A History of Mental Illness: They Call Me Red

This is a series about my history of mental illness.  Please read the introduction for more information.

Eight was so magical.  I felt so free and happy and thought life was full of exciting possibilities. When I turned 9, I started experiencing symptoms that would remain undiagnosed until much later in my life.

In 4th grade, I defined the grading scale according to my perceptions, A is excellent, C is mediocre, and F is failure, and felt this compulsion for perfection. I would apologize incessantly to my parents if I received anything less than an A on assignments and would work harder to reach perfection.

I started feeling nervous in social situations.  I would worry about going to school and seeing my peers because I was sure they didn’t like me or they were talking about my oddities behind my back.  I would think about what I had said/did in specific encounters for weeks on end. I could barely speak in class or other group settings without turning beet red.

Soon, disturbing dreams and thoughts haunted me day and night.  I won’t go into details (because I still can’t believe I had these thoughts and dreams) but many of these haunt me today. I began waking up frequently through the night, terrified. I would often lay in bed for hours alternately wishing for sleep (because I was so tired) and hiding from it (because of my dreams), turning to books and other mediums to chase the night away.  I felt tired constantly and would finally fall asleep only to have the vicious cycle start again.

The worries piled up.  My chest hurt because I constantly felt that something bad was going to happen and began to fear everything.  I worried about walking around my neighborhood alone because surely I would be kidnapped and/or raped.  I was terrified of the dark and would sleep with stuffed animals or pillows piled up beside me, with me sleeping in the middle, so the unknown intruder could not find me or harm me and the spiders would not eat me.  I had to sleep with the door closed and the blinds shut so people could not look in and know I was there.  There were times when I would wake up with my heart beating, body clenched, and gasping for air as I was sure there was a mysterious invader inside my house intent on murdering me and my family.  I would lay in bed, screaming for my parents.  It was awful.

Sadly, this was only my elementary years.  As time grew on, the symptoms worsened.

Continue on to Part Two.



Filed under Month of Instrospection

6 responses to “A History of Mental Illness: They Call Me Red

  1. I can relate to some of this myself, although I don’t think nights got really scary for me until I was older. But I think much of that was spurred on by being superstitious and believing in a literal Satan. I can see how this kind of fear and anxiety would really cripple you, and at the tender age of 9 that must have been a hard thing to deal with. This is a really interesting series.

  2. Anxiety, so young? It was awful at 20. Oh, Amber, my heart goes out to you!

  3. I think you’re very brave to explore these memories and feelings, and to write of them. I can only imagine that it will be helpful, and not only for you.


  4. Melanie

    How horrible! I’ve also had nightmares but since kindergarden, so I can relate:(

  5. Amber, I can’t imagine this is easy to write about. I appreciate your candor in this series and I hope it provides you with some catharsis.

  6. Pingback: A History of Mental Illness: An Introduction | Making the Moments Count