Katie Melody

@katie-melody | contributor
Katie is a 37-year-old mother of seven children. Her six daughters and one son range in age from 5 to 19. She suffers from bipolar disorder and a rare inner ear disorder called superior semicircular canal dehiscence. She loves reading, writing, fishing, the outdoors and spending as much time as she can with her children.
Katie Melody

When You Share Your Bipolar Disorder With Your Significant Other

I have bipolar disorder. Like some people with bipolar disorder, I was misdiagnosed at a young age as having attention deficit disorder (ADD) and improperly medicated. I was 6 years old when my parents started me on medication for it. This was 1985. It wasn’t until I was much older that a diagnosis of bipolar disorder was brought up. It fit. I knew then my symptoms, behaviors and actions were a result of my bipolar disorder and not ADD. People don’t like talking about bipolar disorder. Most people don’t understand it either, as I have learned. They tend to think of bipolar disorder as something that is unmanageable and that affects every moment of your life, your decisions, your actions and behaviors. I’ve learned (for myself) that my disorder only affects those things when I am in the midst of an episode. I am a normal, functioning, loving and caring human being when my disorder is under control and I’m not symptomatic. I have had few depressive episodes. Most of my issues seem to stem from manic episodes or hypomanic episodes. From taking risks while driving, extreme need for sexual intimacy, drug use and inability to sleep. Recently, I came into a new relationship with a wonderful man. There had been some talk about previous women in his life and their struggles with mental health issues. It made me nervous my bipolar disorder was something that could kill off a budding relationship. Why would this man want yet another woman with a mental health diagnosis? Would he run away? Would I be judged? Would he think I was “crazy?” Most of all, did or could he understand what exactly bipolar disorder was and how it affects those who live with it? After several weeks of our relationship, I decided it was best to tell him. If my diagnosis was something he could not accept, then I needed to move on and so did he. Opening yourself up to such raw emotions is extremely difficult. I remember thinking, “This will be it. It will all end here. My diagnosis will ruin a relationship with a man I’ve begun to fall in love with.” In the spirit of fairness, I told him. Surprisingly, he listened. He didn’t judge, run, laugh, and most of all, he didn’t think I was “crazy.” He asked questions, and I tried to explain my version of bipolar disorder to him the best I could. We are both still learning about each other. There are still days where I have to remind myself to speak up if something doesn’t feel right. I have to remind myself to be open and honest about how I feel so he can help me through any issue should it arise. The hardest part of living with bipolar disorder is the fact that when you do something, be it positive or negative, people want to blame your diagnosis for it. If I don’t get enough sleep, then I must be manic. If I cry because I’m sad, then I must be depressed. I never want anyone who I care for deeply to “blame” my actions on my diagnosis. I can and do have “normal” feelings, emotions and behaviors. It has now been four months since we have been together, and I have had one episode of mania. He has been extremely understanding of my diagnosis. I’m still trying to make sure he understands what bipolar disorder is, how it works, how it can affect me and how to help me through an episode. To be accepted fully by someone is such a wonderful feeling. Throughout my life my mental health issues seem to get in the way of relationships. I know these things can be frustrating for people without a mental illness. I know it isn’t easy, but I am deserving of unconditional love and support no matter what my diagnosis is. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Image via Thinkstock.

Katie Melody

Happiness as a Choice: Meme Feeds Stigma Around Mental Illness

Meme that states: “Every single day you make a choice.” Seems simple doesn’t it? Just wake up and choose to be happy or miserable. Unfortunately, for some this may be an impossibility. Mental illness is not a choice, just like cancer is not a choice. I wish people would stop feeding the stigma that mental illness, depression, or mania is a choice. I feel this meme, as with many others, feeds the stigma that many, like myself, living with bipolar disorder or depression can wake up and make a choice to see the bright side of things. There are many days when my eyes open and I realize that I have to get out of bed to feed my seven children, bathe them, homeschool them, that I would rather spend my day under the comfort of my giant blanket. I do get up, but I don’t want to. It is so very difficult, leaving me angered, irritated, agitated and drained by 4 p.m. It is not bright, sunny, full of smiles and laughter like I wish it could be. Yet some days by the end of the day, I am happy I made the decision to force my feet to the floor, to pull my pants on, to make something somewhat reasonable for my kids to eat, to educate them, to hear them play with one another. Hardly a choice most days, necessity usually. I love these children, I owe it to them to care for them as best I can. Memes such as this one can feed the idea to the masses that those with mental illness can just choose to be happy, choose to see the sunny side of things, not out of necessity, but out of happiness. Unfortunately, it does not work this way for those with mental illness. Many of us with mental illness get out of bed out of necessity — not out of choice — on a daily basis. There are bills to pay, kids to take care of, appointments to make, meetings to attend. I believe you simply cannot choose to be happy, just like you cannot choose to be sad. If I told someone who was happy right now to be sad, they would likely have a hard time doing so. The opposite is quite true. Just as if I told someone who was manic to be depressed, they might have a hard time as well. Emotion is not a choice. I believe emotion is something to be felt, on a whim, when the moment or time strikes. “Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little.”— Buddha The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a meme, image or sign you’ve seen shared online that struck a chord with you, for good or for bad. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines. Lead photo source: Imgur

