I enjoyed reading ashleyleia‘s story and since I have not been writing a lot lately, I thought this would be a good topic to write on.
“There’s Glory in Sharing Your Story” is an anti-stigma campaign started by Sue at My Loud Bipolar Whispers… hope for Mental Health Month this May. So here’s my story.
I write anonymously as B at Convolute Me. I find writing about what’s going on in my head is therapeutic in itself. I am a special education teacher and work with students with various disabilities and mental health issues. Because of my line of work, I stay anonymous because unfortunately, even though I work with children who suffer from various mental health ailments, the stigma is still very alive and well. A teacher lost her job after the community found out about her mental health diagnosis. Humans are brutal! My job is challenging and sometimes detrimental to my own mental health, but I love the kids I work with and feel that I am able to make a difference because I understand where they are coming from, having been there myself. I strive to be the adult I needed when I was their age for them.
I am 38 years old and have been married to my best friend for 14 years. We made the decision not to have children because mental illness runs in both of our families and I still continue to struggle. I enjoy running and love running races because I get to be with others but by myself at the same time (I know, it’s weird). I also enjoy hiking and painting.
I grew up in a household where my mother regretted her choice to have children. She struggled to cope and I received the brunt of her anger. My childhood was not all bad, but I lived with constant emotional abuse topped with physical abuse when my mother lost her temper. I have been called many things by my mother who even suggested I save everyone the misery and kill myself. While the physical wounds have healed, the emotional and psychological wounds have not. I struggle with constant negative and intrusive thoughts.
The first time I had suicidal thoughts, I was 8 years old. I was already filled with self hate by that age from being constantly told that I was a burden. Through my childhood and teenage years, I fought constantly with suicidal thoughts. I attempted suicide 3 times during those years. After my second attempt, my mother relented and sent me to a counselor who fought for me (I can never thank her enough). After threats of having the authorities involved, she finally agreed for me to see a psychiatrist.
At 17, I was diagnosed with dysthymia. I thought that depression and mental illness was a “young person disease.” I thought I would outgrow it as I got older. But mental illness does not discriminate. What I’ve learned is that my condition, unlike a major depression episode will require life long management. Major depression episodes can happen with dysthymia and is known as double depression. I have relapsed with double depression several times throughout my 20s and 30s. My last relapse was last year and I’m learning that if I don’t take care of my mental health, I would eventually end up a suicide statistic.
With the help of medication and therapy, I am slowly learning to live with dysthymia. I’ve learned that I am the only one who can and must advocate for myself. This means, seeking help, being honest about how I’m feeling and recognizing signs that I need to take a break to look after my mental health. It still isn’t easy for me and I continue to struggle with self care and suicidal thoughts. Society doesn’t understand mental illness and taking time off work to care for your mental health is still frowned upon, especially in my line of work. I try to be open about my mental illness, but I am wary because of the stigma I have experienced. My condition is not as debilitating as many other mental illness and yet I have experienced the stigma many times myself. My dream is that one day mental health will be just as important as physical health.
So this is my story. If you are struggling please reach out. You are worth it!