The way i just wrote that whole story seems so clinical. I hate writing that way. But I wanted to give those I love the history...so that maybe they could understand what i've been dealing with, and maybe they could look back and see the signs that were in front of us all. Here's the thing....I can't wrap my own head around it. I don't know how to get you to understand. I don't know what this means going forward. But I do know one thing....this too has its purpose. Maybe its just my inner hypochondriac speaking, but I've always known I would have to deal with some kind of illness, and that it would be significant in my life. Maybe that's even why I get so freaked out about every little ache and pain. I mean really...i'm quite obsessive about it. Annoyingly so, some might say ;). I was prepared as much as I could be for some kind of physical illness. I was in no way prepared for a mental one. I mean, I know myself....people like me don't have a mental illness, right? I know that logically its an absurd thought, but it's one that apparently i'm fighting against. Moving forward, i want to ask for everyone's patience. This is a frustrating time for me, and I know its frustrating for some of you that are closest to me. But it's all going to work out, and I know that because God always has a purpose. And I will discover that purpose and use it for good. That is my promise.
"It's the loneliest feeling in the world--to find yourself standing up when everyone else is sitting down. To have everybody look at you and say "what's the matter with her?" I know what it feels like. Walking down an empty street, listening to the sound of your own footsteps. Shutters closed, blinds drawn, doors locked against you. And you aren't sure whether you're walking towards something, or if you're just walking away."
I didn't write that quote, but i most certainly can identify with it. I've been trying to decide how to write about this subject. The reality is I don't know how. But i'm going to anyway, because it's important. It's important because i need to be heard. It's important because somewhere out there somebody is going through what i have, and nobody wants to talk about it. So I will.
I think I've spent most of my life feeling a little like an outcast. I felt like that with my friends growing up, I felt like that with my family....It wasn't anything they did or didn't do, I just felt that way. Like i was holding my breath, waiting for them to run away from me. This may come as a shock to those who have known me my whole life because I never really talked about it, but its true. I guess as I got older I just assumed everyone felt that way. And maybe they do....I believe we all have it in us to feel scared we aren't enough in some way. When I was in middle school I began to notice my tendency to drop into what I know now was depressive episodes. It was intense, and I remember specifically being in 7th grade, lying on my bed to the glow of christmas lights I had hung in my room, listening to music I had recorded from the radio. I remember crying myself to sleep sometimes, just because i felt misunderstood or sad. I didn't talk about it because I didn't know how. I was afraid I wasn't normal. The first real time i remember atleast trying to talk about it was with my friend i've known the longest in this world. She was staying the night, and while we laid in our respective beds I just began crying. She heard me sniffling and asked what was wrong. I couldn't tell her because I didn't know. She probably doesn't even remember that experience, but I do.
In high school I forgot about that stuff mostly...I was too busy trying to find where I fit and having fun. You see, I have these two sides to me. On one hand I can be talkative, energetic and a ton of fun. On the other I can be broody, quiet and extremely introverted. I've always done my best writing during those times by the way. Looking back I wish I would have recognized things for what they were. But I was so afraid of being different, afraid of being weak or fragile. Surely everyone else felt just like this too, right? I tell you all this now because some people might ask "well where did this come from out of the blue?" It's not out of the blue. You just didn't know about it.
