I am going to describe to you a place that I have spent most of my life. I like to tell people that it is like I am in a fish bowl and the rest of the world outside are the fish. I can see and hear everything going on outside, but it is sort of otherworldly to me. As if everything going on outside is not quite real, just outside of my reach. It’s as if I don’t fit in and I can’t really feel and be part of it, almost a dream-like state.
I remember feeling this way from the time I was a small child. I would stand on the playground at school and watch the other kids. I just couldn’t seem to fit into their world. I was always the one they thought was strange or different. I said and did things that were odd to them. My family would always say things like “only you Wendy!”
I know now that my bipolar symptoms were presenting and that my behavior was different from other children even as a child. I believe that it was at that point that I began to build the box to retreat from the shame I was feeling from the “differentness” I felt about myself. I knew something was not quite right about me and others saw it. I was picked on and this continued throughout my school years and then throughout graduation. The box had worsened from a rape I experienced during my teen years, as well as sexual abuse I had endured during my childhood I also developed PTSD.
As I became an adult I made bad choices in relationships and the box became a refuge during years of emotional abuse while married to an alcoholic. I watched a second marriage fall apart in my box and raised children from my box. My children suffered while I spent years not able to reach them and give them what they so needed emotionally. I regret the years that I was not treated and couldn’t explain to them why their mother could not truly give them the love and other things they needed during their growing up years.
I was married for the third time and went through a terrible time of depression and a yearlong state of suicidal thoughts and hallucinations, culminating in finally being hospitalized and diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. I learned many things about myself and many things about my world and the things that I had been going through for all the years that I had not understood. The medications helped and through the therapy I began to understand what the ‘box’ was that was keeping me prisoner.
I now know that this box has a name. It is called a ‘dissociative state.’ Only through therapy and medication did I recognize what I had been going through all these years. I had a name now for what this was. It was finally not a mystery and I didn’t feel so weird anymore. I finally knew that I could break out of the glass and join the world. I didn’t have to be afraid to step out and try to experience my emotions. I am still tentative, and I still go back in my box here and there when things get scary and I feel threatened, but it is only for short periods now. But knowing that my experience has name and that I can control it now is empowering.
I know that I am not alone and that this a shared experience.
I hope that if you too are in a ‘box’ you will take your first tentative steps towards therapy and medication that may help you join the world again. It really isn’t as bad as you might think.
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