It’s mental health awareness week once again. Encouraged by others who’ve shared their experiences with mental health problems I’ll tell parts of my story here and now.
Since my 16th birthday I’ve continously been accompanied by bipolar disorder and social anxiety.
Back in high school I wouldn’t be able to get up one day, almost overnight someone seemed to have filled black ink into my heart, soul and neuronal system. After a few months my family noticed changes in my behavior, I became more and more silent, started to isolate myself from friends and retreated from most other social contexts.
Black ink – that is my term to describe the condition of severe depression. Imagine a glass of water and picture a dash of black ink and how it changes the nature of water – hard to see through. The look into the glass is as affected as the look out of it if you were inside.
(Besides that, mania is like water with lots of bubbles…)
Well, like other people with severe mental health conditions I witnessed how my life broke into pieces without being able to act up against it. Of course, there were bearable days in between and even good days.
But these weren’t easy either because all of a sudden I was fully aware of how bad the other days were and what I had missed out on.
I went to my family doctor first. I went to see a social worker for adolescence crises each week. Finally I ended up seeing a psychiatrist and psycho therapist on a weekly basis. I started taking SSRI antidepressants which appeared to be the first ray of light after 2 years, by this time I was 18.
I won’t bore you with the little ups and downs in the following years but summed up it were good years. I finished my studies in occupational therapy to a bachelor’s degree. Then came a gap. I just couldn’t imagine to work in that job, not for one single day. Everything broke again. I was 24 years old when I decided to go to a mental health institution for the first time in my life.
I stayed there for 17 months. Things got worse, got really bad. I was prescribed ridiculous amounts of medications until I was hardly able to move. Not only because of the sedation but also because I had gained 50 kilograms of weight within 6 months.
I left the hospital and came back home into…an empty life. All of my former friends had turned away mostly because they were unsure about how to get along with someone with mental health issues. But my family was there for me, unconditionally.
I was given an early pension and a disability card saying 80% with 26. Then I fought my way back into life. It was as if all pressure was gone. Everyone who had ever told me to get my head up, man up, get a life, get stuff done, get a house and a family was suddenly silent. I was officially “out of order”.
Until today I am “out of order” and to be fair that is what healed me and still heals me – the gift of time and of being allowed to live a life in my own measures, my own structure and especially in my own tempo.
I decided to attend a training for peer supporters in mental health, I tried to work whenever I saw a chance to succeed in something work related. But it never worked longer than 3 months until the dash of ink came dripping in again. I decided to apply for the full and temporally unlimited early pension after a heavy maniac episode in 2010. I gave away every single piece of my possessions to strangers. I left my house with a confusely stuffed middle sized backpack and without money and walked from Germany until Portugal within 6 months.
Interesting fact here is: it actually helped me to get out of my deception and I gained a certain strength by being on my own for this period.
Well, as good as that was, when I got home my family was pretty hurt by my vanishing and we took a good 3-5 years to get along with each other again. Until now I’m still repairing the relationship between me and my brother, or let’s rather say we are still repairing.
I’m grateful for having been able to rebuild big parts of my life in the 7 years after I returned from the long walkabout.
I’m a musician.
I’m studying audio engineering.
I’m living in an apartment on my own.
I have friends.
I have the best girlfriend I could ever have.
I get along well with my family.
I’m happy and healthy most of the days.
I can sometimes top up my little pension by doing mastering for other artist.
I’m able to go on holiday for a week or two without decompensating.
I can even visit events with really many other people, e.g. footie matches in the stadium.
I’m still on meds because they do me good.
The rollercoaster is still going up and down but the amplitudes have decreased.
Fact is that disorders of the bipolar spectrum are severe illnesses. Everyone who propagates that these are a vanity or laziness or whatever else hardly has an idea what depression or mania or anxiety mean to people which are actually suffering from these conditions. It’s furthermore a denial of the fact that disorders of this kind are potentially life threatening.
All this may sound egoistic and narcissistic but in fact it’s how it works for me and how I survived and still survive.
Thanks a million to everyone who was and is there for me, I’m trying to give something back on a daily basis, be it directly or indirectly.