I’ll be honest about it: This is the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to write. Not because I’m afraid of what others will think of me or my illness, but rather what I think about it. But each time, I’ve had an episode of depression or mania, I refused to give in. One thing they never tell you about people with mental illness is, just how very resilient we truly are.
At 19, the first depression I experienced was relatively mild. There was no manic phase preceding it or after it. I seem to cycle between very intense episodes of both depression and mania every few years or so. But I’m left with mild depression in-between these events, coupled with many events of hypomania. Sometimes when I’ve experienced extreme life events or periods of environmental stress, it can also trigger very serious episodes as it did earlier this year with me. After my first depression was treated very effectively with an antidepressant called Paxil, my symptoms stopped. I went on for a good two years with relatively few effects from it, mostly staying in a lower hypomanic phase. Something I was unaware of…
I decided to come off Paxil and developed discontinuation syndrome from taking it. But I was able to get off it completely using a very clever trick with another SSRI prescribed to me with a longer chemical half-life. I was free of depression, mania and anxiety until for another 3-4 years. Then as quickly as these issues had arose before, within about a month a very intense, all-consuming panic set in; an anxiety disorder. I like to say, I lived for an entire year in one long, horrific panic attack, with the worst depression from trying to control the anxiety I’ve ever had, even to this day. So I went back on the Paxil and the symptoms ceased once again.
I had a nurse practitioner also recognize that I was experiencing hypomania along with these episodes too. I was put on Lithium which triggered hypothyroidism, I had to come off it but I was still left with this illness and on Levothyroxine until a year later my thyroid went high. In subsequent years, I also then experienced another episode of hypothyroidism without being on Lithium and two episodes of hyperthyroidism. I was found to have a high white cell count during these episodes and antibodies against my thyroid.
A few years later, I tried another medication to treat the mania, Risperdal which made me very sick with extreme bouts of agitation. My periods stopped, I gained massive amounts of weight which I had to lose and developed hormonal acne. I eventually had to stop this medication altogether because of the damages it was doing to me. I lost the weight I had gained, my periods returned, my skin cleared and I felt much better. But from losing the weight, I also found myself with two anemia’s now and other deficiencies. I was put on shots of B12 and iron supplements for both anemia’s.
There appears to be this dichotomy about stigma though. Some of the worst stigma I’ve encountered often comes from both extremist ends in the spectrum of reality: The people who are very ignorant about mental illness or the very educated about it. I happened to bear the brunt of very ignorant and abusive hacker-trolls earlier this year on Twitter with it. I was stalked, harassed, had my privacy breached and private health information used against me as censorship. Some of it was even posted on Twitter’s platform when these hackers were unable to uncover anything else to “Shame-Dox” me with.
I was impersonated, defamed and slandered too. The harassment continued on for an entire year with constant abuse. I also received brutal, unrequested imagery/pictures and threats that were both terrifying and shocking. I had my Twitter account hacked several times. These events triggered off an extreme mixed episode of both serious depression and mania, and I tried to hurt myself. At one point, I received several ominous requests that went beyond the typical “kill yourself” meme with sincere pleas for me to kill myself. It made me profoundly ill with new PTSD-like symptoms I had never experienced before.
I tried to report these events three times to our local police here, they refused to allow me to even file a police report with evidence and screenshots of the abuse. I also realized that law enforcement were generally ill-equipped to understand these types of virtual crimes and they did not have the appropriate experience or education needed to handle it. I became further despondent and disoriented; depressed, isolated and anxious, worried that I could die from it or be killed from it. Even now, I’m embarrassed and terrified to talk or write about it openly; I don’t want any more retaliation or damages done to me.
Now I find it somewhat hard to sit down, relax and write. But I’m trying to get back into it as I deal with the emotions from these latest events. Before the hacking, I was relatively stable and getting better. Now I feel like I’m having to relive the same things and emotions I dealt with years ago to get over it.
I came to writing quite by accident, I went with a friend to a local writers group and loved it; I used it as a way to work through things I was worried about. I used it during a time I was unable to do much of anything else, so I wrote my way out of problems. Now I’m finding it difficult to do after these latest events. But I also know I’m resilient–I’ve lived through so many ups and downs that I refuse to give up or give in. I hope if I keep at it, eventually it will get better. I came across this statistic and it really resonated with me after this last year, it’s true and I live it:
“People with psychiatric disabilities are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violent crime (Appleby, et al., 2001). People with severe mental illnesses, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis, are 2 ½ times more likely to be attacked, raped or mugged than the general population (Hiday, et al.,1999).”
SM CADMAN is a self-taught fiction writer from some godforsaken city that behaves more like a hick town in Ontario, Canada. She started writing fiction in 2012/13 and was published shortly thereafter in a small anthology. She’s currently working on a Sci-Fi/Tech/Thriller novel, and had a poem come out in a literary review in October. A short story she wrote about Time Travel will be published in January/February along with a few other pieces that will be published in another anthology around the same time too.
SM Cadman can be found on her blog and Twitter.
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