Saturday, January 25, 2014

What a Bad Mental Illness Day is Like

It's so difficult to explain how it feels when you struggle with mental health issues.  How do you explain emotional pain in a way that others can understand?  How do you say how hard everything has become, things that shouldn't be hard at all?  Especially to people who don't struggle.

I've been on the other side.  I've been the one whose life was turned upside down on a regular basis because I lived with someone with mental illness.  I've been the one who got angry because my life couldn't be what I wanted it to be.  I've been the one who resented the person struggling.  I've been the one who thought they were making up excuses for things they didn't want that I did.  I've been the one who felt like I was being manipulated.  And I've been the one who felt guilty because I couldn't find empathy in my heart for them because I was too close to the situation.

But this time it's me.  This time I'm the one whose mental illness is affecting the lives of those around me.  I'm the one who's messing up the plans.  I'm the one who's dropping the ball.  And I feel guilty about it and try to hide it and try not to let it affect those around me.  But it does.

When you have a physical illness, it's not tough to explain why you can't follow through on a commitment or why you don't want to go out with friends.  "I think I'm getting the flu."  "I did too much last night and am just too worn out."  People might not be happy about it, but they get it. 

It doesn't work that way when it's mental illness.  "I'm having an emotional breakdown."  "Leaving my house is impossible."  "I can't be around people."  People don't get that.  And if it happens over and over, they think they are excuses and you don't really want to be with them at all and they just leave you.

Or they want to fix it.  They ask so many questions (which are exhausting for me when I'm struggling).  Then they tell you what to do to fix it so you can be with them again.  Like somehow they know what you need.  Let me just tell you right now, I've been under the care of lots of doctors and therapists over my lifetime and even they don't know what will make it better.  Luckily, they all knew enough to say so.  "Try this or that," but not "This is the answer for sure."  Because mental illness doesn't work that way.  (Heck, physical illness doesn't even work that way.)

I've been in a very bad place for about a month now.  Really dark days and just cloudy days but no bright days.  And I am trying.  I have done all the things every doctor and therapist and spiritual leader has suggested and I'm still there.  In the darkness.

Usually, I can't write when it's a really bad day.  But a couple of weeks ago I was able to.  I share it with you now knowing it might make me look more crazy than anyone thought.  I share it knowing there will be some who still think I'm making excuses.  But I share it because I am able.  Mental illness is difficult to communicate.  So difficult.  But I am a communicator, so I share this for all those who can't put it into words.


January 13, 2014

I've been hurting a lot the last week or so.  Headache that just won't break.  I have a few hours that aren't so bad, but then it overwhelms me again.  Nothing I've taken will take it away.

But that's not the bad part.  The anxiety is the bad part.  For a couple of weeks now.  Moments of okay and then hours of worry and fear.

And I worry that whatever I've taken for my head is making the anxiety worse.  But if I don't take anything, the pain and anxiety stop me cold.

Still, neither of those is why I'm writing.

Today I feel like I'm slipping away.  Like my mind is going.  I have visions of myself in the psychiatric ward, no longer myself.  No longer able to care for my family or even for myself.

This thought was followed by the thought I often have that I need to get my life in order.  I need to get things running smoothly enough and processes in place so my family can run things without me.

For the longest time I've thought this was because I will continue to deteriorate physically.  To the point that I can't get out of bed and do things.

But today I found myself thinking, feeling, it might be something else.

What if I'm not just going to deteriorate?  What if I'm going to be gone?  What if I need to get things in order because I am going to die young?

It feels like a very real possibility in my heart.  I feel like I need to get my life in order so my family can get on without me.

And today, I just feel like I am slipping away.  Like there's less and less me inside this shell of my body.

And I thought I should write these feelings down while I can.  Before I'm too far gone.

It scares me and I don't know what to do.


I took a shower and brushed my teeth in case I need to go to the hospital.

Writing calmed me some.  But the feeling isn't gone.  It's like I've resigned myself to the situation.

It's like reality is just a step away from me.  I could reach out and grab it, but I don't.  I don't want to.  I'm not sure why.

My body is present; I am just slightly out of phase with my body.  Just connected enough to go through the motions.  I can put on a show.  Make people think I'm here.

They see my body so they think I'm here.  But I'm not.  I just left a tiny piece of myself in my body like a tether.  I am still connected to my body but not present with it.

I wonder if I will come back.  I wonder how long I'll be gone.  I wonder why I left and why I don't want to go back.


I interact with my family.  They can't tell anything is wrong.  I'm just more quiet than usual, until someone stresses me out with questions.  Then I snap and yell and leave.

But mostly I'm just quiet.  On the outside.  Inside there is a storm raging.  I want to peel my skin off.  Inside I feel like I am banging around on the walls.  Pounding.  Trying to get out.  Like I am trapped in an asylum.  Inside I am pounding and screaming.  But on the outside I'm just quiet.  And trying so hard not to be touched.


I need to say more, but this is already too long.  For the rest of the story, see The Silent Storm.


Savvy WorkingGal said...

Robin this is so good and so necessary. I've always thought you were a wonderful writer. We need more writing like this to better understand what mental illness is like. And for those of us that suffer it helps to know we are not alone.

I also liked the part about your therapists not having the answers either. I've been searching for a book that will help me pull myself out of a depression, but have not been successful.

Rubye Jack said...

I believe I understand Robin. It's the kind of thing where if you have not been there, you don't understand. I have gotten to where I have cut off all physical contact with people and my only communication with others is through the Internet. I feel safe within the virtual world and am resigned to this is all there will ever be for me. However, I do not have family who need me.
You talk about emotional pain. I have tried to tell people about the emotional pain and how it hurts but they always seem to scoff inwardly and sometimes to my face. So I gave up on trying to explain the pain to others. The only thing that has ever helped me are pain pills. Anti-depressants and other psych meds seem to only make things worse and so off and on, I take pain pills such as Codeine or Tramadol. I had a psychiatrist tell me once that if Codeine works for you, then why not take it. Would she prescribe it for me? Of course not.
Anyway, I just share this with the hope that knowing another person has some understanding of your pain might help a bit. Sometimes it seems all we can do is endure, and I hate that.

Lily said...

Just want to say I understand the pain that resonates in your words. I'm really sorry you are in this place now.

The Dose of Reality said...

Thank you for sharing this with us, Robin. You are so right. Not everyone can put it into words but they will feel known and understood by reading your words. That's just immensely helpful and important. It let's us all know we are not alone.
I'm so sorry that you are going through this. I'm praying for you. --Lisa

Vicki M. Taylor said...

Dearest Robin. I GET you, my friend. I've been through the tunnel to the dark side. I've been through days where I can't see another person or be touched my someone. I know what it feels like to have my head fogged up. You don't have to explain to me. I know. I have Bipolar Disorder with medication resistant depression. I know. If you ever need a friend. I'm here for you. I won't tell you what to do to fix it. There is no "fixing" it. There's only "being" and "living". Always remember the "living". Have a blessed day.

Cherry Faith said...

"It's like reality is just a step away from me. I could reach out and grab it, but I don't. I don't want to. I'm not sure why." I've felt this before. I allowed myself to slip out of reality. I don't want to go there again. I'm trying. It's hard.