Nichole Hallberg

@nichole-hallberg | contributor
My name is Nichole Hallberg. I have been writing since I can remember, and battle mental illness for the majority of my life. I have finally come to a point where I have accepted my diagnosis and am learning to speak out about it, remove stigma, and manage my symptoms. I am working to move beyond survival and to thrive. As someone who has battled depression and trauma my whole life, I have learned how to survive. What I have not learned-is how to thrive. I want not only to exist, but to succeed.

Hardest Parts of Bipolar Disorder

How much do you know about bipolar disorder? You might mention the mood swings. The depression. The mania that follows. If you don’t live with it, or know a loved one who lives with it, that’s likely where your knowledge stops. But what else is important about bipolar disorder that we don’t talk about? To honor Mental Health Awareness Month, we teamed up with the International Bipolar Foundation to explore the unspoken corners of bipolar disorder, and asked what parts of bipolar disorder really need awareness not just this month, but every month. Here’s what they had to say: 1. “The effects of various types of medications — from weight gain (or loss) to ‘brain fog,’ forgetfulness, word-finding difficulties… It’s frustrating and can lower your self-esteem.” 2. “It seems like no one, including doctors, wants to discuss the ‘hyper-sexuality‘that can come along with bipolar mania. This can be a very shameful part of the illness. It can cause serious damage to the person suffering.” 3. “Manic states aren’t fun, like many think. You can become self-destructive, and often impulsive decisions are made that have potentially devastating consequences. It can be overwhelming to deal with racing thoughts, and I get incredibly irritable. I think mania reduces my inhibitions and I get aggravated much more easily. I also don’t sleep much at all when I’m manic. It’s not a euphoria for me, and it’s often followed by severe depression.” 4. “The media portrayal of the illness is very narrow. It focuses on the acute stage of mania and depression and rarely acknowledges that patients have stable moods and their symptoms can be in remission for a good deal of time.” 5. “Having bipolar can lead to darkness in your life. Mental illness is just as deadly as many other life-threatening diseases.” 6. “People don’t talk about how it actually feels to have bipolar. People talk about signs and symptoms, but not what it actually feels like going through them. How frightening it is to have it, how totally out of control it makes you feel. People without it don’t see it as debilitating — they know it as a ‘mood swing’ when it’s so much more.” 7. “People need to understand it is not an excuse, it is a disorder. Read about it before you judge.” 8. “I think nobody talks about the difference between our mood swings and our actual emotions we feel as human beings. I have encountered my legitimate feelings being mistaken for my mental illness. I feel like my mental illness gets blamed for anything negative I’m going through, taking away my right as a human being to feel those emotions.” 9. “The mixed episodes are rarely mentioned. People without bipolar often assume there’s only two phases, mania and depression, and they present in specific ways with specific symptoms. However, each episode can present itself uniquely and aren’t always pure mania or pure depression.” 10. “I’m very open about my bipolar disorder, but I never talk about hallucinations. People can handle when you explain highs and lows, but trying to explain hallucinations when manic is just a recipe for disaster.” 11. “It can take many years to get an accurate diagnosis and then find and receive a treatment plan that helps. Many patients suffer from co-disorders such as addictions. People, in general, don’t want to talk about bipolar disorder and tend to shun those who suffer from the illness.” 12. “The suicidal depression or the life-wrecking mania… they both affect everyone who loves you.” 13. “It is amazing how quick you can feel OK on meds and your mind says, maybe you don’t need this stuff. And then you’re manic or hyper-manic, which at some point will result in the dreadful depression — back at square one again.” 14. “You shed so many tears from pure frustration because no matter how hard you try, sometimes the anxiety and depression won’t let up. You try to be strong in public, but in private you roll up into a ball in anxiety and fear.” 15. “I hate the frightening paranoid symptoms — feeling unable to trust people, not feeling safe and in fear for my life.” 16. “There’s a stereotype of the manic-pixie girl who’s so mysterious and cool because of her illness. Stop romanticizing bipolar disorder. It is nowhere near glamorous.” 17. “Trying to decide which is more damaging to your marriage: medication side effects or unmedicated illness. Ever since I started medication years ago, I have had zero sexual desire.” 18. “Children can have bipolar disorder, and even though the symptoms are different in children, it’s still a devastating illness for both the child and the family.” 19. “The awkward shift when you’re not up or down, but moving either up or down. The in between valley and plateau period. The time where you’re unsure how low you may go or how manic you may get.” 20. “Bipolar disorder is different for each person who has it.” 21. “People refer to bipolar disorder as another word for mood swings. It’s so much more than that. Also, no one talks about the impact it has on families, not just the individual.” 22. “People with bipolar disorder can have children and be good parents. It’s not easy by any means, but it’s possible with a support system you trust, made up of mental health professionals and loved ones. Having my girls was the hardest but most rewarding decision of my life. They are my light through the darkest of days.” 23. “The importance of a establishing a crisis action plan. Knowing who to call, where to go and giving prior consent to those in your support system to intervene during times of crisis.” 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.

