What Makes ME Qualified to Talk About Mental Health?
A lot! Here's why...
A Bad Experience at a Young Age
You'll be surprised what might traumatize you. I vividly remember a horrible experience from when I was about 7 years old. It wouldn't be until I turned 22, and had 2 children, before I realized I had a problem due to this event.
My parents took me to a fast food restaurant for lunch, just as we had done many, many times. This particular time would cause me to develop a diversion to food. As we were sitting and enjoying our lunch as a family, I noticed an employee sitting alone in a small booth, nearest the front exit. She looked very unhappy and appeared to be waiting for someone. Just as I noticed her, she began vomiting, IN the dining room, into a large cup. I'm sure that anyone else who would have witnessed this would have lost their appetite as well. But for me, it was the trigger for something much deeper.
At that point, I developed that food diversion I was talking about. I began associating food with vomiting. I convinced myself that if I ate, I'd probably just vomit. So, I was afraid to eat. I would go days without eating. My parents took me to many doctors. I had every kind of test you can think of... MRI's, Ultrasounds, blood tests, you name it. The Doctors could never find anything physically wrong.
You see, I was always an insecure and nervous child. I always felt out of place. I couldn't relate to other children. I was very codependent when it came to my Mother. (I have 1 sibling but, he's 7 years older.) I would runaway from school and go home (we lived two houses from my school). I didn't spend the night at friend's houses. I didn't have many friends actually. I kept myself pretty isolated.
Eventually, around 4th grade, my Mother put me in counseling.... which didn't seem to help. Other than figuring out I had severe anxiety, my counselor never asked me about food, Anorexia or Bulimia so the problem just progressed. As I got into my teens, I could go 3 days before I realized I hadn't eaten.
"Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes." - Carl Jung
Eating Disorders Lead to Other Self Destructive Behaviors
I was much smaller and skinnier than the majority of the kids my age. I was also younger by a year. Did I mention I'm an extremely light skinned, blue eyed Mexican that doesn't speak Spanish? They called me a poser! This contributed to my insecurities which made me more awkward. My obvious awkwardness made me an easy target for bullies. I hated school. I had very few friends.
By the time I reached High School, I had developed many more self destructive behaviors. On top of my horrible choice in boyfriends (with the exception of 1), I was self hating, self harming, unsafely promiscuous, dishonest, mean, and extremely reckless with other people's feelings. I'm not sure I was even consciously aware at the time, that other people had feelings. I was so used to ignoring mine or hiding them. (Which I was taught by my Father to do, but that's a whole other story).
Fact: Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in youth ages 10 - 24.
If you're concerned about a child in your life, please pay attention to some of the most common warning signs. Childhood into adolescence is a difficult time in itself. A lot of Mental Health issues can appear during this vulnerable time. Some things to keep an eye on:
- Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks (e.g., crying regularly, feeling fatigued, feeling unmotivated).
- Trying to harm or kill oneself or making plans to do so.
- Out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors that can cause harm to self or others.
- Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart, physical discomfort or fast breathing.
- Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight; significant weight loss or gain.
- Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships/friendships
- Drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits (e.g., waking up early and acting agitated).
Depression has always hid under the surface. Isolating myself, especially in times of celebration or vulnerability, is pretty common for me. The photo above was taken the day after my second marriage took place. My depression kicked in about a week before this day. It should have been a beautiful time in my life. We had our ceremony ON the beach. I was so sick. My stomach just turning and turning. This is why it's important to pay attention to your instincts.
Bad Relationships, Failed Marriages and Amazing Children
At 20 years old, I was still UN-diagnosed with any Mental Illness (later I found out it runs in my family) and gave birth to my first son. Although he was the product of a very volatile yet casual relationship, he was (and still is) one of the three most amazing gifts life has ever given me. I had many more failed relationships, several attempts at marriage with horribly mentally and/or physically abusive men, over the years. During that time, I had 2 more amazing children who have been my inspiration for staying strong and getting well. Relationships are very, very difficult to maintain when you chose a "partner" who is more unhealthy than yourself.. I did this over, and over again.
I always attracted the wrong people into my life and I couldn't understand why. In this photo, I seemed to embrace that.
Fact: Sometimes, when a person with Borderline Personality Disorder is in crisis hospitalization may be necessary. Suicide is a very real concern for persons with BPD. Overall, the total percentage of people with BPD who commit suicide is about 8-10%. Please, get help!
Finally! A Diagnoses... Er Uh, A Misdiagnoses Actually
I actually went to work in the field of Mental Health for a few years. It was too difficult for me at that time because I wasn't ready to see that I had issues of my own. Everyone else's issues, were triggers for me. I could see myself in a lot of people and I didn't want to need help.
As I sit here and write this today, I've made it 46 years in this world. I was first diagnosed in 2008, with Bipolar Disorder II. I didn't follow any treatment plan at that time, and I wish I would have. But, like an addict, you can't really accept treatment until you are ready, and I wasn't.
After a few more abusive relationships, and then one pretty healthy one (or so I thought), I fell into a depression so deep, I couldn't get out on my own. It ruined that healthy relationship I was in. I finally got the help I needed from a local Mental Health Outpatient Facility. I was re-diagnosed Bipolar II with Generalized Anxiety. I went religiously to my counseling sessions for two years then ran into a bunch of bad counselors. I was fairly heavily medicated on mood stabilizers, anti-depressants and anxiety pills. This all worked for about a year, then it just stopped working. I switched to a new doctor and was reassessed.
Bipolar II, Borderline Personality, Social Anxiety, Obsessive Personality, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
These are my current diagnosis. I live with them everyday, UN-medicated. It's definitely a challenge. I have great days and horrible ones. I second guess every decision I make but, I end up following my instincts now. I'm generally happy because I understand myself better. I understand why I attracted all the wrong people, and why I was always "the victim". The reason I couldn't be happy with anyone was because I was in denial of my trauma and wasn't dealing with it.
Now I'm on my 5th, and FINAL, marriage. And he's a great guy, but like me, he's not perfect. We have challenges and I'm sure some days he wants to throw in the towel. I overthink, am insecure, have trust issues and I'm still working on my self esteem... but I'm working on it every day.
My biggest hope in writing is that, my pages find their way to someone who can relate. If I can inspire just one person to get help, or write, or just get through today not feeling alone, I will feel so amazing.
NEVER let anyone make you feel ashamed or embarrassed about the way you feel. Don't be embarrassed by your disorder. It does not define you and it's just one piece of the puzzle that makes you, you. I like to think of myself as a little unique and special... and you should too.