“Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When “I” is replaced by “We”, illness becomes wellness.”
Here is another vulnerable post brought to you by life experiences. I’ve been asking myself why even venture into this topic? What if my friends seem me differently, label me or judge me based on what you are about to read? Well, after lots of reflection and prayer I’ve come to the conclusion that my real friends know who I am and know me for who I am rather than a diagnosis, and if I can help someone else who may feel shame or guilt about this topic, then briefly putting myself in an uncomfortable place is worthwhile.
I’ll first start off with the caveat that I am a proponent of alternative treatments and natural remedies when it comes to medical treatments if possible. But, yes, there’s a big but here and I cannot lie, I’m writing to those of us who need medications for stability. For those of us who have tried the alternative treatments with no relief. For those of us who have believed we are somehow to blame for the roller-coaster of feelings and thoughts we cannot understand or rationalize away.
Just as a diabetic may depend on insulin to even out their sugar, or a person may need a pacemaker to regulate heartbeats, the same can be said for mental health medications which balance brain chemicals. I do not understand how the brain works with all its chemicals and electro impulses, but what I do know are my pills have helped me through some very dark periods. I’ve fallen into the trap of calling my medications my “happy pills”, however that’s such a misnomer. My antidepressant does not make me happy; it keeps my mood from dropping into a very dark pit where suicide seems like a reasonable alternative to life.
While I have written about my more common bouts with depression and relapses into anorexia, I haven’t shared the other side of this two-sided coin out of fear. What I have not said is I have a cyclical mood disorder; I have the DSM diagnosis of Bipolar type II. I do not always suffer from depression. Without my mixture of antidepressant and mood stabilizer, my moods become erratically confusing and unpredictable. After many years of unsuccessfully leveling out hormones and mood shifts with medications, birth control and trying to forego medication intervention, I have reached the realization that I am well today because of a multi-pronged approach. Yes, therapy tremendously helps me manage my emotions and provides an outlet to vent and toss around ideas, and my supportive friends are wonderful tools toward wellbeing but my medications keep this ship from sinking.
In the past, I have attempted to manage my moods on my own terms by not being compliant with meds and I either fall face-first into a deep depression or I swing the other way and cannot sleep due to racing ideas, pent up energy and an overly infectious happy mood. Without meds, during my hypomanic periods of relentless happiness I am often talkative, and more enjoyable to be around. However, as we all know what goes up must come down. Depression is always waiting around the corner to sneer me in its sluggish feelings of worthlessness and guilt. Medications have helped me stabilize my moods and allow me to live the life I want. Everyday is not sunshine and unicorns. Medications don’t prevent me from feeling or experiencing the typical mood shifts of life which is perfectly find with me. Sharing my experiences hwith having a managed mental illness with its attached stigmas is a small cross worth carrying if it educates one person about the associated myths and misconceptions.
Managing our health requires an all-around approach of taking care of the mind, body and soul. If you take medications to manage mental health symptoms, please remember:
- There is nothing wrong in asking for and receiving help
- There is no shame in remaining compliant on medications
- Labels are for soup cans and clothing tags
- Even when on medications, it is normal to have a bad day or week
- You are not alone in the struggle to fight stigmas
- You are not the negative names society places on mental health diagnosis’s
- You are not your diagnosis
- Suffering in silence should never be an option
- Mental health disorders are an equal opportunity offender; anyone is susceptible
- The more we normalize mental health issues, the stronger we are
- Keep on keeping on because we only have one earthly life to live
Leah’s story of living with the past of suicidal thoughts
NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness is a site full of resources for all things related to mental illness
If you or a loved one is looking for information or support for a mood disorder, check out the: Depression & Bipolar Support alliance
Until next time, be well