My earliest recollection of symptoms related to mental illness was in my teens. Of course, back then I had no idea of what I was experiencing. It was not until I was diagnosed with major depression as well as bi-polar that a lot of things began to come to light. By educating myself on my illnesses, working with others to help break the stigma so unfairly attached to them, and spreading awareness on mental health related issues, things have become clearer for me.
I have experienced and learned many things during my recovery process; things about me and those around me–some positive and others negative. One of which is the topic of “mental disorders being an illness.” I have read articles and heard discussions in which they describe mental illnesses as not being an illness at all, but rather a lack of strength or motivation. Well, let me assure the skeptics that indeed it is an illness.
During the height of my depression my illness would literally bring me to my knees at any time or anywhere, I could be sitting on a bus feeling good, listening to my mp3 player, on my way to the mall, and when out of nowhere it struck. I could not move, talk, and barely think. I would have just enough strength to speed dial someone to pick me up. Everything became numb and completely out of my control; the emptiness inside my body was painful; the sadness too much to bear; and the lack of mobility during an episode extremely frightful. I would spend days and nights at a time in bed with the curtains drawn. I was too exhausted to take a shower, get dressed or answer the phone. Even drying the tears from my eyes was hard to do.
What made me feel worse were the people who came to visit and claimed I just needed to “be strong’. I couldn’t be strong–I really wanted to–but I just couldn’t. And I wanted someone so badly to understand me, to help me, but they couldn’t. Listening to those statements made me feel like the loneliest woman on earth; completely hopeless with nowhere to turn. No one understood how I was disappearing; falling deeper and deeper into a hole.
During the peak of my mental illness I discovered self medicating. I drank to feel better but it turn into nightmares. I drank so people would accept me but they ran further from me. I even drank so I could be what people told me to be “ strong” but I became weaker. My addiction was both hell and a blessing. It was then that I was hospitalized for alcoholism and referred to a mental health provider.
If not treated appropriately, mental illness can destroy. It can aid in the development of other illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, neurological conditions, eating disorders, IBS, and more. For those who believe mental disorders such as depression are not an illness, I really can’t see how I would choose anguish and despair over strength and motivation; shopping and independence over falling to the ground and being carried to my bed; or healing through treatment versus getting sicker without the right course of treatment.
As to my positive experiences, a very dear and special one to me is compassion. I have learned compassion toward myself, but feeling compassion for others has been the ultimate gift. I clearly remember saying to myself during a state of major depression “God, if you help me get through this and take away this pain, I promise to help those who are also sick and suffering.” I’d like to thing I’m keeping that promise. I wouldn’t wish the pain of depression or any other mental disorder on anyone. I’ve been there in the worst end of the illness. It is a gift to let others who are suffering know that they are not alone; that there are resources and treatments they can utilize to feel better.
I still experience the symptoms of bi-polar/depression, I probably always will. However, ever since I have been on treatment through my doctor my episodes are not as profound and I no longer become bed bound for days and I bounce back faster and safely. I live a fuller more meaningful life thanks to taking my medication, attending therapy groups and incorporating other sources of recovery as well as using my coping skills.
Photo credit: LHG Creative Photography
My name is Madison. I live in NYC. My passion is writing, listening to music and spreading awareness on mental illness. I changed my goal of being a rock star to becoming an author and eventually writing my memoir someday but I do still sing out loud in front of my mirror when no one’s looking. I love my mascara, taking long walks, meeting new people, watching Youtube videos and working out. My favorite friend is coffee. I simply adore NYC and everything Manhattan has to offer. I am full of dreams and hope and truly believe in never, ever, giving up.