Scarlett Gill

Why I Can't Work With Bipolar Disorder

“What do you do?” This is one of the first questions you’re asked whenever you meet someone new. For me, it is one of the questions I dread. We seem to be so focused on what job we hold, as if we are defined by it and like it is who we are. People also tend to judge others who aren’t working, as if we are all the same. People who aren’t working are judged as being lazy. When I say I don’t work anymore, I see the looks of horror and disdain in people’s eyes. I wait for the interrogation that always follows. I think I need to explain myself to anyone who asks. The worst thing about it is I desperately want to be able to work, but you see, I’m can’t. Here’s why: 1. My illness is unpredictable. Some days, I can function reasonably well. Other days, not so much and some days, not at all. 2. I am unable to maintain stability for long enough to work. I have rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. I am lucky to get three months stability between episodes. 3. Stress and tiredness make my illness worse. I might be able to work two or three shifts. However, this would impact my health and I would spend days or even weeks recovering. 4. I am unreliable due to my illness. I cannot maintain consistency as my moods fluctuate so much. 5. I have anxiety and panic attacks. Some days, I can’t even leave my house because of this. I’m worse in public, especially if I don’t have someone with me. 6. I often need to be somewhere familiar and with someone I trust. I need this to manage my anxiety and to help keep myself safe. 7. I have problems eating. If I’m not at home to eat, I need to be with someone who I trust. Otherwise, I panic and am often unable to eat at all. 8. My medication has bad side effects, including a tremor and extreme tiredness. I have to sleep a lot more than normal, including during the day to function. My medication and my illness often prevent me from driving too, which is very restrictive. 9. I must keep regular appointments with my mental health professionals. This helps to help to maintain my mental health and/or to prevent further deterioration if I am unwell. This is vital. A missed appointment can at worst lead to a hospital admission. Which brings me on to one of the main reasons I can’t hold a job down: 10. I have to sometimes be admitted to hospital and crisis units. These inpatient admissions have been and are sometimes necessary when I become unwell either with mania, depression or eating issues (whether I like it or not and sometimes whether I cooperate or not.) I have about three admissions a year on average, each lasting anywhere between three days and six weeks. So despite very much wanting to work, I hope I have been able to explain some of the reasons why I can’t. Oh and before anyone judges me for not trying, can I just mention I have tried being in employment many, many times. I have worked on and off since the age of 16 in various jobs including shop work, bar work, support work, dancing, cashiering, waitressing, modeling, reception work, teaching fitness, assisting teachers, assisting other people with health problems, working as a first responder and administration. You name it, I’ve probably done it. I also managed to do half of my nursing training before having to drop out due to my illness. I have two degrees, one in psychology and one in social work amongst numerous other qualifications. Clearly, I’m not totally unqualified and obviously, I’m always trying. I do what I can when I can. I’m also a mum, which obviously comes first and foremost. Although, I wish I could work to provide more for my children. But maintaining anything? Or getting an employer to take a chance on me in the first place? That’s pretty tough. So next time please, don’t be so quick to judge someone who isn’t working. There may be many good reasons. It certainly doesn’t mean they don’t want to.

