The Depths of My Mental Illnesses

Man*ic
[‘manik]
ADJECTIVE
Showing wild and apparently deranged excitement and energy
– Frenetically busy; frantic
– Psychiatry
Relating to or affected by mania

Borderline Personality Disorder
[BPD]
NOUN
A condition characterized by difficulties in regulating emotion. This difficulty leads to severe unstoppable mood swings, impulsivity and instability, poor self-image and stormy personal relationships.

Anxiety
[aNG’ziede]
NOUN
A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
– Psychiatry
A nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.

Depression
[de’preSH(e)n]
NOUN
Feelings of severe despondency and dejection. An extreme sadness that often has no cause.

Insomnia
[in’samnea]
NOUN
Habitual sleeplessness; inability to sleep.

These are the medical terms used to describe my emotional rollercoaster. While I see that they are somewhat accurate, they are cold and sterile, which I suppose also describes me during times of mania.


You seem so put together.
Even when I see you without your hair and makeup done, you seem like you have a focus, determined mindset.
You always have a welcoming smile on your face.
You’re the one I depend on to help me feel better, so I guess I just assume you have your shit together.
At least you are still able to do the things that make you happy. You get to make a living doing the things you love and I bet the days you work from home are amazing!
How could you not be balanced when you help me feel so good?
You come across as so confident, it never crossed my mind you had anything like this going on.

