I’ve been doing a lot of free writing as of late and I admit that it has been incredibly therapeutic, more so than anything lately. But this time, I’d like to borrow a few words to share instead. One of the things I do to help myself feel less alone in all of this is to watch TED talks on people struggling with or who have overcome their mental illness. It helps to know that what I’m experiencing is not an isolated incident, that some people have been through exactly the same as I have, or faced similar obstacles. So here are a few words that I really resonated with from two videos I watched today. The first one is from “Crazy” Girl– On Surviving and Thriving with Mental Illness | Kaitlyn (Kaity) Gee | TEDxHarkerSchool. Here are a few wise words from the courageous Kaity Gee who struggled with ADHD, anxiety, Bipolar II/manic depression:
That’s a common misconception by the way, that having a mental illness or struggling with mental health means something is wrong with you…And I felt so lonely. I was hungry for answers but mostly I needed someone to talk to. The mental illness community doesn’t have a designated meeting time at long lunch. It doesn’t have a classroom or a place of worship. People are so ashamed to talk about this that you only discover it when you’re incredibly close to them…We’re all affected by mental health, but somehow society has attached the stigma to mental illness. I was embarassed for being so messed up, and I didn’t want to be a burden on anyone else.
That’s the thing about being treated for mental illness. It’s not an exact science. They can put you on the pills. They can slow your heart rate down. They can get rid of those racing thoughts at night, but they will never be able to erase the memories. They will never be able to get rid of the basis of the demons you faced the night before.
I am not my illness. I am not my struggles. I am an individual with a name, a story, passions, a history, and a personality. Staying myself was a part of the battle, and I have declared war.
I couldn’t have said it better myself, really. And I could say the same for how the equally courageous and admirable Eric Walton has expressed himself and his struggle with bipolar disorder here: Surviving with a Mental Illness | Eric Walton | TEDxBoise
I’m still that kid who is so afraid of myself that I try to isolate from everyone, afraid that one of these days my rages will end up hurting someone seriously and permanently. Scared that one of these days I will follow through on those threats of suicide that I give in my rages. Scared that I won’t be able to stop myself…It’s like being trapped inside your own head. You know those scenes from horror films where they show it from the killer’s point of view or whatever and you see the guy walking with a weapon. That is what a rage feels like. Except instead of looking through someone else’s eyes, I’m looking through my own. I hear every word that comes out of my own mouth and I am disgusted because it’s not me.
The medication was only one piece. It was the capstone of the arch. I had to build the arch around it. And now I’m here at the age of 16, after having survived my struggle and I’m sharing my story even though it’s not quite over yet because my fight won’t be over until the day I’m in a coffin. [Having] died of preferably old age. And the message I want you to take away from this story that is still going on, is this: yes, I have a mental illness. No, I’m not inferior to other human beings. No, I’m not crazy. No, I shouldn’t be feared…
While I don’t have the rages he experienced, the thoughts and images my pure O haunted me with instilled an equally destabilizing fear that I would lose control and hurt myself or worse, someone else, despite virtually no evidence of past violence or desire to do so. As you can imagine, my anxiety and depression escalated as a result. I still marvel at how I survived the first few weeks of medication because it’s as they say, it got worse before it got better. And just as he said, the medication is only one piece. Which is why I am trying so so hard to rewire my brain with CBT, stay social with friends, get up and go to work, go to school, and just do virtually everything that is the complete opposite of what my thoughts are telling me to do. It’s a struggle. But I’m getting stronger each and every day because it’s a battle that I don’t give up despite how much I want to occasionally and how close I come to doing so. And I am more fortunate than anything to have positive and loving people in my life who stand by me, believe in me, and love me even when I can’t. If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. Most especially my family. I don’t say it or show it enough, and I should. But I’m incredibly grateful to my mother and father. This has affected them just as much as it has affected me. Despite the distress, confusion, and exhaustion it has placed on them, they have never wavered in their love and support for me. They’re one of the main reasons I’m pushing myself to so hard to get through this. I refuse to let this control me and my life. I’ve no idea what God intends for me, but I intend to stick around to find out and to, of course, carry out good works through how and whatever I do. That’s a vow that I’ve made to myself – that no matter what comes my way, no matter how many obstacles I have to overcome, no matter how many times I get hurt, that I will not let it turn my heart cold. Even if it means I have to leave it open until it bleeds out. The world is lacking in kindness and suffering from complacency as it is with all the problems that plague us, and I fully intend on ensuring that I do not let my experiences try to numb me and leave me in a state of apathy. I will not give up. And future me, if you do ever feel like that again, come back here and read over what you’ve written in your moments of strength. You have it in you, don’t forget it. I love you. So don’t ever, ever give up.