The Benefits of Talking About Your Depression Is Important

You know how when you’re having a bad day for seemingly no reason at all, people try to give you advice like, “Snap out of it,” “Look at all your blessings,” or “Look at that beautiful cloud shaped like a child running after a ball.” As if you are supposed to magically consider one of these absurdities and all your anger and sadness will just evaporate into the air. Hey, maybe they’ll become part of the cloud montage that you’ll look at as you lay in the grass, watching the sky, contemplating just how magical your life is. Perhaps, you’ll wonder why in the world you ever thought you had the right to feel sad or have a bad day. The thing is, mental illness can be so isolating. It constantly lies to you, telling you how alone you are, how broken you are and how undeserving of anything good you are. Depression is great at this. It’s constantly telling me lies all the livelong day. Add to it anxiety, and it’s like a sad emo song on repeat in my head. Maybe it’s more like an angry punk song full of angst, anger and hate. I guess it depends on the day. The things is, when I choose to acknowledge it, to say it out loud and stop feeling so guilty for feeling how I feel, it somehow loses its power. Not all of its power of course, because most days it’s a ferocious beast that constantly torments me. However, little by little, it gets easier for me to tell it to shut the h*ll up. When I first started being honest about my mental illness, my mood swings and my anxiety, it felt terrifying. It was as if I was revealing some deep, dark secret and everyone I knew would judge me and run screaming from me like a mass exodus after an anthrax scare. However, the thing is, no one judged me. Yesterday, I woke up cranky for no reason. Well OK, there were reasons or better yet, there were triggers. These triggers were things that were making me feel anxious, worried or stressed. I was a total crank monster. I told my girlfriend, as I grumbled into the kitchen searching for coffee like a zombie from “Walking Dead,” “I’m cranky today.” I tried to say it in a semi-cute kindergarten voice, to somehow lessen its impact, but it came out as more of a growl. As I got ready for my day, I made the choice not to try and talk myself out of my cranky mood. I didn’t tell myself to be thankful that I woke up today, to look at how cute my dog is or other such nonsense that never helps anyway but only seems to make me feel more guilty. I just felt cranky. When my girlfriend gave me a kiss goodbye, she didn’t tell me it was going to be OK, to cheer up or to calm down. She didn’t tell me to be excited for the day, to change my attitude or to snap out of it. She said, “You will get through today, and then, you can come home.” It was the most freeing thing ever. Like somehow by letting her know I was feeling cranky, I gave myself permission to feel how I felt. Since I didn’t take it out on her, I didn’t make it her fault or find some reason to pick a fight, she said exactly what I needed to hear and encouraged me to just survive today. That’s the beautiful thing when you express how you feel, you don’t feel so trapped. There are days that are just bad. There are moments in the day that overwhelm you and make you anxious, angry or sad. Sometimes, there are days where you wake up hating everything. Sometimes, those days are just days. Sometimes, there is stress or circumstance causing these feelings, but they are just days. Having days like this when you deal with mental illness can be daunting. You are evaluating your mood, your anxiety level, checking to see if you’ve taken your medication, fighting the negative thoughts and attempting to practice good self-care. As the awareness sets in that your mood has changed, the guilt kicks in. Angry thoughts come at you from every corner that say, “You deserve this,” “This is who you are,” “There is no recovery and no hope,” and “How could you possibly think you deserve to feel good?” Speaking out about what I was experiencing became the most powerful and empowering thing I have ever done. I am continuing to learn about boundaries, how to respect other people’s needs and how important effective communication is. But I am free. Free from the guilt, from the shame, from the powerlessness that comes from having a secret. Hiding it only made my life worse. Honestly, I never thought the thing that would set me free would be my deepest, darkest secret. The place where all my shame lived, the place inside me where the guilt kept me trapped, that is the place where all my power lives. I have released it, and now there is a different kind of monster in its place. One who is a warrior, a fighter and a survivor. One who will continue to learn, to process and communicate. One who refuses to be silenced by stigma and in this, there is so much power. Sometimes, you just have to feel your feelings. Image via Thinkstock.

