I Laugh at Mental Illness
I was diagnosed with a mental illness when I was thirteen years old. It felt like all of my motivation, hope, and desire to live were hijacked overnight and replaced with the daunting task of making it through the day. It felt like someone pulled the rug out from underneath me, and it became a chore to breathe. Those feelings made everything more difficult, and surviving became harder and harder.
It was exhausting.
My parents became concerned after I voiced feeling like I wanted “…to fall asleep and not wake up.” I didn’t have the energy to think about killing myself; I just wanted to be gone. I was sent to a psychiatrist and put on medications that didn’t work. This started a very long stretch of what I like to call “pharmaceutical guinea-pigging.” Up that one, lower that one, add a few more – and let’s see what happens.
The problem with most anti-depressants is their inability to provide instant relief.
I had to force myself to take pills every day for weeks – pills that caused immediate and disgustingside effects – before it could be determined that they weren’t working against my desire to die.
When I was fifteen, I found the solution to all of my problems – Alcohol. Drinking enabled me to feel “normal,” for the first time ever, and interact with people in a way that didn’t have me crawling out of my skin or wishing I was invisible. I quickly found my sense of humor, and became “the funny girl.”
After being teased most of my life by both kids at school and at home, humor served me very well. It helped me make light of my feelings of inadequacy and uselessness. I made jokes about being chubby and having acne before you did, and I learned that if we laughed together it hurt a lot less.
I medicated myself with alcohol until I was 22, because it stopped working. The voices kept getting louder and more hateful when I drank. Playing the role of Drunky McDrunkerson lost its flare, and it became clear to everyone around me how much I hated myself. Alcohol turned on me, and the previously colorful veil it had provided me to hide behind turned ugly. I could not find comfort anywhere; not even in humor.
One night after trying one last time to rekindle my love affair with booze, I loathed myself into an attempted suicide.
When I awoke the next day only half dead, I made the decision that it was time to get sober. Okay, I didn’t actually make the decision. The emergency room physician who referred my ass to a hospital for crazy people did. It was there that I realized and said out loud for the first time that I was an alcoholic.
I have been sober since that second day of May in 2000. The desire to drink didn’t leave right away, but lessened over time with help and support. I can’t remember the last time I thought alcohol would make anything in my life better. It’s just no longer an option.
Here’s the thing – I don’t want to be drunk anymore, I just want to be okay. Getting sober didn’t do that for me, and I had to change basically everything about the way I related to the world. I found out that being is achievable without a substance in my body.
Since then, I have soberly fumbled through many difficult situations. I have found peace in places I would never have imagined while drinking. I recovered from alcoholism. The depression, however, never went away.
No matter how long I stayed sober, or how much I changed – no matter how many different therapists I went to, it was always there.
Years ago, after seeking help to process an experience that had me all fucked up, I stumbled upon a therapist specializing in trauma. It was determined that, for most of my life, my depression has actually been a symptom of something greater – part of a cycle that stems from all of the trauma in my past. I had to get sober to deal with the wreckage I created, in order to discover the roots that so many of my issues stem from.
I have a dissociative personality disorder.
At some points this has been quite difficult to manage. Over time, I have identified many of my triggers – things that cause me extreme anxiety, irrational or intensified fear, and/or what is called “flight or fight response” (ie. do I punch you in the throat or run away screaming?) Understanding these things really has been half the battle, and gaining insight into why I’m such a basket case has been invaluable to my healing process. It has not, however, necessarily solved the problems they still create in my life.
Living with this kind of diagnosis sucks more often than not, and brings back the feeling of just trying to survive the day – a feeling I don’t enjoy or appreciate as a mother.
Bad days aren’t always just bad days for me. Sometimes they turn into catastrophic days, where I find myself questioning every decision I’ve ever made, and wondering if my life is a mistake. I get easily overwhelmed by mundane things, and when I do, that old familiar feeling of just wanting to go to sleep and not wake up creeps in. I get irritable, sometimes child-like, and it becomes extremely difficult to focus on being a good wife and mother. I start to wonder what my husband could possibly see in me that’s lovable, and worry that I’m causing irreparable damage to my children.
Sometimes I lose time and entire conversations, which can be frustrating and disappointing to those I love.
If I manage to string a few “bad” days together, the depression kicks in resulting in hibernation via my good friend Agoraphobia.
It has become vital to my pseudo-sanity that I laugh at some of this. I’m afraid if I don’t, I will completely lose my mind. I haven’t needed inpatient hospitalization in over ten years, but if I focus too much energy on how fucked up and damaged I am, time in a psych ward starts to sound like a vacation. The people closest to me, who must adjust themselves to accommodate some of my broken pieces, don’t always see the humor.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not always a Hefty bag of crazy. I also have really great days…I think. Just kidding, I do. But there seems always to be an ominous, hovering fear that happiness and contentment is temporary.
I have an incredible husband, children, and friends who love me. I have an amazing life that I would love to feel connected to every single day. I have made many wonderful memories I wish I could hold onto longer. Writing has helped me tremendously.
Some days are harder than others, and there are times when I struggle to find humor. I hate struggling, and I really hate feeling like I can’t control my feelings and/or thoughts. I have too much love in my life and too many tools to feel hopeless; yet there are days I still do. I’m trying to keep my focus on all of the wonderful things I have in my life, and most days I’m successful.
So I laugh. I make jokes so you’ll laugh with me, and sometimes…it hurts a lot less.