We are delighted to welcome as our guest mental health blogger Sandra Charron. Of her own blog (sandracharron.com) Sandra writes:
This blog is for those of us who struggle with a mental illness. This blog is for those who love someone struggling with mental illness. This blog is for those who wish to understand mental illness. While writing this blog, I will be standing on a very adorably decorated soap box and will speak out very openly and honestly about my own diagnosis of bipolar II disorder (among other mental illnesses.)
We love her blog’s tagline: “I could’t outrun my mental illness, so I embraced it instead.”
I’ve been battling mental illness for three years…well, for three years that I’m aware of. I now know from replaying my life over and over and over again in the farthest parts of my mind lest the closest parts engulf me entirely, well, I can now understand that some of my behaviours stemming back to my adolescence and even my childhood were not, what one would call “normal.”
Of course there is no such thing as normal, so I’m certainly not basing my mental history on society’s expectations, but there are certain aspects of my life that should have been looked into sooner than three years ago.
The only reason medical intervention occurred in 2013 is because I became so depressed that my ability to function as a wife, mother, and a nursing student began diminishing slowly. Day by day I would find my mind clouded with more and more black fog, until eventually, I could no longer see any light. At this time, I was diagnosed as having Major Depressive Disorder, but one year later the diagnosis was finally established as bipolar II disorder.
Now that I am semi-familiar with how bipolar II disorder manifests for me, I hope and pray for certain behaviours; behaviours that should, in a perfect world, mean I’m on the right track, and not about to derail. When that train derails, I take down entire neighbourhoods with me; dark smoke hiding the debris so well that people are unable to help, since they can’t even see where they’re going. So I wish.
- I wish that my mind will drift into a peaceful sleep and routinely allow me 7-8 hours of sleep a night. If I begin functioning often and well off of 3-4 hours a night I know I’m becoming manic, which is not good. And if I start looking for every horizontal surface in the vicinity, seeking upwards to 16 hours of sleep a day, I know I’m slipping into depression.
- I wish that I can go into a retail outlet and walk out with only the items I was seeking to purchase when I walked in. If I walk out with a pair of $350.00 Michael Kors sunglasses when I already purchased the similar Michael Kors pair last summer, than I know I’m either heading into mania, or I’m there. If I can’t get out of bed long enough to put clean socks on to go to the store, I know I’m heading into Depressionville, population 1, and the last stop will be saturated in that dense, smoky cloud of dust that the train derailment I mentioned earlier has caused.
- I wish that my thoughts aren’t racing so fast that I’m unable to write down every item my frantic mind wants to include on my ‘to-do’ list. If this happens, we’re looking at a possible collision in the busiest intersection in town, when the train flips completely onto its side. Casualties may be involved in the form of people I’ve made promises too or lunch dates I’ve canceled at the last minute because my mind is that busy making other plans, which it won’t fulfil either. If I can’t get out of bed long enough to put clean socks on to go on that lunch date, the train doesn’t crash, but it comes to a halt right there in the middle of the intersection during rush hour traffic.
- I wish that my stomach doesn’t flip flop in that tell-tale sign of an impending anxiety attack. Swallowing copious amounts of saliva, I seek refuge away from people. Preferably in my bed. But even that doesn’t help when I’m writhing around pinned beneath the train.
- I pray that I can hide my pain from my family. I smile A LOT. And make stupid jokes. My pathetic comedy routine is an attempt to morph into another human who doesn’t have a locomotive ramming through her heart every. Damn. Day. Unless of course I’m manic, in which case, I actually think my stupid jokes are funny. And then I just appear ridiculous. No train needed to accentuate this metaphor.
- I pray that I don’t overshare. I talk a lot. All the time. It’s a curse really. I’m one of those people who don’t listen because I’m always talking. So my purpose in life is to be a part of the movement that eradicates the stigma associated with mental illness. In doing so I feel it necessary, and authentic, to tell people…my friends and family, what’s inside my wreck of a head. And then, I’ll realize that my head is not in fact a wreck filled with useless knowledge. It is filled with glorious insight that not everyone is privy to or can understand, and in a grand standing gesture, I halt the train with my hand; stopping that bad boy before it crushes me beneath its metal wheels (are the wheels metal? I don’t even know. Whatever. Just go with it), and in a moment of clarity I realize that my curse is also my gift.