I’ve ALWAYS been Different-
But infectious. I’m highly intelligent, driven, personable, and charismatic. I had rough aspects in my childhood, but always persevered with the mentality, “That’s life.”
This would be my senior year of high school. So much pep and so many smiles. Ask any of these people about me and I’m sure they would tell you similar things- I was a crazy girl, but fun.
I remember when I was 16, my grandfather passing, and just sitting there numb, as if I was inconvenienced, and instead of spending time with family or processing emotions, I went to some event later that night- I believe it was the homecoming football game. I lived with my grandpa and grandma since I was in the third grade, and took care of him from middle-school age till 16 years old, he had Alzheimer’s, but I kept going.
I moved from Washington state to Arizona when I was 18 for college and my life took off. I had to adjust to being on my own (financially and emotionally), but I adapt well and am great with my resources.
I was the same girl as back home: straight-edge, knew everything about the world and people, dedicated, a dreamer, social, and opportunistic. Shortly thereafter, I was on a path to honest-to-God success, picked out of hundreds of applicants for a highly-coveted Orientation Leader position on campus and 1 of maybe a hundred applicants to be an Intern by sophomore year for the Undergrad Office of Admissions.
Then one day after a semester (not a week, not a month, but roughly 4 months) of work, dedication, interviews, long days, longer nights, keeping grades up, and a summer of extremely hard-work, I QUIT. Quit, two days before the end. My internship was also revoked. I still remember that phone call from the lady who was our direct boss Sarah, the anger and disappointment in her voice as I was completely apathetic. I thought nothing more and never even questioned what changed, but my path changed shortly thereafter (As well as my major- somewhere 7 times). All of these people I built bonds with and those who had become my family were gone. I did feel alone and I still feel a lot of sadness to this day over what could have been and the failure I was, but I kept going.
Here is what I traded all of that for. It’s only hookah (flavored tobacco), but a transition none-the-less. I do still love these pics from an artistic standpoint.
Fast-forward two years, and that moment (described above) was incredibly pivotal, looking back. I stayed in school, did well, but withdrew from university life; stayed off of campus, kept a constant stray of friends- most of whom didn’t go to school anymore, began to drink and party (I’ve got stories for days)- to the point that I was unsafe. Yet, bad things out of my control happened to me as well, which provoked a complete loss of care. I didn’t care about myself. I didn’t love myself. Time just kept passing and I should have seen the avalanche warning, but I just kept pretending it wasn’t the right conditions for one to happen to me.
Well Then it Happened-
Everything came to a head: a dear friend of mine unraveled completely in her own mental health right in front of me, I failed an entire semester of classes (for the first time in the history of my life), my grandma (who raised me) died after years of an awful disease, and then I was abandoned (every single person who I trusted and gave things up for and loved, left me completely alone); they just upped and moved from our huge house that we worked so hard for.
I don’t remember about 3 weeks of my life in this stage, I didn’t sleep- and when I say I didn’t sleep, I literally got maybe an hour a night for weeks. I became so delusional that I saw figures in my room and heard voices, I cried for hours and hours and hours- only to relive this hell for weeks. Eventually I decided it was time to give up. Withdraw.
I showed up at my Dean’s office early the next day, sat stone-faced in there and asked to be withdrawn from the University. He closed the door, his training intern sat close. Both of the looks of concern were actions of love and compassion that I was fortunate to find. He asked one question- “What is going on?” I lost my composure- I didn’t believe or even like myself, how would I expect anyone else to? Yet, he did and it caught me off guard; I couldn’t hide. I told them everything, with years and years of pain coming out of my heart and pints of tears falling from my eyes, the whimpers and cries of a deep rift, a pain- one that breaks my heart and is unbelievable to remember. My eyes water even recalling this moment of defeat and anguish.
He gave me two options:
1. Escort myself to health services for immediate counseling/mental health services or
2. He would escort me over there. He refused to withdraw me and instilled some fight when I had none.
(If I haven’t lost you- here is where the real battle began)
I saw Matt for about a week* before I could get into a psychiatrist for eval. He was confused by me, but intrigued and concerned. I didn’t want counseling. So instead of fighting or being aggressive, I used my charm to manipulate him into a 40 minute conversation about anything besides my mental stability. He would eventually catch on and then get me back to focus, drag some deep story or feeling that has been suppressed, where I would unravel in moments and be at the front ten minutes later needing to create another appointment.
I lived vicariously through Matt’s life in this time period because he had a very good life by my standards (again I’m not kidding how badly I got to know this guys life from distracting him from mine). He was handsome, young, getting his degree (hence why he worked as a counselor at the pretty much free clinic on campus), had been with the love of his life for a little bit, and he proposed. His stories gave me a distraction and a la-la land of how life can be for some.
Then one-day he called me on the carpet- in the beginning of the session. He said that we were not getting off topic and began counseling immediately, I complied, he got a big dose of my life and that was when he also said the phrase that I attribute to a catalytic change within my confound, “You know that isn’t normal**.”
It threw me back. What? It wasn’t in response to a single action that I did, but that I kept going in circles with my life, I would move, I would get a new job, try new things, try different tactics with my love life or my family or my friends, and nothing ever let-up. The feeling of 1000 bricks on my chest, it never left me. I didn’t know what else to do- and he said those words. He followed it up with the fact that I’m doing what I need to be doing and trying my hardest to survive and the cards I was dealt were not my fault.
I left that appointment, sat in my shitty Saturn with a campus parking ticket on the windshield and broke down. It was the first time that anyone ever told me that It wasn’t my fault, but more importantly, that what I recognized as normal was so far from the realm of ‘normal’ that I accepted certain types of people in my life because that was all I had known.
These people sought out different traits of strength and care that I give to those I love and utilized that over me. This goes for family, my friends, dating, etc.
I can’t recall if my Bipolar diagnosis came before or after- essentially the psych confirmed I WAS CRAZY and gave me that train ticket (bipolar, anxiety, depression, and OCD)- JUST A BIG OL’ TRAIN RUNNING OFF COURSE WHILE I SCREAM, “FULL SPEED AHEAD.”
She put me on 4-5 medications at high doses and left me so sedated, that another 3 weeks of my life I don’t really recall.
What I do recall is snapping out of it one morning, and recognizing I was heavily drugged and I quit cold turkey- if you know someone with mood disorders especially, stopping medication is a bad thing, but stopping cold-turkey is dangerous). The medication journey could probably be encompassed in an entire other blog, but those stories will come as well. The journey that has followed me since is almost incredulous, but that is for another time.
Love. Be kind. Show empathy. Reach out.
*Time is a weird concept to me. If I say week it could mean two weeks or even a different month. I am working from memory here, since I’ve never been one into keeping a diary.
**I do want to justify that I still do not like the word ‘normal’. It’s subjective, but we can all understand what normalcy is to each one of us- so identify the feeling of normal to you NOT the word itself.