Katie Melody

Letter to Kids From a Mom With Chronic Illness

For my children, I pined for you. From the moment that stick turned pink, I imagined my life being so full of laughter, fun, family times, movies, games and vacations. Alas, chronic illness has taken hold of me. There are days you ask to go to the park. Days you beg to go for a smoothie, days you ask me to play with you. So many of these days, I cannot. Please know this is not your fault. It is not my fault. We didn’t ask for this, we didn’t deserve it. But, we love each other. That is what matters. We may fight, we may argue, but deep down, we all love one another so deeply. I regret that I cannot do the things “normal” mothers do. But as you grow try to remember the times I did. The times I pushed myself so hard, beyond the pain, just to see you smiling at the swing set, the park, the trips to Sedona, sitting outside the garage riding bikes, playing a video game. I would do anything to reverse this. I would do anything to make you happy, see you smile, make you giggle. Remember that I am human, I have faults. I cannot be super mom, but there are days that I feel like it. Days that I want so desperately to stay in bed because the pain is so bad, but every day I get up and do what I can for you. Katie’s children But most of all, thank you for loving me even through my illness. Loving me even though I can’t always do what you want me to do. Loving me even though I break a promise. Loving me even though I may not always show my love to you. I know you are young and cannot possibly understand my suffering. But please know my only mission in life is for you to be happy. For you to grow up, love who you want, be who you want, do what you want. I don’t want any of you to suffer. I don’t want any of you to experience pain. If I could save you from a world of pain, I would, instantly. You are my world. If it wasn’t for you, I would not exist. I would be an empty shell of a person. You have not only saved my life, but made my life worth living. Just know that on days where I can’t do what you ask, it is not out of meanness, or laziness, or because I don’t like you. It is because of the pain I suffer with. It is not your fault, and some day, the day I am well, I will make it all up to you. I will give you the moon, the sun and the stars. “You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you…That’s where I’ll be waiting.” — J.M. Barrie, “Peter Pan” I’m trying. So hard. Please forgive me and remember that I love you unconditionally. The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us one thing your loved ones might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. What would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines. *Sign-up for our Chronic Illness Newsletter*

Katie Melody

Suicidal Thoughts at the Emergency Room Were Ignored By Doctors

As with any chronic or mental illness, you may find yourself in the dreaded emergency room more times than you may like. Recently this has been more than enough for me. On several occasions it was for my chronic illness. I had a setback and had to discontinue a medication that had been keeping my idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) at bay and my life somewhat “normal.” Most of these visits were your regular blood work, looks OK, keep doing this, discharge, follow-up-type deals. But on my last visit something interesting happened. Along with my two chronic illnesses (IIH and superior semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome), I also suffer from bipolar disorder. I also happen to have some major depression and issues surrounding the fact that my IIH has caused me round-the-clock searing, burning pain behind my ears for three years straight with almost no relief. So this past week, I said to my husband, after speaking with my therapist on several occasions, that I had been having thoughts of death and I may need some extra help. I had no suicide plan, I had no notes, I had said no goodbyes. But with this thought of “the only way out of this never-ending pain is death,” it was finally starting to sound like a good idea. I decided it was time to go back to the ER. I was having intense pain in my head, visual symptoms and increasing thoughts of suicide. Once at triage I told the triage nurse about my diagnosis of IIH. I told him my neurologist’s strict orders that if I was having any visual issues that I was to come to the ER and he was to be called (my neurologist happens to be contracted with this hospital). I also then proceeded to tell him that I was having suicidal thoughts. He then asked if I had a plan, I told him no.  He asked if I would like some help with that… To which I replied, most certainly… as if it were a question. I was then sent back to the waiting room. Thirty minutes later I was called to a smaller room where I waited 20 minutes to see a doctor. I proceeded to tell the doctor the same information I told triage. I then told her I was having suicidal thoughts and would like some help for that as well. She seemed to acknowledge what I was saying, and said the nurse would be with me shortly to start some medications. I then saw a nurse to start an IV and some medications. I then told the nurse about my suicidal thoughts, and that I needed to speak with someone. I seemed to come across a blank stare. Before I knew it was I being discharged — no call to my neurologist, no call to a mental health worker, no call to the local mental health facility that contracts with all of the local hospitals in my city. Our hospitals keep mental health workers on staff and they need to be called in. I was able to call the hospital and file a complaint. They assured me that this was not protocol, and that it would be handled. I am not sure that this is the end of my complaint, and I am not sure that I won’t take my complaint further. What I do know is that I kept in contact with my therapist the entire time via text and my husband was with me the entire time. I was not left alone, I was able to stay safe, I was able to come home, remain safe and follow up with my therapist and start a treatment plan. I was able to come out of this knowing that this was not my fault. I am a sad, though — sad for myself, sad for others who reach out for help and are met with blank stares, or the eyes of those who think, This woman looks “sane,” or She surely can’t be suicidal, or She isn’t running naked down the halls, so she clearly is not a threat to herself or those around her, just by looking at what I am wearing, or that I have makeup on, or my hair has been washed. I asked three times for mental health help, and three times I was denied basic care. Something has to be done to fix this system when a simple emergency room cannot handle one of the largest emergencies happening in our country today. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment when you were at a hospital and a medical staffer, fellow patient or a stranger made a negative or surprising comment that caught you off guard. How did you respond to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines. Lead photo by Thinkstock Images