The past three years especially have been my very own version of Dante's Inferno. My experiences themselves haven't been that bad per se, but strictly speaking about the raging battle inside of me. And now i'm just tired. The pivotal moment i'm sure was being car-jacked three years ago. That really became the catalyst for what was to come. As a result of that event, I felt like everything I had ever struggled with came back to the surface to haunt me. After the panic attacks started came a really really bad bout with depression. I'm not sure i would have survived through that as well had it not been for an angel during that period of time. She knows who she is. It was very apparent for me why I had been sent there to her and her family. I needed her and she needed me. Funny how Heavenly Father works things out like that, ya know? It wasn't until after I had been struggling with panic attacks and depression for some time that I finally sought counseling. It took them about 10 minutes to diagnose me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The sessions helped and i refused medication because i didn't believe in it. Not for me anyway. Plus i was hanging on to the hope that it would all just go away. During this time I also developed a bit of social anxiety. I had never dealt with that before, and I watched myself helplessly as I became flaky....I would be on my way to some event or meeting and just turn around and go home. I just couldn't face other people sometimes. I don't like flaky people, because I had never been that. It was really hard for me because I couldn't control it. I would go home and find the smallest space in my room to hide in. There was a small space between my bed and the wall that was my favorite. That summer I moved home and started feeling a bit better, so I thought i was in the clear....foolish me. As I moved again and began the stressful schedule of going to school full time and working full time, the panic attacks got worse. way worse. The only thing that made me really feel better was to call my mom or go to Provo to hang out with my brother and his wife. I should have sought help, but I just kept holding on to that hope that one day it would just stop. I'm not sure at what point exactly that it happened, but the panic attacks took over my life. I'm talking full on panic disorder. Sometimes a few times a week, sometimes a few times a day. Sometimes they even lasted ALL day. Wanna know what a panic attack feels like? Pretend you are having a heart attack and there is nobody to help you, you feel the terror as the reality sets in that you are getting ready to die and can't do anything to stop it. That's what it feels like. It seems extreme and over dramatic, but its the truth. It is very traumatic. Over and over again. Even just thinking about it now makes my skin crawl. Can you see how this could make you depressed? Through it all i just began to feel numb...mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
My sister once said I wear my panic attacks like a badge of honor. You're darn right I do. I've earned it. It's the toughest thing i've ever had to deal with, and i wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. Not a soul. So I will feel proud of myself for making it through all of that completely unmedicated. I felt like xanax was a cop-out, even when i wanted something to make me feel calm. I didn't want an addiction problem either. As I moved back to NC and took on a very stressful job, things just got worse. Panic attacks, depression....I ended up back in counseling this spring. This guy was awesome, but we made a lot of ground and I felt like I was done. And that was a mistake. During this time I also started talking to my doctor about my panic attacks. I had decided I was ready to try medication because it wouldn't go away and I was just so tired of fighting. Of course I picked the one doctor who doesn't believe in medication until absolutely necessary...and I'm really grateful for that. At the time not so much. I saw him several times over the next few months before he finally suggested something for my anxiety. Physically everything checked out, so he put me on an anti-depressant that is commonly used for anxiety disorders. At first I thought it was okay...i was sleeping a bit better. But the side effects were a doozy and I didn't much care for them. about the time the medication was supposed to kick in, I ended up at the beach with my family for vacation. I noticed that week that not only did my anxiety pick back up, but I also was feeling kind of empty again...depressed. The next few weeks, my anxiety and panic attacks got way worse, my mood swings escalated, my fatigue was incredibly bad....it really is kind of a blur to be honest. I ended up in the hospital because I had the worst panic attack i've probably ever had (which is saying alot) and couldn't stop crying. They pulled me off the medication and I went to see my doctor. After a very long conversation detailing my experience on the anti-depression, the nature of my panic attacks, and other things, he said "I'm about 95% sure you're bipolar." Let me just tell you, I never wanted to hear something like that. I've been devastated ever since. But something about it resonated in my gut...almost like i knew. I knew he was right. He told me that one of the quickest ways to tell if someone was bipolar was to put them on a unipolar medication and watch them get worse. We still have some tests to do before the definitive diagnosis, but I just kind of know. I can't explain how, but I know my own truth.
I just want you all to know that I've had a ton to write about this past month. I just haven't because i didn't know what to write. Does that make any sense at all? If there were a word to describe both fantastic and horrible at the same time, I would rename the month of August. I had so much fun with my family as we went down to the beach and spent some time together. My brother and his wife (along with their two adorable kids) came to NC and we were all together for the first time since before they had kids. I never wanted it to end, and i never wanted them to go back. I've been in such a struggle for some time now, and it finally reached its pinnacle this past month. So that beach trip...it was more than just a vacation from my job. It was a vacation from myself. I truly truly desire to start writing more in depth about some of my struggles, and feel like i should do so. But i've been holding back because i'm scared. Scared of what people i love will think. Scared you will all think i'm being way too personal, or that i want pity or attention, or that i'm just being dramatic. Scared you won't take me seriously. But i have a drive that is beyond all of you, not because i don't love you, but because I feel like I have a duty to write about my experiences so that someone out there, someone who doesn't have the amazing support system I do, will know that they aren't alone. Because alone is sometimes a very scary place to be.