Iʼve realized something lately. I donʼt want to be the girl who hides anymore because sheʼs ashamed of who she is. For the last couple of years, life has been hard for me. Actually life has been pretty hard for me in general, but the turning point and what i feel comfortable sharing is this. People keep asking how I’m doing and where Iʼve been, and what my life has been like for the past two years. Well, you may not like the answer so you shouldnʼt have asked if you canʼt handle the truth… and if you didnʼt ask Iʼm going to tell you anyway. If you donʼt like it feel free to not talk to me, Iʼm better off anyway. Not to sound bitter or rude, but thatʼs also the truth. So here it goes I guess…
In college for the first year or so i was happy. I was on top of the world and I believed I could do anything. I felt confident, comfortable in my own skin and at times even beautiful. But in reality I was somewhat spoiled and selfish. I took things for granted, even people, well especially people. I recognized in some sense I was blessed, but didnʼt fully understand or appreciate what exactly that meant… or how lucky I was. I forgot how at any moment life can change for the worst. That all you care about can be taken away from you.
My stepdad, who I call my father, had been around since I was 13 which was a pivotal point in my life. He saved my mom, brother and I from being homeless for the second time in my life. I was grateful for him, and much to my regret I didnʼt express it as often as I should have. Sometime in 2012, he had a heart attack and flatlined in our garage. I literally saw the life leave his body and thought itʼd never come back. This was the second time I witnessed someone I love almost have their life taken from them. by some miracle, he was revived and his soul again entered his body… but when his soul left his body for even that short moment, I think a part of mine left with it.
After that, my mental heath was deteriorating day by day, and along with it my relationships, including the most important relationship, with myself. I started doing bad in school, started to have daily panic attacks, and I started numbing my pain and fears with the daily use of marijuana. Yes, my dad was alive, but that experience made me realize that death was a serious thing, something that is inevitable and I didnʼt want to face the hard facts of it. I was at war in my mind. I questioned everything and anything. My illogical worries were endless and it was almost to the point of paranoia. Sometimes Iʼd ride the bus to school, and have to turn around and go home again because of my severe anxiety. I became concerned for my own well being so I started to see a counselor and talk about what was going on with me, because deep inside I knew something was wrong. For a while I thought this form of therapy was working, but I knew in my heart that there was a bigger issue I just didnʼt know what it was. I was at war in my mind and trapped in my body. I questioned everything. I had a million and one thoughts, ideas, and feelings running through my head all at once. I would get like six hours of sleep in a week total, which isnʼt good in itself. I was in a really toxic relationship…it was coming from both my end and his. We were both somewhat mentally abusive to each other. That was an eight month relationship and the whole time I would have anxiety attacks and heʼd call me crazy or make it worse on me by telling me Iʼd never get better, even if i sought treatment. I was also insecure because he kept comparing me to his ex and kept telling me he loved me then taking it back. Meanwhile, we were smoking massive amounts of weed all day everyday. So i just got worse and worse.
I started withdrawing in all aspects of my life. I wanted to crawl inside an underground cave and live my days out, alone. I knew I was hurting people including myself, even if unintentionally and I couldnʼt handle it. I was stuck in a whirlwind of chaos inside my mind, which sometimes is the worst place to be stuck.
In the spring of 2012, instead of just thinking about suicide, like I had been since I was 13, I attempted it. In all honesty it was kind of a half assed attempt, but iʼm glad it was. I wonʼt go into the super duper details, but looking back now it was was selfish, and yeah, some people say itʼs “the easy way out”… and you know what? Theyʼre right. I did see it as the easy way out. It was an easy way out. I was always feeling the constant turmoil in my mind, and I had a profound desire for eternal peace. Honestly, I was happy to take my life. I didnʼt want to be in pain any longer. I couldnʼt talk the roller coaster of life or my internal roller coaster anymore. For a while I thought I was getting better from going to counseling… so I stopped going as often as I should have been. One day I had a fight with my boyfriend at the time and with my family. So i went down to my room, held my cats for a while, and wrote a suicide note to my loved ones that was mostly just cruel. I walked down to the river and found a perfect spot to do it. I sat there smiling and touching the water for hours. I was just soaking in the fact that soon, when darkness hit, Iʼd finally be at peace…something I never truly had in my life. When darkness finally came, I jumped in the river and tried to swim out to the middle in hopes of getting swept away under the current. As soon as I hit the water, it was so cold that I flopped back onto the bank and just laid there. Then I tried two more times. “Damn my reflexes for betraying me” I thought to myself. I decided to sit longer, and after about an hour I gave up.
As I was walking home my mom and friend drove by and thatʼs when my friend started yelling. They just kept shouting “FRIEND! Friend! Whatʼre you doing? WHAT ARE YOU DOING FRIEND?!” My mom sat there and stared straight ahead for a while. finally she calmly stated that i needed more help than anyone close to me could offer. i needed to be put in the hospital. i said something like FU iʼm not going anywhere but home. Thatʼs probably the hardest part of the story for me, is disappointing, and scaring people I loved the most…it is what Iʼm most ashamed to say.
