Sometimes I ponder why the most vulnerable of us often find ourselves afflicted with mental illnesses we don’t deserve. Imagine dealing with the death of a loved one. Your depression starts out as a symptom of grief. Soon you come to terms with the loss of your loved one, but for some reason you can’t shake this deep, aching emptiness within you. You try to tell yourself it’s because you really haven’t gotten over your loved one’s death, but then the pain just persists. You can’t push through it, or move on from it. Something dark has grown in you, and you steadily begin to lose yourself. Your appetite dies, your sleep either becomes too much or too little; out of nowhere you think you’re worthless, unloved, unneeded; you might want to die, you might not want to do anything at all. Your symptom has turned into the syndrome. Not only are you grieving your loved one, but now you’re battling another monster known as mental illness.
My fibromyalgia was already bad enough to deal with and depression is a common symptom of pain, but then when does the symptom become the syndrome? My fibro was getting better, but my mental health was declining, and I couldn’t understand why, when before I valiantly fought through my fibro.
But someone like me can only take so much before she breaks.
I’ve learned, through mental illness, what an incredibly sensitive person I am. I don’t even have to know you and your pain will strike something so deep within me that I’m compelled to tears. While I am better, I am still easily triggered by anything that has to do with death or suicide.
When you’re depressed and suicidal, you don’t think how traumatizing the feelings are. You’re used to them. Your brain has tricked you so well into thinking you want to die that you accept being suicidal without question. You want to die. You crave it. You want to end your pain because your illness doesn’t want you to see a way out.
Now that I am better, I look back on those feelings, and a heavy pang spears through my heart. I could have given into those feelings, and I wouldn’t be right here telling you all this. They’re terrifying feelings. I’m terrified that I felt that way. Sometimes I want to cry just knowing I did because the truth is that I am still vulnerable to feeling that way again. All it would take is for one of my medications to stop working, and I could go from screaming that I don’t want to die to wishing I would the next day.
Bipolar disorder is a traumatizing illness. Mental illnesses in general are traumatizing. You start out with one problem, and then for some reason that problem makes you sick, and you wonder why others don’t get sick from the same problem. My brother went through a traumatic divorce, and while he was depressed, it was just a symptom. He pulled himself together and now he’s better. Me, I just cracked under the weight of stress and the depression spiraled out of control until it became its own monster.
But there is nothing I can do but to accept it. I accept that it makes me a deeply sensitive individual. I accept that I could become sick again. But most of all, I accept that it has given me the power to empathize so deeply with other people that I would do anything to soothe their pain.