Not long ago, I began to feel the darkness creeping in. After several good months, I was caught off guard when I felt the depression returning. Bipolar depression can be very stubborn so the onset is always scary. Will it be worse than last time? Will it last longer? Will it destroy more? Not knowing how hungry each bout of depression or mania will get can be paralyzing. Even when I understand what is happening on an intellectual level, my emotions can still take on a life of their own.
One thing is for certain—I don’t like feeling socially awkward. That can’t last forever, though, no matter how it may seem in the moment. I want to confront my situation because I don’t like being lonely. General anxiety has me second guessing myself, and social anxiety keeps me outside looking in. As uncomfortable as it might be, I’m ready for a change.
I began to show symptoms long before I (or anyone) acknowledged there was a problem. Over time, my life became a predictable pattern of extreme emotional instability and a lot of damage control. It wasn’t until my external life began to reflect my internal chaos that someone spoke up.
Of course, the first thing that comes into play is the stigma. The number of times I’ve heard someone say, “I’m so OCD!” the pop culture meme for explaining away control issues. At this point I’m aware of how social stigma functions, so I won’t be letting it get me down. Still, it’s out there in spades, pushing the self-stigma triggers ever more so, prompting mindful response over knee-jerk reaction. Dealing with another diagnosis is challenging enough without letting stigma derail my quality of life.
We now are seeing this open conversation take place about sexual assault. We are seeing things like #metoo. More people are talking. This is important. I will tell you one way I flourished among the chaos. You see for sixteen years I struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, but then one day I entered a phase of post-traumatic enlightenment. All those years of pain and darkness opened at first to a small glimmer and then a bright light.
One thing I wish society would look at is how our perception of people with mental health issues impacts their reality in defining years. In high school, you get left out for wearing different shoes, can you imagine what happens when you have a different brain. The law I wish could be passed, is that school must be an inclusive environment, the one team, no one gets left out mentality.
The staff on our wing had their work cut out for them, with twenty-four patients to attend to. Community therapy concentrated on setting and achieving goals. Occupational therapy focused on creatively integrating right- and left-brained processes. Twenty-four individual viewpoints on life; twenty-four souls needing to communicate, each in their own unique way. A microcosm of the very world we longed to be a part of, treating one another with respect when someone went off the rails, supporting one another when life’s lessons got too hard to shoulder alone.
“I focus on creating now, instead of destroying myself. My stitching gives me a reason to keep going, to keep fighting. I have to finish so many portraits,” she says of the benefits the stitching process provides for her mental health. “I start something to bring comfort to someone else and it ends up bringing comfort to myself. It’s like a circle. By helping others I’m helping myself.”“I focus on creating now, instead of destroying myself. My stitching gives me a reason to keep going, to keep fighting. I have to finish so many portraits,” she says of the benefits the stitching process provides for her mental health. “I start something to bring comfort to someone else and it ends up bringing comfort to myself. It’s like a circle. By helping others I’m helping myself.”