Growing up I always handled my emotions differently. I took things very personally and become upset easily. Sometimes I didn’t want anything to do with anyone. I didn’t interact with friends or family even skipping meals for days to avoid social interaction. I just wanted to sleep; when I slept I didn’t feel so overwhelmingly horrible.
High school was hard; I felt two emotions crushing sadness and off the wall anger. I would cry for hours unable to calm myself down or scream and destroy and hit things. College got harder, my sadness turned to gut wrenching dread and I would invasion crawling under my bed, my room in complete darkness and taking a bottle of sleeping pills. I wanted to stop the feelings hopelessness and doom but didn’t know how to get relief.
The roller coaster of emotions became too much, my primary care providers weren’t trained in diagnosing mental illness and randomly tried medications. I was put on one medication after another. I was desperate to know what exactly was “wrong with me” and for someone to tell me what to do so I could function and not have depression ruin everything I was trying to accomplish.
I knew I needed help and my providers weren’t educated enough so I started researching on my own. I read college psychology text books on personality and mood disorder. I went to my counselor at the time who after 3 years finally admitted she had believed all along I had bipolar disorder. I was furious that she had kept this diagnosis from me. Having a diagnosis opened a door for me to start a journey to recovery and wellness.
I started looking into treatment approaches and found cognitive behavioral therapy I knew it was exactly what I had been looking for. I found a new counselor who specialized in CBT. I was overjoyed when he gave me chapters of books to read and recommended a workbook. I needed to learn how to not only cope with the depression but tools to guide me through lows so they didn’t consume me. I learned skills that I still rely on today. I was able to learn about automatic thinking and how to stop intrusive thoughts from getting out of control. I was also introduced guided through reflexology. Now when I’m getting overwhelmed I find myself automatically back stepping through my thought process, dissecting them for what is fact. Consistency really does create habit, I was able to create healthy ones.
The favorite part of my recovery journey has been getting involved with mental health advocacy. I’ve learned that my story is unique and through it I can offer knowledge through personal experience and peer support. I have worked with organizations to create content for websites and social media and blog content for publication. I volunteer some of my time to a resource helpline, have lead peer support groups and given presentations.
Nutrition and exercise play a key role in reducing and manage symptoms of my bipolar disorder. I now share they knowledge by motivating and supporting others through online health coaching. Being a part of a positive community has given me something to look forward to everyday, goals to works towards, structure and accountability.
Creating a healthy lifestyle has allowed to get my joy and love for life back. I still struggle and as my life changes my struggles change with it. I am now married with 2 children working a great job that offers structure and flexibility. I am learning how to balance my mood shifts with work and family responsibilities, it’s not always easy to be there for others when working extra hard to maintain stability. What’s important is to ask for help when you need it because your health is important. We have to take care of ourselves and be the best we can be to be able to be there for others.
I am lucky I am a strong individual; I have family and community support. I want others to know there is hope for the future after a mood disorder diagnosis, no matter where you are in your journey. You just have to keep going, educate and take care of yourself, reach out for help and support before your in crisis and get involved in your community and/or school. It is possible to create a happy healthy life and live successfully.