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What It Feels Like to Live With Multiple Mental Illnesses

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For me it means every day contains a new battle.
One day Depression turns my limbs to stone,
Alters my vision so everything becomes shades of gray.
And makes a phone call a nearly impossible task.
Taking a shower, going to work, meeting a friend for coffee,
Each of these are small victories.

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Another day Mania spins me in circles,
My mind leaping to dizzying heights,
Spiraling flights of thoughts,
Dangerous impulses,
While I use every bit of my inner strength to
Sit and stay,
Waiting for the eventual
Crash back into depression.
Then crawling out from depression
Back to something akin to normal.

Some days loud, crowded spaces trigger panic attacks.
I enter rooms looking for empty corners and exit signs.
I enter conversations listening for pauses so I can escape.
A panic attack means a quick retreat
To the safe space of my car,
The comfort of my home.
I cover myself in blankets
In the comfortable cocoon of my recliner,
Listen to my favorite songs on repeat,
Tell myself everything will be OK.

Some days I feel this intense pressure inside of my head,
Like my mind is in a vise and there is no escape.
I look for respite on park bench rest stops,
Under tall leafy trees.
Still, more and more stresses pile on,
Brick by brick,
And my head begins to splinter under the weight.
An alternate personality speaks,
Her toxic honeyed words trying to convince me
to let her take charge of our head.
I say no.

If I let her speak for me then
I will start to lose my true self.
I must be the main personality and control my mind.
Soon other voices taunt me,
Calling me names and cruelly attacking me
In my vulnerable places.

Sometimes I slip back into other versions of myself.
I am 8 again.
My voice quivers and squeaks,
My eyes can’t make contact,
the world frightens me.
Then I am 20,
An angry young woman who keeps
Repeating her words,
Writing accusing poetry dripping of self-pity.

Sometimes I dissociate.
I find myself in a tree branch
Watching my body live an illusion.
I disappear into the woods
And reappear when a deer crosses the road.
Sometimes I wake in a strange city
With no memory of the trip.
My body knows how to get home.
My body knows secrets my mind can’t hold.

I dream of wholeness.
I dream of single-mindedness.

Still I accept this may always be my struggle,
And I will not give up the fight.

Photo via contributor.

Originally published: March 2, 2017
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