On any given evening around 4:30pm, you will find me standing in front of the stove cooking some wondrous creation. Or most likely meatballs and spaghetti. I dress in my finest plaid fleece lounge pants paired with one of my 800 hoodies. My hair may or may not be clean, but most definitely not brushed. Same with my teeth. Unless it is Tuesday orSunday, then I may be in some combination of tank top, booty shorts, fishnets, and knee high socks. Those are roller derby practice nights. You will most likely be greeted by two screaming toddlers chasing a lab and a golden retriever. One probably completely naked, the other half naked. Though unless you are Daddy coming home, you won’t get any real excitement from them.
I am a recent housewife convert. Going from working full-time since I was 16 to a stay-at-home mom was quite the transition. I now fill my time with roller derby practice twice a week. I volunteer on Tuesday afternoons at our local café whose profits fund promoting art in the community. Every other Friday, I help co-coordinate local MOPs meetings from September- May. Hopefully in January, I will start teaching some fitness classes twice a week. I write for my blog Mondays, sometimes more than that. I also attempt to run a business from home while raising two rambunctious boys. I am sure that on paper my life makes me look like an average American Supermom.
Unfortunately, the light doesn’t always shine brightly over Camelot. I mean every castle has its dungeon. And mine is full of skeletons and dark tales. Most people don’t know that at 16 I had planned to kill myself. After years of feeling like I was broken and defective, I gave up on my will to live.
This ended in my hospitalization. After a week of being in what locals referred to as “The Green Roof Inn”. I was diagnosed with Major Depression and Borderline Personality disorder. And on the wrong damn medication with the wrong diagnosis. They put me on Zoloft. Honestly, I moved around like some junkie looking for her next fix. I could stop twitching or moving at all for that matter. My words ran together because my mind was on a bullet train. Most enjoyable was any little thing sent me into a rage. I was later re-diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.
Turns out I wasn’t the attention-seeking apathetic teen my mother pegged me out to be. Though in all fairness, my heroes at the time were Daria and Happy Bunny. (If you are reading this and are saying “Who?”, do yourself a favor and look them up.) The saddest part of that whole adventure was I faced stigma my first day back to school from my own “friends”. I was accused of faking it. I wasn’t really mentally ill. If I had I not been so desperate to fit in, I should have to told them to ,”Fuck Off.” Honestly, they were more upset because A) My mother refused to tell anyone who wasn’t family why I was in the hospital. She said that was my choice. B) It was hospitalized instead of them. Yep, my friends were basically the beta version of emo.
Strangely, the kind of stigma I had to fight with is people believing me. No one ever did.
“But Lauren, You seem so normal.”
“Lauren, you seem so happy all the time.”
“Are you sure you are Bipolar?”
Most of these people had known me for a while without knowing I was bipolar or going to therapy. I mean there is really no organic way to bring it up in a conversation. Unless I start introducing myself like this:
“Hi, my name is Lauren. I am here, I am bipolar, Get over it.”
I mean, that seems pretty reasonable. Maybe I should start doing it. But it goes against everything I have fought for. I want people to question their idea of what mental illness. 9 times out of 10, I tell people I am bipolar because they make a blanket statement about it.
Person 1 “Oh so-so is so bipolar she could never hold a job.”
Me: “No! Wrong! I have had a job since I was diagnosed at 16.”
Person 1: ***Blank stare** “You are bipolar?”
This is how it usually goes. Every time. I will be honest, it gets annoying. People have such a solid idea of what mental illness in their head. It is a concept that Society and the Media continually reinforces. So it makes me look like the liar. However, with some time and encouragement, I usually can change that person’s perception. If I can change one person’s view than I feel like I am accomplishing something. Because that one person will change the view of another person and so on and so forth. I like to fight stigma through the ripple effect.
Now I am not saying that I am perfect. Bipolar disorder has affected my life. I have started college and quit 3 times. I emptied out my bank account on useless items instead of bills on numerous occasions. I am a compulsive stress spender. I have gone days without sleep. And I have slept for days. I have been accused of being flaky and unreliable. I have been the center of the party. I have locked myself away from the world. I cheated on a semi-crummy relationship with what turned into an abusive relationship. I have lied. I have stolen things and money. But I have also learned.
I have learned that if I think I am nothing more than my disorder, it will take over. Everyday is a struggle, but I always keep fighting. I keep fighting for my husband. (Note: He was after the semi-crummy and abusive relationships.) I keep fighting for my children. They have a pretty good genetic chance of having bipolar. I don’t want them to have to fight stigma too. I fight for all of those afraid to have a voice. Most of all I fight for myself. Because I am not my disorder.
Lauren is wife and mother of two rambunctious boys. When she is not fighting stigma, she is kicking-ass on the rink for the Northern Allegheny Roller Derby. On Tuesdays, she slings lattes for the local non-profit that supports arts in the community. Other days you can find her comfiest sweatpants behind her laptop writing for her blog and contributing to Stigmama.com You can always find her at one of the following: