In 2003, I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder, a few months after my 18th birthday. I had many other diagnoses during the early years of my diagnosis including depression, generalized anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder, and bulimia. In 2011, I finally received a neurological diagnosis of spastic and ataxic cerebral palsy after searching for a diagnosis since childhood. Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive brain disorder that affects my overall motor functioning. It made medication treatment for my mental illness extremely difficult as they tried over 30 different psychotropic medications and I had adverse reactions to every single one, which prevented me from continuing each medication. With every new medication came more health problems and very little long-term relief from the actual mental health symptoms. As a unique case, under the instructions and supervision of my doctor I followed a regimen for discontinuing my current medication. I have been treating my mental illness without medication since November 27, 2011. I use many alternative and holistic options for my daily management such as relaxation, meditation, positive energy, exercise, nutritional therapy, online support groups, therapeutic creative exercises, natural remedies, and watching my food sensitivities. I also engage in many workbooks, continue to read, and do research to find any new information on resources that might be helpful.
I was told to not count on being able to work full time when you have a mental illness. However, I currently am working full-time with older adults and disabled adults as an Activity Leader. My professional background in education, public speaking, and human services paired with my education I managed to achieve (still to this day I don’t give it enough credit) are providing to be very useful. I am finding many new enjoyments such as cooking, reading, expanding my enjoyment of film to foreign and independent films, finding different channels such as the discovery channels and the food network channels fascinating, and finally using my experiences to help others.
I consider myself a stubborn, fighter. If you tell me I can’t do something, I am a person that will go out of my way to prove to you I can. Still with that said, I was a product of being thrown into the adult mental health system on the cusp of being an adult but still being a teenager. Told I will be mentally ill forever, on medication forever, and to accept that life is going to be an extremely hard journey. More than that, I was told that parts of me that make me who I am were characteristics of being indicating relapse. I can laugh and talk, but not excessively. I can be happy or sad, but not excessively. Is that decision an impulsive one? Everything began to be questioned. I began putting up with life, hoping it would end vs. living it.
I learned how to work the system and I learned how to use the system to fuel excuses for not practicing good hygiene skills, putting in the effort I knew I was capable of for believing I could still be something more than doomed to life as a failure. I took take one day and one task at a time literally after a few years of having it regurgitated to me during treatment. If I woke up and got out of bed once, I had done my one task for the day, what more do you want from me…I am too sick. It the hardest thing for me to break free of the mental health label and predetermined life that had taken over my mind after being told what I am and what I am capable of for 8 years during treatment. I had to find myself again.
I have learned to begin to love who I am through this discovery journey. I look at it as an all bets are off because I can’t explore the world, reflect on my experiences, and find myself in I remain in a box. I have been through the ringer struggling with self-injury for 10 years, an eating disorder for three and food issues for 10, and losing my ability to walk without assistance a year ago. I have overcome many different odds including being over 1 year free of any form of self injury, having a healthy view of food for 8 months, and being in the best physical condition I have ever been in my life with having the cerebral palsy. My life keeps changing and I take value in the trial and error process. I embrace it as it helps fight my need for perfection and it helps me break down my current perceptions to reconstruct them allowing me the continued effect of keeping what works and weeding out what does not. Life truly is a gamble, even when you think you know what the result is going to be; more than likely it won’t be exactly what you envisioned. It might be even better.
The answer to my question is yes, a new beginning is possible. I know because I am living life for the first time in 8 years.