The Face of Mental Illness – 11/10/2013

Image submitted via email at thefaceofmentalillness@gmail.com

Image submitted via email at thefaceofmentalillness@gmail.com

My name is Anne. I am a mother of two beautiful, sweet, and bright daughters. I am a wife to one fun-loving man (When he’s not fighting his own mental illnesses and sometimes when he is!). I am a daughter of religious enthusiasts (Parents belong to a religious cult that I was raised in.). I am the oldest of four children. I am a former business owner. I am a current caretaker of my husband and two daughters.

This is the first time I’ve ever been so open and honest about my mental illness. I have PTSD from my childhood. I have been to many therapists and have improved, but there are still triggers. Most of my life I’ve been able to hide my inner battle and keep it secret. People probably thought I came across as cold, uncaring, or weird, when inside I was fighting a battle to ‘keep it together’ because of some trigger.

I also have Chaetophobia (Fear of hair – for me, especially free floating hair that’s touching me). Unfortunately, this phobia seems to be getting gradually worse. I’ve always been able to hide it, but lately it seems it takes everything I have to keep myself from going into complete ‘freak out mode’ when I get a hair on or near me (Mine or someone else’s.). Part of me realizes how completely silly this is – but then there’s the other part who just can’t handle it, no matter how illogical it seems.

I also have Koinoiphobia (Fear of groups. For me, anything over four adults is considered a group.). I try to avoid groups and find myself wearing clothes to blend in, especially in a crowd (Maybe no one will notice me? Please?). When I am in a crowd, it’s very difficult to not run to the nearest bathroom and stay in there until everyone is gone, or stay in my car where it’s quiet and safe! I just want to hide somewhere I feel safe. I always come across angry when I’m in a group. But I’m not angry, I am just fighting myself to be there. It’s exhausting, as groups are kind of a part of life.

That’s the ‘real’ me. The one I always try to hide from everyone. The part I keep in the shadows of myself. The one I’ve always feared letting out.

_______________________________________________________________________

Image submitted via email at thefaceofmentalillness@gmail.com

Image submitted via email at thefaceofmentalillness@gmail.com

I always thought it was just “mood swings”…. I didn’t think I needed a diagnosis, but… I got one in my mid-twenties. I wasn’t really surprised, in fact… I expected SOMEthing to be “wrong” with me. I knew that the rapid state at which my mind spun wasn’t very healthy, and I wanted someone to recognize that.
I have been in therapy for much of my life, it has been a life saver for me- in so many ways. I started SERIOUS therapy for my “issues” when I was….somewhere in my mid-twenties. I saw her for 3 years to cope with my behaviors, stress, kids, life, school, and anything else that came up. I knew SOMEthing needed to change with me, therapy was an option- so… I took it. My therapist, Pam, was a nice woman. We clicked. I trusted her, and I opened up to her. She didn’t push meds, I liked that. I didn’t WANT meds, yet…anyway. During the time I was seeing her (sometimes twice a week) I was actively single. I had already been through a divorce at 22, and my fair share of relationships that weren’t working, this being one of the reasons I initially called her. I wasn’t emotionally healthy, and I wanted to be. I typed up a “cast list” for her, it was a compilation of people who were in my life, affect my life and otherwise need to be mentioned. Most of the people on that list I had slept with at one point. They were all my friends, so… why not? I wasn’t kidding when I said actively single, I dated (a lot). Don’t know what you like until you try it, right? (boy, does that open up a can of worms….)
I started classes at my local community college when I turned 25, I needed to wait until my boys were in school fulltime before I could quit my job and turn over a new leaf. I don’t remember the first time I heard the diagnosis bi-polar disorder in a psychology class I was taking….but- the more I read about it the more it resonated with me. I knew I had “issues”, but… I didn’t realize that “they” had a name.
After 3 years (at the ripe age of….29ish), I decided that it was too much for me. I was experiencing fits of rage, agitated depression, sleepless nights, a sexual appetite that made me think I was a sex addict, and a range of other crap. Pam was on board with me and my decision to try medication. It was never NOT an option, I just wanted to get my own shit together first before I actually walked down that road. So, now it’s time to look for a shrink…..ever tried looking for a shrink that listened to you? (for more than 10 minutes?). My first taste of meds (and a shrink) was a nightmare…. Wellbutrin, they had diagnosed me with…. (not bipolar)…. Something. They weren’t listening to me…. And, it annoyed me. Wellbutrin turned me into a totally different person, a zombie. I didn’t laugh anymore, life wasn’t FUN and EXCITING anymore…. I needed a change. So, I found a new shrink, one that came highly recommended, and… he listened.
Since 2001 I have been painting. That was the year after my brother passed in a very tragic car accident. That was the year I picked up a paintbrush, some oil pastels and a canvas. For 12 years I have been expressing myself though art and writing (however, I haven’t written much since being medicated), but the visual art…. That part I have never lost. Some days I have to fight for it, but… I always won. Or shall I say, the creative side of me always won.
Everyone loves the work I did in 2005. 2005 was one of many emotionally charged years…. Somewhere in the middle of the chaos. I loved the work that I was doing, but… it came at an emotional price. I wasn’t medicated then, my art was coming right out of my head… I lost myself in it every time. I can remember the manic nights- acrylic paint and pen & ink- back and forth, dancing with the media.
Soon after, I began medicating with pharmaceuticals. I was somewhere around 30/31 when I started taking the meds that made me “better”. Lamictal and Abilify. That was my cocktail. Seroquel when I got too manic or had too much anxiety (usually, hand in hand)…. And pot smoking always made me feel better. It also enhanced the creative side of me. Not only did I create art, I also modeled for photographers and fine art classes. I was always looking for a creative outlet, and I opened every door I could. I was just beginning to find ME.

For a few years, the meds did their job, I guess. I was still coping with some emotional issues in my life, luckily, I was still in therapy. I was looking for myself, I didn’t know WHO I was…. I just knew who I didn’t want to be. I had failed in 2 relationships after I stopped being “single”, and was looking for that “healthy” one.
I could tell stories of my role as a as a single mother, as a model, as an artist, as a survivor of domestic violence, or as a crazy as bat shit loon. But… I am here to talk about bipolar. Oh wait, those ARE all parts of me… my past has helped to define me. I have grown tremendously over the past 8 years of meds. However, it’s time. Time for me to remove that aspect of my life, and TRY to cope without them. I am tired, tired of a pill making me feel “better”, I am not sure how it will affect me. I have already (with the help of my shrink) taken myself off one. Now, it’s time for the other to go. However, I am both anxious and worried about how removing myself in the middle of grad school will affect my life.
I used to write incessantly, throwing up on the page, thoughts free flowing from my fingers. Sometimes I barely even stopped to see what I was writing. I didn’t edit, I just let it go.

2001
At the edge of the water- I sit- listen to the cracking of the waves….
the sky filled with grey- and the wind picking up speed. I can feel
dampness in the air- ready to explode down like a sheet of broken glass.
I can feel the moisture on my skin- it feels good- as the air is so
heavy- it needs to be cut. Patiently I wait for the rain to come, all
the while- I hold a stone in the palm of my hand. Projecting all of my
worries into it, feeling the energy of the dusk in my hands cascading
around the magick that I am creating.

At last- the rain falls… I raise my head to feel it fall on my face-
like warm tears… and then- a drop falls as if I was crying- and it
reminds me of my loss- and how I should heal. It felt as if my brother
were crying alongside of me – holding me- and keeping me strong.

With all of the energy I could muster- I lunge the stone into the
ocean, letting the current take all the worries away… and to deal with
them as it must.

I step away from the sea- looking into her- and all her glory….
feeling the rain in my clothes…. and smiling….. a small bit of sun
peeks through the clouds- and for a moment I could see beyond them- into
what I had been searching for….

I walked in the rain…. feeling a sense of clarity about what I must
do… and how I must achieve it- and knowing that I will always have my
brother at my side to guide me.

His death brought out my life… and the lives of so many others… and
as much as it hurts to say- had it not been for his spirit finding his
path – I would still be sitting on mine, instead of walking it with
pride.

2002
inside
wanting to scream
loud
and cry
and fight
and want
and have

Outside
laughing
smiling
loving
being

I see what I want
I see what I need
I can hold it in my mind
and it’s screaming to me
I can see it
almost touch it
but stop

desperately looking
for that place
peace
of mind
of soul
looking
searching
yearning
hoping

missing
something
feeling it inside
outside
always

solitude
from the chaos
the suspect
the bullshit

in myself
in the room
in the mind
in my life

almost touching
what I need
for inner sanctity
the essence
of my being
yet afraid to embrace
what it really means

chaos
dysfunction
eruption
without it

days
weeks
months
each day a step to it
each hour a thought of it
each minute a way to get it

too many thoughts
close the mind
to the voices
to the funk
to the dreams

reality
sets in
and
reality
bites

2005
Life is full of would ofs and could ofs and should ofs, that is where people begin to regret, and really, think about what is going on in their lives, at least, one would hope. It’s full of things that distract us from the big picture, the larger things in life that really do matter. Instead of focusing on the tiny details that get lost in the mix. Unfortunately. it’s the tiny details , hundreds of them, thousands of them, times infinity that snowball, to make up what we call the big picture.
Hundreds of seconds of moments in time that we either run through aimlessly with no real direction, but just trying to move forward, as if somehow we will have another glorious moment- that *one* we are looking for…the pot at the end of the rainbow. And, in all reality, once that one moment is gone, there is no taking it back, there is no rewind button in this thing called life, and we can only hope that we have used most of our moments wisely, and with thought and sometimes deliberation, to form our paths, to lay the stones that will rest under our feet as we walk.
The art of free flow writing, to drop your pen onto a piece of stark white paper , allowing it so glide across, forming letters and words and sentences, and maybe it’s not even legible, but, if you stare at it long enough, you begin to see the dance that ensued. The dance between your mind and your hand, the pen and the paper. It’s hardly a dance I’d be willing to abandon, not even if my fingers do seem to guide themselves as they tap around the keyboard. Sometimes my words come fast, and furious, those are the times I wish for an old fashioned typewriter, so that the rhythmic tones of the keys penetrate the air…other times, I am stuck looking at a blank screen, with nothing to say. You can’t doodle with a keyboard, and sometimes starting the process is much like cranking up an old engine using the action of the pen, the turning of the gears, to get it started.
I miss writing. I miss poetry and prose and real life meanderings on the paper. I hope to regain that again, but… without the chaos in my mind.
I am 38 years old this year. I have lived a full life. One of hope, joy and happiness. I have also lived lives that only one can dream of- of fury and rage and hopelessness. I am a survivor of many things, and first being the demons in my mind. I am creating happy art these days, full of hope and faith and love.

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2 thoughts on “The Face of Mental Illness – 11/10/2013

    • It is such an honor to share the work of the people who submit their stories. It’s humbling to read them, and it makes me so happy our blog is helping people.

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