Mental Health

Accepting Her.

Behind Her Smile (4)

Accepting my diagnosis

A few posts ago I briefly mentioned my diagnoses with you all, Bipolar II and Depression. I have been diagnosed with depression since 2003 and Bipolar II since earlier this year. Until the exact diagnosis of Bipolar II, I was diagnosed with a general mood disorder. Acceptance takes understanding, patience, vulnerability and taking the time to educate yourself.

Fact. As many as 1 in 4 people will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point in their life. By 2030 depression will be the leading cause of disability world wide. WHAT! Surprisingly, I am not shocked. The word about mental illness is spreading like wild fire, thankfully. People are being more proactive when it comes to taking care of their mental health. Not that I want the numbers, of those who live with mental illness, to rise but maybe that means people are advocating for others and themselves more often.

Fact. About half of mental disorders begin before the age of 14. I was diagnosed with depression at the age of 12. Also, was hospitalized twice before the age of 14. Mental illnesses aren’t “adult only” conditions. In my opinion the earlier your diagnosis the earlier you can get the help you need. Since I was diagnosed at a fairly young age, I feel as if I have the upper hand against my struggles. It’s caused me to learn my body way deeper than I could have ever imagined.

What am I supposed to do now?

Before I was diagnosed, I knew I was always a bit different. I knew I was more sensitive, moody, irritable and certain situations (triggers, but didn’t know that at the time) brought out emotions I had zero control over. Emotions that would last for days, weeks or even months. I needed help from myself. Bipolar II and Depression are both illnesses that cause constant internal turmoil. When you struggle with these illnesses, especially, at a young age you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I felt as if I was plagued with constant confusion and in a state of distress with nobody around to help me. With my chaotic life I had to and still have to slowly but surely accept the person I was born to be. I had to teach myself how to ultimately function again—I’m still teaching myself how to function, let’s be honest. The more I became in tune to what my life was going to be like I had to take a few steps before getting to where I am now.

Understanding. Understanding my diagnosis was the first step I had to take. It meant constantly reminding myself that mental illness isn’t who I am but, it is a part of me for the rest of my life. It means being honest with myself. Knowing that possibly a simple task can trigger a manic or depressive episode. The hardest pill for me to swallow, literally, was understanding the fact I have to take medicine everyday the rest of my life. Mental illness isn’t an “on the surface” disability, which is why it’s called an “invisible illness”. People label  you as a hypochondriac, dramatic or negative. After a while I started believing that maybe I was just super sensitive. Causing me to stop taking my much needed mood stabilizers and anti-depressants on my own, which led to withdrawals–experiencing worse symptoms than I was originally having. Understanding also comes with not listening to pill-shamers. Some people are able to manage with talk therapy, exercise or other non-medicinal methods. But for many, including myself, meds are a vital part of my treatment. It has taken time for me to understand the role that they play, but I do have a full understanding of how it aids to my quality of life.

Psychiatric disorders will likely persist if left untreated. I always knew my parents/sister were going to have to ALWAYS be involved in my medical life no matter how old I am. My conditions would go untreated more often than not if I didn’t have a positive support system who was/is always tapped into the state of my mental health. The last thing I had to understand was fully accepting the fact that I will always need people who accepted me as I am.

Educating. The next step I’ve had to take is educating, which includes not only myself but others. Of course when I was younger I didn’t research treatment options, coping skills, self-care practices, advocacy, and everything else I have now emerged myself into. I have learned that the more educated I am the easier it is to inform others of what lies under the surface. Educating myself is always ongoing and everyday I learn something new. I didn’t really know where to start, and honestly I don’t know if I really wanted to know details about the unknown. How did I start educating myself? I started talking about it more, the more I spoke about it the more questions people asked, forcing me to get more familiar with a part of me that had been ignored for so long. Educating also meant getting the facts and knowing the difference between what mental illness is and what it is not.

Acting. The last step I’ve had to take is acting. Acting on educating myself and understanding what is yet to come. This step reinforces the acceptance of mental illness, my blog isn’t the first thing I’ve done to act stopping the stigma that surrounds mental illness. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I offer nonjudgemental listening, support and encouragement. Acting has helped me find a new sense of self, allowing me to rid myself of those who were toxic to my acceptance, moving past shame and sustain happiness on a level I didn’t think I would ever reach. Acting isn’t a step I have done alone and like I mentioned before, will never be able to do alone.

Slowly but surely I started taking steps in accepting every part of who I am and will always will be.

xx

Ashley

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