I have discovered that one of the things that allows me to cope with my disorders is my ability to discuss them with most anyone I meet. Many people have called me brave merely for the fact that I am open and honest about my disorders and what it’s like to live with them on a daily basis. Most of my family members and friends are very well aware of my mental health journey, especially those who have rolled with the punches and stuck by my side through some intense, difficult, and exhausting situations. I have good days and I have bad days, just as everyone else does. Lately, the good days have been more frequent and the bad days have been fewer and farther between.
In the 8th grade, I began experiencing symptoms of depression and was prescribed antidepressants for the first time. I was 14. Back in 2006, when I was a junior in high school, I was in an abusive relationship that had quite the ugly ending. This resulted in my first psychotic break and suicide attempt, landing me in a psychiatric hospital for the first time and leading to my initial diagnoses of Bipolar II, Post Traumatic Stress, Generalized Anxiety, and Borderline Personality disorders at the age of 17. The next 8 years of my life were a whirlwind of pharmaceutical cocktails, street drugs to numb the pain the prescriptions couldn’t, failed suicide attempts, emergency room visits, and overall emotional instability.
I was comfortably numb and in excruciating pain simultaneously. I had lost myself before I had even had the chance to begin to figure out who I was supposed to be and I was completely incapable of coping with the constant turbulence inside my head. I was still so young yet I could see nothing on the road ahead of me. I had no hope.
Getting myself into recovery has been quite the adventure, to say the least. Two years ago, I gave up on my medication, just as I had done many times before. This time was different, however; I was more properly educated about my disorders and my treatment options, I was prepared to work my ass off, and I had a serious long term plan.
When I was 18, I started DBT (dialectic behavioral therapy) at a center in Seattle that worked directly with its creator, Dr. Marsha Linehan. I spent four years on and off receiving what was supposed to be the best care available for my disorders. The only drawback was the fact that I was not ready to put in the effort and focus that is necessary for it to work. In the summer of 2014, I began attending a DBT therapy group at the local state funded mental health agency after having spent a few months working with an individual therapist there, who also happened to be one of the facilitators of the DBT group. I was nervous at first, not only about starting from scratch with a new therapist at an agency that has quite the reputation in my area, but also about still not being ready to put the effort in that DBT requires for maximum effectiveness.
Much to my amazement, things really were different this time. I was able to complete an entire 33 week round of DBT group therapy which wrapped up at the end of March. Throughout the time I participated in the group, I also saw my individual therapist once a week and have continued to see him after finishing the DBT group. I currently see him less frequently and, although I am at the verge of being discharged due to the significant amount of improvement I have made, I continue to see him so that I have someone to check in with, help keep me on track with my goals, and provide guidance and advice that I may need as I encounter different situations in life.
Self-sabotage has been a huge hurdle for me to overcome. For as long as I can remember, whenever I would get myself to the point of doing something right or have things going relatively well, I would somehow find a way to convince myself that it wasn’t going to last and that I would find a way to screw it up in one way or another, which would eventually lead to me actively doing things to burning all of the bridges that I had built and having to start over. I get overwhelmed easily at times, so becoming aware of this and figuring out a plan for when I start feeling the need to self-sabotage has become an essential part of keeping myself in recovery. Having to start over always magnified my feelings of uselessness and unworthiness.
It’s difficult to explain to people who do not experience first hand the hell that it is to have your own mind be your own worst enemy. I know, deep down, that I have the power to overcome even the darkest and strongest of my impulses, but no coherent words can describe the feeling of having such a powerful part of your mind pushing you in the opposite direction and clouding every decision you make. Without the support system I have had throughout my entire journey and the resources that I have been able to access, I would not be where I am today, but that doesn’t mean that each day is less of a battle now that I am in recovery. I still fight against my own mind every single day to push through and do as much of what I need to as possible. This is still a process, however, and it is one that I have yet to completely master. Each day I learn something new and try different ways to maintain my recovery. It has been much harder than I expected, but when I really think about it, why wouldn’t it be difficult to “rewire” your brain and try to do almost everything you’ve ever done in a completely different way?
Some of the changes that I have been working on incorporating into my routine have been beginning to prove quite helpful despite that I am struggling with a handful of them. Eating right and being active have been especially difficult for me as these things have never really been a part of my routine and also because I am just so burnt out after trying to keep myself together throughout the day between work, school, and other various activities that I do not have the energy to cook a nutritious meal or get myself to the gym. Meditation is something that I have been doing at least three times a week, but I know that stepping this up and doing it daily (which was my original goal…sigh…) would help me be able to actually keep myself together with less effort on a daily basis, as reflected by how my days go when I do meditate. Rediscovering my faith is another journey that I have been exploring lately. I grew up going to church but separated myself from organized religion when I was in high school due to some events that took place with my peers from church when I had joined the high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. Recent conversations and interactions with others, as well as some personal experiences, have started to reignite the faith that I have always had lurking in the corners of my heart and mind, so I have opened up to exploring this avenue again.
It takes a hefty toolbox to be able to handle certain disorders with or without medication. My goal has been to fill my toolbox as much as I can with healthy and natural practices to reduce and be able to cope with my symptoms as much as possible. Opening my mind to the fact that I can do this without the medication and arming myself with the proper tools are the most important things that I can do to meet my ultimate goal of staying in recovery and having a “normal” life with mental illness. As previously mentioned, this is and most likely always will be a daily battle, but I have had a taste of what life can be like if I stay on track, and I am at a point in my life where I will not let myself continue to be my own worst enemy.
Thanks for reading!
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” -George Bernard Shaw