“When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories we get to write a brave new ending.” Brené Brown
In the most inopportune times my illness takes the wheel and steers me into the ditch. In the ditch, I’m not reliable, I’m not consistent, and I’m constantly having to reschedule or delay planned activities, because of the grip of anxiety and an overwhelming fear that is unexplainable and inexcusable. I forget birthdays of even my closest friends and family. I’m the definition of a flake, but only because I hide behind a mask everyday. What most people don’t know is that I don’t intentionally flake. If I had a choice, I’d be the outgoing, helpful, and reliable girl they love to be around everyday. The life of the party, dance on the table fun girl, the girl who volunteers as much time as she can to help others. It hits me like a sledgehammer, usually a slight trigger but many times no warning. I know I’m not getting depressed, I am intimate with depression. I’m suffering the suffocation of anxiety and PTSD. I have a sudden lost of all control of my emotions. On top of everything, I realize I have won the jackpot of mental illnesses. This one much harder to treat, memories have become the enemy.
Unlike my superpower bipolar, Post traumatic stress disorder is normally in my community associated with military members who have given their mind to our country and suffer the wounds of war internally. Their wounds aren’t always visible. It’s definitely not a superpower and has no benefits. It’s become a mainstream topic and given credibility because of the media coverage and the fact that more doctors are recognizing it as a serious condition. So being around the military, I rarely talk about my own PTSD as not to take away from the service members. I hate being asked if it was caused by my service. Earning the title Marine was and is still one of my greatest achievements. My PTSD has absolutely nothing to do with my service to my country. Many of my symptoms are the same as my Bipolar disorder, except I’m haunted at times with nightmares and sudden anxiety. Triggered by the memories of near death, trauma, and lost a precious baby boy. I’m not sure I can write anymore about the cause, the trauma is something my mind can’t fully accept. I never talk about the nightmares and sudden overwhelming fears. It hard to balance being bipolar, being stable, and uncontrollable anxiety. I hide it well and it is exhausting, sometimes I am amazed I survive day to day.
So you might ask how do you lose friends and piss people off? You don’t tell them you can’t leave the house, you just cancel plans without reason. You are embarrassed to let anyone see you cry and trust me, it isn’t something that can be controled. You just don’t show up and withdraw from society. The fear of sitting or being in a group and starting to cry terrifies me, the circling of strangers asking if I’m okay and rubbing my back trying to help me and I know I can’t explain myself or my actions. It’s the fear of unwanted attention. It’s like choking and not being able to talk. You voice is muffled, when you do talk is that of a gasping hiccup. It passes like a storm, but when the dust has settled and the rain has stopped. You find yourself alone, because you decided to protect them from yourself. You cancelled, you didn’t show up, you flaked. You couldn’t bear the embarrassment of being perceived in any other way than person you chose to show the world. Turn out this pisses people off, who knew?
In my pursuit of normalcy, I realized I segregated myself from an incredible support system. It was only once I was honest about my mental health did people understand. Many times once I opened up they opened up about their own struggles with mental health. Some of the strongest people I know had their own demons. Like myself, they hid that they relied on similar drugs. The stigma, It’s the whispers, the people who try to help, and the embarrassment of being a very professional outgoing extrovert who crashes into a barely functional introvert.
So my laundry is piled, sink is full of dishes, and I just want to be alone, the battle has begun. I will not be a flake and a prisoner to my mind. I’ll start today by going to the grocery store and I’ll cry in aisle three. I’ll let a stranger comfort me and accept the embarrassment that is only in my head. We all need to be more open about mental health.
It’s the clean up in isle three that can be just as scary.