I received a meme once from a friend that said “Someone’s therapist knows all about you” and it dawned on me how scarily accurate that probably was. I’ve left quite the wake in my 37 years of life and not all of it has been sunshine and roses. The majority of my life, save the last 6-8 years, was spent in a state of chaos and truth be told – I thrived in it. Well, that’s the story I told myself every time I did something that I knew I shouldn’t; I’m a child of chaos it’s pretty much expected that I’ll screw up. It never dawned on me that I could possibly have a mental illness or be responding to my extreme environment. Those ideas didn’t cross my mind until July 2007 when I landed in my doctor’s office begging for help because my mind had gotten away from me and depression had taken root in the deepest recesses. It was this moment that made me realize if I didn’t get the help I so desperately needed I would die.

My life up until that point was a series of fly-by the seat-of-my-pants decisions, each one leading me down a sinking path. I’d lived with a terrible addiction to chaos and had no idea what stability felt like because any time I’d get anywhere near it I’d do something to fuck it up. It was my way and it was what I’d learned from my parents – two drug addicts who’d self-medicated their lives away. Both ended up dead in drug overdoses, my father took his life when I was 17, my mother took hers when I was 29. I’ve tried twice and survived because in the end I didn’t actually want to die – I just wanted the enormous amount of pain I was in to stop. I didn’t know I was sick. I didn’t know that pain wasn’t actually normal. I also didn’t fully understand the pain I was causing others based on my carelessness. I went through most of my life just reacting and responding, never stopping to think for very long about the choices I was making. I rarely stopped long enough to question why the pain was there, I mostly blamed others – my parents, my exes, and the world who didn’t understand me.

I sought help in 2007 because I’d become suicidal for a third time, but I was a mother and honestly I was scared that I might do something more final than the previous attempts. My doctor was kind and listened and she immediately put me on an antidepressant while I tried to find a therapist and a psychiatrist to get a formal diagnosis. The pills made me sick, but they helped keep some of the thought monsters quiet so I endured. The first few sessions showed just how deeply rooted my illness had taken hold; I couldn’t see anything good no matter what my doctor asked me to focus on. I was in really bad shape. In August 2007 I received an official diagnosis of bipolar “not otherwise specified” disorder and PTSD – double whammy! I can’t tell you how relieved I was to have a name to the chaos. It became something tangible, something to fix, and something that was actually real.

I went through the trial and error process of medications, as well as the trial and error process of finding the right psychiatrist and therapist – they are not all equal. I found a supportive therapist on my third attempt (third times a charm) and a decent psychiatrist on my 4th attempt. The help I received from my medical team allowed me to flourish and find my way in the world without chaos. I had a support system in place with friends and family and was quite fortunate. I really began to thrive, and I made the decision to pursue a degree in psychology.

I’m currently medication free and therapist free almost 10 years after my initial diagnosis. I accredit these changes to my education and to my environment. I am in my final year of school for a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and I will be moving into the Master’s program after I graduate. My goal is to obtain my Doctorate and eventually teach. I have learned so much about the mind, behavior, and how much our environment plays such a large part in how we develop our life skills as well as how it impacts our minds. My current environment is extremely supportive; I have a loving husband who goes above and beyond for me, my daughter who does so much for me, my friends and coworkers who help in the ways that they can when I need it the most. I am able to thrive even more and feel safe sharing my story. I want my story to inspire others to speak, to seek help when they need it, and to keep going even when they feel like they can’t. It gets better, there are people who care, and you truly are not alone.

My illnesses did not define me; they helped me understand myself better. They helped me find my way out of most of the chaos. The chaos still exists because that is the nature of things; order typically comes from disorder so maybe my journey is the order coming out of the disorder of so many years. All I know is that life for me now may not have gone according to any kind of plan and shit may have gotten fucked up along the way in many instances, but I’m living proof that even just a small piece of hope can help you stay alive. I fully intend not to waste this life, but to set this life on fire and live it as long as possible while hopefully inspiring others to do the same.

imageMy name is Mesa Fama, I’m a 37 year old wife, mother, psychology major, documentary producer, podcast producer and cohost with my husband on Reality Trip with Ben Fama Jr., mental illness stigma fighter, and suicide survivor. I’m currently in my last year of college for my BA in Psychology, after graduation I will move on to the Master’s program, then Doctorate program (I have big goals). I produce, and my husband directs, documentary films and podcasts about psychology, mental illness, and various other subjects. We currently reside in Sedona, AZ, the New Age capitol of the World and a town where suicide has become a hot topic due to a recent increase in jumpers from the famous bridge here. I am passionate about creating change in the way we have conversations about mental illness, suicide, and addiction. My mission in life is to help spread empathy and awareness and to help others who need it and want it the most.

Mesa can be found on The Mighty and Twitter