All That I’ve Gained

Yesterday’s blog was kind of difficult for me. To admit to the world all my flaws and inabilities as a 28-year-old adult wasn’t easy but last night I was thinking. I thought that mental illness is often talked about so negatively. Often, I and others only talk about the bad experiences we have because of our sickness but you don’t stop living once you get sick. Life becomes harder but you soldier on and get through the tough times and a great number of good things happen between all the difficulties you have to face in life, just as it is for people who are mentally healthy. So today I wanted to share with you the good experiences that have occurred for me since becoming part of the mentally ill, maybe only because I had this health issue.

1. Awareness of Mental Illness – I have become aware of what it is like to be a person with mental illness. Through my experiences I am able to share what it is like with other people what it is to have a mood disorder. This generates sometimes an intense amount of discussion on websites such as Facebook and sometimes in the comment sections of my blogs. I am able to empathize with people who go through mental illness and other illnesses, especially with people who have experiences such as mine. I have also spent a lot of time on the internet researching the symptoms and medications associated with different mental illnesses and learned a lot of facts about those aspects of mental illness. There a lot of things that are common across mental illnesses but there are also certain things that are different. Sometimes, however, it is thought the same pills will help different sicknesses and this is not always the case.

There is also often a misrepresentation of how most mentally ill people are in real life and how they are shown in movies. A movie that was great at showing the truth about mentally ill people was Silver Lining’s Play Book with the gorgeous Bradley Cooper and beautiful Jennifer Lawrence.  But movies that often make it difficult to be a person with mental illness because of how others perceive mentally ill people after watching them are movies such as Shutter Island with Leonardo DiCaprio and Girl Interrupted. That is not to say that cases such as those in the movies do not occur, it’s just that they are the extreme version or a worse scenario of what mentally ill people are truly like.

2. I Learned not to be Shy – Sometimes I am quite because I am fatigued or tired and that is often the case, but when I do have energy I have found I am very good at obtaining information about others and what they are experiencing in life. Plus, I am not afraid just to talk to a stranger often anymore. I used to be so shy or assume people were just a bother but now even some weirdo who is hitting on me or some people who others might consider an unsavory character such as homeless person I don’t mind talking to for a few minutes. I just realized that by being shy I was missing out on so much and as hard as it is for me to talk sometimes it’s even harder for other people to talk, especially cute guys and potential friends.

Additionally, somebody who has anxiety or who most people will ignore and not talk to often need to be heard the most and have a lot to say. Just because a stranger is talking to you doesn’t mean they are out to get you are being creepy (some are but not most). Most people just need someone to listen to them and to care about their life. People can be so intrinsically focused that they often forget everyone is experiencing their own personal battles or have their own unique stories and life experiences to share.

3. A Serious Boyfriend and More Great Friends – It has been said that when you are going into a new group of people you should have a gimmick or something that makes you memorable to other people. The fact that I am on disability, write for women’s magazine, and can only take one class a semester, well that makes for great conversation. I start sharing the details of my life and other people are soon ready to share about their lives and I have made some excellent friends this way. Sometimes I’d rather not talk about what my life is actually like but sometimes talking leads to meeting amazing people. After all, a person who does not go to work everyday, cannot be involved in many volunteer activities, and/or fitness activities anymore, needs to learn how to make friends somehow.

So I talk to friends of friends more, talk to random people more, and when it came to wanting to get out their and meet a boyfriend, I even went online to POF and found my wonderful Azdine. And best of all Azdine liked me even though I was sick and is really tolerant and understanding of my illness. He told me in his religion people who are sick are blessed. I doubt he remembers that now but it was a good pick-up line. We have gone out over 1 year and 6 months and we have our ups and downs. At heart, we are homebodies but we get along famously together.20130916-093053.jpg

4. A Closer Relationship to God – When I was first sick, I hallucinated during my psychotic episode that I was in Hell at the Hospital. I dreamed that my parents would be taken away from me eventually because you aren’t allowed to have parents in Hell. I thought the nurses in the hospital were really going to hurt me, and I desperately wanted to not hear voices. I wanted to be able to trust what I heard come out of people’s mouths. I thought God had forgotten me, that I was separated from him eternally and that things would only get worse. Then slowly, as medication began to take effect and I came out of my psychotic episode I remembered the Footsteps poem which states that when we think God is nowhere to be found, he is really carrying us through the bad times in our life.

Later, I realized God was trying to bring me back to Him, closer to Him. You see in my life I hadn’t really been concerned with God as a priority. I cared about drinking and hanging with my friends and I was afraid to share God with the people in my life. Slowly, as I got better I got to the point where I could mention my beliefs to people and not be ashamed to be a Christian. I learned to cast all my worries on God and that through Him I would always be supported because He is so much stronger than any problem I might have. God is the light in the darkest of times, a lamp guiding my feet when I do not know what direction to turn. I may not know exactly where to go or what to do when I face hard times in my life but I know a footstep in front of me and that is all I need.

