So Becca from Becca Does Life Things left me a comment suggesting I answer some questions. I read through her post (which you can find by following the link) and decided I would do it. Since this month is Mental Health Awareness Month, I thought it only fitting that I talk more about mental health.
- What mental illness do you have? – I am bipolar with moderate to severe anxiety, general panic disorder, and have recently been diagnosed with PTSD.
- When were you diagnosed? – I was diagnosed with bipolar when I was 16, and I’ve had that diagnosis carried through my life and validated by several different psychiatrists. I’ve also had the anxiety diagnosis, but the general panic disorder and PTSD have been more recent diagnoses.
- Who knows about it? – My family knows, as do my friends. Oh, and all of you, my dear readers. I don’t talk much about it, not because I’m worried about being judged, but because I get exhausted dealing with the “it’s all in your head” and “you’re not sick, you’re just lazy” crap.
- Has your mental illness stopped you from doing anything? – I can’t work a normal job outside the home anymore. Before I moved to the farm, I wouldn’t move from my bed for any reason, other than to go to the bathroom. My mental illness also prevented me from being a good mom.
- Is there anything in particular that has helped you? – Finding a support structure in being with family and friends, something I haven’t had in years. Talking to a counselor helps me deal with my guilt and depression caused by my life experiences. Medication helps with controlling the symptoms, when they work.
- Can you describe what it feels like to have your mental illness? – How do you describe the way your mind works? The best example I have is a roller coaster. You have ups and you have downs. You can be thrown for a loop. You can feel dizzy and helpless, the pressure pushing you down so hard that your body doesn’t want to answer your commands. When you get off, you are so exhausted and in pain that you don’t want to get back on. Yet you are forced back on again and again.
- What is a common misconception about your mental illness? – “You’re the cause of your depression/anxiety.” “Being manic must be awesome. You can get so much done with that kind of energy.” I will admit that I do have issues with beating myself up mentally for making mistakes and not doing as well as I’d like at things, but that isn’t always the source of my depression. And being hypomanic is nothing like having all extra energy. I do get it, but I’m dealing with irritability and racing thoughts instead most of the time.
- What do you find the most difficult to deal with? – Being judged for not being able to do things the same as everyone else. I get upset with people when they tell me that I should be able to handle being outside the house in crowded places without needing someone with me. I get told I’m an adult and I need to act like one. I also find the mood swings themselves difficult to deal with. Even with meds, which I also have issues with because many times what I was prescribed turned me into a zombie.
- Do you have anything else you’d like to say? – If you even suspect you might have a mental illness, talk to your doctor. It may be nothing, but on the other hand finding the right help could literally be the difference between life and death.