Author: Kim Barnett
It’s Tuesday, September 9, 2020 at 2:53AM, and I’m wide awake! I’ve been having trouble sleeping for 4 weeks now and am only able to get 3-5 hours of sleep on average. It’s really frustrating. I’m hypomanic right now, which is less extreme than mania, but it makes it very difficult for my brain to shut down. When I attempt to explain hypomania/mania to people, I always tell them it’s like your mind and your body are not in sync. My brain is extremely active and won’t stop thinking, but my body is overly exhausted from lack of a proper amount of sleep. It makes it difficult to function on all cylinders.
I have spurts of energy throughout the day, where I don’t feel tired mentally or physically, but I also have times when my body crashes and I can’t keep my eyes open. During those times, when I’m actually tired, I take a short nap. Once my eyes open though, I’m wide awake again and going full speed! I compare myself to the energizer bunny. I tend to pace around the house a lot because it’s so hard to just sit still. I also have racing thoughts and rapid speech. I’ve shared this in a previous post, but it gets my point across of how much I talk when in this state. I’ve talked so much during a manic episode before, that I’ve lost my voice and still tried to keep talking. It can become incessant and irritating to myself and for others around me. I feel awful for my husband, as it must be frustrating and hard, because he doesn’t tell me to slow down or stop, probably because he doesn’t want to hurt my feelings.
In mid July of 2020, I was approved for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). I was happy and relieved, but at the same time it was a huge self esteem crusher and destroyed a lot of my confidence in myself. To me it was a confirmation of just how messed up I am. I know I have issues, but this confirmed it in writing, which made it more official and hard to take in mentally and emotionally. I believe, as soon as I got approved my mania/hypomania began to develop. The stress and worry of what I was going to do, whether approved or not, caused a major mental strain on me. I finally chose to just accept it and try to move forward with my revised new life.
All of what I have struggled with in the past, including the high highs and low lows, psychosis, rapid speech, irrational behavior, impulsive spending and the lack of need for sleep, and a recent stay in the BHU (Behavioral Health Unit), have led me to finally speak out about my personal struggles as opposed to hiding it still. I believe it’s doing me more harm than good, bottling all this up inside, and pretty much pretending my disorder isn’t really there or that it will magically disappear. There are a lot of people who suffer from some sort of mental health obstacle, and I’d be doing myself and others a disservice to be silent. So, that is why I decided to come out of hiding.
To me, speaking out about my struggle is the only way for me to internally heal, and hopefully help someone else see that it’s ok to struggle and seek medical assistance. I’m not saying everyone has to be open about it, as that is obviously a personal choice. I do find that being open and honest about it publicly, helps me feel more authentic and real, and I no longer have to hide parts of who I am.
The stigma attached to mental illness is widespread throughout the world in various cultures. The term “crazy,” gets tossed around so effortlessly and even while in treatment in a BHU, you’re treated with less respect and like you’re less of a person or not a human being, by some of the staff. I know this because I have been there on many occasions, and have experienced this wrong behavior/treatment many times. Like with any profession, there are good people and some not so good, and because they are human, many struggle with their own personal obstacles. This in turn determines how you are treated as a patient, along with how you behave as a patient.
I’ve suffered trauma, while in the BHU, based on how I’ve acted, which wasn’t always under my control, but also due to lack of understanding and compassion by some of the staff. I’m not necessarily blaming anyone for the traumatizing experiences, but I do believe there is a lack of training in the mental health system as well as facilities not meeting staffing needs as far as the number of staff who work there. During my recent stay, I overheard one of the staff say they were understaffed for the evening shift. This can create a dangerous environment for both the patients and the staff, including the nurses and doctors. If a fight breaks out between patients, which I’ve seen, and they don’t have enough staff members, then it makes it hard to manage and break up. Not every patient gets adequate attentive care when there’s a disproportion between staff and patients. The staff are always simply outnumbered! This desperately needs to be fixed somehow. I’m sure it’s a difficult profession and not everyone is willing to do it, so I understand the need for more mental health workers.
I’ve chosen to come out publicly with my mental illness to shed a light on what it’s really like. I don’t see many people share on this topic, especially when they are severely struggling. Usually only the positive moments are shared. I want to show and tell both. I think it’s important for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, panic attacks, Bipolar I or II Disorder or any mental health issue, to know it’s ok to not be ok all the time. It doesn’t make you weak to struggle, but makes you strong, since you are fighting to survive and get better. That shows strength and resilience and we who suffer are not suffering alone.
My hope is that when you read this, you’ll relate or get something out of it and possibly share with someone who may benefit from my story. In the meantime, please continue to stay safe and healthy!