Here’s what I’ve learned about mental illness over the last eight months:

1. If you really want to get better, mental illness needs to be treated aggressively and constantly maintained. If you know anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer you know there’s no “casual” way to treat cancer. Treatment is fast, aggressive, and constantly monitored. I’ve had therapy in the past, I’ve been on medication under the care of my regular doctor for ages, but the truth is I had slipped so far these treatments could barely be considered bandages on a shark bite. Since January I have been relentless in trying to get better. I have added, changed, and upped different medications more than a half dozen times under the care of a psychiatrist. I have appointments scheduled with both my psych and therapist through the end of the year with a treatment plan that ends no sooner than next summer. It’s been a holy damn marathon, and I’m exhausted — but I can finally start to feel the pieces falling back into the places they’re supposed to be.

2. Healthy coping mechanisms can be pretty boring. However, after awhile, the unhealthy ones have become less and less appealing. For the first year or so after the terrible thing happened, I drank. And drank and drank and drank and drank. Today I told Cody that over the last three years I had felt so uncomfortable with my own existence that anything that changed my state of mind was a welcome escape, dumb and drunk was better than sitting in my own emotional mess. One of the first things my doctors and therapists told me to do was stop drinking and stop sleeping my life away, there was a time I would cry and cry every night because I had no immediate escape from how miserable I was — I just had to sit in it — and it was awful. Little by little I recognized little things I could do that made me feel better. There were still times I drank, or crawled back into bed when no one was looking. I learned to give myself some grace in these situations, and as I’ve become stronger the ability to resist feels less like a burden and more like a conscious choice to take care of myself.

3. The brain has a magnificent way of protecting itself from things that hurt. Mine has developed emotional and mental cushioning around the really hurty parts that has kept me going (albeit not very well.) When I read about my diagnosis now, I don’t feel overwhelmed and broken. I realize my brain has done exactly what a million brains before mine has done in an attempt to survive. Unfortunately, to really heal I’ve had to go back into those tender places and poke until the blisters pop and take very good care of myself while it heals properly. Only two of my diagnoses are actual chemical imbalances. the others are a result of trauma — they have all done this magnificent little dance together in a desperate attempt to protect me from getting hurt again. Final count is major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, complex post traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder.

4. When I first started receiving treatment, a therapist told me that there would come a day when the terrible thing wasn’t my story, it was only part of my story. Over the last several weeks I can finally feel this becoming a reality. I could have come here plenty of times and declared “I’M BETTER!” and I hesitate to even claim I’m doing better now because I have fallen back down a dozen times throughout this entire process, but I’ve gotten up at least one more time than I’ve ever fallen down — and that’s a big deal. Back in January I gave myself a year to notice a difference, and now that I’m coming up on 8 months I don’t have a problem adding another 6 months to that year to really make sure I’ve given myself sufficient grace to not only get better, but also stronger.

5. If I could pick one thing for people to realize from what I’ve been through it’s that trauma of any sort sucks and there’s no way to know how it will affect you, and there’s no one way or even a timeline for getting better. It doesn’t matter what your trauma was, trauma is trauma and trying to compare them is useless. My life fell apart in 2014, it may have not been obvious to anyone watching from the outside, but the evidence is there. The pattern is present.

I don’t know what’s next. There are  so many options, places where I could attempt to pick up the pieces of my old life and begin building upon them again. New opportunities that never existed or occurred to me before. The scariest part is simply getting started.

These 830 words are my attempt to do just that.

 

Comments

  1. You are doing it. You are amazing. Love you.

    Casey Reply:

    @Barb, BABY STEPS. xoxo

  2. Erika Jurney says:

    You are so strong. I am so very proud to know you.

    Casey Reply:

    @Erika Jurney, I at least play strong on the Internet sometimes. Thank you, it means a lot to me, Erika.

  3. Way to go! I honor your attempt to start and am cheering you on. I’m knee deep in my latest attempt to heal my PTSD and it is brutal. But worth it.

    Casey Reply:

    @Angela S, All my love and support on your own exhausting journey.

  4. I have nothing more to say that I’m always so proud of you. For your bravery, and honesty. For everything.

    Casey Reply:

    @Marta, Thank you. Totally unrelated, you were in a dream I had the other night and the only reason I remember is because I pronounced your last name correctly. ;)

    Marta Reply:

    @Casey, That’s SO funny and random!!!! I had a dream about Kit Harrington last night… so that was great :-)

  5. I’ve missed you Casey. You were a help to me when I was down, and I hope you know that there are so many of us that are here for you now. I am so happy that you are finding your new path and I wish you the best while you navigate it all. Huge gentle hugs.

  6. I’m so happy to see you’re back to writing! And that you’re getting better. Trauma takes a long time to start feeling better. I’ve been living with it and recovering from it for most of my life. I was in therapy for about 2 years, and every word resonated with me. I’m here, abiding with you. <3