NOTE: I am diagnosed with the following: bipolar (manic depression), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and RAD (reactive attachment disorder). I have been told I might have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), but haven’t been officially diagnosed, as of my last psychiatric evaluation.
I wake up not knowing who I’ll be that day, even when medicated, even in treatment. Which sucks, because I’m 22, and a mom, and a wife. You may know a lot about mental illness. You may know the scientific terms, or why someone has a mental health issue or a chemical imbalance. You may know the treatment plans and the medications. You may know of programs in your area to help others, you may know the name of support groups.
But unless you have a diagnosis, unless you are affected? You don’t know what it’s like to live daily with a mental illness. So let me do the honors, and introduce you in a day in the life, or specifically, a day in my life.
There are several states I can wake up being, or cycle into throughout the day. I’ll start by describing my low state: depression. I think depression is a term more commonly heard. I fall into depression when I sleep too much, but sometimes I’m triggered into after a fight, or a bad day, or hearing news I don’t like (I’ve been told I shouldn’t use the word trigger too often, because it sounds intense, but that’s all I can think of). My husband is more concerned for my depressed days; I’m not. I wake up miserable. It’s like being held closely by darkness. It’s suffocating. Some days I want to cry, others I don’t want to move. People identify it is laziness; I identify it as losing the will to live. Depression is like drowning. It’s almost calming, in a f*cked up way. It’s a dark comfort. It’s like a friend that’s a bad influence; you know better, but you can’t get away from it. It’s a little easy to pretend you’re not depressed. You can try and shake it off as nothing. But it creeps and clings to you, until one day, it engulfs you. Depression is a trap. A terrible, comforting trap.
Mania is my favorite drug; and yes, I know better, but I’m hooked. I know how terrifying mania is, but I love it. I’ve been “sober” from manic states for a while, but it’s tempting to relapse sometimes. Mania is an adrenaline rush. It is like going on a roller coaster, a destructive roller coaster, and feeling that rush. It feeds itself. Mania can be a bitch; it disguise itself as extreme happiness. If I get too manic, I think I’m cured. I think I’m invincible. That’s when things get dangerous. I am unstoppable. I keep diving into terrible decisions, head on, without hearing anyone else’s concern. I drink more, I’m more likely to do things I would normally not do. I used to be more flirty in manic states, prior to my marriage, and although now it’s humiliating, I didn’t care. My (former) favorite part of mania was getting into a fight. I would black out. That would normally be at the peak of my manic state. I am hurtful and mean. I can get violent. It is such a release of anger, and adrenaline; and sadly, it’s sometimes what it takes for me to get out of a manic state. I abruptly stop, and see the damage I’ve caused. And I’m miserable. I’m distraught. I’m damaged.
I also get into paranoid states, where I’m afraid to even leave a room in my house. I feel like someone is watching, I feel like I’m being stalked. I’m afraid, paralyzed. Of course there’s anxiety too, and I can’t breathe when I’m having anxiety attack. I get into obsessive states, where I cling on to someone or something for dear life.
The most lethal state for me is mixed state, however. This is a dark area, where I’m more likely to slip into depression.
And every day, I wake up, unaware of what state I’ll be in. Treatment of course is helpful; but those states still exist. I think people assume when you’re getting help everything goes away; but it’s not like that for me. It’s mellowed out for sure, but it’s not cured. And like I’ve stated before, there isn’t a cure-all medication for mental illness. A lot of meds are trial and error, a lot of therapists aren’t the right fit. It’s not as easy as finding a dentist. It takes years to figure out the treatment plan, and if it doesn’t, you won the mental health lottery.
My states suck because they don’t allow me to be a 22-year-old. I can’t schedule ahead, and I’ve become an expert at blowing off people. I don’t mean to. I really don’t, but it’s inevitable when you don’t know who you’ll be that day. You can’t plan a good day when you don’t know if you’re going to be Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. And for a lot of people, although you are trying to protect them, you are marked and labeled as a bad friend.
There is hope for me; I find hope in balance. It’s hard, and it’s something I have to focus on nonstop. But I do find comfort in the concept. And I hope one day to find that peace. Until then I will be taking pit stops into different states; with the hope of not staying too long, or falling too deep into a disaster area.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.
Follow this journey on Taylor’s site.
The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.