Y’all, I’m gonna tell you two things that drive me crazy… People who call me crazy and people who tell me to cheer up. Probably because I am a little crazy and it can be really fuckin’ hard for me to cheer up.
Okay, so “crazy” isn’t really the right word. In fact, “crazy” is definitely NOT the right word because people suffering from depression really are not crazy. They are just everyday people whose neurotransmitters happen to be a bit off. And my neurotransmitters? Yep, they are off, and, as much as I’d like to just cheer the hell up, some days it can be insanely difficult.
In my opinion, mental health issues are greatly overlooked in most societies, and especially ours. There is a a pretty sizable stigma when it comes to mental health and a lot of misinformation out there. I hear a lot of people spout facts like people only being depressed after big, bad life events or that anyone who needs help dealing with depression and the like, whether it be therapy or medication, is somehow less than and weaker than people who don’t. Yes, society is discussing mental health issues more, and bravo for that, but there are still so many people out there who feel the need to shame others who are struggling because they simply do not understand that us people dealing with these issues aren’t just a bunch of crazies who need to be locked up in looney bins. Struggling day to day with a mental health problem is not a choice.Last I heard, most doctors agree that it is largely due to important neurotransmitters in the brain being out of balance. There’s also genetics, stressful triggers and environmental factors and last I checked, none of these are things people truly have control over either. So stop the shaming, people! Shaming and all these stigmas only lead to people not being comfortable seeking help, or even admit that there is a problem, which is incredibly dangerous because as any person knows, even ones who’ve never dealt with a mental health problem a day in their life, bottling up feelings almost always ends with bad results.
Yes, I truly hate when people call me crazy. Not in that joking “oh you so cray cray” way. In that “if you can’t get yourself out of this funk you’re in for no reason you must really be crazy” way. But, if people insist on still throwing around the C-word for people dealing with their mental well-being then you know what? I’m just gonna have to find a way to own it. I’m so tired of people feeling too ashamed or worried they too might be called “crazy” if they discuss depression or PTSD or Bipolar disorder, etc, that it’s probably time for me to stand up and discuss my own shit. So here it is, my own brand of crazy…
For as long as I can remember my happiness level always seemed to be a bit lower than normal people’s. (“Normal.” I know, what the fuck is “normal?”) The easiest way for me to describe it is, yes, most people have bad days or get cases of the blues, but in general, their happiness line is pretty steady. Well, mine is just a few notches below theirs. It’s not that I was always dressed in black and writing poetry about how life and the whole world sucked and listening to emo (stigma alert!), I do feel happiness and I am for the most part happy, just not as outgoing and carefree and bubbly about it as some are. As I started getting older, there were a lot more peaks and valleys messing up that steady line. I went through a fairly traumatic event when I was 13 and it was then that all this was brought to light. That event lead to an understandable bout of what people around me called “the blues.” But those blues kept intensifying and intensifying. At the time, no one had ever talked to me about depression. Honestly, I don’t even know if I knew what it was back then. I was ashamed I couldn’t just put the event behind me and “toughen up” as I was recommended to do, so of course I didn’t tell anyone about these feelings of despair and hopelessness that were spiraling out of control inside me. Instead, I decided it would probably be easier just to give up because something must really have been wrong with my head and I ate a bottle of pills. I survived it. Clearly, as I am here to type the tale. And maybe it was the best thing that could have happened to me because finally a doctor was forced to explain to me my brain wasn’t exactly in tip top shape. I’m sure he had better doctor lingo he threw at me, but that’s how I remember it. Not in tip top shape, but that didn’t mean there was anything wrong with me, it just meant I had a bigger battle on my hands than just getting over a case of the blues because something bad happened to me.
Over the years I’ve seen many different doctors and tried many different drugs. I’ve been diagnosed with different forms of depression. Some say I have Bipolar II disorder, which is a more mild version of Bipolar I, since I do have depressive and manic episodes, but not often, and, luckily, not full-blown. Another doctor told me I would be better described as having Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified because my bipolar symptoms are so brief and mild. (Nope, being Bipolar doesn’t automatically mean you are bouncing off the walls with joy, snorting up lines of coke and running amok all over the city for like three day debauchery benders. Even though severe manic episodes can lead to behaviors in such a fashion, isn’t that more the version of Bipolar Hollywood has shoved down our throats? Again, stigma alert!) One doctor dismissed the Bipolar diagnoses altogether and said it was Dysthymic Disorder, which is a form of long-term major depression, but the symptoms have never been severe enough to prevent me from functioning in normal life. Regardless of the diagnoses, struggling with my mental health has also resulted in a struggle with anxiety disorders and social phobias (as if just being depressed in general just wasn’t enough fun!) and a large part of these are because I was just always so damn scared that people would uncover how fucked up and crazy I really am because I couldn’t just be a normal carefree kid.
