A friend, or rather an acquaintance, once suggested — not jokingly or kindly — that, in short, I was kind of a mess. Not only a mess, but a mess with a persecution complex. To be fair, he wasn’t far off, at the time. Back then, I was experiencing a full-blown depressive episode with anxiety, which – again to be fair to my friend – is difficult to understand if one hasn’t experienced it. Just because I’ve been officially (“officially” means medical professionals have deemed it so) stable for three years doesn’t make it any easier to manage now. I’ve lost long-term relationships because of it. Hell, in the past, I’ve lost apartments and family support over it.
The worst part of my predicament is that I was never addicted to drugs or alcohol. I never stole from my family and friends, and I never lied to them. I never had to leave a marriage because of a sudden divorce, which, by the way, is probably more horrible than some of the trauma I’ve lived through. But I was homeless, I was alone, and I was helpless for a while. The worst part of being emotionally unstable is that there’s no one and nothing to “blame.” People look at you and wonder why you let everything go to hell. You look at yourself and wonder the same thing. Here I am, and I have faulty brain chemistry. I’ve had it approximately since puberty. When I look for reasons for my past maladjusted behavior, I usually just see a distorted reflection of myself. Like a carnival trick, you get a twisted version of your own reflection: your behavior is not the same as your personality, but you will find yourself and others mistaking it as such. It’s tough to face these ideas and admit that, impaired as you might have been, you are the author of your own pain. Even tougher, however, is simultaneously realizing that your brain chemistry is not your fault and you must move forward.
Continue reading Triumph and Loss: Emotional Stability and the Price We’ve Paid
“Achieving Your Goal, or The Care and Feeding of Your Elephant: Part Three of How I Fight My Mood Disorder Every Day “
It’s pretty hard to live with an elephant, even one that doesn’t sit on your head. They’re really large. They’re moody. Ok, well, they have moods (http://www NULL.pbs NULL.org/wnet/nature/unforgettable/emotions NULL.html). In any case, they’re often inconvenient, impossible to ignore, they leave a mess, and boy can they eat! My mood disorder is on a similar scale, and I admit that I occasionally doubt my ability to manage it and still be able to have some semblance of a life.
It’s a sticky situation: if I don’t manage the disorder, I have no quality of life, but if I do manage my disorder, will it take all of my time and energy? Will I have anything left for my family, friends, pets, or hobbies? The short answer is, “Not at first.”
Having More Good Days Than Bad in A Million Easy Steps
There is no simple path to your goal. You can’t do one, three, or five specific tasks a day and achieve mental health. Mental health, similar to physical health, is a lifestyle. If you, like I did, lived for a long time undiagnosed, un-treated, or non-compliant, getting healthy will be pretty difficult, feel strange, and take a long time. I found myself relieved at first, because feeling anything but bad was so new and wonderful to me. A relatively short time later, however, I began the old “why me?” pattern. Sure, I felt better, but it was so much work. I was on the way to stabilizing but wasn’t there yet, and I was both impatient and at the same time wondering if it was worth it. I have learned, however, that I need to maintain certain habits in order to keep my hard-won mental health. Continue reading The Elephant on Your Head Part 3
“Making Peace With Your Elephant: Part Two of How I Fight My Mood Disorder Every Day”
When I was 21, I had been in treatment for depression on and off for about six years. At one appointment with my psychiatrist, I told her, “Well, I feel miserable. I feel like something is terribly, horribly wrong, and I’m so angry and sad I can hardly move. But I know there’s nothing really wrong!”
She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Christine, something is wrong, and it has been for a long time.” I was devastated. I went home and cried for a long time. Even twelve years later, I have trouble with the idea that a mood disorder doesn’t simply mean that your emotions are all “messed up” and your feelings aren’t “all in your head.” What? Of course they’re “all in your head,” because emotions are run by chemicals in your brain! Sure, but that perception is inaccurate: just because your brain chemicals are “messed up” doesn’t mean that your feelings are any less real than anyone else’s feelings! Continue reading The Elephant on Your Head Part 2
Or, “How I Fight My Mood Disorder Every Day: An Article in Three Parts”
I was originally going to complete my site makeover before I made this post, but I keep having great ideas about points to make in it. Because of a few conversations I’ve had with more than one friend lately, I think it’s time to get these words out into the world!
I’ve been diagnosed with a mood disorder of one kind or another since 1992 or so, when I was first diagnosed with situational depression due to trauma. In all honesty, I believe that my mood disorder is partially genetic and partially due to repeated life trauma (i.e. both nature and nurture). Since that time, I’ve been diagnosed with chronic depression, ADHD, and finally bi-polar disorder. Before I was properly diagnosed, and even for a couple of years afterward, I could have been named the poster child for “How Not to Properly Manage Your Mood Disorder.” Continue reading The Elephant on Your Head
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