Having had intense anxiety my entire life – I can remember feeling anxious throughout much of childhood – has honestly held me back from being the best I could have been, but it has also taught me a lot about myself. Along with anxiety, I have experienced intense depression.
My depression has admittedly been bad enough that I wholeheartedly wished to die at one point. During that particular deep depression, I lost enough weight to get down to a size two – I usually fluctuate between sizes six and eight. I was too afraid to go through with suicide, so I hoped to get caught in a deadly interstate pileup or even contract a terminal illness.
My anxiety has also been strong enough to make me super anxious to drive, even in my small hometown; now, luckily, that spell has passed. I also got to where I would stay up one or two days in a row, often with my mind racing with worry. I’d get energy bursts and then fall back into a depressed state.
In my late twenties, I was finally diagnosed as bipolar, which made so much sense, considering my uncontrollable behavior and moods I have experienced throughout my lifetime. Even in childhood, I knew something was ‘wrong’ with me – turns out I was very different after all, but now I know why.
I think a lot of people in my high school class, especially other girls, thought I was a weirdo due to my odd behavior and mood swings. No one understood me – I didn’t even understand myself. I experienced so much anxiety during my freshman through senior years that I would wake up and literally vomit – for no reason other than being freaked out – prior to leaving for school.
A gastroenterologist even accused me of being bulimic – this was before I was finally prescribed anti-anxiety medication after a doctor figured out I was throwing up all the time due to my anxiety. I was incredibly insulted by the doctor first mentioned – my mother and I literally laughed in his face!
When I left home to attend a large university – a bigger mistake than I could have ever imagined – I really went down. I was unable to sleep at night due to racing thoughts and I got to where I slept all day through my classes, some of which I stopped attending altogether during my fifth semester.
That final semester at the university came immediately following the horrific and untimely death by accidental overdose of my best friend. I wrongly assumed that changing locations – getting the hell out of my hometown – where memories of my friend were everywhere – and returning to school four hours away.
Once again, I stayed up all night, self-medicated, and slept entire days away. I was utterly miserable. I also had zero support system at school that last semester – one of my roommates flipped her lid, apparently, and never knew of the death. My other roommate, who had also experienced an untimely death of a friend, ditched me for her boyfriend. I was all alone.
During my tween years, I remember thinking that I had everything I could possibly need and want, but wondered why I was still so unhappy. Looking back, I wish I had sought therapy and medication if needed much earlier than at 19 years of age. My life really changed for the better once I was prescribed medicine by my psychiatrist.
Now, I’m proud to say that I believe I am taking the correct medication cocktail mixture to keep me stable. Sure, sometimes I still cycle through mania and depression, but the spells are nothing like they were prior to my receiving an ultimate diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
Mental illness is often genetic and it definitely runs on both my paternal and maternal sides of my family. My maternal great-grandfather committed suicide; my older brother is autistic, causing his mental state to deteriorate with age; I have bipolar cousins; much depression and anxiety is present in my family history as well.
The moral of my telling of this history of mine is for y’all who suffer from mental illness as well – I want you to understand you are certainly not alone in experiencing such pain and suffering on the inside. It took me a long time to figure out that others are in the same boat, dealing with mental illness and treatment daily.
Finally, don’t forget to report to your medical caregivers of the mental health history in your family, as genetics play a huge role in the development of mental illness. Don’t be ashamed to seek treatment; think about others needing you, how you can set an example by caring for your emotional health.
I know it’s so much easier said than done to perform the aforementioned tasks – I know that when one is stuck in a spiral of depression or any other mental illness, it’s difficult to recognize that something is indeed misfiring in your brain. Seek help. While it took seemingly forever for me to receive a final diagnosis, I figure better late than never!