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Mental Health

The sky turns grey, the air becomes crisp, the day and its hours shrink, and my soul falls sad.

Content Warning: This piece contains references to mental health, depression, and mania, which may be triggering to some.

Winters have never been easy for me. Fall is lovely, but the imminent doom of winter approaching always lurks in the shadows. I will never understand those who love this cold, cold season because to me, it marks a mood shift into sorrow and anguish.

Each year, I have approached the season stronger than the year before. I see more clearly and embrace stability in way that I have never done. But winter will never be easy. There’s no wonder why I am more exhausted than usual these days.

I can look at my current status and see on paper I should be happier. I have such a big future in the works. But my thoughts are fogged with depression and I can only look at the good things like I am a spectator. I am a witness to someone else’s fortune, I can check them off a list. Oh, yes, they should be exuberant and joyous. Life is happening to me, but it is not mine. I do not get the pleasure of the experience, I am just a bystander.

My current medication changes aren’t helping either. I wish I could return to my normal dose of my anti-psychotic, maybe it would mean this winter air would effect me less. But instead I review my psychiatrist’s referrals to movement disorder specialists. I hear the elevator music in my head. Oh, wait, that’s another neurology office putting me on hold.

Regardless of my disconnection, I must wake up, I must go to work, I must push on. I will continue to pretend I am a part of this world in hope that maybe I will become a part. There is not much anyone could say to console me. I just have to exist, until the mood shifts again.

Although that also feels daunting, because my brain could fluctuate into mania, which would not be ideal either. Maybe existing in a haze on the outside of your own life is easier than sprinting through your brain and feeling like every action and every thought will never be fast enough. I’ve experienced both states and traveled up and down several times since this season’s weather and medication change.

But I write with the purpose of noting that this may be the first winter that I can describe my brain changes in words. And that trumps all else.

This year I have been able to allow myself to sift through the moods and identify what is happening. I can label the fog as depression without falling into a bed ridden coma of tears. I must redirect myself to focusing on staying present. And as soon as my thoughts begin to pick up speed, I can recognize I am manic without allowing a hurricane of irrationality to grasp my life. I become aware that I must rein myself in, process thoroughly before acting, and chose to sit with the tension. And this is all with uncertainty in medications and another unpleasant diagnosis. For that I am proud. Exhausted, but proud.

Bipolar disorder has chained up so much of my life. Winter moods are just handcuffs on my wrists. This motor dysfunction is just shackles on my ankles.

I am strong. I am persistent. I am capable. I am worthy. I will break free.

If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out Feeling Manic

Comment
by Swee.nlow

People always say your illness doesn’t define who you are, but honestly I completely disagree. I am my disorder. I am bipolar disease. I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. And at several points in my life it controlled me, but I am happy to say today it does not have as much power over me. I don’t think defining myself by my disease is a bad thing. I think it gives power to how much I have overcome.

Hi, I’m Christi Anne and I’m bipolar. It’s a part of me. It’s my friend and it’s my foe. On my bad days, I am insane and psychotic. On my sad days, I am depressed and bed-ridden. On my good days, I am unstoppable.

Mental illness has never been unfamiliar to me. I started seeing a psychiatrist when I was 7. My mom always says I was her easiest child until I started going to school. So 7. I started going crazy at 7. ADHD was the first diagnoses. I remember certain days in 5th grade when I was bouncing off the walls and just would not shut up, my teacher would pull me aside and whisper, “Did you take your medicine today?”

Of course, I didn’t.

I’m 10 and I want to be bouncing off the walls.

Little did I know, these were the earliest days of mania. But I actually don’t remember much about my childhood. Another lovely side effect of my beautiful disease, memory inhibition. And what I do remember, I only think of negatively. I remember the anxiety so high that my heart would be beating out of my chest and my muscles would feel stiff. I remember depression so low that the floor of my bedroom was the only place I could be, wailing until my tears turned dry. I remember rage. Oh how I remember rage. I remember kicking a hole in that wall. I remember screaming at the top of my lungs. I remember my vision being blurred with red.
I wasn’t even diagnosed with bipolar disorder until I was 18. It took me moving to Chicago, spending a total of 2 days on my new college campus, then running away to get the diagnose. I don’t blame my doctors though. I’ve had very good doctors. I’m just a really complicated patient. Plus, I didn’t ever understand myself enough to express to the doctors what I needed help with. I didn’t think the anger and rage was unusual. I just thought the anxiety and mania was normal because I didn’t know otherwise. So in those therapy sessions, I only talked about the depression. I only discussed the intense sadness that overcame me and the times I felt like killing myself.

It wasn’t until my “brief college experience” did I open my eyes to the intense high followed by crashing so low. Even then, it wasn’t that clear to me. All I knew was my mind was racing and I felt totally and completely insane. I called up my parents begging for someone to save me and give me a break from my mind. I couldn’t handle being with my thoughts anymore. So they flew me out to their house and signed me up for psychiatry again. It was then when the doctor said, “It’s called mania. You’re a manic depressive.”

And oh I wish it was a quick fix then and there with the diagnosis. It would’ve prevented a whole lot of broken relationships and damaged souls. But again, I’m not that simple. It’s been 6 years and I’m still battling this disease. But now I can confidentially say I am surviving.

I take six different medications on a daily basis. Yes, six. And I wouldn’t hesitate to add more if needed. I dedicate my life to my medications. They have saved me from my mind. I have found a mental illness cocktail that works for me. And after 6 years and 6 medications, I finally feel hope. I see a bright and successful future down the path. And I am excited. And I am happy. Yes, happy.

If there is one thing I would want people to understand about me, it would be that every day I have to make the decision to get up and be stronger than my illness. That rolling out of bed and getting started with the day takes immense amount of energy. Because every day could have the potential for mania. Honestly, there is not a night that goes by that I don’t wish I could close my eyes and stop my mind forever. But the morning always comes and I always decide to wake up.


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