After that I started going to counseling for a bit. That whole summer and spring seemed to be looking up despite me failing MANY classes that spring. I spent the summer with my best friend and my family. I did mushrooms in the park, molly on a moonlit night, and smoked marijuana on the daily. I traveled to California and met my biological fatherʼs mother and father for the first time. It was also the first time I ever saw a picture of him. I swam in the ocean, drank a lot of vodka, and soaked up all the sun that I could. When I came back I took a trip to Seattle to be with the person I had always loved ever since 7th grade. When I got there things were looking up, and then started to turn sour like they always did between us. Despite everything, I mostly got what I was looking for which was closure. When I came back to Spokane, I did something that I havenʼt done in years. I went to church. Before I went though, I asked God to let me feel him, and speak to me, guide me to my purpose, and help me find myself again. Well, he answered my prayers, and not in the way that I expected. I guess God doesnʼt work like that though, does he? Anyhoo, I felt God that day… and for three days after that I felt him the whole time, found pieces of myself, and went a little crazy.
I went manic. I didnʼt know it at the time, I just thought I was feeling really good, and that the universe was finally deciding to embrace me, and I was embracing it back. It felt good… too good. I didnʼt sleep, and I didnʼt eat. I rode my bike and walked everywhere. I drank a lot of whiskey and beer and smoked, and danced, and sung, and gave art away, wrote songs, and poems, made a facebook page, invited people to my house for art parties, traded things I had for things I wanted, bartered, and talked to random people… anything and everything thatʼs what I did.
On September 15 or 16th of 2012 my mom and I had a fight again. I was so mad I told her I was just going to run away to Seattle to be with people who loved me. I claimed that since she “hated” me and “couldnʼt deal with me” anymore then I would go somewhere where people could. Stupid me for thinking that, my mom is one of the only ones whoʼs ever truly been able to accept me or deal with me…
I started packing and bringing my stuff up from the basement. Everything. I put it all on the lawn because somehow someway I was moving that night. Around the evening, after tons of friends and family showed up and tried to get me to understand, my parentʼs called the cops. The cops talked to my family and I separately. They knew something was wrong with me, but didnʼt tell me that. They made me feel like they were here to help me, and were on Team Chelsea. Little did I know that everyone, I felt later, was against me…. In all actuality they were on Team Chelsea the whole time, I just really didnʼt know it, I guess, until now.
After the cops left, my family told me I needed to go to the hospital and get checked out. I told them, “sure if you get your heads checked out too, because Iʼm not the crazy one.” ( Itʼs actually funny to me now, maybe I have a dark sense of humor, but besides feeling shameful, my behavior that night makes me laugh a bit too.) Somehow, I think my brother, finally convinced me to go. So my new boyfriend, my mom, my dad, and my brother I think all went to the hospital with me.
Many details of the hospital Iʼm just going to leave out because Iʼm still somewhat ashamed of some of my behavior, but Iʼll just say I had a GREAT time at the hospital, and no thatʼs not sarcasm. I gave many of the docʼs quite a laugh because of my odd behavior, elevated mood and friendliness.
Then at like 4 am, I was transported by my parents to the actual mental hospital. The workers lead me to believe thatʼd Iʼd be working with them, and not actually be imprisoned there. They didnʼt bring it up though, I just assumed and they went along with it to get me to stay. I was very confused since they made put patientsʼ attire on and gave me a room and such, but it didnʼt really hit me until my family was asked to leave. I freaked out, not violently, but it did resemble something from a movie scene.
Those 9 days were terrifying. I had nurses (male nurses, mind you) following me everywhere at first.) They gave me pills and food that made me feel terrible. I felt like I was in a daze half the time. The first few days I had a stalker, heʼd follow me everywhere and I had to have a nurse escort him and another escort me everywhere just so he couldnʼt get to me. A few times they wouldnʼt see him standing outside my room waiting. Also I didnʼt know what the other patients were there for. I mean if I knew
I was mental it wouldnʼt have bothered me as much, but I was there thinking I was the normal one, so all these people that were dealing with things similar to me was very frightening. My psychiatrist was a dick for the first 6 days or so. I gained 20 lbs in 9 days because of the combination of their nasty food, the amount of food they made me eat and how often, the fact they didnʼt let me outside, and the medications they had me on. I only had a few minutes a day for phone calls, and only like an hour or two for visitors.
