A History of Mental Illness: An Awakening

My last post seemed to have struck a nerve for lots of people.  I haven’t responded to any comments or messages regarding this series for many reasons.  1) I wanted to finish the series before responding because, like I stated in my introductory post, I have learned so much about myself this 6 months and much of that has involved my mental illness.  I needed to finish the series before I could respond because it has occupied my thoughts for too long.  2) While I appreciate the affirmative responses like “it will get better” I must remind all of you that this is my history.  I know it will get better and it has in many ways.  (As I will discuss in this post.)  3) I knew that talking about motherhood would make many people say things like “yeah, that’s motherhood; it’s tough…” I know that.  Most parents know that.  But my experiences went beyond tough, it was excruciating because the anxiety and the depression.  This is why I’ve been diagnosed with mental illness. 4) As much as I love you all, I wrote this series for me.  I’m selfish like that.

Last year was a good year.  It was a great year.  I found myself on a level field in which I could realistically and logically look at the world around me.  It no longer seemed black and white; in fact, I found the world colorful, like a rainbow.  It was beautiful and I felt…normal.

There were things that were hard.  Incredibly hard: miscarriages 3 and 4, a move across the country for Ben to start medical school, medical school, starting work full-time (though that wasn’t really hard, it was awesome!), and Ben withdrawing from medical school.  But these transitions didn’t knock me down, mentally and emotionally, like they might have before.  Yes I had my highs and lows, but they were normal highs and lows, not the REALLY HIGHS and really lows I experienced before.

(Getting pregnant 2 short weeks after miscarrying was difficult.  I didn’t have time to fully grieve before getting thrust into the wait and worry game again.  That’s a story that deserves it’s own post.)

Anyway.  This year, after getting past 20 weeks, and finally feeling like a normal human being, I had to re-evaluate my situation.  I was able to take my medication (which was a life saver) and come to a place short of normal.

I finally decided to research anxiety and depression and figure out what is going on in my brain and my body.  This led to so much understanding of my history, my current state, and my future. I embraced that I have mental illnesses and that it’s okay.  It doesn’t change my personality, it doesn’t change my outlook on life, it doesn’t change anything.  I am a beautiful person who has a variety of mood disorders that makes life challenging.  But I love challenges.  I love who I am and how my mental illness has shaped me.  My favorite quote, stolen from Lindsey‘s blog, is,

Let me not…be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.

Let me not look for allies in life’s battlefield but to my own strength.

Let me not cave in. — Rabindranath Tagore

I see this quote as an example of my view on life–it is full of ups and downs, hardships and triumphs, losses and births, and each of these shape who we are as individuals.  One of my favorite passages in the Book of Mormon has and always will be 2 Ne 2:11:

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

I sincerely believe that my compassion, love, and empathy/sympathy for others has come from my hyper-awareness about my own struggles.  I am still a happy person.  I’ve mentioned before that I am an realistic optimist.  This means that I see the world in all its ugliness and beauty but firmly believe that more beauty exists than ugly.  I think I have more love in my heart now than I used to because I see how hard it can be.

Most of all, I accept who I am.  All the parts.  Sure there are days when I wish I didn’t have highs and lows and when I wish that my anxiety wouldn’t cloud my thinking, but I am learning to accept those parts of myself.  This self-acceptance will be a life-long process.  I know I will have times when I feel angry, despair, and frustration with it, but I also know that those periods will will be shorter than before because I am okay with who I am.  I no longer need to apologize to others and myself for my shortcomings. I am an adult who can stand up and fight for what I need.

I am still learning about mental illness, specifically my diagnoses, and I know that my knowledge in this area will continuously expand.  Along with my passions regarding miscarriage and hyperemesis gravidarum, I have found something else I really believe in: educating people about mental illness and supporting those who struggle with it.

I have awakened.

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7 Comments

Filed under Month of Instrospection

7 responses to “A History of Mental Illness: An Awakening

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

  2. Pingback: A History of Mental Illness: A Dark Secret | Making the Moments Count

  3. Dad

    Amber: As a person who is intimately familiar with mental illness, and who has worked in the field and taught about it for many years, please let me comment.

    First, naming something is always vital. The term, “Mental Illness” is fearful to many because it covers a variety of conditions. Your bravery in naming it, instead of only calling it “mood disorder” (althouth that is accurate) started you to where you are. It also both personalizes your condition and depersonalizes it; “There’s my mental illness acting up again” is a powerful concept.

    Second, mental illness enhances your ability to recognize it in others and to, perhaps, take steps to appropriately assist. I, for example, don’t listen much to people who give advice, unless they have been here. Then I will listen.

    Third, dear daughter, I love you with all my heart. You have to do this work for yourself first, get your cup full, before you can move on to other extensions of your beautiful self.

    Dad

  4. I’ve been absent from blog reading for quite a while and I’ve missed it…yours being one of my must-reads. I was happy to have this to come back to. I think you are brave and amazing.

  5. Amber, be selfish like that as much as you want. I have more to say in response, but my brain is tired, and so I just send hugs – understanding ones, celebratory ones, heartfelt ones.