Over the years I've had a few nervous breakdowns where I actively sought out professional help.
1. In 1991 watching my neighbor's house burn down with my neighbor in it. I saw a guidance counselor for several months. I am still afraid of fires and dark, sooty spaces, as opposed to embracing them with open arms and legs like the rest of society.
2. In 1998/1999 when I had my first manic episode. In the year prior I had started therapy and medication for intense anger and depression. I was misdiagnosed with ADHD and the ritalin and antidepressants prescribed to me triggered a manic episode that culminated in an inability to sleep, eat, or return to school. I was hospitalized for about a week or so and treated for bipolar for a couple of years. However the medicine did not work very well and made me very sick so I stopped it. This was a very, very bad idea but I was 19 at the time and very tired of vomiting all my meals and taking public transit to doctor's appointments.
3. In 2003 after being shut in my apartment because of agoraphobia from stopping my meds and some trauma from various incidents that had happened to me. I went to therapy for about a year, then went back to being a shut in.
4. In 2006 after returning to work. The stress was too much to handle, especially working next to someone who referred to herself in the third person as Boomquisha when she was angry. But I didn't stick with treatment. It extended into 2008 because of many reasons. My mom almost died of liver failure, my husband was considering leaving me, and I had just moved to an apartment heavily infested with bed bugs. Bed bugs are enough to bring anyone to their knees. After we moved apartments, my mom recovered, and we went to couple's therapy, everything was better.
5. In 2010 after many sleepless nights trying to graduate college and the death of both of my grandparents on my dad's side, I started going to therapy, where every session I denied I had bipolar disorder to my therapist who insisted I had it.
6. In 2011 after I failed history. I remember calling my friends sobbing, "I wish I was dead!" and they took me out for chocolate tacos. It was the kindest thing anyone's ever done. However I went off my antidepressants because they obviously were not working.
7. In 2013 I began feeling very reactive to everything and was unable to calm down. My reaction to everything was, "I wish I was dead." and also, "I wish everyone would leave me alone!" No matter what music I listened to, games I played, projects I began, my every waking thought was preoccupied with thoughts of death.
This lasted for a very long time, probably until June 2014, but the worst time was just after Veterans Day. I was in an accelerated eight week course and my thoughts were racing so much I could not focus on my classwork. After I sent an email to my professor asking to extend the deadline, I sat in my bed for hours crying. I felt like a strobe light was going off in my brain. I could not sleep because my brain was all lit and noisy and I did not want to be awake because my every thought was of jumping off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. And I did not want to die. So I just laid there blinking for about five hours and then stayed in the shower all morning. I called in sick to work and got on the phone with my insurance company to try to find a doctor that could take me. I should have gone to the emergency room, but I did not want to be hospitalized again.
Over the next several months I saw a series of doctors for treatment until I found a good one and the right medication and I think I can finally say I am on the road to recovery.
After my latest nervous breakdown phase (November 2013-June 2014) I have been very aggressive getting the help that I need. I fought hard to make sure I was seeing the right doctor. I tried different meds and tried to keep an open mind but advocated for myself and my feelings. I have begun to stick to a routine for taking good care of myself.
I think the best thing for my mental health is taking a walk outside. You know, besides really good drugs and proper nutrition. It just feels good for the soul to do something to take care of myself each day. I look up at the trees and feel it is a gift that they give me shade.
This November, on the anniversary that the strobe light that was my manic episode went off in my brain and tried to kill me, my friends have invited me to participate in Baltimore's Color Run.
So you know I had to say yes.
If you are reading this and are having trouble coping with something, know that you are not alone. That you are a strong warrior, worth more than you'll ever know. Now go out there and be the badass motherfucker that you are.