Okay with That
Five months ago, I wrote a blog titled “Cling to this Life,” sharing my experiences of being a suicidal teenager due to a mood disorder, and my fear of the stigma associated with sharing my diagnosis. I appreciate all the people who thanked me for writing the blog. My motivation was to illustrate that a person does not have to be defined by a diagnosis; it is possible to get better and to go on to live a happy, healthy life.
I know I have blogged a lot about crying due to the circumstances of my current life, and I have had friends and family ask me if I am depressed and feeling sick again. I appreciate the concern, and while I do feel sad sometimes, I am not clinically depressed.
When I feel sad, I cry, go for a run, listen to music, play a musical instrument, dance, write, or call a friend. Then I feel better.
When I was severely depressed, I often lacked the motivation to cry, go for a run, listen to music, play a musical instrument, dance, write, or call a friend; and when I did find the motivation to engage in any of those activities, I felt like I was just going through the motions. Nothing helped me to feel better until my mood would swing and I felt high, but it was still not a sense of feeling happy and feeling better. The best way I can describe it is the feeling of not really being there.
My older daughters have commented that I tend to zone out at times, appearing absent-minded. It’s not because I am depressed; it’s because I have a lot on my mind. When I was in graduate studies, one of my professors made the comment that when she was doing research, the milk would often end up in the cupboard while the sugar would end up in the refrigerator. While I am not doing any kind of research right now, I am busy with work, my kids, and mediation to develop a separation agreement. So, I might be lost in my thoughts from time to time.
The good news is that I do not cry as much as I used to, and overall, I have adjusted quite well to my new life.
I have been hurt, though, by some stigma that still surrounds mental illness.
For starters, I had someone tell me that if I used to have thoughts of killing myself, it’s not much of a stretch to think that I would have thoughts of killing other people; therefore, I am dangerous to others. That’s a ridiculous comment; I am a gentle, sensitive person who can’t even eat red meat. I internalize everything; therefore, the only person I was ever a danger to was me.
Another comment I have received is that medication is not enough to control my illness; I must have psychotherapy as well.
Affective disorders are complex; there are various causes and treatments. In my case, I have a family history of bipolar, and lithium is a medication that has worked. Within two weeks of starting lithium, my thoughts of suicide went away and my mood swings stabilized to the point where I felt normal, so I’m not too sure why I would need therapy when feeling normal. If I could control my illness without lithium using cognitive behavioral techniques such as positive self-talk, I would be happy to do so. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful with that in the past. I am not going to mess with something that has kept me healthy all these years.
The implication that I need therapy is that my illness is not under control. That is coming from a few people who disagree with me about certain aspects of life, and it is mean-spirited. I have been single for half a year now, and I am experiencing new things in life. Not everyone is going to like me, and I am okay with that.