Heads up, ladies, gents, and everyone in between, because we are about to get reallllll personal here. I’m talking about something I’ve never really talked about before- my mental illness.
Shortly before I turned nineteen, I was diagnosed with a psychological disorder. My official diagnosis is MD-NOS, or Mood Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. This is a fancy way of saying nobody really knows what’s wrong with me. Whatever it is I have, I was told I’d probably developed it in middle school, and it’s somewhere between all of those other labels- not quite depression, not quite bipolar. Although, I’m sure if I went in now they’d have new labels to throw at me, considering it’s been almost four years since my initial diagnosis
Generally, I’m pretty high-functioning. This does not mean my disorder is not real, and this does not mean I’m not impacted daily. It just means I manage to pull myself out of bed regularly. Most people wouldn’t know I had a disorder unless I told them. That can be a very good thing, but it can also be a very bad thing. Having this kind of “invisible” illness is great when I want to fly under the radar, so to speak, or if I’m having a good day, or if I just don’t feel like talking about it to the few people who know…but it makes things harder, too.
“Flying under the radar” means people sometimes don’t believe me if I mention my disorder. It means even the people closest to me forget that I’m sick. It means I have to hear “cheer up” on days when I’m fighting really, really hard not to crack and scream and freak out because of what’s happening “with my disorder.” It means friends and family don’t understand how or why I feel a certain way. It means that even if I’ve had a fantastic day where nothing really went wrong, I can still feel pulled into this terrifying place that’s dark and soul-sucking and I can’t explain that. It means I feel obligated to continue to pretend I don’t have a disorder even on my worst days. It means I don’t have the option of breaking down, because I am expected to be…well…normal. Healthy. Not sick.
It’s exhausting. I am weary. And I hate the way this disease makes me feel. And I hate that there’s nothing I can do to cure it or make it go away.
I used to be on pills to help. I stopped taking them after the first six months because I didn’t like what they did to me. I’ve thought a few times about going back and trying something else, but I never do. I guess I’d rather feel everything in the extremes than feel nothing at all, although when I’m feeling particularly bad all I can do is curl up into a ball and cry and scream into a pillow that I just want everything to go away, that I just want a little quiet, that CAN’T ANYONE SEE ME OR HEAR ME OR UNDERSTAND THAT THIS IS NOT OKAY AND I AM NOT OKAY ANYMORE? Or, more accurately, that I never was?
Someone pretty prevalent in my life right now tells me frequently that he wishes he could “emote” like me, that I’m so “in touch” with how I feel, that I’m good at “empathizing.” I hate it when he does that. Not because it’s offensive, and not because he means it in a bad way. He doesn’t. I know these statements are meant to be complimentary. These are things he admires about me, or so he says. It bothers me because I don’t feel that way. I feel like I am constantly walking on miles of broken glass, precariously picking my way through the psychological wreckage that is my brain in a vain attempt to figure out how I feel or what I think or what my moods are doing and whether or not they are justified or a product of my disease. It’s a little like if someone told me that hazel eyes were a symptom of some eyeball disease, and then every time I looked in the mirror I had to determine whether my eyes were hazel because that’s how they’re supposed to be or if they’re hazel because I suddenly have ocular herpes. (I just did a google search and found out that ocular herpes is a real thing. I’m sorry to anyone who has ocular herpes, it looks extremely painful. Get well soon). The one thing I do agree with is that I am good at empathizing, and I am good at reading other people’s emotions…sometimes. I’ve had to work really hard to figure out my own moods and feelings, which means I can spot mood changes in other people pretty easily…sometimes. Again, we come back to this doubt-uncertainty-insecurity thing where I never know if what I think I perceive is true or not.
And this is a daily thing. This happens constantly. It never goes away. Sure, there are quiet days. There are days where I can even forget I have it. And then there are days where I am slammed with it so hard that I cannot do anything but cry in the corner of my closet because it’s dark and quiet there and if no one can see me and I can’t even see me then maybe it will all go away. And then there are days where I just can’t get out of bed. There are days where I don’t want to say anything. There are days where I just watch episode after episode of whatever’s on Netflix because I feel all empty and apathetic and weird inside.
And anyone who actually knows me who may be reading this, you might be surprised. I’m typically a very high-energy, high-enthusiasm, bouncy, bubbly, blonde bohemian-glitterball making up songs with childish glee and planning to change the world because I grew up with Captain Planet and the Power Rangers and I read too many books. That’s who I am, too. But I am also this sad, conflicted, quiet cry-in-the-closet girl. And it really sucks trying to navigate life like that. I don’t know what else to do, though, except keep trying. And I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. And I don’t really know what else to say, so I’m going to stop typing now. Thanks for listening.