Having to Look Into the Mirror of Mental Illness

So… yesterday was absolutely miserable. I couldn’t decide on a blog topic this week. Yesterday helped with that; and not in a good way. Yesterday I was exhausted but not tired, drained of everything, and utterly lost as to what to do (with anything). I barely moved off of the couch other than to let Bennett and Gypsy outside. As the day progressed I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. All I wanted was to move, but couldn’t do it.

I didn’t know where it came from; and already had the intention to get ahold of my psychiatrist and/or therapist if the depression didn’t lift today. I will tell you that I now know where it came from. My therapist will be proud when I tell her. So here it is (bare with me):

I had therapy last week. It went REALLY well. My therapist asked if there was anything that she could give me an assignment on (I do art therapy with her). I couldn’t think of anything. Until Monday. What I wanted to work on hit me like a brick wall. The past two week and a half or so has brought up the subject of education as well as hearing about people getting together just for fun as well as for the holidays. I sent this email to my therapist:

Hi C____________-

You had asked me at our last session if there was anything we needed an assignment for. I came up, over the weekend, with two areas I would possibly like to figure out a way to address?

1. Finding some way to be able handle going back to school to finish.

2. I have no idea what you’d call this one. Social skills? Maybe? The past two week I have watched at least one, if not two, of my sisters go out for a concert, something with friends, or Heather’s dates she’s had with someone she’s talking to. It didn’t bother me at first, bust it’s started to. I’m not alone, but I live a pretty lonely life.

I don’t know what type of projects these two would entail, but I’ll do them if you have ideas.


She called me back Monday afternoon to talk about it; and she feels that these are fantastic areas to work on. So, I now have two assignments. The first- school- I have to put down the reasoning I stopped, what makes me nervous about returning, some directions to go, as well as ideas for her to possibly help me. The second- the social thing- I have to figure out if there is anyone that I would like to reconnect with. That one she said we need to discuss more before she can give me a more thorough assignment.

So, yesterday. Mental illness takes away far more than it gives. It’s a thief. Really. It is. You don’t get to run and hide after the robbery either. Oh no. You have to look in the mirror, physically and psychologically, and see the face of yourself- the victim- on a regular basis. And what do we see? It depends on the perpetrator you get hit by.

Physically, the image you tend to see is tired, worn, and absolutely over everything. There may be bruises or cuts that mar the skin. That can and will, generally, change. Eventually you will be able to look and see your blue eyes bright again, color in your skin, and an ACTUAL smile gracing your face. The bruises will fade. The cuts may leave scars that still require hiding, but the pain in the initial shock will dim.

Psychologically. Psychologically it’s a hard to even get away from the mirror. That in itself is draining. You have to continually assess reflection in order to move forward and actually have some sort of life. This is the part that triggered yesterday’s misery. I didn’t think the areas I decided I wanted to work on would cause such a reaction.

So, school. It shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. Not anymore. At least I don’t think it should… but it does. First, Ohio State University-ATI became a “Nope. Can’t do it.” I worked to get into any school I chose and am did. Had my first two “mild” manic episodes while there- with a quarter in between- and those led to failing grades with classes I should have had no problem with. After my psychiatrist and I decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to be so far away from treatment, I transferred completely over to our community college (I had been taking transient courses there). I had to switch majors so that I’d be able to continue at a local college or university. None offered Horticulture Science. I decided on doubling in Women’s Studies and PolitIcal Science. I wanted to teach or become a lobbyist. After setbacks due to a few rough episodes, I had to completely stop. Campus became too much. All the people. The final clue was having to go into my one professor’s office when a class session ended because I had severe panic attack while standing in the hall. They didn’t have the online options that there are now. I did attempt one. It didn’t go the best. I passed, but I do far better with the structure of the classroom.

The social skills thing… Yeah, I keep to myself. I like to consider myself an extroverted introvert. I can lead a group at work, give a presentation, interact with customers. Don’t ask me to go into a store, sit in a room of people, or willing start a random general conversation with someone I don’t know. I don’t go anywhere with friends other than coffee with Diana. I have friends at the barn, but only with the help of Debbi. Investors never dated. I’m nit alone, but it’s a pretty lonely existence. Going to Starbucks or some other coffee shop just to be around people. Even if I know not one of them… It’s kinda pathetic. Don’t worry. I know it is. At least I think so. Watching the rest of the world’s hustle and bustle happening and having the idea of being part of it scary me senseless.

Moving on… Yesterday the two subjects of my assignments (that I asked to be given) hit me with a force I wasn’t prepared for. Today has been better, but not… I’m treading water enough to keep my head above the surface where yesterday I was drowning. Looking into that metaphorical mirror… It knocked the wind out of me. It ripped a chunk of self-esteem away and and threw it somewhere I haven’t found.

I know the face I see staring back at me is only going to get more distorted before the image clears. It is a reflection that I must see. That we all must see. That we must be willing to look at. Our support systems and mental health teams will help to clean the glass. Not for us, but with us.

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