Ebo
Ebo @elissa-farmer
contributor

What to Look for in a Partner When Dating With a Mental Illness

You know they are out there. Those people who aren’t going to be helpful to you when you’re dealing with your mental illness. They do exist, and you need to be mindful of that. I have dated a few men prior to marrying my now husband, and I learned over time different things I needed for my bipolar disorder in order to have the best, most supportive relationship possible. I didn’t even know I needed some of these things before I got married, but I think they truly help me combat my bipolar disorder. I wanted to share a few traits I think are important for your significant other to have in order to help you the most with your mental illness. They are good traits for anyone to have, as well, and they go both ways. Yet, I think it is helpful for people with mental illnesses to find a significant other with some or all of these traits. 1. They should have an ability to listen. This is a big one. If you are with a partner who doesn’t listen to you or try to understand what you are going through, it’s not a great sign. When I found my now husband, he would listen to what I had to say about how I was feeling. Now, no one is perfect, and many people want to be able to “fix” things. It took some time for my husband to realize he couldn’t necessarily “fix” me, and he had to be OK with simply helping me. Yet, after some couples’ counseling (while dating and married) and lots of long talks, we came to a mutual understanding that he didn’t always have to offer solutions. He could just listen and love me. This is important because oftentimes it helps to just be heard, even if there isn’t a solution. 2. They should have patience. Having patience is critical, and I think this is the trait that is absolutely necessary in the person you are dating. They should be patient at all times: on the days when it isn’t getting better, when it’s getting worse, when you can’t get out of bed or when you’ve started 10 million projects over night. You need a partner who is patient enough to see you need help getting out of your mindset of mania or depression and that it might not happen quickly. You need someone who is willing to walk beside you, no matter how long it takes. 3. They need a willingness to learn and accept. If your partner is willing to learn about your condition and if they are hungry for information on how to help and understand you, then this is fantastic. If they are open-minded toward what you are going through, then it will make it that much easier for them to help you in the long run. Your partner needs to accept you just as you are, good days and bad. If your partner stays with you only in hopes that you will eventually be “cured,” then this is not someone you want to be with. You may never fully come out of the episodes. You need to be with someone who guides you through them, instead of waiting for them to end. It is important that the person you are with not only wants to learn more about your illness as a whole, but also how to best help you battle it. Every person living with a mental illness has different ways that help them cope and heal. You should be with someone who can help you find it and learn about you along the way. 4. They should be honest. This may seem obvious, but I find honesty (with a touch of being gentle) to be one of the most helpful things my husband brings to the table. He is able to gently question me when I’m in a bad place. He will tell me in a nice way (and we’ve worked on this) when he thinks I am starting to go into mania and that I’m taking on too much. At the same time, it is a delicate balancing act with the “listening” part. You can’t always think rationally. So sometimes honesty isn’t taken well. I do still think it is important that your partner doesn’t always cater to all of your ideas during mania or depression. Sometimes, that only fuels the fire. It is helpful to have my husband ask me directly, “Have you taken your medicine?” and things like that. 5. They should have love and devotion. “I’m not leaving, no matter how hard it gets.” This is something you save for the person you decide to spend the rest of your life with. Yet, it is a trait you want to identify long before you get to the altar. Everyone says this, “through thick and thin,” but for people with mental illnesses, the thick can be much thicker and the thin can be much thinner than for other people. Having someone by your side, who will never leave you no matter how bad the days get, is a source of strength and stability as you fight through the hard days. It is challenging enough to battle your own brain without having to wonder if your partner will love you through it or if they will bail. My husband always tells me all the good days are worth getting through the days when I am not myself. He is my anchor. I owe him much of my recovery. Dating or being in a relationship is challenging, even without a mental illness involved. Unfortunately, you may have to go through a few bad dates and relationships before you find someone worth sticking with. Once you find them, you’ll know. These traits are things to look for initially (although you can work on them once you’re in the relationship if the person is willing to learn). I’ve found them essential to keeping my marriage working while dealing with mental illness. To all those battling a mental illness, I wish you love and happiness. Don’t settle for someone who isn’t willing to learn, understand and listen. Stay with someone who is willing to stick by you. Above all, find someone who loves and cherishes you exactly the way you are, mental illness and all. Image via Thinkstock. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

The Benefits of Talking About Your Depression Is Important

You know how when you’re having a bad day for seemingly no reason at all, people try to give you advice like, “Snap out of it,” “Look at all your blessings,” or “Look at that beautiful cloud shaped like a child running after a ball.” As if you are supposed to magically consider one of these absurdities and all your anger and sadness will just evaporate into the air. Hey, maybe they’ll become part of the cloud montage that you’ll look at as you lay in the grass, watching the sky, contemplating just how magical your life is. Perhaps, you’ll wonder why in the world you ever thought you had the right to feel sad or have a bad day. The thing is, mental illness can be so isolating. It constantly lies to you, telling you how alone you are, how broken you are and how undeserving of anything good you are. Depression is great at this. It’s constantly telling me lies all the livelong day. Add to it anxiety, and it’s like a sad emo song on repeat in my head. Maybe it’s more like an angry punk song full of angst, anger and hate. I guess it depends on the day. The things is, when I choose to acknowledge it, to say it out loud and stop feeling so guilty for feeling how I feel, it somehow loses its power. Not all of its power of course, because most days it’s a ferocious beast that constantly torments me. However, little by little, it gets easier for me to tell it to shut the h*ll up. When I first started being honest about my mental illness, my mood swings and my anxiety, it felt terrifying. It was as if I was revealing some deep, dark secret and everyone I knew would judge me and run screaming from me like a mass exodus after an anthrax scare. However, the thing is, no one judged me. Yesterday, I woke up cranky for no reason. Well OK, there were reasons or better yet, there were triggers. These triggers were things that were making me feel anxious, worried or stressed. I was a total crank monster. I told my girlfriend, as I grumbled into the kitchen searching for coffee like a zombie from “Walking Dead,” “I’m cranky today.” I tried to say it in a semi-cute kindergarten voice, to somehow lessen its impact, but it came out as more of a growl. As I got ready for my day, I made the choice not to try and talk myself out of my cranky mood. I didn’t tell myself to be thankful that I woke up today, to look at how cute my dog is or other such nonsense that never helps anyway but only seems to make me feel more guilty. I just felt cranky. When my girlfriend gave me a kiss goodbye, she didn’t tell me it was going to be OK, to cheer up or to calm down. She didn’t tell me to be excited for the day, to change my attitude or to snap out of it. She said, “You will get through today, and then, you can come home.” It was the most freeing thing ever. Like somehow by letting her know I was feeling cranky, I gave myself permission to feel how I felt. Since I didn’t take it out on her, I didn’t make it her fault or find some reason to pick a fight, she said exactly what I needed to hear and encouraged me to just survive today. That’s the beautiful thing when you express how you feel, you don’t feel so trapped. There are days that are just bad. There are moments in the day that overwhelm you and make you anxious, angry or sad. Sometimes, there are days where you wake up hating everything. Sometimes, those days are just days. Sometimes, there is stress or circumstance causing these feelings, but they are just days. Having days like this when you deal with mental illness can be daunting. You are evaluating your mood, your anxiety level, checking to see if you’ve taken your medication, fighting the negative thoughts and attempting to practice good self-care. As the awareness sets in that your mood has changed, the guilt kicks in. Angry thoughts come at you from every corner that say, “You deserve this,” “This is who you are,” “There is no recovery and no hope,” and “How could you possibly think you deserve to feel good?” Speaking out about what I was experiencing became the most powerful and empowering thing I have ever done. I am continuing to learn about boundaries, how to respect other people’s needs and how important effective communication is. But I am free. Free from the guilt, from the shame, from the powerlessness that comes from having a secret. Hiding it only made my life worse. Honestly, I never thought the thing that would set me free would be my deepest, darkest secret. The place where all my shame lived, the place inside me where the guilt kept me trapped, that is the place where all my power lives. I have released it, and now there is a different kind of monster in its place. One who is a warrior, a fighter and a survivor. One who will continue to learn, to process and communicate. One who refuses to be silenced by stigma and in this, there is so much power. Sometimes, you just have to feel your feelings. Image via Thinkstock.

