Welcome to #MentalHealthMay at Ravishly. All month long we'll be featuring articles about mental health. Join us as we continue to erase the stigma.
Content notice: suicide
My mother had to identify my great aunt’s body. After not hearing from her for a while, folks had gone searching. They found her in a hotel 45 miles away from her home, dead on the floor, an apparent overdose. I suspect my great-grandmother was simply too heartbroken to go. Marie was one of two daughters — the second, and less favored, being my grandmother, Joan.
Marie was, what they called in the 70s, “manic-depressive” — what we now call bipolar disorder.
I was little when Marie died. I have no memory of her. I think the memory most of our family has, based on lore, is that she was “crazy.” I suspect she inherited some amount of “crazy” from her mother, my great-grandmother, who was an alcoholic and who knows what else because no one talked about any of this in the early 1900s while she was growing up.
Bipolar disorder is our legacy. Not a great one, but a legacy just the same.
When I imagine Marie’s life, I can feel the strain of an untreated, debilitating illness. I think of the years I went undiagnosed — suicidal, spending every penny of my family’s money, acting like a literal crazy person. I think of the way she must have felt, jumping from man to man, bouncing from job to job, passing her only daughter off to my great-grandmother to be raised, cycling through out of control highs and paralytic depression.
I think of the desperation that must have driven her to take her own life. I think of all the times I thought my family would be better off without me.
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But more than anything, I think about how different things might have been if we’d been openly discussing mental health, if she’d had access to proper treatment, if she’d been med compliant. I imagine she’d still be alive — the women in my family are stubbornly long-lived. I imagine with the stigma erased my mom might have been treated earlier.
I imagine how that would have impacted me and the trauma I experienced at the hands of a mentally ill alcoholic. I imagine how I might have been treated sooner. I imagine how that would have impacted my kids.
And I am sad.
I am sad for my great-grandmother who endured the most painful experience a parent can imagine, for Marie who lived her entire adult life in suffering, for her daughter who had no mother, for my estranged mother who has never seen her two youngest grandchildren, and for myself who suffered needlessly in shame.
And I am sad for you, and the rest of the world who still suffers in silence for fear of judgement, persecution, discrimination.
I have bipolar disorder. I have OCD. I have OCPD. I experienced multiple childhood traumas that have resulted in C-PTSD. I have anxiety. This list is probably not exhaustive, but I am, so I’ll stop there.
There was a time I could not fathom speaking those words out loud; now I cannot fathom silence.
I see a psychiatrist and a therapist. I see a pranic healer. I meditate (when I remember). I try my best to care for my body and mind with sleep, good food, exercise, and yes, medications.
Lots and lots of medications. Medications that weren’t available for Marie. Medications that my mother won’t take. Medications that literally keep me alive.
Below you will find a comprehensive list of what I take. (There are some others but they aren’t regular enough to be included on this list.)
No shame in my med game. This is what I am taking this now (because I flaked my meds last night. I don't usually take zoloft in the morning because it makes me a little tired) *** What do I take and why? *** Pharmaceuticals: For my lazy thyroid: Levothyroxine 50 mcg For my OCD/OCPD/exercise bulimia/depression: Sertraline (Zoloft) 200mg For mood stabilization (to keep the mania in check): Lamotrigine (Lamictal) 300mg Just because I'm not on enough shit: Buproprion (Wellbutrin) 300 mg (just kidding, it's an add on used when other SSRIs don't give complete coverage) Xanax .5 or 1 mg very occasionally for anxiety A 5:1 CBD/THC gummy or vape also for anxiety (pot is legal here and don't you goddamn judge me for it but also note that it isn't compatible with all psych meds and strains are very important for folks with mental health stuff) *** Supplements: Vit D 6000IU (the pink gummies) Vitamin C a bunch Vit B12 liquid spray (by My Kind organic, not shown here) Elderberry Probiotics one jillion Mag Calm (a powdered cal-mag supplement added to water) Ashwagandha (an herb recommended to me by @ourstabletable for stress relief, not pictured) *** I am 100% transparent about my medication. You can ask me anything at anytime and I will do my best to answer you either as a human being with #mentalillness or as a nurse. *** #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthrecovery #bipolar #bipolardisorder #ptsd #bpd #mentalhealthawareness #medcompliance
It’s a long list.
I haven’t always taken them. I don’t usually enjoy taking them. Sometimes I forget to take them. Sometimes I skip them on purpose because some of them make me feel shitty.
But the truth is, these meds are what stand between me and all of the things that come with hypomania — sleeplessness, pressured speech, flight of ideas, sexual promiscuity, spending money like I’m Oprah — and depression — the inability to get out of bed, hypersomnia, the feeling that everything is terrible and will never get better, the overwhelming feeling that my family would be better off if I were dead. These meds are what give me sanity, most of the time, and life, all of the time.
I will not be ashamed of these medications.
I have not always felt this way but as I have aged and witnessed unnecessary suffering, it’s become shockingly apparent to me that there are folks who repeatedly need to hear that psychiatric meds are not only okay, they are necessary.
I write to do whatever small part I can to erase stigma — mental illness, medications, psychiatry, psychotherapy, and all of the things that go along with being neurodivergent.