My mental illness journey actually began a long time ago. Let’s go back to the beginning. In 2002 I was a Sophomore at Conservatory. I was a violinist and I had competed since I was 10 years old. Violin was my passion and it was supposed to be my life, but something wasn’t right. I began to put my violin down more frequently in exchange for nights out binge drinking with my friends. The mornings after would leave me feeling empty and alone. I thought I was surrounded by friends and maybe I might have been, but the nights of “togetherness” and “fun” left me feeling more alone than ever. If anyone was on my side I couldn’t tell. It was at this time that I dabbled in psych meds and therapy, but nothing seemed to work. Self medicating worked. These pills did not, and this lady that they’re making me talk to just doesn’t understand. By the time college ended I had no next step in sight. I had not auditioned for graduate school and I was severely depressed. I now know that I was experiencing a mixed-state, but we’ll come back to that later. After college I went home. I met a guy. I started a job that had nothing to do with music and I started “adulting”. 2005 began a rollercoaster ride that changed my life. I was in a severely hypomanic state, not that I knew what that even was. I felt trapped in my own mind and I couldn’t escape. I was angry. No, not angry. I was full of rage. Yet somehow I had bright ideas and ambitions, but then why was I sad?
Well, here come the antidepressants. They made everything worse. All of my symptoms were magnified and I felt more lost than ever. I was in an abusive relationship, and I was the abuser. I was hurting everyone in my life but it was impossible to stop. I was a snowball rolling down a mountain and the avalanche was coming. In 2006 I took a leave of absence from work and my life and relocated 1500 miles away for two months. I got stabilized on some meds that seemed to work for a time. I went to therapy and made a lot of progress, but my monster was still inside of me and it still didn’t have a name.
In 2008, after three years that guy I met left me for someone else, I got fired, and Hurricane Ike hit all in the same weekend. As if that wasn’t enough my father was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Tumor Cancer. I was devastated and my mind was a wreck. I was literally the crazy ex-girlfriend. It wasn’t until a year later when my father passed that I realized what true heartbreak was. It changed my entire perspective of what a broken heart-felt like. I was Daddy’s Little Girl and the first man I ever loved was gone.
The aftermath of grief is a funny thing. I thought I was ok until one day about 9 months after my dad passed I realized I hadn’t slept more than 4 hours a night since he passed. I was not medicated at all at this time as I had experienced years of being on and off medication and I just felt that I was surviving without it. I wanted to truly feel the loss and the grief because it meant that it was all real.
I needed grief counseling and to get back on my medications so I found a new therapist and a new psychiatrist. These two people, in combination, saved my life. My therapist cracked me open like a raw egg and helped me work through the years of what I will call “lostness”. My psychiatrist, whom I still see 10 years later, gave my monster a name. Bipolar Disorder. Finally. I knew what it was. This was the thing that had wreaked havoc on my life for almost a decade. That is really where my wellness journey begins…