5. A Closer Relationship With my Family – I never realized how desperately I needed my parents until they tried to leave me at the hospital after the first horrible week I spent there. I hated the Psych Ward and I hated being stuck there and I looked forward to seeing my Mom and my Dad every day for the few hours they would spend with me at night in the hospital. Since then, even though it is tough to live at home I have realized what a blessing my parents and my family are in my life. I did not see my brothers for 3 weeks in hospital and that was a long time, I actually missed them! And when my little brother moved out, he always made and makes time to visit the house or we go and do things together such as see movies, go to the art gallery, and go shopping (etc).

I also realized how important the elderly people in my life were, how their story connected to my story in this life. My Grandma, for instance, I began to talk to earnestly and make an effort to make conversation with her and let her talk about herself. I developed an adult relationship with her. I also stopped saying I would visit, and actually started visiting my God Parent’s mother, my Grandma Reeder, Evelyn.

Evelyn cooks so much food when I go over there, I always try to bring someone with me so she doesn’t make me eat it all. Her desserts especially are amazing such as uncooked blueberry pie with mounds of whipped cream and home-made trifle. She has so much to say and has experienced so much tragedy in her life. Yet Evelyn has this amazing outlook on how she deals with at life, with much conversation and a smile on her face and Evelyn is in her mid 90’s.

Other people such as my God Parent’s saw how bad I really was when I was sick and I always feel like when I go over to their house I am in my second home. They lost a daughter to depression while I was dealing with my depression. She was in her late 30’s and had just gotten married. She was my family too, when I was first sick she came and talked to me and told me to focus on 3 things in my life to not get so worried about life and just take it day by day, something my mom also tells me to do.

So, it seems as if we lose a lot when we become sick with mental illnesses but it is also important for us all, those who suffer and those who hear our stories, to understand we are many of us still extremely blessed despite our sickness.


Going Backwards

Permanent illness is not an easy sickness to live with. With my depression, I have always expected myself to reach a certain point in my healing and then to remain there, being able to know what I can expect my body to handle each day. I gave myself a 5 year plan from the time I first got sick, that in 5 years I would be at level of healthiness where I could be independent enough on my own and at least have my Interior Decorator’s Certificate completed. I wanted a lot more than that but some things I have come to realize are not realistic goals. But my problem lately has been that even my 5 year goals that I did consider realistic are not realistic; I have instead regressed.

Regression is not something that was part of my ‘Get Better’ plan. I know in November I get a little bit worse due to SAD and basically the low amount of light in the winter sky but I was still well enough that I could attend class and go places without becoming too tired. But already this summer and perhaps even since I’ve been taking classes in Spring, I’ve been regressing.

It started with me missing about 7 of my 13 CAD classes due to the fact that I was too tired or too sick to go. It continued with a summer where I spent a great deal of time sleeping and on the couch. I spent less time having the energy to do all the activities I wanted to do with my friends, my articles were often not as grammatically correct or spelled correctly due to the fact that I was too tired to care, my emotions often felt all over the place, and I became tired of becoming this unhappy miserable person who didn’t have the energy for 20 minutes of Yoga never mind all the other events or activities I couldn’t attend or do.

I still was able to do some things I wanted to do but not as much as I used to be able to do. It took my Mom having a frank discussion with me about my declining health, to put the pieces together. These last 2 months I have spent much time at different Doctor’s offices trying to find a healthier way to fall asleep besides 20, 5 gram melatonin pills which no I cannot cut back on, I need them all to sleep. I have received sleeping medications from my sleep Doctor that have only made me sick or tired all day as well as all night and a ticture from my Naturopath that did nothing for me at double the dose she recommended. Finally, I visited my psychiatrist to address the actual regressions I have been feeling with my depression and have been trying to function unsuccessfully with a new dose of certain medications without feeling tired in the day and serious withdrawal when 1 of the medications wears off which unfortunately has been around 2:30 pm in the afternoon, a change of about 2 and 1/2 hours from the lower dose of the drug. 2 hours of activity wears me out in the day, my motivation, and my concentration has not been any better yet.

I’m so frustrated. I am tired of suffering through medication changes just to have somewhat of a normal life; I am tired of being fatigued and sleepy in the day; and I’m heartbroken after all that time I spent trying to move ahead despite my disease, working towards greater independence and trying to become someone who can contribute to society, that my health has regressed and is not improving.

I am trying to be positive though, really. I try to remember that so many people are suffering so much more. I try to remember that I have a family who can help me take care of myself when I cannot do much; that I have a boyfriend who loves me and is extremely understanding of my illness; and that I have friends and relatives who have not stopped supporting me at whatever stage of recovery or regression I have been in since getting depression 5 years ago.

It is essential to look at the bigger picture in life and it is essential that I don’t think no one understands what it’s like to be me because suffering is universal. When I consider the different painful situations I have been in in life I think of the Bible verse ” My Grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses . . . ” ( 2 Corinthians 12:9) This Bible verse said to Paul by God when he prays, suggests that Paul too suffered from some illness, that he prayed 3 times for God to take this ” thorn” away from him but God told him to depend on God because through Paul’s suffering the power of God was apparent. I hope that people see God’s strength when they see me suffer because He is greater than that suffering and He has greater things in mind for me than I will ever know or understand, just as he did for Paul in the Bible.