Saturday, October 28, 2017

T H E | E X P E R I M E N T


“Am I going to die?”

I remember the E.M.T.’s face when I asked her as I laid on the gurney inside the ambulance. She didn’t know how to respond, her mouth open as she tried to find the words that weren’t coming because she was obviously unsure. My brother saw the whole thing. One second I was ready to play a game of basketball with him, the next I was being carted away in an ambulance with a serious head injury.

I arrived at the hospital, still unsure of my fate, throwing up profusely because of the concussion I suffered after my head bounced off the concrete. Besides my head throbbing, I couldn’t move my left arm. Turns out, my shoulder slammed against the concrete, separating it, before my head hit the ground. After I was taken to my room and finally able to walk without feeling nauseous, I got to see the damage to my face. The entire left side of my head protruded as if a softball had been implanted under the skin. Hair was missing from my temple area, my eye was swollen completely shut, the blood had mostly been wiped away, and the skin had already begun to bruise. I couldn’t believe what I saw in the mirror.

After the E.E.G.’s, E.K.G.’s, stress tests and a biopsy of my heart, doctors said that the seizure could have been caused by the medication I was taking at the time to treat the bipolar disorder.

All that to be said, medications have proven to be a more complicated part of my treatment.

I’ve taken an array of them since I was seventeen in an attempt to correct the imbalance in my brain. I’ve also believed that, at times, I didn’t need medication and I’ve fallen to the lowest depths anyone can reach emotionally. I’ve stopped taking my medications because I believed that I was mentally strong enough to conquer the illness myself. I’ve stopped taking my medication because I was frustrated at myself for even needing to take them in the first place. I’ve stopped taking my medication because I just didn’t care what would happen to me. And I’ve stopped taking my medication believing that God would “fix” me, even though He created me the way I am.

In all honesty, it’s taken me multiple medications, multiple combinations of medications, sometimes weekly visits to a psychiatrist and/or therapist, and continual support from family and friends to manage the symptoms of my illness. Just as anyone being treated for a physical illness, the course of care for mental illness is very specific to the individual. Sometimes, those of us that have a mental illness feel like a walking experiment, having our meds tweaked and changed frequently in order to function as a “normal” human being.

Having patience during medication trial and error can be taxing, both mentally and physically. Sometimes, it can take weeks, months, even years. I’ve learned from over a decade and a half, you cannot lose faith in in this process, even when there seems to be no end in sight. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

D I A G N O S I S

“You have bipolar disorder.” 

I don’t remember many things from growing up, but I clearly recall my psychiatrist telling me that at the age of seventeen. It was a bit surreal considering, at that time, even while showing obvious symptoms, I didn’t quite fully understand what that meant. 

I displayed an array of impulsive behaviors including rage, jealousy, and general risk taking. I remember being incredibly pissed one evening at a party (where I was drinking illegally) over a song being played. I went outside, took a swing at the street and heard my hand crunch. I needed surgery in order to straighten the bones that had been pushing up against the skin. 

Aside from the impulsive behavior, there was the depression. I would sit in my room with the blinds closed and cry.I felt alone. I felt like no one understood what I was going through, which led to the cutting and burning. One day, I closed my blinds, sat down in a chair, gritted my teeth, and started sliding the blade across my skin as tears ran down my cheeks. I made horizontal cuts from my wrist to my shoulder in an attempt to ease the emotional pain dealt by my tormented mind. Blood covered the blade as well as my arm. The scars are the worst - daily reminders of what I did eighteen years ago.

Since being eighteen, I've learned that a diagnosis is more than just words. I hope to share more about how it has affected me in order to bring awareness to mental illness.