a decade. ten years. ten years have gone by since i walked out of dr. elizabeth kastelic’s office at john hopkins with a prescription slip and a diagnosis.
ten years ago, at the age of nineteen- i crawled into the backseat of my dad’s SUV and shuffled my iPod to blast a lesser known evanescence song.
ten years ago, i had no idea that my journey wasn’t ending- it was just getting started. there was no relief as i sobbed hysterically down route 97 towards home. my brain was filled with all the ways that life just became so much harder. all the judgements. all the stereotypes. all the heartache. all the awkward silences that would occur when it came up in conversation.
it never came up. my diagnosis with bipolar disorder. if you know me, i’m willing to bet $20 that you have no idea that i have bipolar disorder [unless i’ve spilled my whole heart to you with good intentions]. i am also willing to bet $20 that you didn’t know it’s been on my heart for ten years.
i’ve tried seven medication combinations in the last ten years. i’ve gone through withdrawals after self medicating stints. i’ve damaged most of the relationships in my life and during insanely lengthy impulse spells, wrecked a lot of my self worth. i’ve spent the healthy months repairing hearts and bonds; as well as building healthy habits and ways to manage my stress. the last ten years; they’ve been the hardest. because the truth is- mental health scares people. there is a stigma about mental health & i am hell bent on breaking it down.
mental illness is not in our control. it is not something we can cure by eating healthier or working out. we have to work every minute of every day to be seen as honest, as normal, as functional. when i was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder at age eight, i was placed on a well-known drug to combat the anxious feelings. little did i know that nearly twelve years later, that drug had completely depleted the seratonin levels in my brain [a less common side effect]- causing severe depressive episodes during my teen years. judgement is hard for me. so i spend most of my time hiding my diagnosis because i fear that people will suddenly think i have no credibility or worth.
this ten year mark is a big milestone- not because i’ve cured myself. it’s a big milestone because i have survived the last ten years. i have risen higher in the last ten years. i have learned to self heal in the last ten years. i’ve called therapists in the early hours of the morning. i’ve swallowed the pills, tried the newly marketed anti depressants, had panic attacks on the beltway, screamed at the people who love me, cried because of the people who love me; i’ve broken hearts, watched people walk away, let people back in & most importantly- i’ve started to find myself. the last ten years have been just a part of my journey. not more or less important than anyone else’s. but, for me- i have overcome the greatest battle in this diagnosis. the one i had with myself.
it took me six years to accept it. to accept the societal label and to shake the stereotypes off. for ten years, i’ve done all the hard work- the real hard work. the hard work no one sees. the therapy sessions, the evaluations, the weight gain, the withdrawals, the side effects, the depression, the manic episodes, the euphoric episodes, the numbness, the disappointment, the growth. all of it belongs to me. and so this is me taking my gold medal for ten years of dedication to myself, my head space & my mental health.
“at the end of the day, we are all a little broken; that’s how the light gets in”. -ernest hemingway
here’s to the last decade of finding myself. And to the next decade which i’ve dedicated to learning how to not lose myself again.