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How I Survived Isolation Because of My Mental Illness

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There was a point at which, while I was battling depression resulting from my bipolar I disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I had not left my home in over a year. Not only that, but I had also not left a room inside my home the size of a small bathroom — other than to use the bathroom, or occasionally try to go to the kitchen to get food when I thought it would be safe for me to come out. I was constantly terrified, constantly afraid of everything. My life was a revolving door of fear and uncertainty.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I did not see a way out. Every day was the same. I stayed in that room, and the world went on outside without me. I watched it out my window with a certain amount of awe and envy, until I couldn’t bear the light anymore and I covered the window with a bathroom towel so the light would not shine in.

Eventually, the overhead lightbulb in the room burst, and then I only had a desk lamp and the dim light of my computer… except I had closed down social media and did not even have a Facebook. I had become terrified of reaching out at that point in my life. I had shut everyone out. What would they think of me? I had once been successful. I had once been a teacher. I had once been productive and active.

I wrote poems instead. I wrote them every day for over a year. Hundreds of poems that lead readers through the journey into and around my mental illness during those days.

Finally, as they say, the straw broke.

There was a day when everything came crashing down and my world shifted, and I reached a point where I could no longer stay “hidden” away.

My tiny room was no longer an option.

I’d been… found.

It’s hard to explain the impact of what it’s like when your world has shrunk to a 5×5 space and suddenly you are exposed to the world again. It’s overwhelming. It’s bright. It’s loud. It’s terrifying.

It’s full of possibility.

I remember at the time, when I had to leave “my room,” I thought those who made me leave my room were forcing a sort of death on me. My room was my safe haven after all. I didn’t yet understand that they were forcing me to live again.

Later, I wrote a poem — once I understood.

I’d like to share it with them. With you. And to remind myself and the part of me that still sometimes desperately longs for that room. Because yes, even now, sometimes I desperately wish for that safe haven away from the frightening triggers of the world around me. I want to tell myself all over again, “I am free.”

In Remembrance

There was a moment where she was exquisitely afraid.

She’d burned alone in her armor… nearly lost forever.

Her smoking, sputtering bones bellowing ashes —

devoured in the destructive cracks of controlled comfort.

Keep the chorused cold colors intact at all costs.

Chain the inner child and do the consolatory dance

because anything else would mean that she must be

thrown screaming into the moment —

and face the different dance of frightening recollection.

And she’s forgotten that she is both

Barefoot and Beautiful.

She weeps.

Morbid mourning upon the morning

of her profound death —

not yet realizing it is a rebirth —

and it is relentless in its terror

of unhesitating trembling solitude,

and somehow terrible

in the seeming veiled velvet vulgarity

of final possibility.

Leaving that room was not an ending; it was a beginning. It was a painful rebirth, and now I get to start my life over. Finally, there is possibility. It is terrifying sometimes. And sometimes I still mourn the loss of my room. But I will not look back.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 1, 2016
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