Hi, there. Its been a while since our last face-to-face. Since then, quite a lot has changed.
So, let’s start with the facts we all know:
- We’re all in the twilight zone of the novel coronavirus that which shall never be spoken.
- It’s a gambler’s guess on when it will feel 100% safe to go back to restaurants, shop at stores, and catch up with friends in person.
- The social distancing we’ve experienced for the last few months doesn’t seem to be anywhere close to ending, and the mounting frustration and anxiety seem to have gotten ahold of many of us.
Nothing is more accurate for me, except my reasons for ‘social distancing’ started way before any stay-at-home orders and involved more than this terrible virus.
The truth is, I’ve been disconnected from countless people, social platforms, and my blog since late 2019 – well before the nightmare that is COVID-19 began.
Here’s The Thing
Depression has been a consistent fixture in my life and has lent a hand to progressively destructive behavior.
When I was 11 years old, I had a period where I refused to eat because of depression.
When I was 14 years old, I attempted suicide.
When I was 20 years old, I failed an entire semester of classes because I couldn’t get out of bed.
When I was 26 years old, I had a breakdown that almost led to suicide.
Most recently, it influenced my decision to take a six-month hiatus from my online platforms.
My Lowest Point
Before my break from my blog and social media, I was in bad shape. I would stay up into the late-night hours to drink away my anxiety and depression so that I could function the next day. At some point, I stopped taking my antidepressants and self-medicated using alcohol. I told myself it was just wine, even though I could go through a bottle or more a night.
It was clear something wasn’t right, and instead of addressing the root cause, I masked it with a few glasses of chardonnay.
What followed were days where I could barely function, let alone take care of my basic needs like eat, shower, or even brush my teeth. It was a draining cycle of ups and downs, and I never knew when the down would hit, and my world would come to a screeching halt.
My Road to Recovery
In December 2019, I had enough of cycling through episode after episode of depression, so I made the intentional decision to give up drinking alcohol and get serious about my health – physical and emotional. I began to take my antidepressant consistently and focused on getting into a healthy routine.
Then unexpectedly, something changed.
I had initially planned to only take a few weeks off from social media and my blog while I got my life together, but I began to experience an escalation of psychological and physical symptoms.
There were weeks I didn’t sleep, and although my depression let up for some time, it came roaring back with a vengeance.
I went from highly energized and productive to an insomniac depressive within a week.
A New Diagnosis
After reaching a point where I felt like I was going to lose it, I visited my psychiatrist, who prescribed me a new drug. He failed to inform me of possible side effects from combining the new meds with the old ones, and when I followed up with him to get answers, he was extremely dismissive.
I was doing my best to remain resilient in the situation, but my hope to get better was waning by the day. Because if anyone knows anything about psychiatric care, you would understand that a psychiatrist is extremely hard to come by. In fact, only 40% of counties within the United States have them.
But, in a serendipitous way, I was able to get ahold of a new psychiatrist fairly quickly.
After thoroughly going through my psychological history, prior care, and current symptoms, my new psychiatrist gave me a diagnosis that will forever change the way I operate in this world.
She informed me that my mood changes, inability to sleep, and racing thoughts all had a name to it.
And it was Bipolar II Disorder.
My Adjustment Period
It was a relief to know that my symptoms had a definitive prognosis because I needed a solution.
And one seemed to be at hand.
The months that followed my diagnosis were gradually better, but I still had a way to go. Mainly, I still struggled with sleeping, so there had to be multiple adjustments to my medication.
Along with trying to manage my symptoms, I needed to digest this new diagnosis and adapt to my new normal.
Learning that I live with Bipolar II Disorder has been both a relief and a journey of understanding and acceptance.
There’s a liberation that comes with knowing the accurate diagnosis so that I can take steps to manage it and get to the business of being ‘me’. Equally, I’ve tried to understand precisely what Bipolar Disorder means for me by diving into books and articles from reputable sources.
But, by far, the hardest part has been the acceptance. I was concerned about being a walking stigma. There’s not much common knowledge amongst my peers about living with the disorder. Even I’ve had to check my understanding of how the illness operates.
I’ve had to detach myself from society’s stigmatizations and focus on the facts.
And the fact is, I’m going to be okay.
I have the determination and focus to control my illness and not let it control me.
I’m in a much better place than even two months ago. And as I have emerged from my self-imposed ‘social distancing’, I have a renewed purpose and stand.
There’s so much more to learn, explore, and share about living with any illness related to the brain.
There are also lots of people in the world suffering from psychological problems because they don’t have the right information and resources to combat them. In reality, 1 in 5 American adults will experience some form of mental illness.
For that reason, I’ve decided to spend much of my time on this platform bringing awareness to psychological and brain well-being, the stigmatization, and how we can make it better.
I will still write travel pieces that inspire and educate, but I want this blog to simultaneously serve those looking for help or guidance in the realm of psychological health.
I want to say I’ve come out on the other side in a better place, and to some degree I have, but I’ll always be a work in progress.
And that’s okay.