Who's in Control?

by James Brownback about a year ago

An Open-Letter on How I Conquered Mental Illness

Who's in Control?

If I could give any advice to my nine-year-old self, I think it would be to always remember that you are in control of those taunting voices in your tiny head. For those of you who don’t know me on a personal level, I have something to confess. “Is it a sin?” “No, nothing close to a sin.” The truth is, drum roll please…I have lived almost 65% of my 24 years of my life battling my three “closest” friends. I’m going to reveal their names but I need everyone to know one simple thing. This is not a letter of me begging for a helping hand. Keep in mind, I am happy and Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, and Depression do not control me.

As mentioned in the paragraph above, I have been blessed with the holy beating of the struggle stick. Listen, I was born with this disease in my blood, therefore, I cannot change or even control a single percentage of bipolar disorder but I can choose when to stand up to them and suggest that they shut the hell up. This is a prominent factor to keep in the back of your brain. Even though it may feel like your world is crumbling around you, catastrophically, you need to become strong enough to realize that these feelings are temporary and will pass before you know it. You are going to find your future self looking back at these feelings in disbelief. You can and always will be able to make it through, but believe me, it may take a lot of practice. A strong mind, body and soul means that your body is your vessel. It works in a cycle-like motion, kind of like the Circle of Life. If you are allowing negative energies into your life you are harming your body by feeding your mind with feelings that are more intoxicating than nutritious.

Since you all can justify what this open letter is subjected to, I would like to share one of my moments...lowest moments that is. My memory is vivid, since I was born actually. I typically can remember moments of my past from the tender age of 4 years old. I realized this because it was in that moment when I was four that I fell off of my treehouse and landed on my wrist, "SNAP"…(with hysterical tears of pain). Rock bottom is a good word play to describe this low moment in my 21 years of life. I had just received my Acceptance Letter from Philadelphia University for studies within Fashion Merchandising. I have never been so excited for anything in my entire life than in that moment. It even said that I would be receiving a healthy Scholarship as well. I’ve always been a decent student but I had to study my face off to get to the grades that I was proud of. Lets just say that I was stoked.

Before I knew it I was leaving my job at Plato’s Closet, which I loved dearly, shopping at Target for apartment décor and spending an enormous chunk of time with family and friends. It felt like the first breeze of a thunderstorm on a humidly hot day in August. I was a kid in the world’s largest candy shop. But, there was something that felt odd. It was the common thought that would flow through my head, “Why are are you spending all of this time in a candy shop alone when you have plenty of people to invite over?” It was just me, myself and I. But, that’s how I pictured it to be.

I’ll never forget when I received the keys to my apartment in Germantown. I felt like I could conquer the world. Again, signal the constant sugar high. I was decorating my apartment with all new things. It was like a spiritual awakening but I was severely blinded by just how truly lonely living alone would be for myself. A major scenario that was something of a road block in my path to happiness is that I didn’t know a single soul at this school. Most teenagers describe the four years of college as a fresh start type of thing and they find their truest selves within that time frame. The truth is that on my first day of classes I thought the same things like new friends, open possibilities, etc. These special opportunities were ahead of me but in about four weeks’ time, I would be spiraling into the darkest shadows of the abyss that I would have, some point in time, call my Mind.

In these moments I would often find myself crying on my apartment bathroom floor. I was alone, without a car to drive home and nothing to distract myself from those voices in my head. When I think of what thoughts were running back and forth inside my brain on those lonely, dark nights, I picture a fighter. A warrior, in better description, the strongest soldier of all, but these monsters are draining me in every aspect possible to satisfy their hunger. Myself, playing the role of the Warrior, does not yet know of the good that he can bring to the people. I was begging on my knees, beating myself down from rampant thoughts. I was believing every word that they were saying. C’mon, I have to be stronger than this.

Here comes the big bang! It’s something like the moment in a horror movie when the ending ruins the entire movie for the audience. You’re left in your seat searching for answers that most likely would never be answered. You have your plea for help, but you don’t know if anyone would bother with catching you if and/or when you fell. It’s that “Oh Shit!” moment, for my family and I at least. I remember suffering one of the worst panic attacks. The room was spinning and I felt like I was being suffocated. I reached for the bottle of my medication. I was expecting to swallow the entire bottle whole. My phone notified me that I had a text from my parents saying that they were outside in the Lobby. Now you and I both know that I am still here today, almost three years later because of that text message. My parents sensed that something was abnormal from texts that I had sent prior to my manic episode. I am so thankful that they were able to trust their instincts to come tend to their child who was suffering from something as powerful as Mental Illness.

After that night, I swear I never returned to Philadelphia University. I packed up all of my shit, found a sub letter and came back to Plato’s Closet to work full time and take some mental rest from things like social standards and the pressure of receiving a healthy GPA. I am still here. I can say confidently that I have conquered that moment, three, what feels like forever, years ago. I’ll add the fact that I do not regret moving back home and I am learning to take each moment day by day. I wake up telling myself that I am someone who deserves happiness and that it is more than normal to have an off day or two. On that note, I want nothing but for all of you, whoever you may be reading this letter, to live your days like I try to. Lastly, remember that positivity is your best friend.

To be continued weekly.

- James

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