A few months after the birth of my third child, I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease or hyperthyroidism, where my thyroid was working too hard. Medication worked really well, putting me back to normal with no side effects. I went into remission and then relapsed two and a half years later, but medication worked again. Overall, it’s mostly a minor and uninteresting part of my life.
But that’s not my only chronic health condition, and the second one is a lot harder to talk about. It’s been around a lot longer and it’s been a longer journey to diagnose and treat. And I hesitate to talk about it to people. I have mental health problems; specifically I deal with bipolar 2.
Quite a few years ago, I went to the doctor and mentioned depression and I was put on antidepressants that didn’t really work. One other doctor was simply dismissive, and none of them really asked that much about my symptoms. I set out on my own to try to fix myself, reading books about cognitive behavior therapy and other sorts of therapy. I exercised and tried to make friends and live the best life I could. But I really just wanted the issue to go away. And I thought it would go away, if I was strong enough and worked hard enough at it and my life was in the best place it could be.
The depression never really lasted that long anyway. The older I got, the more I wondered if I was really dealing with depression. I would read about bipolar or borderline personality disorder and sometimes I wanted there to be another name out there to describe how I was feeling.
When I looked back at my journals, I could see an instability in the way I felt and dealt with life. Some days and weeks were normal and good and happy and I felt like myself, with the normal ups and downs of living. But then sometimes those ups and downs would be exaggerated and all over the place. There were days when I could do so much, focused and motivated. But then I would try to repeat those days, and I couldn’t. There were days when I did very little, falling down into sadness and discouragement. And there were other sorts of days too: days when I would get extremely irritable. Days when I couldn’t really function and it literally felt like my brain simply wasn’t working. Days when I screamed or ran away or wanted to hurt myself because of the mental anguish I was feeling.
It has been really hard lately, and the last few months have been some of the most difficult in my life. I would search things and search things, trying to figure out what to do. I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t manic. I was just not right some of the time and I didn’t know what to do about it.
And then I found a picture that sort of showed how I was feeling. It looked like this:
I read about bipolarity being a spectrum disorder. I read about people who felt like I had.
Every morning, I was reading mental health books, writing gratitude and doing therapy exercises, and I started meditating as well. One meditation I listened to talked about going and visiting my older self. And so I imagined talking to an older version of myself, and I told myself that I didn’t have to do this alone, and that I could go and get help.
So with finally understanding that I wasn’t alone in how I felt, I didn’t need to isolate and hide my problems, and that I really did need help and couldn’t fix it by myself, I finally called someone.
I went to a psychiatric nurse practitioner and I got a prescription for a mood stabilizer. I read about lifestyle changes that I could make that would help me more. I went to my mom’s house for two weeks to be around more people and get my feet underneath me again, since I had not been very functional.
And things are helping. I’ve finally accepted that this isn’t going to just go away, but I can deal with it too the best I can and seek help from others.
My conclusion in all of this is that if you are dealing with depression or anxiety or something that you don’t understand at all, you’re not alone. It’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person and there is help and hope ahead.
And here is my follow-up post about the Lord’s help through all of this.