I have been largely absent the last few months. I come back in fits and starts with goals and promises, but then I disappear. That is due to a few factors.
- I am busy AF. I work a day job, am a freelance editor, and am a writer with three books coming out this fall and another four next year.
- I have a kid, and while I love that (not so) tiny Alvie Bean, this year has not been easy. Not easy at all. I know I’m vague blogging, but Bean requests that I not include real updates on the blog anymore. Internet privacy for six-year olds is a real thing.
- I have had some significant mental health struggles. I want to say “I’ve been struggling the last couple months,” but in reality, I’ve been struggling the last six years, with periods of intermission. This is the real reason I’m here today. (Sorry – no fun gifs or writing facts today.)
In 2012, my father was diagnosed with cancer in January and died in March when I was 38 weeks pregnant. He never met his grandkid and Bean never got to geek out about trains with my father. After I went back to work, I slid into a deep, dark postpartum depression. It was bad. Fortunately, I was able to capitalize on that experience by writing and publishing an essay about it, for which I got paid actual cash money that was worth more than the envelope and stamp it took to mail it to me.
The next few years were nothing but ups and downs. Every time I went down, I didn’t get nearly as far up as I thought I should.
2016 – the year of me – was…interesting. I separated from my now ex-husband, moved out, got divorced, lost my job. I also got my own super cute house, started writing again, became very attached to an amazing man, and went to Iceland. In the midst of all of that, I was starting to come apart at the seams.
It took almost a full year for the total breakdown. There were periods when things were better than others. But overall, things were, to put it succinctly, bad.
I started eating less and less. (Funny thing about not being skinny – no one believes you when you tell them you’ve mostly just stopped eating solid food.) I got really good at hiding my lack of food intake, and the fact that my body hoarded every calorie it got causing me to gain weight helped with my game.
Even after I’d moved in with the aforementioned amazing man and got a new job, I still found myself skipping more meals than I was eating. (Turns out that behavior is terrible for your digestive system, overall health, energy levels, skin, hair, and brain function.)
I was still performing, though. I published three books in 2017 and started my fledgling freelance business. I started a new job, sent the Bean to kindergarten, and took a trip to Mexico. Everything looked fine. (Narrator voice: It was not fine.)
It didn’t take much – a couple minor stressors and one major one – and I lost hold of the thread I was barely hanging on to. The last six months have been hard. Hard for me. Hard for the beer guy. Hard for anyone who has to deal with me.
And now to the main crux of my post.
I have bipolar II. I don’t talk about it much, and for the longest time dismissed every professional who tried to tell me that’s what I had. But there’s really no way around it at this point. Most of my cycling in the past was mild depression to mild hypomania – easy to wait out.
This was…not. I was a hot mess. It took a while to find a mental health professional that was covered by insurance, was taking new patients, and had appointments this decade. It actually took a referral from the doctor I saw about my torn rotator cuff to get me into the system that I’m in now.
This round has had soul-searing depression compounded with over-the-top anxiety. There are some work environment issues which really exacerbate everything, too. (Open offices are the devil…omg please stop talking I can’t concentrate ever please for the love of all things holy.)
Being this depressed means having to actively search for a reason to keep going. It means not trusting that the people who say they care are sincere – after all, they’re just sticking around because they feel sorry for you. It means knowing that any light at the end of the tunnel is probably a train, and if it isn’t, it’s still not a way out, just a reflection of an outside that you’ll never find. It means constantly figuring out if there are any loose ends you don’t want to leave behind. It means weighing the benefits of staying against the benefits of not. Will it be better for the kid to have a mom or better for the kid to not have to deal with a crazy mom?
I don’t have a real five-year plan. I can’t look forward into the future and see anything. I can say I do, but it’s all academic. I can’t envision being present for my kid’s high school graduation. I’m good for one year at a time, tops. I’m bad at long-term planning because what’s the point?
I used to believe that this was something I would grow out of. That mental illness scurried on out like a bug with too many legs and venomous fangs when you turned 35. 40. Maybe 45.
When there are high-profile suicides, they go into one of two categories for me. “Oh, he was 22. Poor guy. The disease got him.” or “Fuck. They’re older than me. They aren’t struggling financially. This isn’t something you can level up out of. This is what I have left forever. There is no other way to exist. It is nothing but darkness.”
I have a meds doctor, and a therapist, and an amazing partner (who is probably not just having the weirdest extended pity-relationship ever), and a couple amazing friends. I take medication every day, and I have people who check on me. I have so much to live for: first and foremost, I don’t want to be brought back by the people who are still mad about the way I ended the last Eleanor Morgan book. I have the best kid in the whole world who’s gonna need a mama like whoa. I am blessed with the most patient, kind, and frankly, delightful partner. I have twelve book covers that haven’t gone out into the world yet, and that’s just a waste if they’re not used.
This isn’t a cry for help. I would never do that. This is a glimpse into the head of someone who’s struggling.
I’ve spent a lot of time on Twitter in the last week having arguments about mental health. I can’t believe it’s 2018 and there are still people in the world who want to convince me that mental illness is all in my head (heh) and that maybe if I just got off my ass and had some sunshine and kombucha and TRIED REAL HARD to be happy, that I could be. According to these people, I am literally just not trying hard enough. And what I want them to know – what I want you to know – is that I am trying as hard as I can.
Everyone else out there who has mental illness is trying, too. But remember, it’s hard. It’s so hard. And sometimes people need a break. And when they do, it is sad and it is tragic, but it is not selfish. Until you live every day struggling to achieve the most basic of accomplishments, until you have to use every ounce of energy to shine a light in the smothering darkness, until you spend every day in a pain that’s every bit as real as the pain someone with an illness of the body rather than an illness of the mind feels, you don’t get to judge when someone’s reached their end.
- Medication is good
- Medical care is good
- If I can be denied insurance due to preexisting conditions, I will be uninsurable due to my bipolar, even though medical care and medication are vital at this point to my continued well-being, so that’s fun
- There’s a lot to be said for exercise and healthy eating, but they should not replace medical care or medication
- It’s no one’s business but the person in question and their care team how it’s treated, and people who judge someone else’s treatment are douchebags.
If you have any questions or want to talk you can comment here, on my FB page, email me (amyrcissell at gmail) or FB message me. If you are my mother, you may text me, but I might ignore said text. I’m okay, or near enough to count, anyway.
Depression is a lying asscandle, but I know how hard it is to remember that. If you need a reminder, hit me up. I can be your stranger in the internet supporter. Because you 100% deserve that.