Monday, August 16, 2010

~Mental Health Monday Guestblog~

Today's guestblogger is Bec. You can find her at her own blog Me plus Bipolar and on twitter at @allinherhead

My story began in early childhood. I remember in kindergarten I was given the lead role in a play, which was a mouse. I was the smallest child in the grade, so it made sense. The girl that wanted it, who was also the most popular girl, was the tallest so she did not get the role. She started to spread rumours about me. Since then I’ve never had a lot of friends. I learned at that early age how hard it can be to trust people, so I closed myself off.

The older I got, the more shy and introverted I became. High school was hard. I never felt like I fit in. I was starting to realize something was wrong with me, but I didn’t know what, or what to do. I wanted an adult to take over and help me. I was too scared to ask. Reading some of the journals I kept during that time, I can now see that I was depressed.

In year ten I went on a school camp, where one of the sessions was learning about self-esteem. To this day I still remember the teacher saying, in front of everyone, that I was a perfect example of someone with no self-esteem. I wanted to die. I was so embarrassed. The worst thing was that the school counselor was standing next to her, and he didn’t do anything. I wanted him to pull me up afterward and talk, or something. Nothing happened.

In my last year of high school, I’d managed to make a few stable friendships. I finally took a risk, and told my best friend, about a guy that I liked. I had not had a boyfriend before and was scared that maybe he wasn’t ‘cool’ enough, even though I was friends with him. That was a big mistake. She decided that maybe he was worth it and began to chase him and put me down in front of him. They ended up going out together.

That had been the one time I had really opened myself up and it backfired. I retreated further and further into myself. I was convinced I was too fat, and became very close to being anorexic. I had a part-time job and worked from 4-9pm after school. This seemed perfect because I could tell everyone that I ate dinner at work, and lunch at school. The fact was, I rarely ate anything. I was unwell and didn’t know what to do. No one questioned me about the weight loss. No one seemed to care.

I moved out of home at 18. I wanted to live my own life. I realize now that it wasn’t so much that my parents didn’t care, it was that they didn’t know how to show emotions. Moving out seemed to trigger mum. She passed away from cancer last year, and I will never know exactly what was wrong with her. She was only 52. I think it was paranoid schizophrenia, but I don’t know for sure. For a long time I was the only person she would trust. Everyone else, including her family, were apparently out to get her. There were stories of a pregnancy when she was nineteen that no one knew about, her boss at work 20 years later was apparently involved in the kidnapping of the baby, whose father was a famous musician. She lost her job twice. There was a lot more, but it is a whole story on its own.

When mum died last year, I was left to sort through her belongings. Neither dad nor my brother would do it. I found buried, amongst other things, a lot of paperwork that shed light on a few things, and opened up many more questions. Mum apparently had post-natal depression with my younger brother, and around that time my dad was suicidal. She had kept his suicide letters. I found paper work that shows mum’s sister had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals, and most likely committed suicide (I was only two at the time). It seems mum had been referred to psychiatrists and psychologists on numerous occasions, went to the first appointment, and never went back again due to paranoia.

I now understand why, when I was considering university options for when I left school, that she talked me out of studying psychology. 7 years later, I still wanted to study psychology, and am now doing so at uni.

I got married at 21 and have a great relationship with my husband. Shortly after we were engaged he was transferred interstate for work. I was unable to work in the area I had previously been, because IT services weren’t required in the small town we now lived in. My depression really hit hard and my lack of eating returned.

I hadn’t known what to do or how to ask for help, as I’d been bought up to avoid anything to do with emotions and to bury it deep in my mind. I ended up self-harming with the hope that someone would see and force me to get help. Eventually, I could no longer hide it. We had a friend who was a doctor and he diagnosed me with depression. I had so much trouble talking. I refused to see a psychologist because I was scared. I barely said anything to my doctor friend. But I was too scared to see a doctor that I didn’t know. That was when I started taking medication.

Three years after that move, we moved interstate again. This was when I started studying psychology. I convinced myself for a while that I was okay. I wasn’t and had another major crash. I managed to take myself to the local doctor and start back on medication. He was terrible. He believed the sole cause of my depression was that I was married with no children. It didn’t matter that I didn’t want children at that stage of life. He also ridiculed me for studying psychology, which he thought was quackery, given my ‘condition’. He made no effort to remember me between appointments and I had to re-tell everything each time. I don’t know why I put up with him. He eventually retired.

I found another doctor, this time one with experience and interest in mental health. I still see him today. He is absolutely fantastic. I feel very lucky that I found him. Earlier this year I was diagnosed with bipolar II and started to see a psychiatrist, who is also wonderful. I am finally getting the help I need and have learned that it is okay to ask for help.

A couple of months ago I finally told my dad about my mental illness. He asked what bipolar was, to which I said ‘manic-depression’ and he huffed and went back to watching TV. That was the entire conversation. I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t care, he just doesn’t know what to do or say about it. He doesn’t know that I know about his depression and previous suicide attempts.

I’m now 28 and think I finally have a winning combination of doctors, medication and support in my life. I’m slowly ‘coming out’ and hope to break the cycle of hiding mental illness in my family, which has only made things worse for everyone.


Inside the Mind of a... said...

I'm so glad you've finally found hopefully a good combo! You've lived through a lot and that just means you have the strength to keep going :)

stay strong!!

Bec said...

Thanks Kris for giving me the opportunity to share my story.

Thanks Lisa :)

Chris said...

Great post! I'm so glad to hear you've found some balance. It was wonderful to read your story. I find other people's stories to be inspirational, and they help me to keep up the good fight. :)


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