Last year at this time I was in the deepest depression of my life. In my 20s I was diagnosed with bipolar I with rapid cycling and mixed episodes. Since then I have made it my mission to learn to live the healthiest I could with this illness. I researched medication, diet, yoga, meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy and so much more. Much of my research was quite in-depth leading to credentials that allowed me to teach on a variety of topics such as yoga for special populations and even graduating from college with a degree in somatic psychology.
Even with this foundation I still found myself almost catatonic last year. Medication had quit working and I was unable to engage in all the other activities I knew had worked in the past. Options were running out when I agreed to electro convulsive therapy, ECT. ECT treatments began in March 2020 and continued for five months. After 18 treatments my final treatment was in July. The treatments are the scariest thing I have ever faced. It was easily as traumatic as being physically abused by my father as a child or being date raped at 16. I hope I never have to face having full anesthesia and the electrocution of my brain ever again, not to mention 18 times! Even with this said, ECT saved my life. It somehow brought me back to life and allowed me to envision another way out of my depression other than suicide.
In the six months since my last treatment I’ve made the focus of each day to do my best to get better. Sometimes that simply meant to feed myself and get out of bed for a few hours, but now it means dancing, yoga, talking with friends, being creative and teaching again. I am finally starting to recognize myself. It doesn’t mean I am cured, it means my illness is currently manageable. One bad day can again really just be one bad day. The best part is the good days far outweigh the bad and dreams for the future have returned to my head.
I’ve always found it important to live my life openly and with transparency. I decided to write this partly because I believed it would be cathartic. Some people may find these details of my private struggle disturbing. Some people may fear me and some will pity me and yes that is a bummer, but there will be plenty of others who will realize they are not alone in their struggles with mental health. Mental illness is not something to be ashamed of or hidden. If less people thought this it would be discussed more openly and maybe more people would get the help they need.
I truly believe one of my purposes in life is to be brave and speak openly about my struggles so that others might feel it is OK to ask for help and those without mental illness might recognize that we are good people who need help and understanding. That we live with illnesses we never asked for and that most of us are doing our very best to live fulfilling and productive lives. We are simply people that want to smile and be loved just like you.
National Alliance on Mental Illness. https://www.nami.org/Home
Suicide Prevention Lifeline. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-8255