Saturday, December 20, 2014

Depression Hurts - Revisited and Revamped

I think the year I acknowledged something was wrong was the year I turned 18. I was working at my local chicken shack (happy as can be, mind you, because every night at ten we could take the chicken home with us), going to school, participating in chorus. I was fine, better than fine, I was happy. Until  one day I just wasn't anymore. Suddenly, I was going to school, going to work, coming home, and laying motionless in bed for hours. My participation in extra curricular activities dropped drastically. I stopped bringing home excess chicken. And I stayed in that state for maybe 8 months. (Until, like a light switch being turned on, I was "back," faster, brighter and more engaging than ever.)

My parents blamed puberty, or teen angst and rebellion for my sudden disinterest and brazen disregard for rules and during a tough time, my mom sent me to live with my dad in North Carolina. The depression resumed, but in a new setting. My room was always dark, shades drawn and lights out. My only companions were some guy on the internet who was weird but always there and a pug-nosed dog with oily smelling gas I named Nuu-Nuu (even though her name was Peachez...Yes, with a "Z."). I spent months in that dark room, putting forth lack-luster effort to learn guitar, learn chess, exercise...putting forth minimal effort to be "normal."

Then I started school. Met my best friend W. Had the best year of my life, even with all the ups and downs of new friendships, new responsibilities and doing much of the household upkeep on my own as my dad and his wife were military and not home much at all. Again, I was "back" it seemed. I was having fun. I felt alive. I felt real. And then my parents moved me again.

And the cycle started over.

And it took years from that point for me to enter therapy (after a particularly ugly nervous breakdown) and get a diagnosis.

Hey. My name's Testorshia. And I have Bipolar II disorder.

For awhile, I denied it. For all my studying of random points of interest, I had very little idea what bipolar disorder was. I had heard it used as a punchline, an excuse for a sudden change of mind or outburst, but never would have equated the symptoms to myself. Not only that, I found that my anxieties, which I thought were abnormal but expected, signaled an anxiety disorder that coincided with the bipolar. Something was wrong with me. Something was wrong with me. That's all I could think for so long; I had to be fixed. There had to be something I could do. I wanted desperately to fit in, to be "normal" and not feel like some sort of sideshow of emotions and nerves, some sort of carnival of depression and mania.

I fought it. I didn't take the medications. I didn't write the journals. I didn't do the homework my therapist gave me. I was normal, damnit. I was gonna keep on being normal. This thing wouldn't change me. I wouldn't let it.

And then, tired of fighting, I accepted it. Therapy, after I stopped being so stubborn, was a break-through. All the things I'd been telling myself for years were neither right nor wrong. I was normal. I was fine. I was also ill. And so not fine. There's a grayness in life, I learned, where you can be both and neither, some, few and all, all at the same time. Life's ambiguity, life's malleability had eluded me for so long. I had always had such strict ideas about what I should be doing, who I should be impressing, who I should love, failing to realize that those points can and most times do change except in this way: I should do what I want to do, I should impress me, I should love me.

There are some days I hate my diagnosis. Days where I feel the medication clouds my creativity, blocks off the parts of myself that are so vibrant and full of wonder, I am almost mad at myself for being ill in this way. Yet other days, I am proud of how far I've come: from that girl laying in bed thinking of lying down on a busy highway at night, to the girl sitting on her balcony in a blanket blowing bubbles at the moon. My diagnosis, my illness, for all the hell it's given me, has also given me peace and clarity. It's given me a voice, a perspective, I couldn't have dreamed would be my own, but here I am, living in it, or at least trying to, with some semblance of grace and self-sufficiency.

Here I am. All broken, and whole, all sadness and joy. Here I am, all of me.

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