Ain’t This A Bitch!
by Andrea Watson | October 10, 2020
Hellooo again my beloved readers! In honor of World Mental Health Day, I have decided not only to post twice today but also to share my own experience will mental illness. What? Me, mentally ill? No freakin’ way, right! It’s true. I’m a bit touched in the head. And although I may make light of it at times, it has really done a lot to cripple my growth, development, social skills, and all around functioning in life, as it does for most who are affected by a pathology. I know I am not alone, and neither are you. So let’s dive right in and give it up for awareness day!
Over the years I’ve sustained many different diagnoses and overly much medication trial and error. Before I go on, I need to point out that it is possible for every provider you see to diagnose you with a different disorder. After all, a diagnosis is little more than an educated guess. In fact, nearly every type of doctor I have seen since I was 14 has had their own opinion. That’s why we call it a “practice”. It all started with the diagnosis of depression when I was 14 years old. Wait! Not really. My problems were identified and treatment started late. I have been trying to hurt myself and having occasional hallucinations since I was about 8 years old as far as I remember. But after a while it was decided that I had something much more sinister and insidious going on in my head. As I transitioned into my twenties I started to hear voices and see things that were not actually there. Did you know this doesn’t automatically make you schizophrenic, as one of my prenatal doctors once assumed (seriously, if you are not educated in the field do not attempt to diagnose anyone, Ms. bitchy vagina doctor!)? It can happen when your depression is reeeeally bad , as mine has been through most of my life. Hallucinations and voices and things usually start to really manifest in a woman’s early 20s, as mine did.
So it was not just depression. I literally could not function in reality anymore without being heavily medicated, and then, only just barely. Nearly everything was a hallucination. I had no friends, could not feed and bathe myself on a regular basis, and did things like running down the street to the library in the middle of the night with a blade to my throat (seriously). It was also said that I would often speak in actual different voices and with out of character attitudes. So my providers brought a bit of sophistication to my diagnosis. For a while it was major depressive disorder, recurrent, severe, with psychotic features. What a mouthful. I was on antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, tranquilizers, and heavy antipsychotics at that point. Lots of anti. Anyway, that diagnosis only stuck for about a year.
When she realized I was actually getting worse instead of better, my psychiatrist decided it was time to move on and dig deeper. Then a stroke of genius befell her. She came to the conclusion that I actually had DID, or Dissociative Identity Disorder. This is just a fancy, newer way of saying multiple personalities. Interesting, right? The thing about this disorder is that it is truly rare, and often characterized by losing chunks of time, mood swings, depression, sleep disorders, and suicidal tendencies; it definitely seemed to fit. But was it an accurate diagnosis? To this day I do not know. It sure made a lot of sense, if that’s what I mean. Medication was continued and switched around, increased, and stopped. I had so many different kinds of pills running through me at any given time that I lost track of what I was taking and my now ex-girlfriend stepped in to take care of it. I was a pro at refusing my meds. Of course, my voices told me that they were poison and belonged in the gutter-especially the antipsychotics. I would often compromise by stubbornly insisting that I either take 42 pills at once, or zero. This, of course, was not the right answer.
Now at the age of 40, I live in Boise, Idaho and my diagnosis is different. I skipped a lot of time there, huh? But let’s just stick to the highlights. Now I am saddled with the label of “Bipolar One Disorder With Psychotic Features”. I’m fine with it. I am more at ease and at least there is not so much speculation and experimentation going on anymore. I am still medicated and my life is still under constant disruption, but I am better able to handle it now. I still can’t hold a steady job or make friends, but whatever-I guess. They found that if I don’t receive it in injection form, I simply won’t take my antipsychotics. Which reminds me, I am about ten days late for receiving my shot. Oops. Now you may be asking yourself, “So what does this all boil down to… how has impacted your life, for real?” Well, darlings, I will tell you.
Living with a mental illness is not easy, especially if it is severe, like mine. I will never be able to work consistently without winding up in a hospital. I will never be able to make friends organically. I will never be alone, as my voices and hallucinations are always right there. I will never be able to take care of my home, my son, or myself without heavy medication which means that if I lose my health insurance (likely, at some point in the future) I am screwed. I could lose it all just because of my stupid head. I will never know what it feels like to be “normal”. I will never be able to relate to others on a functional, typical level. I will always need my family around (bummer-they’re all busy dying right now). Plus, I never marry again, because it takes someone truly special to put up with and assist in symptoms like mine and I have never met anyone that special. I can’t even manage the girlfriend role properly. I will always rely on doctored-up, rigged, and most times unhealthy ways of making it through each day (this is why I write). I will never truly know if what I experience is reality or not. I will always hold skewed and misguided beliefs about the world and about myself (did you know I am not human, but rather an angel of destruction sent here to wipe out humanity?) Yeah. I truly believe this, and I know it is not normal. Now this sounds like a bunch of negative affirmations, doesn’t it? But I would challenge that thought. After 30+ years of dealing with my own bullshit, I can tell you that these are simple truths, not self-fulfilling prophecies. I have an education-I am not fooling myself or you here. I’m not stupid, just crazy.
So, that’s a glimpse into my life and times with mental illness. I know it was long, but you survived, and are hopefully more aware because of it. I really do love life. I’m not going to kill myself or anything. I appreciate what I have and who I love and I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone else’s, although I may feel that was occasionally. As long as I can keep doing what makes me happy, I will be fine. And you, my sweetlings, help to keep me fine. Feel free to comment below or email me with any questions or conversations that might pop up, I would LOVE to hear from you. Til next time. I’m out.