Life With Mental Illness: When Chaos Feels Comfortable

My girlfriend recently bought me a coffee mug with a quote on it that says, “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.” As I sit in the mornings drinking my coffee staring at this quote, I begin to wonder what peace looks like for me. Is it a stable job, enough money to survive, successfully managing my mental illness, having a family and a nice home? The thing I’ve realized is I am at peace when things are hard. In a crisis, I feel calm, in control and I know what to do. It is those times where there is no chaos that I feel restless, uncomfortable and aimless. I have lived with chaos for so long, now I have no idea how to live when the storm has passed. I have even become so comfortable in chaos that when life is smooth, I create my own chaos. I self-destruct when life is easy. I am addicted to chaos. Through childhood trauma, living in poverty and battling mental and physical illness, I have become so accustomed to thriving in a whirlwind of an unsettled life I have no idea how to live in peace. This mug reminds me of this on a daily basis. I am trying to understand how to unravel this addiction to life’s messes and how to truly be at peace. Yet, as I work through these things, new self-destructive behaviors manifest. Urges to hurt myself, damage my relationship or abuse substances are constantly flying into my mind. I am undergoing intensive outpatient therapy, adjusting to new medication and being more open and honest about my struggle with mental wellness, all the while knowing at the end of this I will have to find a way to live in peace when there is no chaos. The thought of that makes me so uncomfortable I can feel it in my body. My chest gets tight, my skin crawls and my mind races. I can physically feel the anxiety of this idea of peace. I keep telling myself to fight through it because there is a brilliant glimmering light at the end of this tunnel, but the confidence I will be able to thrive, to exist, to not self-destruct once I reach that light is not there. I have never been able to live in a place of peace. One of the worst manifestations of this is self-destructing my employment. Over the years, I have left jobs or stopped performing once I felt too stable or too comfortable. Since I grew up never having enough money, I have continued to thrive on poverty in my adult life. Chaos distracts you from the demons that live in your head. Constantly putting out fires in your daily life removes the pressure to actually deal with your own issues. When life is calm, all those buried emotions, all that ignored trauma, all the boxes and baggage that you have packed tightly away in the corners of your mind, come rushing to the surface and you are forced to face them. I hope by dealing with them in therapy, working through the causes of this irrationality and unpacking those boxes, I will be able to thrive. I will be able to sustain a stable and meaningful life. The nagging thought of being addicted to chaos still haunts me, still calls to me, still draws me to it. The idea that I will constantly create fires in my life is so real to me that it has become a core belief. I take comfort in the fact that I am working on my issues, I did reach out for help, I am acknowledging this addiction and hope someday I will see peace in the calm and not in the storm. For now, this has to be enough. With any addiction, we take it one day at a time. I try to remember this every time I feel impulsive or self-destructive. I try to hold on to the fact that I am dealing with the past and that I am untangling this mess of thoughts and believes. I continue to believe I will know true peace. Image via Thinkstock. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

