Today we are going to talk about my crazyness... and the lack of shame I have for not being wrapped tight.....And yes this post is different than every other post I write.
Actually, today I am going to talk about something very personal.... something people often times do not want to talk about, mostly because we are afraid to admit we need help, and that is mental illness.In honor of No Shame day, a day intended to bring awareness to mental health, I have taken it upon my royal fluffy duties to tell you my story.
Two years ago, to the this day, a person that is loved with all my heart was diagnosed with Bi Polar Disorder. And, because I can't imagine what this person went through emotionally and mentally... I will tell you about the effects it had on me (And well, because it wouldn't be Fat Girl Escapades if I didn't talk about me).
Remember, mental heatlh is not just about those diagnosed, it's also about their loved ones as well.
Before two years ago, the person (who shall rename nameless, until they are ready to tell their own story) was by all appearances"mentally normal", so when said person starting having hallucinations, speeding thoughts, and insomnia... as the natural caregiver that I am (shut it... I can be quite caring if I imagine you as a donut).... I went into freak-out mode. From the moment that my loved one became unstable, my feelings, my thoughts... my needs.... ceased to exist, it became all about survival and getting them through this.
The process of getting diagnosed:
At first the hardest part was trying to understand exactly what was going on. Where most illnesses can be detected through blood tests, x-rays, etc...mental illness differs. A diagnosis, often times, is not given over night. A proper diagnosis, in fact should not be given overnight, it can take weeks, months, and for some even years.
So in the in between time, where I knew something was wrong with my loved one, yet we had nothing to call it, I sat there listening to others ponder if my loved one had been doing drugs.... if in fact they had been "crazy" all along but that we (their family) had just been hiding it. For me the hardest part was not hearing the comments of others, even though it was exhausting having to hear them badger someone you love. The hardest part was not knowing how to move forward, especially when I didn't have a clear understanding of what the real issue was.
It was hard not understanding what they were going through and having to walk on egg shells because they did not trust you were who you said you were. It was hard having to wear the same clothes everytime you visited them in the hospital for fear that anything different would set back their progress. It was hard being strong for the person that was usually strong for you. For the first time in my life, I have to say I felt vulnerable.... this feeling I carry with me still...that has been the hardest part.
There is no cure, just coping:
After two weeks in a mental health facility, my loved one was released. They had given them a temporary diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder with border line Bi Polar Disorder. I remember asking the doctor, how long it would last, what kind of medication they would be on, and for how long. His words hit me like a ton of bricks:
"They will live with this the rest of their lives... medications and dosage will change, even the diagnosis will change. But they will always need help." he paused, and continued "Listen , the upside is this isn't terminal cancer.. they can still have a happy long life if they chose too."
Mental illness such as Bi Polar Disorder has no cure. There is always a chance of having recurring episodes, the key is is taking preventive measures and knowing one's signals of an oncoming episode... it was this knowledge that paralyzed me for months.
In many ways, I think I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I became obssesed with preventing.... but went about it all the wrong ways. Everything my loved one said and did became scrutinized by me. Instead of allowing my loved one to take ownership in their healing process, I took it upon myself to try and heal them. The slightest interruption in their sleeping habits would have me worried to death.... looking for other signs that someting might be wrong. The worst part was I internalized my fear. I stopped talking to friends... I felt no one would understand... or that they would judge me and my loved one. I took on even more stress by hiding financial situations and family situations from my loved one... for fear they wouldn't be able to handle it. I was taking care of those I thought needed caring for... without realizing that at that moment I was the one that needed the most care.
I entered a rough depression. I was crying every day, and unable to cope with everyday life. Instead of being the support my loved one needed and deserved, I was hiding from them and making them feel unloved and incompetent of handling their own life.
What took me a while to realize, and was not able to realize until I sought treatment of my own was: Bi Polar disorder did not mean the person that I loved was any different than before. It did not mean I loved them any less. In other words, they had mental illness, they were not defined by mental illness. They were still capable of living the life they had before, they just needed a little more support. Knowing that my life was not defined by an illness, whether it was their or my depression at the time, was life changing. It allowed me to grasp the knowledge that things can, and do in fact get better.
Today, things are sometimes still a struggle. I still worry about my loved ones health, especially when they stop seeking treatment. But, I've come to realize that, that is their choice, as it is my choice not to let it affect my life from moving forward . All I can do is be here to support them for when they choose to seek treatment and lead a mentally healthier lifestyle.
Fluffy Tips For Taking Care of Yourself:
1. People are responsible for themselves. You are responsible for yourself, take care of yourself first.
2.Take Baby steps, it doesn't have to be one day at a time... sometimes it can be one breath at a time.
3.Talk to some one. Talking to someone can make a huge difference. The reality is the only judgement that exists is in your head.
4.Don't sacrifice yourself. Your loved ones mental health can only be maintained by them, it is their choice. Just because someone is unable to fully control their behavior it is not ok for you to excuse behavior that is harmful mentally or physically to you.
5.Eat a donut... eating your feelings can for 5 minutes make you feel better (I just had to throw this one in there)
Dear Fluffatiers, I just want you to know that no matter what you are going through, mentally or physically, there is no shame.... no judgement. Help is a lot closer than you think, you just have to be ready to take it.