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The more I think about it, I have been battling my mind since my earliest memory of 4 years old when i would compete with my imaginary friend over just abt everything and always came up short. I had a wonderful childhood and loving family, but never felt liked, justified, pretty, worthy, or valued; all to the contrary. I have always had friends, never wanted for anything, had loving parents and siblings, and was in many social and religious activities. I did ballet, gymnastics, made cheerleader, was a First Class Girl Scout, graduated both high school and college where I earned my Master’s degree in Social Work. Even tho all this was true, in my mind, I never believed people really liked me, they were just being kind; no one will come to my birthday party so I was terrified to have one; I never believed I was smart, so was reluctant to give the answer; and I never trusted my ability to make a decision. It was miserable. I remember feeling like I walked thru my teen years in a bubble. I was there, but always seperate… never really connected. I had suicidal fantasies in high school. I knew something was wrong, but my parents would say: you have everything. What do u have to be sad about? You are just wanting attention.
By college I was a wreck. I was hurting myself, drinking too much, and took unnecessary risks with little regard to the consequences. Still, I felt I was in a bubble. I majored in psychology and Social Work. I now know I was trying to diagnose myself. I graduated with good grades. I felt I didn’t deserve it like my colleagues. I had relationships with men, but always felt I wasn’t worthy, so I always felt desperate or clingy. Men are just with me until their worthy partner comes along.
By the time I had children I spiraled into clinical depression. I now know I had clinical episodes before, but post partum was horrible. I remember thinking my son would be better off dead. No one will know if I smother him with a pillow. Thank God I was educated and worked in mental health. I recognized my depression was dangerous. It was alluring; almost like a lover the way it consumed my brain and led me to believe that death for the baby and me would be best. We would float on clouds. No more crying. No more exhaustion. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? This episode lessened, but was never resolved. When my daughter was born, the depression plummeted again. I would hear her crying even when she wasn’t in the house. I couldn’t sleep. My anxiety had me pacing, shaking, and compelled me to do odd behaviors such as check their closets to look at their perfectly ironed and hung clothes in outfits all color coded and perfectly spaced. My mind then told me no one liked me and everyone was laughing at me. They knew I was stupid. The State would take my babies because I was a horrible mother. I got afraid to answer the phone, pay bills, work, or look people in the eye. I isolated in sheer panic that if I saw anyone I knew they would laugh at me and take my children. I thought they would be better off without me. I had suicidal thoughts to overdose or slam my body through our picture glass window. I knew since I worked in mental health the State would take my kids and I would be locked on a mental ward. I would never work again.
Finally I met with a psychiatrist and cognitive therapist. When I came out on the other side of the last depressive episode over a year later, my marriage was over, I was in financial ruin, and my kids were still young; needing a parent. I had to step up. I was able to function better after cognitive therapy and medication. I could identify my ‘depressed brain messages’, and tell it to shut up for the 1st time in my life. I recognized my true abilities and respected my limits, i recognized my need for sleep, my need for alone time, and importantly my need for medication.
Well, that was 10 years ago. I still take medication. When I don’t, my ‘depressed brain messages’ get stronger. I still struggle with anxiety, but I can identify it now. I still second guess just about everything and see myself as unimpressive or unimportant. I recognize that this is all in contrary to reality, but it is a struggle for me to believe the reality. I’m doing better. Living with mental illness is difficult. It is a battle with ur own mind and how u see the world. It is exhausting.
Mental illness is real. It is hard enough without being described as ‘crazy’ by legal, medical, and journalist professionals. Mental illness is not synonymous with criminal. People with mental illness don’t want to automatically buy guns and kill people. I have mental illness. I am a capable Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I am a good and loving Mother. I deserve my Handsome. He loves me because I am trustworthy and loving. I have mental illness, and it is ok. I’m ok.