Me or My Illness

The purpose of this blog is to end the stigma of mental illness and substance abuse.  I attempt to do this through education, self-help tips, and personal stories.  The experiences I write about are not meant to be representative of everyone with mental illness, everyone’s experience is unique.  I started this project knowing that there is no cure to mental illness and substance abuse, only active recovery.  I am sharing all of this, because I believe that everyone who has experienced mental illness and/or substance abuse, either first hand or as a family member or friend, can contribute to the conversation regardless of where they may be in their recovery.

Some weeks when I have written, my mental health has been good, and others have been not quite as good.  I have accepted that this is how I will experience life, through good mental health days and bad.  I believe it would be dishonest of me to only share my mental health successes, and hypocritical of me to preach ending the stigma while being ashamed to share my story.

Recently I have been feeling good.  I stopped self-harming, my alcohol cravings have decreased, and I have been enjoying things.  Most importantly for me, for the most part I have been free of suicidal thoughts for a stretch of several weeks.  I have been confident that my medication regimen and therapy schedule have hit the spot….but maybe not…

When I first started seeing my psychiatrist, he believed that I was bipolar type 2.  Since that first visit, I have been hospitalized three times and through several intensity levels of rehab.  My diagnosis has changed a bit, going back and forth between major depressive disorder and bipolar 2.  Honestly, I think I fall somewhere in the middle.  Below is how I envision it.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint
(MDD – Major Depressive Disorder)

So, as I said, I have been feeling good lately.  I have been staying up much later, have been more outgoing, and have even experienced less social anxiety.  At first I attributed all of this to a new medication I am taking, but it is a PRN (take __ as needed), and I feel this way with or without it.  I then thought I must just have hit a good patch in life.

But have I hit a good mental health patch?  Could I really be hypo-manic?  How do you tell if how you are feeling is you or your illness when it’s been so long since you have felt level?

Recently, I tried to remove a cyst on the top of my head.  It’s been there for years, but I just suddenly decided that not only did it have to go, but that I was capable of removing it (I didn’t succeed).  Then, more recently, I started thinking about a tattoo idea I liked.  I wanted to get a mental health ribbon tattooed on my wrist, and then on my forearm “It’s just a feeling”.  Instead of thinking about it and doing research, or even saving money for it, I went to a tattoo shop after work.  I left an hour and a half later with a mental health awareness ribbon on my wrist and the words “It’s only feelings” on my forearm.  Yeah, you read that right, I didn’t even get the correct words.  I got the sentiment right, but not the words.  My thoughts were everywhere and I couldn’t remember exactly how I wanted it worded.  Instead of really thinking about it or deciding to come back later, I wrote the closest thing I could think of and had the artist tattoo that.

So…is this who I am when I’m level?  Am I someone who gets spur of the moment tattoos regardless of whether she remembers the correct words?  Is this my illness?  Am I maybe a bit closer to bipolar 2 than I originally thought?

This is something I am going to discuss in detail with my therapist and my psychiatrist.  In the meantime, you can see my new tattoos below.


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