tea jones
tea jones @teajones
contributor

When You Feel Suicidal But Don't Want to Die

To Whom It May Concern: I’m suicidal. And no, it’s not what you think. I am safe. I am not harming myself. I do not have a plan, and I do not plan on doing anything. But I’m suicidal. And I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t. People think of things like suicide in such black or white terms. But much like everything else we are so quick to place into categories, being suicidal falls into a gray area for me. Sometimes, I wonder if it does for anybody else. See I can be in a really great mood, right? I could be having the best day of my life. Still, suicidal thoughts will linger. I don’t have to be in a bad mood to be suicidal. I will still have those thoughts if I’m surrounded by the people I love, or if I’m doing something I’m passionate about. I wake up most mornings thinking I’d be better off dead. But I’m quickly distracted by my husband and son, who are sound asleep next to me. I still feel it, but I try not to give power to it. Throughout the day I am faced with challenges that directly affect my subconscious. Either the suicidal thoughts get louder, or they remain just a feeling. I should explain better; sometimes being suicidal is different than suicidal thoughts. It’s an actual feeling. The feeling that you have an itch you can’t scratch, that a dark cloud is shrouding you. It’s anxiety and depression, it’s mixed state. You’re drowning, there’s no air, and coming down from that feeling takes so long you think it’s impossible. You have blinders on and you don’t know what’s going to happen next. You just have to push through. And while this feeling is happening, you go through your day, as normal as you can, without feeding the feeling. Some days are harder than others, and today happens to be one of those days. I know I’m not feeling good, and I’ve taken that into account. But I woke up thinking my family is better off without me. Then I started thinking about finances and my heart sunk a little more. I started thinking about my parents and my depression got worse. And I started thinking about everything my husband does so I can test a career in writing, and God, he can do better than me. It’s not fair to him. If I can’t impress the people surrounding me now, can I face how my son will inevitably feel about me? And I just start crying, because it’s all too much, and I’m just a joke. I feel like I’m drowning, over and over and over again. It would be so much easier to end things, and my family could finally get away from how terrible I am. The way I feel isn’t a reflection of reality though. I know I have things to live for, I know things will get better. I know my family loves me, and the people who don’t like me don’t matter. In fact, they probably don’t give a shit. I know this feeling will pass. I just wish my mind and my body would work towards getting better. I’m not bad yet. I haven’t made any attempts in almost two years, and I’m really proud of that. Every attempt I’ve made to take my own life ends the same way; I fade into a sleep, and I do regret my actions. I think I used to romanticize my own death back when I had nothing to lose. Now everything is on the line, and I’m terrified of the day my thoughts will become louder than my voice. But I know realistically it may not always be this way, and I may need to admit myself to the hospital again someday. I have great plans for my future and for my family. So please don’t worry. I don’t intend to end my life and I’m not self-harming. And if I was, I’d go to the hospital. I wanted to write this so people better understood feeling suicidal. It’s so much more than just one day someone decided to end it. It goes deeper than that. It’s years of torment, even on good days. It mostly doesn’t happen randomly — it’s a build up. I don’t want to die; my subconscious and my illness may disagree, but today my voice is louder, and I will not succumb to the evils of my mind. People with mental illness live in dark places and gray areas. It’s not something that shuts off and on — it comes in waves, it peaks and it fades. But these feelings are never gone. And I wish more than anything in this world they would disappear. I am a warrior of my own mind, and I will continue defending my inner peace. Every day may be hard; but it makes me stronger every day. Get Tea Jay’s book, “ In the Gray Area of Being Suicidal,” here.

