I am not alone because I have many people in my life who support and love me and understand my struggles. In the last 25 years, I have carried the diagnosis: ADHD, GAD, Bipolar, BPD, and panic disorder. I have learned over time that although I struggle silently, the illnesses that I do have do not define me. I am larger and stronger than any symptom I have and my ability to continue trying in times of adversity has made me a more sensitive, empathetic person.
I was diagnosed with ADHD in the late 1970’s when I was six years of age. My mother chose not to medicate me, instead encouraging a lot of playtime outside and “breaks” during homework in order to allow for a release of energy. During high school, I began suffering with extreme panic attacks where I would have to leave the classroom. I also suffered with depression as well during these times. It was extremely scary, but I found that swimming and being actively engaged in theater and swim competitions helped with some of my symptoms.
During college, I again began suffering; this time with severe mood swings which resulted in a diagnosis of bipolar. The medication did help and at the age of 40 now, I still take medication for this chronic illness.
In the last decade, I went through a lot of life changes that have resulted in an increase of stress: divorce, a few cross-country moves, and graduate school. During my divorce, and the changes that occurred as a result, I became unstable in my career and was later diagnosed with BPD. At the time, with the increase of stress, I was crying virtually everyday and did not have great control over my emotional state. As a result, I decided to re-group and go back to school to obtain my Master degree.
I have found through my journey of living with a mental illness, that seeking help and informing people (you trust) of your illness can help them help you. I have learned to let go of trying so hard to be like everyone else, pace myself, and to pay attention to my emotions so that I can more effectively deal with them. I have a handful of friends who have always been there for me, a boyfriend who is learning how to help me when I get fearful, and a mother who is a constant source of support and encouragement. This doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days. But overall, I know that I am not alone. I have people who love me, my faith that I draw upon for comfort and encouragement, and a puppy that provides constant companionship and love! I will be finishing up on my Masters degree this Summer and am ready to begin the search of gainful employment. Life is good!