Yesterday I posted, on Instagram, a photo of myself, without makeup (Thank you Alicia Keys). The picture’s caption read:
How i feel. #downday#mentalhealth#mentalillness#bipolardisorder#manicdepression#stillinmypajamas
Being honest. Living out there in the open.
I’ve been living out there in the “open” with my diagnosis for a few years now. It hasn’t been easy. Yes I have been liberated, but I have also been judged and constantly watched. That made me so anxious. I was so afraid to make any wrong moves, to have bad days. So, yesterday was my way of freeing myself from that. Even as someone who advocates for mental health awareness and speaks openly about having a good life with Bipolar Disorder, I too will have bad days.
Just because I’m on medication, doesn’t mean this monster goes away.
Just because I go for therapy, it doesn’t mean the problems go away.
They stay there. You just learn to deal with them better.
And I for one, over the last two weeks, was not being proactive in preventing this relapse. I was not stupid. I just took on too much- something I think this illness can be blamed for. One just thinks you can do it all, save the world. It’s part of the illusion and I seem to fall for it every time.
If I look back at the past two weeks, I can say that I was way too busy for my own good. Life threw lemons at me and I tried to juggle them all.
It all started with driving to Cape Town for a radio show, (I live about two hours from Cape Town). Driving plus anxiety never mixes well with me. Constantly images of car crashes fly through my mind. Anyway, I got home safely and I think it was the next week where I had to be in Cape Town again for a TV show. More driving. More anxiety.
The next week I had a three day art workshop in Cape Town again (from Wednesday to Friday), a presentation I was asked to give about living with Bipolar Disorder on the Saturday and then a market on the Sunday (where I was to sell artworks I have been working on in my spare time).
I was so unsure of myself, so full of negative talk but I made it through the busy days. The very next Monday it was my turn to drive for our carpool (lift club). It was all just too much. I crashed. I stayed in my pajamas, I didn’t shower (obviously), I didn’t eat (not so obviously). I was irritable. Everything was so loud, from doors opening to the kids crying to sounds outside. Everything was amplified. Everyone (and -thing) was in slow motion. My body feels heavy, like I’m walking around in ankle weights. I just wanted to give up on everything including myself. No amount of positive talk was helping. I chatted to my team members (now my friends) from Our Lived Experience and that helped. They kept me distracted from the fog. The numerous wishes on Facebook were also an eyeopener for me. People, some I haven’t even met, were clearing my cloudy day with their messages of support. Some didn’t know what I was going through, some did. But with every like and comment, it was like my experience, my down day, my crash, my illness was validated. It was real. A lot of the time I find that people do not understand this illness because they do not think it’s a real thing. How can it be real? It’s all in your head, no? No. It’s not only in my head. It affects my entire being. I was scared of posting that picture because I was afraid may label me as weak or seeking attention. Maybe I am seeking attention.
I want my illness to get some respect!
There are days where I hear things, and when I see things.
There are days where all I want to do is kill myself.
I am being blunt because that is the truth. I need treatment. I need compassion. Just as you would show compassion to people undergoing chemo or a child who just broke their leg- I too deserve it. They say the mind is a wonderful thing, but my mind can be hell. And it affects who I am to the world. My illness alters the person I am. That is scary. An illness that can take you away from your family and friends is scary, not only physically (like going to a clinic) but episodes take you to a different world and it can turn you into the worst version of yourself. All this is beyond your control. Most people don’t realize that. This illness robs you of control over your entire life. This is not just about having a bad day. Anyone can have a bad day. It’s about not being able to function. It’s about constant negative thoughts you can’t control. It’s about feeling confused by constant racing thoughts. It’s about (again) not having control. With “normal people”, you read a few positive quotes and Bob’s your uncle- you’re back on track. This ILLNESS requires other interventions (quotes can help, don’t get me wrong), but serious interventions are required for you to manage your life.
People will and agree with me and many won’t. And that’s okay too. This is my truth.
I’m busy finishing off my memoir writing course and I hope it will give me the tools to write a book that will explain exactly how I got to the space I am in today (both medically and otherwise). I want to be able to tell the story that needs to be told. I want to be able to share the story in a way that will help people who cannot go public for various reasons. Most of all I want to be able to tell my story with the compassion I deserve to give myself.
I deserve to give myself all the love I can.
I got this message in my inbox. I’ve been too overwhelmed to answer.
Your encouragement is worth more than gold. And your sincerity shines through in your Facebook posts, the few times I’ve heard you speak and definitely in our chats. I am a stranger to you, yet you offer words of encouragement and support to me and many others through your work/blogs etc. I’m sure I’m not the only one that randomly inboxes you, often bombarding you with questions and more. If what you have offered me is anything to go by, I am positive that you do the same for them. Each individual diagnosed with bi – polar has various triggers, some common where this diagnosis exists, others unique to the individual. I sense “your worth” is or has been a struggle to you. You can doubt your own words despite knowing the sincerity with which you offered them. Your actions however…This not even you can dispute. It’s clear in the work you do, albeit your talks, blogs, words of advice, your positive posts and your beautiful paintings you graciously share with us all. All these acts surpass your words, whether you think those words have worth or not. And therein lies evidence of your kind heart. I don’t know you, and I am certain you are not perfect (a common feature amoung the human population I’ll have you know! 😁), but your intentions are clear by the way you put yourself out there. Don’t you begrudge yourself the acknowledgement, respect and gratitude you deserve. After all, you should be Yvette’s biggest supporter!
Sometimes we can’t heal ourselves, but in helping others we actually do…one kind gesture at a time
Sorry for the vent/rant tone in some of the … You know what, I’m not sorry.