What Recovery Means When You Have Chronic Depression

In the past five months I’ve struggled with depression so bad I was suicidal, had extreme mood swings and severe agitation. I lost my job, came close to loosing my partner of three years and in all honestly probably should have been hospitalized. In an effort to get better I have seen a therapist over 20 times, spent eight hours in a clinic for the uninsured, gone to urgent care twice, seen three social workers, four psychiatrists and started and stopped a variety of psychiatric medication. Somehow through the numbing depression, and all consuming anger and agitation, I keep fighting. Fighting for the care I knew I needed, fighting for my relationship and, in all honesty, fighting to stay alive. I kept going to therapy. Every week. Kept pushing and trying to uncover my triggers, to learn new coping skills, to better understand what it was that was happening. This is not the first time this has happened to me, so in some ways I feel I should have been more prepared. I should have known, should have recognized the signs. But I didn’t. I existed in a bubble. One where I believed I was better, I was healthy, that all that trauma and depression was in the past. I believed I recovered. And maybe I had. Maybe I was doing well for awhile. But I certainly am not doing well now. Being human I have this need to understand, to contextualize, to put into neat order the things that have happened to me. To somehow put together my past experiences and my present ones, and make connections. Doing this only increases my anxiety and restlessness, and makes me feel like a failure. If I believe I was recovered, healed, that I had overcome, then to be here now — experiencing this all over again — means I have somehow failed. That I wasn’t truly recovered, that I didn’t do enough work, that I did not stay vigilant enough to prevent this from happening again. This exercise is futile. There isn’t always complete and finite recovery in mental illness. Sure there may be times where you’re healthy, functioning, seemingly fine. There may be periods when you can go off the meds and move through life like a “normal” person. But as with any chronic illness, there isn’t always true healing. It is more of a remission, a time where your mind has calmed, where you have learned enough coping skills to manage your daily life. But it can resurface. For me it came back, guns blazing. It came back with new fun additions, like racing thoughts, explosive anger and a true and utter hopelessness. Seeking help this time around was different. I am an adult now. I no longer live with my parents. No longer have an intact family unit hovering about me, watching me, noticing even the most subtle mood changes. I have a partner now. One who has never dealt with mental illness, one who through no fault of her own did not know what to look for. One who believed me when I said I was fine. This time asking for help was on me. Reaching out, finding care, finding the right care — that was on me. It might be both the hardest and easiest thing I have ever done. Coming to grips with the fact that you need help is not easy. Admitting to yourself and the people around you that are not going to get better without medication is not easy. But what is even harder is admitting it to yourself. Acknowledging that my own head was in such turmoil I was not going to be able to get through this on my own was so hard I almost didn’t do it. Asking for help managing your feelings is not the same as asking for help moving a couch, or using crutches when you have a broken foot. Asking for help because you are just too sad to get out of bed makes you feel weak. The depression tells you that you’re a failure, a loser, that you are nothing and that no one cares about you. And you believe it. You buy into it hook line and sinker. Nothing has ever or will ever feel as true as the lies the depression tells you. You have to fight to even see a shred of hope. To believe for just a moment that what is in your head is not true, and that there may be someone out there who can help quiet the storm. The day I sought help was the most important day perhaps of my life. I truly believe if I had not reached out, I would have ended up at the very least losing my relationship, hospitalized after a suicide attempt, or at the worst I would have succeeded in ending my life. Now two months after that first meeting with the psychiatrist, I have a diagnoses that feels accurate, I have medication I’m hoping will work and the depression has lifted to a manageable level. The anxiety, the racing thoughts, the sadness are all still there swirling together in my head like some sort of intense emotional stew, but they are lessened. They have returned to what for me is a normal level. I am hoping that with the right medication, continuing therapy and my newly developed coping skills, they can one day disappear completely. The stopping and starting of the medication has left me feeling raw. The roller coaster of the ups and down induced by the wrong medication, the uncovering of trauma in therapy, the endless conversations with my partner where I try to explain what is happening, the apologies I’ve made over my anger, the cancelled plans I had to make excuses for, all of it leaving me feel spent, splayed out and empty. The guilt creeps in every now and then, telling me how much time I wasted, how lazy I have been. I feel that I have been excavated, dug out to my very core. And as I sit waiting for the new medication to kick in, practicing self-care, crying tears of grief, of relief of utter exhaustion, the tiniest bit of hope presents itself in the corner. And with whatever strength I have left, I reach out to it. Grasping it. It’s not yet enough light to burn through the darkness, but it is there, and for now it’s enough. Image via Thinkstock. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Depression and Anxiety: What Starting the Day Is Like for Me

