t understand the illness. all they know is what they may have seen or heard from a variety of (likely unreliable) sources.

A lot of different ideas have come my way regarding my mental illness.

•It’s not real

•You’re just doing this for attention

•Just take a happy pill

•You will get better soon

•If you are ‘sick’ why are you still at work

•You are making yourself miserable

•Can’t you just get over it

•What is wrong with you

To these people all I can say is, I have a real, chronic, medical condition. It is a part of my world, always has been always will be. No I am not a psychopath. Rather I am a very understanding and forgiving person. I refuse to let you put me down because of our differences. You are fighting a battle of your own in some way, and I do not put you down because of it. I require equal respect; that I give so I shall receive.

I hope, that one voice at a time, we can put an end to this stigma around mental illness. We are people, who want the same things as you, forgive us, we have to work a little harder to get there.

I made my big decision, and it was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself. Not only have I learned to embrace myself and my illnesses. I am able to manage my symptoms and even talk with others openly about my diagnosis. I know that it’s not the right decision for everyone who suffers from a mental illness, but that’s ok. That’s what makes us unique and gorgeous in our own way. Find courage. Learn to love yourself for who you are no matter what you are fighting, and no matter how you are fighting it.

S. Bishop

DSC_0720About me? Well I am a different person on different days. On a good day, I am a fun loving, adventure-having, smiling woman. On a bad day, I am a homebody, grouchy, and moody individual. My life is an ever changing roller coaster of emotions and situations. Some things never change for me though. My love for my husband and daughter, my passion for nature, and my diagnosis. I am Bipolar. I am depressed. I am anxious. I am ‘untreated’. But those things aren’t who I am. I am first and foremost a mother, a wife, and a woman. I am beautiful, I am kind, and I am loving. So that, that is about me in a nutshell!

S. Bishop can be found on her blog