I’ve been on mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, anti-anxieties, MAOI’s, and had cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychoeducation therapy. Understandably, I’ve been less than open about all this because, anti-psychotics? Psychoeducation? Suicide attempts? Gasp! How embarrassing. I MUST be crazy with all those words floating about.
Well, I’m not. I’m just a girl trying to get through life like every other person out there, as is anyone else with illnesses like these. I’m no longer on any form of medication or in any sort of therapy. I’m not saying I probably couldn’t still benefit from it, because I definitely was in no way cured. My happiness line is still a notch or two below “normal” peoples, and there are still peaks and valleys in it, but at least now I am aware of why. I’m not that 13 year old girl who is scared out of her mind thinking she is literally crazy because she can’t just be fucking happy like everyone else and who has no idea that there are other people just like her out there. Now when my line starts to dip into a valley I know that it’s probably just those damn neurotransmitters at it again, making me feel empty and tired, and sometimes hopeless, and I know that, eventually, the valley will pass and I’ll once again be back to that happy line. And you know what? I’m okay with that. I’m okay with knowing there will be days where I just can’t get my head on straight and snap out of it, and that there will be times when scary or stressful or bad events happen and my brain intensifies them instead of letting me just deal with them. It doesn’t make me jump up and down with joy knowing this will likely be a constant battle, but I’m okay with it and prepared to keep on fighting. The only thing I’m still not really okay with are the times when I have to question my happiness. When I feel these bursts of joy, these “everything is so fucking amazing and perfect” feelings and I have to interrupt those feelings and ask myself, am I really just happy about something, or is this a manic time and there is soon a possibility of overwhelming sadness just lurking around the corner? It sucks having to question myself like that and not just letting a really happy day be a really happy day. But like I said, it’s a constant battle, and I will keep on fighting it.
It feels good being able to put all this into words. Many years of my life have been spent slapping on a happy face so no one would suspect I was anything other than happy. That I was different. I would guess that after all that practice, I’ve gotten pretty good at it too because I think there are many people in my life who have no idea I struggle with this. Although, I’m guessing all my family knows plenty of my mental health status since I did a brief stint in the psychiatric ward of a hospital a few months after my suicide attempt, but I’ve had friends and boyfriends who know nothing about it. At first it was mainly because I thought, God who wants to be around some chick who needed anti-psychotics?! But, I will admit, now I don’t discuss it with friends and potential suitors as much because, in the past, I’ve found that people who don’t have experience with these issues and aren’t sensitive to it tend to throw it back at me. “I don’t think you really need to be this upset, I think you’re just going all bipolar on me” said one boyfriend. No, asshat, it is not me going “all bipolar on you!” Any girl, regardless of her mental health status, is going to be royally PISSED when you miss her birthday! With future suitors, I think I will leave my past and current struggles with depression as something to only be discussed with someone I am having serious feelings for (although, I guess now that it’s out here on the internet they could probably just read all about it for themselves. But, if they are reading this blog, they also know of my mild obsession with Tom Hardy, and I would guess if they know that and still want to date me, they are probably already aware of my particular brand of crazy!). I don’t want men I’m just getting to know and casually dating thinking my mood swings (I hate calling them that because it just makes me sound like I’m having a bad case of PMS) will affect how I function in our relationship or treat them. Get to know me first and then let me tell you about my bouts with depression and be wowed that in fact, my ups and downs don’t have me acting all crazy on you or have my brain turning small fights into huge, life altering tragedies! My ups and downs are my ups and downs and I am indeed capable of working them out on my own and not taking them out on you! Yes, I may not always be a bubbly, shining version of myself, but you will have bad days too, and I will always be understanding of that and want nothing but the same in return.
Anywho, I’ve gotten a bit off topic here. Regardless of who knows what about me, what this post is really about is this – we all have our problems. Let’s try and cut each other some slack and stop participating in the many stigmas that are out there in terms of mental health disorders. Instead, let’s focus on educating people on them and be able to have open, non-shaming discussions about the different types of disorders plaguing large numbers of people in the world. The more it’s discussed, the more people will know they are not alone in this battle, and the less alone you are in a battle, the more likely you are to survive it.