As someone who suffers from depression & bipolar disorder, it's hard at times to deal with the stigma many people still associate with the diagnosis. Sufferers will not admit to having a mental illness for fear of being labelled as crazy, be accused of faking it or being shunned & ridiculed in other ways. Even worse is when they won't admit it to themselves, these people can become a danger to themselves & those around them.
On the other side are people who don't recognise the signs and blame it on other things. This is the group I fell into, not knowing what severe depression or bipolar was. Many uninformed people think it's just a case of being sad most of the time & totally crazy at others. Those that suffer from these illnesses know it is much, much more than that.
Here I am going to relate some of my personal story in a hope it may shed some light on what these conditions can do to you, and those around you. Well, at least what it did to me.
I was in my mid-thirties when a diagnosis of major depression was made by my doctor. Since then, with more knowledge of the illness, I've discovered it's something I've had at least since my mid-teens, probably earlier but my memory is a bit flaky. It explained a lot of things that had happened to me in my past.
Understandably it became to much for us all and I left my family before I did something terrible. It seemed like the end of my world. It wasn't, they were still in my life and for that I was glad. But it didn't change me for the better.. Nothing had changed, if anything at times it was worse. I kept spiraling lower & lower, it seemed as if nothing helped.
Either the medications I was on didn't help (there are depression meds that someone with bipolar should NEVER take), or if I was up I didn't think I needed them. And when down I didn't want them. Taking them or not seemed to make no difference.
This is the period when I was at my lowest, and things got even worse. It was during this time that I lost all contact with my family. Even now all I have is memories (not all good) & photographs. I wasn't the father my children needed & I can't blame them for wanting better from life. But it almost killed me.
Eventually I moved out of the city, away from the people, the noise, the lifestyle. I thought that maybe moving back to my roots, to a quieter, more relaxed lifestyle would help. It didn't. Even after 10 years I was still being treated incorrectly and nothing really changed much. A new doctor didn't seem to help either. While he tried to work with me I wasn't the best patient & he was still operating on the initial diagnosis of major depression.
But I had one difference here, I had someone who accepted me, almost regardless of what I did or had done. But like it seemed with most everything else in my life up to then, I took something good & turned it black. I became too intrusive in their life, possessive even. Of course, eventually it all blew up in my face. I thought I had lost everything again.
But it was to be a real turning point for me. I realized I needed to talk to my doctor. And I mean really talk! I sat down & told him everything, the good, the bad & the outright ugly. I think it was then that I finally accepted myself & my illness for the first time. And it made a huge difference in my life.
My doctor immediately changed my diagnosis to bipolar (along with a few other things). I got on new medications, got a new psychologist to see and a new way of looking at myself. It seemed as if things were changing overnight.
I became a different person, and others noticed it. One of my brothers commented that he had stopped visiting because he didn't know how to deal with me I was so withdrawn. But now I at least seemed to be in the same room as him.
And the person who was the catalyst of this change came back into my life, being smart enough to see what had happened between us wasn't what I intended, wasn't really me. Of course things were never quite the same, it took a long time to get the trust back but today we have a good relationship, along with my acceptance by some of the others involved.
But there is still a lot to do. I'm far from being what others would be considered normal. I still have my dark times. But some people, who never knew me when I was going through the real bad times, don't accept that I have bipolar at all. They have only seen me on the new medications & when I can control myself & my emotions better than in the past. They have never seen the rages or the emotional roller coaster that was my life for so long.
At times, to these people, I must seem like an emotional black hole. My emotions & feelings are so tightly reigned in that almost nothing shows. And even to me I sometimes feel emotionally detached from everything, unable to feel or express emotions. And I still have trouble with intimacy, getting physically close to people. That seems to be one constant through all this - 10 years ago I couldn't cuddle my kids and today hugging someone is still an issue. These things make it hard to form relationships.
I don't know what the future may bring, but there are a few things I would like to eventually see. I would love to be in some way involved with my children again, for them to see me now & maybe realize I never meant things to be the way they were. I still need to be able to deal with the highs & lows that come along - I can see them coming at times, but feel I don't deal with them too well at all.
And, probably the thing that concerns me most right now, is dealing with my almost constant emotional detachment. To be able to feel, but still be in control of myself. Music can move me, but not real life. That is something that I really have trouble accepting. I hope I can change this eventually.
Well, that's my story, at least up to now. After years of wandering in the darkness, now I can see there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not always an oncoming train.