There were a lot of warning signs that I had a mental illness, long before my first diagnosis.
My mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was a child.
I would have massive mood swings and extremely violent temper tantrums that often resulted in the destroying of objects or attempts to physically injure someone. This resulted in me going to therapy as a young child. To my knowledge, mental illness was never discussed with my parents, and it was never mentioned to me that I can recall.
I often had thoughts of suicide, even if they were just passing and harmless. At times I would think about it near daily. I thought out plans and staged who would find me and how. I wrote out notes sometimes. I drew pictures of my elaborate layouts. I went all out.
I am not sure when I first really felt depressed. I missed a lot of days of school both in middle school and high school. I would feign sickness and just stay in bed all day. I hated going to school, but I know depression was at least part of the reason I stayed home so much.
No one, not in my family, or any of my friends, ever mentioned anything about depression to me. My mom on occasion would bring it up but she was mostly out of the picture by the time my symptoms started to surface. The reason was obvious; I was the gregarious jokester, life of the party type. I doubt anyone, including myself, realized I could be that guy, and someone making elaborate suicide plans.
I shocked everyone one May morning when I told one of my closest friends that I had made a serious attempt on my life the night before. That person went to the school counselors, I was called down, my parents called in, and eventually I was sent away to a hospital. I was given the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Type II and given some medication and a therapist and a psychiatrist and I did my two weeks at the hospital and went home.
I went to counseling after that event for years before I eventually decided I should stop the therapy and medication. I felt better. I felt like a mistake was made and I shouldn’t have been given the treatment I received. And so I stopped it all! And yet again, no one talked to me about it. No one mentioned if I was doing better or worse or anything. It was amazing how much people want to avoid talking about mental illness.
Eventually things fell apart again, and I went back to therapy and into a new psychiatrist, this time with a brand new Bipolar Type I diagnosis, this time with generalized anxiety as well, and eventually ended up in a hospital again. And that was when I decided to start writing; to open up about this disease with basically anyone who would listen. And I guess unsurprisingly, people were much more willing to mention to me when they thought I may be in trouble, or inquire how things were going for me. It has really been a meaningful and liberating experience.
I had to realize with this disease that I could not wait on others. When something felt wrong, that was when I had to bring it up and go get help. Waiting around has never done me any good. It can be frightening to know that a good majority of my future well-being is in my hands, under my control. Certainly, in the depths of a deep depression, the thought of helping yourself is far from mind. I must bear in mind that despite set-backs, and apparent hopelessness, the person I am waiting for to help me change, is me.
Read more from Steve at his personal blog here.