When I got out I was still a little unstable. I wasnʼt on the right medications and I had to switch psychiatrists because mine moved away. He was the one I hated at first but grew to love. He diagnosed me with severe GAD, ADD/ADHD, and Bipolar 1 disorder within minutes of talking to me. I was constantly switching meds to find the right fit, so I still had a lot of ups and downs alongside the overwhelming guilty and shameful feelings I had bottled up. Only very few of my friends stuck around. Approximately 3. Some wanted to, but I could tell they didnʼt fully understand so I just isolated myself. Also some left without giving me any explanation. I also dumped the one person who was there everyday for me besides my family because I felt he deserved a normal functioning member of society as a mate. I felt worse than I had ever felt. I felt like I should be locked up forever in a padded cell and never see the light of day again….
Now itʼs about a year and half since all of that. A lot has happened. My Dad died, I became homeless again. Then I had an apartment, and had to find a new one six months later. Iʼve ended a relationship, and got into a new one. My mom is moving away. Iʼm turning 23 in a few days and Iʼm learning how to be comfortable in my own skin again. I have dreams and goals. I am happy with the life Iʼve been given, and what has been taken away (well not happy with it, but I see it as just another chance to grow.) Iʼm probably the happiest Iʼve ever been. I still have my days, mostly due to my anxiety. Days where I canʼt get outside of my head, but I have a good support system. Iʼm on a mood stabilizer for Bipolar Disorder and I take an anxiety medication as needed, but only as a last resort. I also take a medication for the side effects… which it seems to not be working because I still have that 20 lbs I gained and then some… But Iʼd rather have that side-effect than hair loss. 😛
Sorry this was so long, but itʼs been a long time coming. I hope that you found answers to your questions. I hope that Iʼve at least helped someone feel like theyʼre not the only one, and helped someone feel better about who they are, because writing this has made me feel a lot better.
WHAT IʼVE LEARNED:
~Be yourself, you shouldnʼt have to hide.
~Find the true meaning of compassion and take the time to walk a mile, hell even a block in someoneʼs shoes before you judge them.
~Surround yourself with positive energy… friends, family, hobbies, places whatever positivity means to you.
~Let people love you, truly love you… and let go of the ones that donʼt. I always say you canʼt be loved for 100% yourself if you chose to not show people 100% of who you are.
~Seek the beauty in every day.
~Smile at everyone or do good deeds, even when you donʼt want to, because you donʼt know who needs it the most.
~My illness is a part of who I am, and shaped my character, but does NOT define me. ~Donʼt ever take anything for granted.
~NEVER be ashamed to ask for help.
HOW I COPE:
~I laugh… even when i donʼt want to.
~I take naps like a child.
~I cuddle my cats.
~I take my medication. haha
~I see a counselor and peer counselor, and also do group therapy.
~I joined a mental health community online.
~I listen to music on the daily.
~I take photographs.
~I cry when I need to.
~I practice compassion.
~I encourage myself and others.
~I set goals, and dream dreams.
~I do art.
~I talk A LOT
My diagnosis and what they mean:
Bipolar 1 disoder, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
Bipolar 1 Disorder, which is also known as manic depression disorder. I like this description better because it elaborates on the illness a little more than just saying “Bipolar”. Also many people get Bipolar disorder confused with multiple personality disorder, which is false. Bipolar disorder, or Manic depressive disorder is characterized by periods of depression, and also periods of mania. Depression is different than normal sadness one feels, itʼs ongoing unlike the natural sadness we sometimes feel as humans, and a lot of times when someone is depressed they donʼt know why. When people are sad they can pinpoint what event in their life happened to made them feel sad. Thatʼs not always the case with depression. Depression is also characterized by insomnia, anxiety, lethargy, anger, overwhelming guilt, memory loss or loss of concentration, loss of appetite or overeating, and also suicidal thoughts or actions. People often say to depressed people to just “get over it.” What they donʼt know is that often times youʼre adding fuel to the fire. So be careful what you say.
The only way I can describe mania, without looking it up on wikipedia, is that itʼs an overly elevated mood. Itʼs pretty much the opposite of being depressed. Kinda if you were like on ecstasy. You do or say things you wouldnʼt normally do. You often talk really fast. You donʼt sleep or eat in some cases. Many times people who have went through a manic episode claimed to have spoken to God. To be diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, an individual needs to have had a manic episode at least once.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Anxiety feels like a million thoughts in your head buzzing around. They feed off one another and are often times are illogical. When Iʼm having an anxiety attack, I stiffen up, I cry, hyperventilate sometimes, and I often donʼt want to be touched. After an anxiety attack I feel like I ran a mile, and my muscles ache, and then I feel guilty.
Another thing that many people donʼt know is that often times, like in my case, one mental illness accompanies another. So, yes, you could say I hit the jackpot. ;]
Sorry this was so long, but itʼs been a long time coming. I hope that you found answers to your questions. I hope that Iʼve at least helped someone feel like theyʼre not the only one, and helped someone feel better about who they are, because writing this has made me feel a lot better… And to those of you Iʼve now scared away, fair well!
❤ Chelsea Diane Lee