This is how a lot of people see me and a lot of the time they have a hard time grasping how I can come across this way but feel like I am completely unraveling on the inside. They are often blown away when they find out what I go through every day, which makes me a sick kind of proud at how well I have learned to hide my faults. See, part of me wants to hold major meetings to bring mental illness to the front of discussions, while the other part of me wants to make sure no one knows I am generally fighting with all my might to get through a conversation. One side is winning right now, but the other is still pulling me back, which is why it is taking me so long to post this particular blog.
This has taken me decades of practice. This is me fighting to be ok when most of the time I am in pieces on the inside. I can’t hold myself together if I have a moment to stop and reflect so I pack my schedule so tight I don’t have time to think about my inner demon who is insatiable when it comes to dragging me into my personal pit of despair. But it never fails, someone or something will tug at the one last string that was holding me together.
I go from one extreme to another while in the depths of mania. It generally starts with me getting a massive spurt of creativity and motivation. I will throw myself into these disguised inspirations with no reservation. Before I know it, I feel like I need a tight jacket and a soft room, because once this sporadic explosion of excessiveness wears off, I go into the next phase, and then there is nothing that can save me. There is no symbolic lifesaver to be tossed into my sea of all-consuming emotional wreckage. It is the most polluted body of water I have ever seen. It is littered with triggers that devour my life like a light snack . But even when I am drowning, I push on. I go get the mail, I go to work and I even slap on some makeup from time to time in order to camouflage the puffy eyes that live in the darkest rings of insomnia and tears. The worst part about mania is that I really think that I am kicking ass this time, this time is different. I will not spiral out of control this time. This isn’t a manic episode, this is me finally winning. It is never me winning and I don’t know when I will accept that and take the burst of motivation as a sign I need to settle my ass down and take a break before shit hits the fan. Mania is like someone puts your life in a blender and leaves it on pulsate for countless days and then emulsify for weeks and suddenly stops. Spurts of excruciating pain and anguish that leave you so disoriented it takes days to come back from, just in time for another round. I will overhaul my spa room, organize closets, de-junk Claire’s room, get through five units in school, paint like nobody’s business……then BAM! I am so exhausted I am in bed by 7:00 and, hi, I’m an insomniac. There is nothing healthy or balanced when I am in a manic episode. Only extremes. Its not a slow transition either, I will be in the midst of motivated glory when the tide turns and I have to shut down. The lights literally go off.
Insomnia is even hard to describe. Have you ever gotten to the point you are so tired and still can’t sleep? You are exhausted, your body is craving you pillow, but your mind is just so turned around it can’t stop. That’s what insomnia is like, but insomnia is that bulky bully who seems to know all your weaknesses, who likes to poke and prod every raw emotion from an entire lifetime, and make you relive it, every, single, night. For weeks. For months. My problem is falling asleep. Once I finally get there, I can sleep. I have heard my whole life, over and over again- you are wasting half of the day sleeping in that late. Well, I could say the same about you wasting the night, ok? I like the nighttime. That’s when I get things done! I am my most creative at night so I get a lot of things done for all my businesses and sometimes even some art. It does control my life to be on the opposite schedule as the majority of society, but I have made it work. It’s the gut-wrenching loop of every poor decision I’ve ever made spliced with all the bad things that have happened to me over 32 years. Insomnia is anxiety’s cheerleader.
The anxiety, my God the anxiety. I had over eight panic attacks the other day, four were in less than two hours. If you have ever had a panic attack you understand that they aren’t a fleeting feeling that passes quickly. This means I was in sheer panic for the better part of two hours. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t think. But I got Claire ready and to school on time and headed to work. These panic attacks were almost non-stop, they felt continuous, they lasted so long, it went on for about six hours that day. They only stopped when they had taken all that I had in me that day. I came home and got into bed. There was nothing left of me.
It is really hard to describe these things to someone who has never experienced them.
You know that feeling when your almost asleep and you jolt awake because you felt like you were falling? That’s kind of like anxiety, that sheer panic. It’s a total loss of control and I never know how its going to manifest. I may lash out in anger, cry, become paralyzed, scared, give up. The scariest part of it is I am so used to living in this state of panic that I can carry on a conversation with you while I am falling apart, and you may never know. The saddest part of it is that those closest to me get the anger lash outs. Poor Claire, I can’t begin to count how many apologies I have made to her because of my mental illnesses. I look at her every night and wonder why I have been blessed with her, and why she was doomed with me. She is the most forgiving, compassionate and understanding soul. She’s so much like her grams who is the beacon of light for me. I cant make it through Claire’s cleft appointments without her. She will never know how much she helps me. I have found ways to calmly (for the most part) communicate my illnesses in the last five years. I had to. I had to be able to let my daughter know that anxiety is why. When we were in Denver we went to a light show. It was outside in this magnificent botanical garden, and there were people EVERYWHERE. We had Claire’s stroller and she was ok with being in it for a while. Having her in that stroller is the only thing that held me together in that moment. If she got out, I would lose it. She started freaking out about being in the stroller and I dealt with the horror of her being out of it, loose in that crowd, a couple times through the tour. I finally had to tell her, I need you in this stroller or I am going to have a panic attack, please help me out, sis. She was willing to get back in the stroller. I used to keep all of this inside but I am learning to simply say- I am having anxiety, I am going to panic, I need you to prepare me for what I am about to go through so I don’t freak out for the next 30 minutes wondering what to expect when I go to a new place with lots of people. I’ve found the courage, through being a mother, to ask for a little help to attempt to tone down the anxiety so it doesn’t manifest as anger. I try my best to surround myself with people who will answer my weird questions without hesitation, or who will carry my big box for me through a big crowd. My people are how I cope. My husband knows there are just somethings I cannot do. He doesn’t push me and he does whatever he can to help. He has never questioned me getting on meds, or getting off of them. He completely supported me finding my own way through my hysterectomy, finding my spirituality again and all the little and big things in between. He is the most patient man I have ever met.
Depression is being sad for no damn reason and not feeling entitled to the emotion, so that brings guilt. This isn’t something I can just ‘get over’. There is no ‘getting outside’ to get out of my head. I loathe when people try to tell me how to easily fix this. Don’t you think I would have done a simple little task a long time ago, if it was that easy? Geez, I’m not an idiot, I’m depressed and some sunshine isn’t going to fix me. It is so goddamn hard to get out of bed in the morning. I just want to sleep my life away. But thanks to insomnia, I can’t sleep. There is nothing that anyone can say or do to snap me out of it. I think about my pillow ( I may or may not have an unhealthy attachment to my pillow- don’t judge me) all day long. I float through the day only half-living, a vessel that will fix you, scrub your face, listen, heal, cook, clean, but there is nothing happening inside. I am numb to everything except the inexplicable sadness that resides in my head, in my heart, and in the deepest layers of my soul. I’m beyond sunshine helping.
Borderline personality disorder makes it almost impossible to regulate my emotions. Sometimes I even catch myself being completely irrational but I simply can’t stop. I’ll see the look in my mom’s eyes saying- here we go again. But I’m helpless and continue to lash out even though I’m thinking to myself- she doesn’t deserve this. In the middle of an outburst I am fighting myself. I hurt because I can’t control it, and whoever is on the other end of the lash out is hurting, too. I can be completely insane and a real bitch in these moments. Afterwards, I think about some of the things I say in the heat of these moments that make me feel like I am in a vice, and I am hurt all over again for saying such hateful things. My mom has been on the receiving end of this a lot more than I care to admit. She is a quick trigger for me and it doesn’t take much for her to bring me to that place I fight so hard to stay away from. It isn’t anything she does or doesn’t do, says or doesn’t say. There is no way for me to begin to understand this trigger, it makes no sense. I guess its because I want her to just know what I am thinking, to solve this problem for me because after all, that’s what moms do. But how do you solve problem that has no rationality? How do you fix something that’s in a trillion tiny pieces that are turning to dust? Its not her fault at all and she tries so hard to understand me. She’s very supportive of alternative methods of controlling these situations and that is a lot more than what some parents would do.
My biggest trigger is when plans change. I cannot stand a change in plans. I have to hype myself up to get the most inconsequential thing accomplished, so plans are a must. I plan my driving route. In Miford. There is no traffic to worry about, it takes less than five minutes to get anywhere. But there are turns that have major blind spots and I have a minor panic attack every I have to turn at them. I will go so far out of my way to not have a panic attack or face a trigger. I drive my spontaneous friend absolutely looney with my planning. I can’t not plan because I can’t do variables, variables are terrifyingly unpredictable. I like to know who is coming, when they’re coming and where we are going when they get here, long before it happens.
I have learned to cope. I plan my entire life around my imbalances.
The combination of these things makes me feel extremely vulnerable, a little paranoid at times and hyper aware of my surroundings. I will circle the block for 30 minutes before I go in somewhere that’s too busy. Too busy is more than a few cars, even if they belong to people I know, worse sometimes if they are. I have gone without things many times just to avoid going in somewhere.
Out of them all anxiety and BPD are definitely the worst to deal with, BPD being the biggest monster of all. I can keep my anxiety on the inside a lot of the time. It does manifest as anger sometimes but the amount of times I have one on the inside is well over 30 before it comes out as anger. To put this into perspective, I generally have at least one anger outburst, even if I control it and it stays under my breath, a day and usually two or three. That’s a lot of anxiety to carry around. But, I can have a conversation, work, live life while screaming on the inside with anxiety. Anger outbursts sound worse than they are, I just lose my patience over minute things in these moments. “Fine! We will go there!” I’m just over emote my loss of patience, so to speak.

