I hate that it’s called a mental health disorder. I feel like it springs on an instant belief that something is wrong with someone.. That’s not the case.
Before I told anyone my diagnosis, most of my friends saw me as ‘normal’, so they were pretty shocked. I have high-functioning mental disorders, which means I can seem to get by pretty easy, even though I still struggle with them. This has been more hurtful than helpful in a way. I always felt like I should never have a reason to complain, so I internalized things, rather than just telling people what was going on.
I was diagnosed with anxiety, severe depression, and bipolar disorder. Even I was kinda surprised. The reason I even went to the psychiatrist in the first place was because I thought I had ADD. I laugh about it now.. But think about going to the doctor for ADD and then getting that news. I laughed in the poor lady’s face when she told me. Not because I didn’t believe it, but because it was such extreme news to hear when I thought I had a different problem.
Before I received the news, I had a completely different outlook on mental health. I basically thought that people were only diagnosed with something if it was extremely detrimental to their health. I’d never wanted to hurt myself or anyone else. I’d never had a panic attack so bad that I wasn’t able to breathe through it. I’d never randomly crashed my car or taken a bottle of pills. I never thought my feelings were valid only because I hadn’t experienced things that people with severe cases had.
These problems show themselves differently in every person that struggles with them.
Depression: I had extreme self confidence issues. I found it hard to get out of bed most days. In the worst part of my depression, I could sleep an entire 8 hours, but I’d still need a 4 hour nap during the day. I obsessed over small problems. I let other people treat me like crap. I remember months ago when I finally started feeling good again, I was legitimately trying to remember if that’s what happiness felt like because it’d been years. You can be depressed for literally no reason, which (in my experience) makes it worse, because you feel like you’re torturing yourself for no reason - but you can’t stop it. I had depression even though I had great parents, friends, grades, etc - (which I thought wasn’t possible).
Anxiety: I also got anxious for no reason. I knew there was nothing to worry about, but I just couldn’t help it. I would get sick for the entire day before a presentation. I’d check my bag 3 times just to make sure I didn’t forget something. I wouldn’t go shopping by myself. I’d sit and stare at my phone until someone texted me back if I was nervous about what they’d reply. Driving used to scare the living crap out of me, especially when I moved to a bigger city. Caffeine made things worse.. my heart almost raced out of my chest and I was constantly shaking.
Bipolar disorder: I had weeks where I felt super productive. I was in the gym constantly, I would finish like 5 assignments a day, I felt like on an adrenaline high. Then, I had weeks where I’d spiral into a deep depression for a reason that I wouldn’t be able to describe. I couldn’t stay awake, I would be scared to get out of bed (yes, literal fear), I’d feel really sick from my body staying in a constant stress mode, etc. -- There are 2 types of bipolar disorder, type 1 and 2. I have type 2. People who have type 1 are more likely to experience manic episodes and their cycle of emotions are shorter. Type 2 episodes are usually depressive and last around 2 weeks or more.
I really can’t understand why I thought what I went through was normal. I also don’t understand why I allowed myself to feel that way for so long, but I got through it. Medicine was a great addition, but it wasn’t the thing that cured me. I had to make a decision everyday: Do I want to stick to the routine of feeling tired, lazy, and sad - or do I want to put in the extra effort and choose to make myself happy?
It took a lot of reflection, reading, journaling, listening to others, (and more) to get where I am today. I’ll probably explain all of that in a future post - but for now, just know that doing all of those things was the largest contributor to any “success” I’ve had.
I’ve been on medication for about a year now. I take an antidepressant on a daily basis and anxiety medication when necessary.
Antidepressant: It’s improved my energy and motivation tremendously. I don’t nap unless I really overexhausted myself with putting too many things on my plate. I sleep around 6 hours a night and wake up rested and ready to take on the day.
The weirdest concept (to me) of the medicine is the motivation it gives you. I’ve asked a lot of my friends that also take it, and they agree with me.. Taking an antidepressant motivates you in a way that you feel like you have to get things done. If I don’t go to the gym, finish my homework, have my room cleaned, etc.. I will literally feel lazy and unaccomplished, which motivates me to do things. Weird, I know.
I can usually stay pretty positive. I don’t usually feel angry, sad, annoyed, irritated, etc - which are all things that I used to commonly struggle with.
Anxiety medication: Luckily, my anxiety isn’t severe. There are definitely things that trigger it (without fail), but I usually know what those things are, so I can take the medicine before I get too anxious. My anxiety medicine doesn’t make me stop thinking the ‘scary’ thoughts, it takes away the physical aspect of anxiety. It slows my heart so it doesn’t feel like it’s beating out of my chest and I don’t shake 24-7. Through taking this medication, I’ve realized that the physical reaction of anxiety is worse than the mental aspect.
I don’t want people to read this post and assume that I’m cured. Yes, my life is a lot better now, but it’s still so far from perfect. I still have 3 disorders. I still have weeks where I feel ‘in a rut’, I still get anxiety during presentations (even on meds), and I still easily get triggered to be sad, angry, or upset - and so many other things.
I still have to work 5x harder than others just to feel good or ‘normal’. I’ve just gotten a lot better at realizing and expressing feelings, and fixing problems. Changing my mindset to wanting to be happy has made the difference. No routine is perfect, but I learned what *mostly* works for me :)