Why My Mental Illnesses Are My 'Dark Passengers'

I was supposed to be graduating today, receiving my Master’s of Social Work degree. Instead, I am not even invited to see my cohort walk. I am not a party to the celebrations and excitement. Instead…

I told everyone it was starting the chemo infusions that made me withdraw in the middle of the fall semester. But in fact, it was my bipolar and anxiety. Bipolar, anxiety and depression stole my life from me, and continue to do so over and over and over again. Every time I am close to accomplishing what I feel I should be able to accomplish, I falter and fail because of this illness of my mind. It’s stolen multiple relationships from me, and drastically altered others. It has stolen so much time and effort from me. It has stolen all my resources and the resources of those helping me many times. It has left me lost and bereft, hating my own person, my own mind, causing me to injure myself physically and psychologically. It constantly makes me doubt what I know, and encourages others to doubt everything I am, even when they long to believe me.

I will always have these dark passengers. They follow me everywhere and in every facet of my life. The moment I start to succeed, if ever I begin to shine, they are there to cover me in shadow, and to hold me back. It hurts, every moment, every day. My escapes are rare, and I constantly long for them. My husband making me laugh clears my mind. The close moments I can see myself through his eyes. My therapy cat, though not trained, innately knows when to comfort me, and shows me I am his favorite person, that he loves me. When I get a paper back in class that I poured my heart and soul into, and it’s an A, reminding me that sometimes I can be more than my illness.

The most sacred is peaceful sleep. It is rare now, with my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I have nightmares almost every night. They drive me from the solitude and I seek comfort in the presence of others, even if that presence is on a screen and they aren’t interacting with me.

These thoughts in my head hammer away, grabbing my attention every moment they can get. My feelings overwhelm me, and I cannot control my behaviors. I look back at times when I acted poorly and my memories are fuzzy of how those decisions were made. What was that? How did I think that was OK? Where was my thinking that I ended up being that way? I can’t remember at all. I only remember not having control. I desperately reached out to grasp at straws, hoping someone could see me and save me, only to realize I was all alone.

For brief periods, I come back into my mind and can control my life. But through it all I am fighting the urgent staccato of thoughts and emotions trying to break through and overwhelm me. I fight it off. I stay in my body. Everything is clear and I remember I am a happy person. I am quick to laugh and even quicker to love. I pour myself into the service of other people and am met with appreciation and validation. But there is that incessant knock on the door of my mind, “Let me in! Don’t you miss me? Don’t believe what everyone is saying! They all hate you. They are taking advantage of you. Let them take advantage, you don’t deserve any better treatment. Look at their staring, do you hear their whispers? They don’t really care about you and they will leave the first chance they get. Loved ones have done it before, and they will do it again. Because that is all you are worth, for all your effort and achievement. You are worth what people can use you for and then your worth is discarded.”

I scream at these feelings with pills, words and music. Psychiatrist, fix me! Give me the new wonder drug I know you have! I can’t be this broken — I can’t be beyond repair. Let me pour my soul onto the page. Maybe someone will read it, maybe I can add up treasures by putting some people I help in the win column. Maybe no one will read it and it will validate the voices, that I am no good to anyone and I never will be.

The point, in the end, is the fight during the journey. If I give up I know I will give my dark passenger satisfaction. If I fight, if I work, if I love and accept love offered back, I know that at least I have done what I can, and in the end I can answer to that. So I am registered for school again in the fall. I will graduate (a year late) and do it in a way that it healthy and safe. I will allow myself joy in the comfort of my husband and cat, and I will write what I know to encourage others to fight hard as well. And in 60 years or tomorrow, when I stand up and claim my life, I know I will have done all I can and I will deserve those treasures I’ve added up. I can accept that, in the end. Can you?

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Unsplash photo via Ihor Malytskyi

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