BPD comes out of nowhere and it feels like anxiety took steroids and snorted crack with a heavy chaser of meth. It feels like every anxiety trigger has been tripped and I’m falling into this deep, dark abyss of broken glass and lack of control. Everything hurts and there is no light at the end of this tunnel. For weeks, months even.

I have to rebuild my life to be something I don’t need to run away from or take a break from. I have to set boundaries and stick to them. I can’t tell you how many times I have said- ok no more Mondays in the spa, or Thursdays are for school work only. I never follow through. I am such a people pleaser and so worried that I am going to disappoint someone that I will put other people before myself every single time. I am beginning to understand that this is my battle and I have to win it at any cost. This has come in many forms over the years; walking away from relationships, cutting people out of my life, staying away from certain situations, quitting jobs, moving… it is a really long list. Its hard to come to terms with having to put your emotions first when you have tried to shut them down to be ‘normal’ your whole life.
I had a client ask me if I could pinpoint when this all started. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t feel anxiety. I have had a hard time sleeping for just as long. I do know that there are certain things that have happened in my life that have made it worse. The bully on the playground. The coward who sexually assaulted me.
“You’re so strong for doing so much while trying dealing with so much.”
This isn’t strength, this is lack of options. Kids don’t get days off school because their mom is a fuckin’ basket case who can’t pull herself out of bed. My sweet clients would understand to some extent but I can’t cancel every time these days happen or I would literally never work. What else am I to do, but to keep on keepin’ on? There is no other option.

I refuse to let this bastardly cluster of illnesses win anyways. I won’t allow my daughter to look back on her childhood and correlate me with nothing else than mentally ill. She already knows way more than any five-year-old should, but she is such a tender little heart, I wouldn’t be able to hide from her. She senses these things and will just hug me out of nowhere. She saved me.

Over the last few years I have reduced my medications by 98% and have learned to embrace and deeply understand my cycles and triggers. I have my biggest epiphanies in the major swings of these episodes. My best ideas have come to me in the depths of my crazy. I wouldn’t change it, but I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Appreciating my victories in these times is merely another coping mechanism to help me feel less out of control in my rawest times.

If you or anyone you know suffers from mental illnesses, I encourage you to reach out to someone when you are in need. There is no shame in accepting help and certainly nothing wrong with offering a helping hand to someone who suffers. Find your tribe, even online. Surround yourself with things that help you. Fight for yourself. Don’t give up.
National Suicide Hotline
1(800)273-TALK

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