First of all, howdy y’all! My name is Carisa. I’m 38 years old. Before we get too deep into the sludge of shit I constantly weigh through daily, I’d like to tell you how and why I chose to submit this essay to Stigma Fighters.

I was asked by a dear friend, whom is also a Bipolar page owner on Facebook, as well as a Stigma Fighter, to participate in an exciting opportunity. She asked if I would consider telling my story for Stigma Fighters about my own personal battle surviving thus far with a few mental illnesses I have been diagnosed with. We had actually “met” through social media, but never in person. When she asked, I just started bawling. It caught both of us off guard I think. Even though the two of live on different continents, she immediately went into support mode. I told her that they were happy tears.

My true talent used to be to write, but it’s been years. So, what do you give a chick that likes to write, raise awareness, and time to dedicate to the cause by researching and writing? Just turn me loose and watch me go! Here is a little piece of my story:

I am a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, step-mom, a Mema, an absolute love struck mama to my four fur babies, and a loyal friend. I love as deeply as I loathe. There simply is no in between in my world. The relationships that I do have, though few, are extremely intense. My relationships have always been this way. Whether that is due to my illness or a simple personality trait, I have no idea. However, if one gives me so much as an inkling that they have an ulterior motive, I will simply walk away without looking back. Some people may see that as cold-hearted. I see that as perfectly normal and also a survival technique.

I was diagnosed 3 years ago as having Bipolar 1, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder. I also have a “Dual Diagnosis,” which translates to Bipolar + Substance Abuse. This is very common with people who live with mental illness. Some, though not all of us, self-medicate. It’s a classic textbook symptom that can sound so minor when you read it, yet living it is anything but minor.

Today I can step back and recognize the culprit of mental illness throughout my families. It is apparent on both sides of my family that members have been living with mental illness. There have been quite a few voluntary and involuntarily commitments to psychiatric facilities in my family, including two of my own. There have been family members that have undergone Electroshock therapy and other treatments. And, unfortunately some just got tired of fighting, and the beast won. I have lost family to suicide. Even knowing all of this, and living all of this, it’s still a battle when you fight it yourself.

I knew fairly early in life that there was something different about me. I would just sob over gruesome images while other kids were unaffected. When I was about twelve years old I wrote my first suicide note. I would write it, lay it on the table for my parents to find, but I always confiscated it before they returned from work. However, that did NOT mean I had an epiphany that life was grand. I was just afraid to go through with it. I wrote hundreds of these letters over the years, but today I’m glad I was too frightened to actually attempt it.

My first psychiatric appointment was when I was seventeen years old. Well, I didn’t have time for that shit. I was entering college and partying was the only thing that I was interested in. Eventually I flunked out of college and became a full time functioning addict instead of the shining student I had aspired to be. After leaving campus I started drug binging. However I felt depended on the drug I chose to use. My truth may hurt me, but if it helps someone else then it’s worth me being honest.

I once again sought help in 2001, but was denied because I didn’t have insurance. I did get it together for a while, but ended up successfully climbing the corporate ladder blinded by drugs. I thought I was justified, that as long as I was working, not stealing, and acting like a functioning member of society, then I was in control. I was oh-so wrong.

I was admitted for my first inpatient treatment in 2002 and my second one was in 2013 after finally getting diagnosed. I’m therapist, Doctor and medication compliant, though I feel the meds kill the very fiber of my soul. But how do you choose over uncontrollable emotions or absolute numbness? I don’t think there is a winning answer here.

I am my own worst enemy. I self-harm using drugs in ways you would never dream of. I would never want to have to do this to someone else. Or even allow them to do to me. This is my story. My survival.

Speaking of stigma, my primary care refused to see me because I refused to come off the psychiatric medicines, so I changed doctors immediately. Yes, stigma is very much alive in the medical field as well.

Today, I’m putting one foot in front of another & trying to live in the moment. I would like to express my gratitude for asking me to be a part of this amazing journey of awareness. I’m truly honored.

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IMG_20150130_144858_050I am a tried and true Southern Belle from rural North Carolina, but do not let that fool you. I always have a little something up my sleeve.

Carisa & her right hand admins can be found at www.BipolarKraze on Facebook. We look forward to hearing from you!

Carisa can be found on Facebook and her website

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