Once upon a time, there was a five year old named Niki. She was in Kindergarten. She loved animals, Wonderwoman, watching The Incredible Hulk and Dark Shadows. The worst thing she’d ever been through was watching her beloved dog, Snowball, pass away because an nasty neighbor poisoned him with glass for messing in their yard. It was her first experience realizing that the world was not all rainbows and that some people are plain bad. It left a mark on her heart but did not quash her spirit.
As that little girl got older, she was exposed to more ugliness from people. Still, no matter how badly she was treated for whatever petty reasons- being too tall, too chubby, having the wrong last name- she remained a bright hopeful girl who began to write short stories about cats. She loved to rollerskate in the basement with her cousin. She loved listening to music. While not as extroverted as her younger sister, and not of the blonde hair blue eyed “she’s so pretty!” variety…Niki was smart, sure of who she was, and content with her life.
That would all change, and change drastically. Still, amidst years of being bullied at school…She remained optimistic. She had hopes, dreams. She knew who she was and it didn’t matter if even her own parents found her high strung and moody and “difficult”. She stayed true to herself, even to her own detriment.
Then it all fell apart. Convinced she was indeed moody and difficult and a “weirdo” because kids told her repeatedly that she was…She sought counseling, figuring her dysfunctional home life with parents that hated each other had made her “weird.” She refused medication because, frankly, she didn’t know about mental health issues. She thought she could “fix herself” by talking and figuring out where she went wrong. Except all the things she’d been told were wrong with her were opinions by small minded rural people. There was nothing wrong with the way she dressed, looked, or the things she liked.
There was, however, something wrong with the way she go from being ecstatic and energetic and talkative and social…to falling down into a hole where she barely left her room and wanted no one around. There was something very wrong with her inexplicable anger, her agitation, her screaming only to start bawling and coil up into a panic stricken ball of shame. It kept happening, year after year. No matter how much she changed her behavior, the moods and anxieties would come regardless of how good or bad her life was going.
So she agreed to see a doctor and be medicated. And it helped, with the depressions, keeping them limited to a specific period during winter and stressful times in life. Six to nine months of the year, she’d be elated, busy at home or not at home. She had hobbies and enjoyed everything to the fullest. Until she didn’t.
It took over ten years and five doctors before she learned she was misdiagnosed and the very meds given to “help” her were in fact responsible for her “manic” episodes where she engaged in behavior that was totally at odds with her core beliefs. Mood stabilizers changed everything. No more screaming and ranting. No more crying jags. Things were clearer, more level.
Too level. And the depressions still came, and now they lasted longer, even with medications. She lost relationships, friendships, couldn’t hold a job. She lost parts of herself, the best parts, which may have been born of mania yet she missed the shiny happy part of herself. The only true answer was to stay with the medication lest she make any more mistakes to haunt her for the rest of her life.
It didn’t stop her from feeling daily like a husk of who she was. Then again, she wondered if she’d ever really known who she was, or if she was a manifestation of the mood cycles and anxieties…
That is my story. That cherub faced girl up there was me, as a five year old. The version of me with light still in her eyes. Maybe a lot of psychological damage was done, but the bipolar and anxiety have been the destructive things. It’s been agonizing to be cast as a mercurial flake when there is a logical explanation. It’s insulting to have that explanation dismissed.
That little girl never once thought that one day, she’d find it a chore to get out of bed and put on clothes.
That little girl never once imagined she’d become so exhausted from it all she’d lose her will to live on a daily basis.
Five year old me never knew one day she’d become prisoner to a sick mind full of fear and distorted thoughts that tainted everything she touched.
She had reason for light to be in her eyes. She had the whole future ahead of her.
I loathe that the struggle extinguished that light in me.
Some days I fight with all my might because I KNOW I can emerge from the depressive ell and live again. Other days, the fight is perfunctory and pretty much auto pilot.
I use sarcastic humor (often mistaken as pessimism) as a coping mechanism. Because I don’t know how else to handle this endless nightmare called mental illness.
I’m exhausted for being exhausted. I’m fed up being accused of not trying hard enough, not having the “right” attitude.
I’m tired of barely being able to watch a show I like because the suspense heightens my anxiety. I am filled with self loathing that my issues have kept me from taking my kid to the park, to this school activity, or even teaching her to ride a bike. My issues transfer onto her in my ability to function and it sickens me.
Five year old me was so blissfully unaware of the ugliness ahead of me.
I wish I could turn back the clock and relive that blissful ignorance. Because knowing what I know now…
I may have just stayed in my Wonder Woman Underoos, worn underpants as a hat, and not even bothered trying to live a normal life.
There is no such thing with mental illness.
Mental illness doesn’t kill you, they say.
Yet it kills your spirit. And often drives people to suicide.
So I think mental illness is a killer.
For so very long, I allowed myself to be convinced that it was all my “personality”. I was just that flawed. That flaky, that lazy, that much of a loser. You hear it day in day out, lies become a smidge of truth to a distorted mind.
Yet in the last few years, becoming active in the blogging community, reading others’ stories…The bipolar signs, cycles, anxiety issues- it’s all fairly universal. No one is exactly the same and yet…sometimes the behaviors are the same.
Now the mental health professionals would have you believe the very symptoms of bipolar they’re shoving meds at you to treat…are also part of your personality disorder.
It is my understanding personality disorders are born of genetics, personal experiences, etc. So pardon me if I cannot fathom how thousands of us, from different countries, from different income brackets, from different genetics- all end up with the exact same traits of a personality disorder. It’s just not logical to assume we all had the same experiences that warped us.
That five year old me had her blissful ignorance. My current incarnation has knowledge. I’m not sure if the trade off is worthwhile but it is what it is. And I am who I am.
I am bipolar. I have an anxiety disorder. I am mentally ill.
And I still miss my Wonder Woman Underoos.