Hello friends and family. How are you this fine Friday? I hope you are pumped about life and ready to meet the weekend. But before we put on our dancing shoes and start a parade I wanted to talk about something important to me. May is Mental Illness Awareness Month. For bookstagram I have been participating in a challenge called DiverseBookMay and all of the challenges are related to different mental illnesses. It has really inspired me and I thought I would take some time and do something extremely scary and tell you my mental illness story. *DEEP Breath* Here we go.
Since I was a child, I knew that I was different. My parents would say that from the time I was school aged they never knew what Sydney was coming down to breakfast in the morning. Some days it was bright and chipper Sydney. Some days it was down and gloomy Sydney. Others I couldn’t stop talking as fast as I possibly could. It was a flip of the coin which version of their daughter would be greeting them each morning. When I was six-ish, I was diagnosed with ADHD and put on Ritalin. The medicine certainly controlled my out of control hyper activity and manic like personality. But when I came off of it at night I was super emotional and weapy. Thus by third grade I had a teacher who convinced my parents to take me off of it so I could learn to manage my symptoms myself. All throughout my childhood I would go for long periods where I wouldn’t sleep at all. And then go for weeks where I couldn’t stop sleeping. When I was on the Ritalin it kept me awake during the day. But when I came off of it was tired a lot.
As I entered middle school things became more difficult. I know that every teenager is emotional. It’s part of those hormones that you are gifted for going through puberty. But my emotions seemed to stay and settle in the extreme areas. I was vicious when I was angry. Saying outrageous things to purposefully hurt people. When I was upset I’d cry for days. I was frequently told that I was just being a drama queen and needed to chill out. But I really struggled to reign in these feelings. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just want to be calmer and make it happen. I hit a point in 8th grade where I was severely depressed for many weeks and thought about suicide. Ultimately I never tried fortunately. Afterwards I had a violent upswing where I had tons of energy and didn’t sleep properly for two weeks. I made friends at my new high school. And even though my emotions were still very high or very low, I had enough happy and manic moments that I convinced myself things were fine. This was just who I was. Though I’ll note that many different teachers tried to talk to me about controlling my emotions over those years. That If I just put my mind to it, I could be in control.
In college I had some friendships that ultimately traumatized me. (No I don’t use that word lightly.) I had people in my life that I would be very very close to and then suddenly (at least to me) they would decide that we weren’t friends anymore. Instead of telling me themselves they had a third mutual friend break the news. One time two girls told a friend to tell me if I tried to come by their house they would call the cops. One time someone broke into my house, stole all her stuff back and blocked me on facebook. You get the drift. This happened five different times. One time, with the same person. It ulimately left me uber paranoid, overly controlling, and constantly so depressed I couldn’t leave my bed for days. I started having panic attacks where I would feel like I couldn’t breath or someone was sitting on my chest. I wasn’t able to go crowded or loud places. And would just leave events suddenly. If I went at all. Keep in mind that these friendships that break didn’t stop happening until I was a year out of my 6 yr collegiate stint.
At first I was diagnosed with depression. I mean I was sleeping and crying a lot so I guess this made sense. I went on and off many different perscriptions before landing on the one that worked best. But my moods were still swinging. I was just less depressed on a daily basis. My family didn’t know what to do. I was the terror of the holidays. And generally just not that fun to be around.
In September of 2010 I had a grand mal seizure. During one appointment with a neurologist my mom noted that since going on a particular anti-seizure medication I had been experiencing less mood swings and seemed a little more grounded. The doctor said that this medicine was also a mood stablizer and I should check with my new psychiatrist about being tested for bipolar. After researching symptoms online my mom concluded that this explained my life.
Sadly, despite finding a diagnosis, the journey was just starting, I spent a long time denying that I needed to talk to anybody about my situation. At first I wouldn’t go to therapy, and then I had some really bad experiences with a therapist who told me if I prayed and concentrated on God then my thoughts would follow. I did end up finding a therapist that worked for me and deciding that I wanted to get better. So I opened up to her. I started making real progressed. We got my medicine figured out and I was starting to be able to manage my mental health. I was still haven’t issues sleeping, and kept having to increase my sleeping medicine for those weeks when I had insomnia. I struggled to find a job and spent a lot of time at home in my bed. Especially after I was turned down for a job I really wanted and thought I deserved.
I got married and moved to Texas in 2015. I didn’t think that moving away from my mom and close knit family would be as hard as it was. I spent months crying off and off and sleeping the day away. This hit rock bottom when my parents came to visit me in March of the next year and I slept almost their entire trip. I was so guilty and ashamed but couldn’t stay awake. My anxiety was through the roof. My mom suggested I see a sleep doctor. After an overnight sleep test I was diagnosed with Insomnia (which I knew) and Narcolepsy. Can you have both? YES. Because Narcolepsy just means that when I did actually sleep I went straight into R.E.M. The switch in everyone’s brain that tells them when it’s time to sleep is a little broken in my head. It gets on and off confused which is what caused the Insomnia and Narcolepsy, as well as a whole slew of symptoms related to entering R.E.M. too quickly. I was immediately started on a new sleeping medicine.
Though it took a few different combinations to get my sleeping right, I can say that this was the final piece of my health management. Today I am finally able to proclaim that my mood swings are not only way less severe but occur infrequently. I still have to take care of myself both physically and mentally in order to manage my symptoms but I feel less out of control energy and hopeless depression. When something upsets me I’m much better about recognizing it and being able to either conquer it or take some time to myself in order to rest.
Bipolar was not an easy journey for me. I spent many years thinking I was broken, unfixable, and thus unlovable. I hurt many people and was hurt in return. If you are struggling with mental illness I want you to know that you are not alone and that there is hope. This is not your fault, and you are not broken. You can always leave me comment if you want to chat and we can exchange emails. Mental Illness Awareness is such an important topic to me because it effects so many in deep and impacting ways. I hope , that if you are struggling, you are getting the help that you need.
I hope this wasn’t too long or boring. Have a great day my friends. And thank you for listening.