Battling stigmas around mental health was the biggest thing next to my pride that kept me from getting the help I truly needed. It took a true breaking point for me to put all of these fears and stigmas aside in order for me to submit myself to the Reading Hospital on June 16th, 2019.
Stigma: a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. (Google definition)
Recently, iHeart Radio has been doing a campaign around mental health. As someone that has a mental illness, I greatly appreciate the work that they are doing to help dispel the very stigmas I have battled against. For years, I thought if I hospitalized myself, I would be less of a person and looked down upon. It was not just the thought that people might think I am crazy, but more that I would not be valued as a complete person any longer. These stigmas fueled my fear. I did not want to lose any standing I had or to be discredited for what I had accomplished.
Within 24 hours of submitting myself to the ER, I was transferred to Haven Behavioral Mental Hospital for suicide ideation. I remained at Haven for 16 days under 24-hour care. I was on suicide watch for the first five full days. Once inpatient was complete, I was transferred to a step-down outpatient program for an additional ten days. Outpatient was a partial hospitalization program. During my time at Haven, one of the things we discussed was stigmas around mental health.
Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with depressive disorder by my family doctor at the time. We decided to give anti-depressants a try and I was put on Prozac. However, due to the reaction I was having while on the medication, the doctor I saw while attending Elim believed I was misdiagnosed. He thought I was bipolar. Bipolar..me? For the next 12 years, I ran from his point of view and was afraid to ever breach the topic with my counselor. It was not until Haven that the topic came back up again. This time, Bipolar Type II. The difference between type I and II is pretty simple. Type I can experience swings between depression and mania within days or hours. Type II typically has longer cycles of weeks and months between the mood swings. Type II is also more in control during their mania stages as it is labeled hypo-mania. This version does not typically enter manic stages. Ever ride the Phoenix at Knoebels Family Amusement Park? Think of Type I as the first slow incline to that first steep drop and uptake on a wooden roller coaster. Then Type II would be those smaller ups and downs that keep the ride going. As I sat through group therapy each day and learned more about the truth of mental illnesses it began to set in…
I am bipolar type II. Part of me wants to say “I have” but the truth of the matter is that it is a part of who I am. It is not my identity, nor is it to be used as a crutch or an excuse for my behavior. However, it is the reality I will be dealing with for the rest of my life. I was put on a mood stabilizer while at Haven and this further confirmed the diagnosis. Since being put on the stabilizer, my life has been completely different. I feel more in control of my emotions and do not get upset as easily. I took a lot of time to reflect on my life with this new information and train of thought. Suddenly, things began making sense. It wasn’t just deep cycles of depression (a symptom of type II), it was cycles of the opposite as well. While in hypo-mania, cycles I would struggle with include insomnia or low amounts of sleep but still have energy. My addiction to energy drinks and being high on life in college was another example. Or, there were the spending sprees that put me into hundreds to thousands of dollars in debt within a matter of weeks or less.
So, there it is, my mental illness is out in the open and something I plan to talk about more openly in the coming future. My hope is that people can see that even “regular” people can struggle too. Even “regular” people can have a mental illness and still live life to the fullest. If you know someone with a mental illness, especially someone that deals with depression, the best thing you can do for them is to treat them normally. Also, be willing to have an open-minded discussion with them about how it impacts their life. I welcome any questions you may have below in the comment section. However, what I do not want at this time is your opinions on what I can do to combat my mental illness personally or if you do not believe mental illnesses are something that exists. I hope you have a great day and thank you for reading along as I tell my journey.
My fundraiser is today!
Tuesday, August 13th
10:00am – 9:00pm
Spinning Wheel 4:30pm – 7:30pm
Spirit Day at Chick-fil-A Berkshire Mall
Author: A. P. Smither
Editor: P. J. Walk