The War Inside: Mental Health and a Tiptoe Through Hell

#mental health, #bipolar #depression #anxiety# panic #dissociation #flashbacks #CPTSD

I felt like this was the post I needed to put out there, today. I’ve been struggling with more health issues since my heart attack last September. For the last few months I’ve allowed myself to dive deep into caverns I chose not to explore. Many of you know me by my nickname The Unsaintly Queen… but not all of you know where this name came from.

In 2009 when I decided to write and publish The Unsaintly, it came with some very serious anxieties. I wasn’t expecting fame from my little self published book, but I knew I had to talk to people and be “social.” I was torn between putting this very personal story out (more on that another time) and staying hidden behind a heavy, dark shroud.

I decided the only way forward into the fray would be a persona. One that would allow me to embody qualities I valued for myself. A Queen is mysterious and regal, even when she’s making public appearances. And while the word, “Queen” denotes femininity, it carries with it power, a sense of responsibility and duty; a matriarchal figure who does what needs to be done in the face of adversity.

What the persona hides are all those things, too, but with the duality of a lifelong crippling bipolar disorder, expertly masked by years of practice.

When I had my son, there was no room for thoughts of giving up on life. I just had to fucking figure things out. “Make it through another day,” became my fight song because he needed me. I chose to have him therefore it was my responsibility and duty to make sure I did what I could to keep him safe.

Four children later and all grown, time has a way of tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “Hey there. Remember me?”

Being faced with your own mortality—and survivor’s guilt when news of others going through the same trauma aren’t as lucky—leaves no more room for posting things aside to deal with it another day.

I’ve helped so many people because I couldn’t help myself. It’s so hard to hear these words and harder to admit them. I’ve gone through dark, dark times. Everyone has. I think the difference for people with depression is, the dark times are just darker shades of gray than normal.

Most people are able to see color in life. If you live with depression, most days are muted colors of gray with an occasional pop of washout color. When it happens it can be jarring, frightening, or fascinating depending on…a million variables. Most of the time? It’s all of the above.

I’m often amazed when people look shocked once they discover I deal with mental illness.

Every day I feel like I’m failing at something, and the world can see every flaw. Bouts of mania cut through darkness like a flash from a silver blade. “Do all the things!” keeps the regret of failure pushed beneath the surface. A momentary lift above the bowels of hell and it’s endless depths, to the fifth level where the light of its flames manipulates us to believe we’re out of its prison.

Just for clarification, I’m ok.

People who don’t understand mental illness hear words like I just described and either tiptoe away or tap a hair triggered finger on the “send button” of 911.

I’ve lived 49 years in this world. It is my reality. It is why some people can’t cope, and why others learn to live and adapt to it. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. No discrimination.

Lately, I’ve seen others talk freely about what they deal with on social media. This is a tough vantage point from a two-way glass to observe from. Untreated mental illness is disturbing. It’s the reason many of us are so attracted to horror. It is the juxtaposition of normal happy family life versus what happens when all the stability, the hope, the love, the support, the laughter, the snuggles, the hand holding, and the security are ripped violently away.

Many people have no comprehension of what it feels like to avoid mirrors because when they look in them they see a stranger staring back. The disorientation creates real distress. Normal people will never know how it feels to break into tears at the relief of pain you’ve lived with all your life because depression manifests itself into physical pain.

And you know what? I’m glad for their ignorance. Depression is cruel in a way that war is. It doesn’t care about the casualties it leaves behind. Young, old, race, religion… none of it matters.

The point is, mental illness isn’t comfortable. So whatever you see someone posting online is not “just for attention.” It’s an overflow of “too much.”

Are there imposters out there? Of course. I don’t know when it became cool to be so broken but here we are. It’s “cool” to feel like screaming in the middle of the grocery store because the cacophony of sound and too many people feels like it’s consuming your brain, right?

And losing small bits of time because a memory decides to flashback leaving you in a state of panic or anxiety is cool … right? Or how about, the result of being too anxious to go out due to those fears means you miss out on invitations from friends simply because you rarely show up when you get them?

I want to make another thing abundantly clear. None of these words are meant to shame anyone. It’s my reality and perspective at this point in time. (And trust me, I have many perspectives and many points of time with my mental illness because the “Queen” isn’t the only mask I keep in my arsenal of coping skills.)

I’m working on talking about my demons because I need to start facing them rather than letting them hang over my shoulder. But just as important as that, I connecting with people on a more relatable and venerable level because the persona of the Queen can be isolating.

Let’s not get into the distress of wanting to socialize but hating it at the same time. Demon cat fight ensues. Blood is everywhere. It’s not pretty.

Denying the afflictions I have means denying my self care and it lends weight to the stigma already surrounding mental illness. And last but not least, if I’m not comfortable talking about it, I can’t ask anyone else to reach out or talk to others if they need to.

So please. Talk about it.

Categories: The PagesTags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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