Friday, October 17, 2008

Rachel's Story - secret exposed

I started university at the age of 17 and was really passionate about my chosen subject, theatre.  Unfortunately, though, it was at this time that what I now realize were symptoms of manic-depression (bipolar disorder) began to really emerge and intrude on my everyday life.  I complained constantly to my mom about being tired and unmotivated.  Periods of depression much like the ones I described last week continued intermittently, seemingly without a trigger.  I remember several occasions where I would be driving at night and have to pull the car over to the side of the road because I could no longer see for all the tears streaming down my face.  It felt like my emotions were out of control.

 At other times, I was angry and irritable, frustrated with nearly everything and everyone.  It seemed like no one I encountered could do anything correctly or fast enough.    Oftentimes, my patience expired and I took it out on the people I love most: my family.  Because of this, I lost my self-esteem.  I felt so guilty about the terrible way I was treating them.  I started to believe I was just a mean person, intrinsically bad.  On one occasion I remember going to my brother in tears, begging for him to forgive me for the disrespectful way I had treated him; I was panic-stricken about potentially losing my best friend.  I explained that I had lost all control, that every moment of my life these days was just so difficult, I was struggling minute by minute to exist in this world and keep from killing myself.  It was the first time I’d admitted to anyone that I was suicidal.  I was using so much energy trying to keep this to myself, not to let it show…it was a BIG secret.  I can still remember so vividly how torturous and alone that felt.  Once I admitted my suicidal feelings to my brother I developed even more guilt, this time about asking him to protect my secret…I had begged him not to tell our parents.  He encouraged me to go to them, telling me that he knew they would be supportive and would want to know.  I was still far too ashamed, though, to take that step.  My brother told me through tears that he loved more than anything in the world and that his whole existence would be devastated if I ended my life.  He said he would do anything he could to help me.  His words were enough.  They didn’t stop my suicidal feelings, but they were enough to prevent me from following through.  My mind was still rational enough at that point for this to be an obvious, valid reason to keep fighting.

Monday, October 13, 2008

FirefightersStory-Thankyou to ALL/Obstacles

First, this past week has been so very very humbling, emotional, filled with many tears, a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs,BUT ITS ALL WORTH IT! Knowing that I was able to make a very small difference to others to help them realize that others who suffer like themselves, ARE out there. I went from being anonymous, to real public with revealing my identity with a picture for people to see me in order to make everyone realize that there is a face behind the story, which I felt was important. I thought that this would do more good for others, in that everyone who saw the 'face' behind the many messages we are all trying to get out to the public , far outweighed the consequences that now are part of what I will have to try and face in my life now. In my heart though, it was the right thing to do, and this is all I can say for now as it's very emotional obviously, and a very lonely place for me at this time now, BUT NO REGRETS!!!
To all of you who have helped raise the awareness, and you all know who you are, on behalf of everyone out here, a very big Thank you. Simple, yet it means so much.

I would like to briefly start on the subject of what I know was the biggest obstacle I had to fight through, in order for me to not only start therapy, but continue therapy. Some of the spillover effects, symptoms and such DO continue to this day, and can still be a challenge, but thats for another time. Many of you will recognize these other symptoms and challenges YOU face with being 1 in 5 and NOT having PTSD per say, but your own diagnosis of having a mental illness. I truly believe, my opinion only though, that we who suffer, have so very much in common, as in the spilloff symptoms, that if we were all able to sit down together and talk, we would all find out just how similar we all are. I like to say that we are all different, BUT we are all the same. I can tell you from my recent experiences, it is so very comforting for me to know that there are others who can relate so much to me, and me to them. Its comforting.
My biggest obstacle that I faced, WAS MYSELF! It was what was going on inside of my brain, my thoughts, my paranoia with what others would see, or what I would think they would be able to see. I would "think" that everyone and anyone who even looked at me, was around me, the public at large, my fellow firefighters, would be able to just look at me and say, ya, he's lost it. Although as I have said I came up with many ways to "hide in plain sight" as I call it, cover things up, run and hide my tears and breakdowns, put up a great fascade so others would not know, I went so far as to have many many detailed plans to exit, not only from certain situations that arose, but also from life. I always had to have a plan.
Every situation I faced, from going out to a store to get something, which obviously would be in public, to family situations, gatherings, get togethers, I had to have an exit plan, or an excuse to get away from everyone. Hence, the paranoia as I call it, and thats what it is/was with mental illness, be it real or not. In my mind it was ALL real though.
This is where MY BIGGEST fight was, and will be now. I say will be now, just because of the last weeks efforts to put a face to the story of mentall illness. Then, and now, its all the same. The fight is from within, for me.
I will write more about this struggle, at another time. As I keep saying I know my llimitations, and I must stop now, and try to take care of myself.
Again, THANK YOU to ALL OF YOU !! till next week, Larry