Raise your hand if you’ve been here: it’s 3AM, you’re wide awake, and you can’t seem to settle on any single topic to think about. Your mind has ricocheted from work to Easter dinner, to that poem you wrote over a year ago which had a cool line, to building a cabinet for extra paint cans. At this point, I’ve basically solved world hunger, yet I can’t solve the pesky issue of getting to sleep. We’ve written articles related to sleep before (here and here), but why not another one from the point of view of the wise night owl?
Recently, I submitted a story of my own struggles with anxiety and depression to makeitok.org in hopes of having my story shared with another outlet. I’m proud to say that they accepted the story and it is now published here. But for your convenience, here is my story.
What kind of stigma did you experience/observe?
Mental illness is no joke. It sucks. Suffering with anxiety, depression, and ADHD has made “adult life” rather challenging. Not to say it was easy as a child either. For me, an always-busy childhood helped keep everything in check. I would spend the school year going 100 miles per hour between school, sports, and other extracurricular activities. Then the summer, I would work six days a week, work out seven days a week, and do all of the AP class preparations and college preparations needed to continue the high octane life I had built. Then when I had the opportunity, I would utterly crash. Zero miles per hour, clutch disengaged, rolling wherever gravity would take me.
After college, I joined a high octane consulting firm to keep up the heat. 15 hour days? On the road 250 days a year? You bet! I still didn’t realize what was going on. Work became my outlet for two years, affecting nobody but myself (or so I thought). Marriage changed that quite quickly. It became very apparent (very quickly) that my all-over-the-place-ness, which I regularly combated with bouts of extreme cleaning and organization or full-on, days long “me” time, was not just affecting me. It affected my wife. And I couldn’t stand to see her hurting like she was. It is easy to have your dress shirts hanging the “right” way, ordered by color, immediately removed from the dry-cleaning plastic when you are alone. It is easy to not have a single dirty dish in the sink when you live alone. No one else is affected by this.
It is so easy to be blinded by naivety when you are only looking at yourself. When others are affected, especially other who you love, that’s when the light of reality shines the brightest. The pain in their eyes is the most haunting sight anyone can envision. When I saw that pain, I knew it was time to act. She kindly and lovingly supported me throughout the process of finding a doctor (even booking me appointments when I was resistant).
She owed (and still owes) me nothing. Her help getting me help saved me. Her undying, and unyielding love saved me.
Years later, she remains my rock. We’ve hit bumps along the way, but she has never doubted what we have, she had never doubted my love for her, and she has never doubted the future we are committed to sharing together. Even through the most challenging of times, she reminds me who I am. She helps me understand who I am. She never lets me forget who I truly am.
Anxiety, depression, and ADHD: they are a part of who I am. I live day in and day out with these illnesses. But they do not define me. I am me. And while they occasionally have more say over my life than I prefer, I will not let them win. Even if I fail today, there is always tomorrow. There is always tomorrow.
How did you overcome this experience?
To overcome is to completely extinguish. I am, and will forever be overcoming mental illness, every single day. Share your story and do not be ashamed that you have a mental illness. There are more of us out there than we know, but who are afraid to talk about it. Your words make a bigger impact than you think. You never know who may be reading, and whose life you may save.
Help others by sharing a brief, positive message.
No matter what happens in this crazy world, there is always a brighter day ahead. There is always tomorrow.
The sunlight shines –
Shines so bright.
After the darkest –
Darkest of nights.
Your tired or fighting –
Fighting this fight.
But tomorrow brings hope –
Hope of new light.
Maybe you can relate to this: as a parent, there exists a thin line between what happens to any child and what happens to my child. A tragic event occurs involving my friend’s child, a child in my community, or even a child in the news and I feel it could have been my child. I feel the pain as if it were my child. Teen suicide is one of a parent’s greatest fears. And as an adult who experienced suicidal ideation, it’s unfathomable to me.
When I was in my first year of recovery after hospitalization for severe depression, I used writing as a way to process my pain. I wrote in journal after journal and I began to think of the future and what it had in mind for me. And when I heard about the following story, I thought—maybe my writing could help others?
How to Talk To Someone Experiencing a Clinical Delusion - or Just a Radically Different Point of View
“I have a lot of money coming my way soon,” the thirty-something woman sitting across from me at the table told me with a sincere tone.
“Oh yeah?” I calmly responded. “How’s that?”
“Well, I helped Maroon 5 write most of their songs,” she said without blinking.
Before you get too excited, no, I wasn’t having a chance encounter with a music mogul at a swanky cafe; I was interviewing a schizoaffective patient in the crisis unit of the psychiatric hospital in which I worked. And I knew what I said next would either hinder her recovery or hasten it.
“How about that?” I replied, showing a lukewarm level of interest. “When did you get the chance to work with them?”
“I used to date Adam Levine,” she continued.
Mind, body, and spirit all require care. If one is being neglected, it affects the other two. Sometimes it can be a neglect or damage that is out of your control. This is the story of how my damaged mind, body, and spirit became whole again.
It begins well: a happy home, a supportive family, an excellent student. I never showed signs of having a mental illness. There was the emotional stage going through puberty, but these were the things that I believe are typical of a teenage girl or boy. I got into a great college and was excelling there.
Dreaming of Paris all my life, I decided to study abroad in France. That is when the unthinkable happened. I was sexually assaulted, and it was done by two young men whom I knew (or thought I knew) fairly well. It took a long time to recognize the gravity of what had happened to me. I came home about a month after my program was complete, but told almost no one what had happened.