Greeting friends of the web (and the ones in real life who I haven’t been able to see)!
There hasn’t been much traveling gong on in my life, as you could assume. However, May is mental health awareness month. I know I have talked a decent amount about mental health and a few of my struggles with it on here, even making it a “segment” of this blog. With May and mental health awareness month coming to a slow end, I thought it would be cool to write a a few “unorganized” thoughts about mental health and mental illness. I would like to add that everything in this pose is solely my own opinion based on my experiences and is liable to change with new experiences and information.
Mental health is something I think we don’t have enough productive conversations about in our society. There is so much stigma associated with people who struggle with mental health issues. The topic makes a lot of people severely uncomfortable or annoyed. I don’t know if it’s because they have their own struggles and it is a trigger for them. Or if it’s because it’s still such a new concept for some that they just don’t know how to handle the topic because they’ve never experienced anything like it. Then again, maybe it’s the stigma that is associated with mental illness, which I hope to see broken down in my lifetime. I know, for me personally, I have no issues talking about my mental health journey, but I have noticed when I talk about it, it makes others uncomfortable, so I water it down or leave out parts that are probably really important or useful for some people.
When I say conversations about mental health, I don’t mean complaining or making an illness your identity (which I have noticed I have done that a few times). I mean, conversations about what it feels like to struggle and how to genuinely help improve mental health without judgment, but with love, compassion, and just an attempt to understand. I have had people in my life who don’t like listening to me talk about my mental health, because they think talking about it will keep me in the cycle. However, from my experiences talking about it has helped so much, because it forces me to realize what I am doing and how I can stop and it helps my friends be a little more patient with me when I am struggling.
I know some people don’t like diagnosis, because it puts a label on you and can make you fall victim to making a diagnosis your identity when it’s not (and I get that and agree). However, for me right now, it helps me with understanding my “symptoms” and helps give me clearer paths on how to improve my health. If you’ve read through my blog posts or been following me since I started this blog, you know that I have been struggling with mental health issues since I was a teenager. My medical diagnosis is bipolar 1 and bpd (borderline personality disorder). I have found it incredibly difficult to tell people I have struggled with both of these, especially bpd. Sometimes, people think you’re very scary when you tell them you have bpd (or bipolar, but bpd happens more often), or they think you’re incredibly manipulative based on someone they knew that had it or from media. However, most don’t understand that mental illness effect every person differently. Some people assume I am a very angry person at times. Which is funny, because I am one of the least angry people I know. I can think of 1 time in my adult life that I have genuinely almost been so angry I got physical. I was 20 and drunk. I do get angry at myself though, but I don’t show that to the world. The other side is people thinking you’re manipulative and immediately distancing themselves from you, because they’re projecting their past experiences onto you. They think you’re going to use them or something, when you’re not. From what I know and the people I know, most people who have been medically diagnosed with bpd, are NOT manipulative. A lot of people with bpd have been through some deep trauma that’s unhealed, which manifest in how we interact with the world, at least I think that. We’re all just extremely sensitive and we know it’s not “normal” so we struggle so-so much with explaining how we truly feel to people. Which can come off as being manipulative or some people see it as a lot in general. However, the slightest things can send us into panic, a door accidentally slamming or a change in your voice. It takes us a bit to calm down and realize there are other things in your life and it probably isn’t our fault.
I am going to dive a bit more into my own experiences because It feels right and I think for some people it could be incredibly helpful. Also, *trigger warning about hospitalization and attempts in the next sentence*. I have been hospitalized multiple times due to my mental health. In 2018 alone (which that was a real bad year in general) I was in 4 different hospitalization treatments. I have had numerous attempts to take my own life and for some reason that only the universe knows, I am still here. I have had a lot of people removed from my life after that, which has all been for the best. I noticed that a common theme among the people who are not longer here in my life was they thought it was attention seeking behavior. I hate when people use that phrase. That is why so many people don’t get help sooner or end up taking their own life, because people tell them they’re just seeking attention and nothing is wrong with them. There were so many times that I even questioned if I needed to reach out for help or if it was just all in my head and that’s…..that’s not okay for anyone. Nobody is intentionally trying to get attention for their mental health unless they freaking need help. I think maybe a lot of people believe that it’s attention seeking because they genuinely don’t understand, but please know the person who is struggling also doesn’t understand what is happening to them and is just trying to be okay.
The more I write, I feel like this is more of a rant about mental health, so here are some more positive things. About a year ago I went off of medication completely. For me, that was the best possible decision. I had tried around 9 or 10 different medications and they all for some reason made my mood swings and depression incredibly worse. At one point in 2018, when I was in and out of treatment centers, all the psychiatrist kept doing was increasing the medication I was on. It wasn’t until I moved and found a new psychiatrist that it was pointed out that that could have been a big factor on why my mental health wasn’t improving. Which makes me so upset sometimes, because doctors who are supposed to be helping people are making it worse and not even considering it. With professional help, I went off all my medications. I stayed in a DBT group for a bit after that. I eventually started implementing those skills into my life and it was so incredibly hard. However, it has been over a year and I have not had a single hospitalization or serious thoughts that would lead me there. In all honesty, my mental health has slowly been improving. I will say that I have put in a lot of personal work on improving it and it has not been easy at all. There was a short time where I truly felt so alone, but I just kept trying because what could trying hurt at this point? I have done days worth of research on my bpd and bipolar (seriously if you have questions I probably have an answer in an academic article). I bought some self-help books and been mostly stayed in therapy. I truly think what has helped the most for me is throwing myself into yoga and I don’t mean just the physical practice, I mean the entire 8 limbs (and you should totally research that if you’re curious). It’s like everything years of therapy was trying to teach me, but in a much simpler and sweeter way.
I am not going to make my illness my identity, but I will say that I am starting to see them as a gift. I have learned a lot in regards of managing and taking care of the sides of my illness that cause harm to me. I still have bad days, but I know I can handle them now. I am now learning that there are really good things that come from my what I have been “diagnosed ” with. I am extremely empathetic, even if I don’t show it because emotions are intense. I think it has something to do with feeling everything so intensely that I just know what things feel like. In fact, there is research that supports that people with bpd are significantly better at identifying someones emotion with their facial expression (research it!). I am incredibly spontaneous and don’t wait around for someone to do what I want (like traveling the freaking world). I can be pretty creative in a manic episode. I am incredibly passionate about everything I do and if I am not, I stop doing it. I view the world a lot differently from the norm and I think that’s kinda rad.
I am not sure if this entire post was in the perfect order or even makes sense. It’s merely some random thoughts and rants I have about mental health and how we treat people struggling with mental illness. Thank you for reading, if you made it this far. I love you and appreciate you! I hope maybe someone finds something positive or inspiring in it. There is always hope, and if you’re struggle please know things do get better. You are so loved and there is so much purpose for you in this life. You’re going to find your way. You’re not alone now and you never truly are.