COLLEGE TO CURATIVES TO CAPTIVE, OH MY
As a high school student, I was an overachiever. By my senior year I was the lead in the musical, newspaper editor, president of drama guild, member of the National Honors Society, member of the choir, in multiple AP classes, and was on my way to Rider's School of Fine and Performing Arts with a partial scholarship. Within the next two years, my life would change forever. I began noticing symptoms (though I didn't know they were symptoms at the time) during my senior year of high school, but I thought it was just stress from all I was doing plus some things going on at home. At one rehearsal for the musical I was in, I laughed at a joke, but I couldn't stop laughing. I laughed hysterically until I ran to the bathroom and began crying. At my promenade before the prom, everything seemed so loud and it all seemed to be echoing in my head. I had to leave the building and sit in the quiet car, crying, to stop the feeling of everyone's voices bouncing around my head.
Over the summer I was involved with a theatre company, and I took a lot of bathroom breaks so I could stand in the bathroom and cry. I thought I was nervous for college. I thought I didn't like the theatre company. I thought if I told myself there were valid reasons for these emotional outbursts, I wouldn't have to admit that there was something wrong besides nerves and stress.
I went to college and had an awful experience with an awful roommate. I cried often, I didn't make any friends, I slept all the time. I came home for my winter break with a plan to get a bunch of things done, and when I got home I sat on the couch and didn't move for the whole break. I thought something was wrong, and I was hoping it was a thyroid issue, because other people in my family suffered from mental health disorders and I didn't want to go through that.
I went to my doctor and she told me my thyroid was fine. I burst into tears and my mom gently suggested I might have some depression. I agreed.
What followed were three years of trial and error with medication, an endless amount of sleepless nights, crying spells, laughing spells, irritability, anger, yelling, screaming, medicine side effects, and suffering I didn't think I would ever have to experience.
I went from being the happy, talented high school honors student to a depressed lump of a person unable to get off the couch. I weighed less than 120 pounds (I'm 5'6) - I could see my ribs when I looked in the mirror. I didn't recognize myself - not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, intellectually.
After years of trial and error I found a medication combination that worked pretty well for me, I started a children's theatre nonprofit (at the extreme urge of my mother who just wanted me to do something that made me get off the couch and smile), and began returning to a semi-normal life.
I was diagnosed in 2012. I'm not the same person I was in high school (who is, really?) and it saddens me that I can't do all I could back then. I live with my mom (which I love - she's my best friend), I don't make much of an income, and I can only do so much before burning out and being majorly affected emotionally and physically. I'm not able to do all I want to or all I know I was once able to. Sometimes I think about the past and wonder what I'd be doing today if I hadn't developed this disorder. But then I look at some of the people I've helped, some of my accomplishments, and the fact that I'm light years ahead of where I once was and I realize I'm right where I'm supposed to be - on my computer, sharing my thoughts, being kind to others, and enjoying what I'm able to do. There's not much you can ask for in life besides stability and contentedness, and I feel at this point in my life I have both. I want to help other people find that as well. You may never become an astronaut or a neurosurgeon or a world traveler (not that you can't - you can do whatever you set your mind to, but you might decide the emotional toll it's going to take isn't worth it), but living a life where you're able to wake up every morning and feel like you can help someone else is a life worth living, and a life you should be proud of. I know I'm proud of my life, and you should be proud of yours too. If you're alive you've already defeated the greatest enemy you will ever come across. Stay the course, follow your treatment plan, and listen to your mind and your body. That's what I've learned to do, and although my life is far from perfect, it's better than I thought it could be years ago when I was on the couch crying. My mantra when things are tough is, "Nothing lasts forever." The bad will end. My life may be full of ups and downs, but the times in between are becoming more and more frequent. I'm thankful for all those who have stood by me, and I'm thankful for you and your support.
- That was written when I first created this website when I was dealing with bipolar disorder and narcolepsy. A year later I find myself diagnosed with dysautonomia, a chronic illness that affects the autonomic nervous system in the body. I spend most days in bed and if I'm able to get up I can usually only do one thing a day. I haven't posted for a while but with this new diagnoses I intend on trying to connect with those in similar situations even more.
"Think of it as an opportunity to be heroic—not ‘I survived living in Mosul during an attack’ heroic, but an emotional survival. An opportunity to be a good example to others who might share our disorder."
- Carrie Fisher