It’s morning, and my alarm just went off for the third time. I don’t remember what time I fell asleep, but I know it was late. Two a.m., maybe? I know I woke up around 4:30 a.m., tossing and turning because I couldn’t get comfortable. I look at the clock; it’s 8:30. I see my running clothes laid out over the chair, and I roll over. My alarms rings again, this time with an annoying fire alarm sound, and I know it’s time to get up. I reach for my phone and see that it’s now after 9 a.m. Instead of getting out of bed, I unlock my phone and scroll through my email, deleting 30 or so spam and junk emails. Still not ready to face the day, I open Facebook. Somehow another 25 minutes go by. Now it is nearing 9:30, and I know that if I want to accomplish anything today, I have to get out of bed. I look over to the nightstand and see that my fiancée has brought me a cup of coffee. I notice she used my favorite mug, and I smile. Then the guilt hits me. She has been awake long enough to make breakfast and coffee, and likely she has already ran two miles and is back, ready to face the day. I feel worthless. I have slept in yet again, and I’m on my way to wasting yet another day. I know that if I want to keep the anxiety, guilt and depression away, I have to get up. I move slowly, throwing the blankets off and then sitting up. My heads pulses with the lack the sleep; my body feels weighed down. I put my feet on the floor using all my strength to stand. As I stumble out into the kitchen, my fiancée is there greeting me with a cheery, “Good morning.” I somehow make it to the couch, coffee in hand. Still arguing with myself about going for my morning run, I brush my teeth and put my contacts in. I head to the bedroom and stand in front of the chair, staring at the leggings and sports bra I laid out in hopes that they would motivate me. To be honest, they have been there for three days, and with each passing morning, they become more a symbol of guilt then of motivation. I know that in order to move out of this depression, I have to do the work. I have to get moving, I have to exercise, and at the very least, I have to get out of bed and get dressed. With every fiber of my being, and with my brain screaming insults, I begin to get dressed. Maybe I’ll just take a walk, I tell myself. I don’t have to run, or maybe I can just do a short run. I am negotiating with the voice inside my head that tells me I don’t have to try, the voice that tells me I am in fact worthless and no amount of effort will have any effect on this reality. But still I push through. Suddenly I am lacing my shoes. I don’t remember actually making the decision to run, but here I am, lacing my shoes and grabbing my headphones. Once I am outside, I do feel better. I take a deep breath, roll my ankles a few times and start running. The first few steps are torture, every cell in my body screaming at me. The voice in my head gets louder at first, but as the pavement moves beneath my feet, the voice loses power. Suddenly it is silent; the sound of my breathing drowns it out. By the time I finish, I have gone further then I planned. The rest of the day still looms in front of me, and I am anxious about how I will get through it. But the cobwebs are gone, and the voice is quiet for now. Image via Thinkstock Images

If There Were Olympics for Depression: the 2016 Depression Olympics

Commentator 1: Welcome back to the 2016 Depression Olympics, where you’re joining us live at the Women’s “Getting Out Of Bed” Final. Commentator 2: And what a final we have for you today. We have some strong contenders from the U.S., U.K., South Korea and Hungary, all vying for that sweet Depression Gold. We heard just this morning that the Swedish team has been banned from the competition after testing positive for feeling positive. A real shame. Commentator 1 : It really is. But now, all eyes are on Team Great Britain’s surprise choice, Amanda Rosenberg. Commentator 2: That’s right, after a successful run at London’s 2012 “I’m Fine” Tournament, Rosenberg failed to qualify at the World Anxiety Championships last year. She placed sixth in “Crying at Work,” fifth in “Crying Everywhere Else,” and eighth in “Sitting Alone in the Dark While Thinking of the Worst Things.” Arguably, her strongest event. Commentator 1 : Let’s hope she’s up to the challenge when we return after these messages. [commercials for six hours] Commentator 1 : And we’re back. This is it. Amanda Rosenberg for Team Great Britain. Commentator 2: She’s starting with the classic Head Under the Covers. There’s a little bit of movement, so there’ll be a deduction for that. Really breaks the illusion of death, and that’s what the judges are going for. Commentator 1 : Here’s the first peep… looks around… and a smooth transition back under the covers. Nicely done. Commentator 2: And now for the “No’s!” The trick is to start by saying them quietly then build to a crescendo. Here’s the first “No!” soft…distressed…nice…a little harsher…good…and now we’re getting to the last “No!” loud and with a cry at the end. So pained. Magnificent. This is text. book. crying. Commentator 1 : And she goes straight into Stare at the Ceiling and Contemplate Death. This move requires maximum concentration and sadness…and…and it looks like….. yes! She’s clearly numb and wants to die! A real pro. Commentator 2: It’s like watching her back in 2008 where she stormed it at the Beijing Bipolars. Commentator 1 : Next up, the Stay Here for Three More Hours. It’s important that we see some self-loathing here. Commentator 2: It ain’t great if you don’t hate, ain’t that right? Commentator 1 : Yes it ain’t. [three hours pass] Commentator 1 : OK. Preparing for her final dismount… a triple twist and turn in the sheets, she launches herself. Commentator 2: And yes! Rolled onto the floor face first… absolutely stuck that landing. She has got the be happy with that. And by happy, I mean distraught. Commentator 1 : Watch out, South Korea! Rosenberg is back and more depressed than ever. Commentator 2: She got an impressive amount of  air in that dismount despite gaining 30 pounds from Abilify. Commentator 1 : There is very little to critique in this routine. It had everything you could want — darkness, misery, with just a touch of existential dread. Flawless, absolutely flawless. Commentator 2 : And I think the judges agree with you there… 9000 points! That puts her at the top! Commentator 3: Amanda. A stunning routine and 9000 points. How do you feel? Amanda Rosenberg: I’m fine. Commentator 3: What a pro!