Passenger

Some mornings I have breakfast and share a coffee with my husband. As soon as I hear the door shut, I wrap myself in the covers and close my eyes. On others, like today, lifting them seems akin to giving birth – mammoth and painful task, one that I’m not prepared for.

Although the heaviness of bipolar depression keeps me shackled to my bed, anxiety also holds me captive, allowing me to avoid the panic everyday living sometimes induces.

I grew up with anxiety. I thought I had tamed the beast by cloaking it nonchalance and composure. But when a mixed episode struck almost a year ago, anxiety tore through the worn fabric of my persona. I had panic attacks and obsessed over non-existent illnesses. I became stuck on the what-if carousel, steering me to the all-time depths of twenty years’ obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Combined with the turbulence of mixed bipolar disorder, mental illness became the driver and I its unwilling passenger. I closed my eyes during those early months, refusing to see the cliff we were headed for. If I were to open my eyes, I would have lost control and be as weak as I had always feared. Once I did open my eyes, it was too late.

I am intelligent and capable, qualities I couldn’t reconcile with anxiety. A strong person wouldn’t take fifty consecutive pregnancy tests or make everyday decisions through self-torment and sleepless nights. They wouldn’t be repeatedly admitted to a psychiatric hospital, colouring in mandalas and making paper mobiles. They wouldn’t be consumed with suicide, punching themselves as punishment for their weakness. They would be able to get out of bed, shower, work and keep a clean house. They could achieve.

On the initial mental illness ride, achievement was my blindfold. With it, I could pretend I was in the driver’s seat – intelligent, capable and, subsequently, strong. But the day I stepped into the emergency room, the blindfold was ripped from my eyes. I was but a passenger en route to destruction. That day my life ended, and began.

I have talked freely about my struggles with mental illness in my inner circle, but have felt shame in revealing the past year’s ride to ruin. I felt reluctant to share details that would paint a conflicting picture to the one I had portrayed. You are a strong person, several of my friends remarked. They hadn’t expected me to fall ill. My entire identity was built on an image which was now slowly dissolving with each revelation of mental illness.

My friends and I were not aware of the difference between personal strength and character, and the symptoms of mental illness. Like the flu cannot call my strength and tenacity into question, neither can anxiety or depression. I had denied myself the privilege of living authentically by closing my eyes to the truth. My denial and silence around my battle with mental illness reinforced my belief that mental illness is unacceptable and renders me weak and powerless. Accepting it and breaking that silence, and the subsequent isolation, have given me the power to end a cycle of self-blame and self-hate.

I am relinquishing the driver’s seat, but not the power to shame and facilitate self-hatred. I can only lean back and accept that mental illness will accompany me on this journey. But we will remain two very distinct entities, simply heading in the same direction.

x

As denial and silence had isolated me and reaffirmed my erroneous beliefs around living with mental illness, I am taking the pledge to blog for mental health in 2014 as written by the founder:

I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

If you’d like to participate, click on the link or image above. Every voice makes a difference.

Blog for Mental Health 2014 (acanvasoftheminds.com)

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27 comments

  1. Was wondering where you had gone. And I still don’t fully understand where, but perhaps better understand why. Be well. Not much more I can say than that. Other than that you’re missed, with your sassy comments and bang-on posts.

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    1. Trent, thank you for the kind wishes. But I’m back and ready to write the shit out of both blogs. I hope our gravatars bump into each other soon.

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      1. They will, I’m sure. Glad you’re back, I really am.

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  2. Sometimes the idea of being strong can be so crippling. I know the feeling all too well. Thoughts are with you and congrats on this new blog and making the decision to blog about a tough issue that is faced by so many people in so many different ways. That doesn’t make it any easier to admit to or talk about. xoxoxo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The fact that we so easily tie our inner strength to an illness makes it all the harder. Thank you, it was scary putting everything out there after hiding it for so long, but I’m glad I did. xxx

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  3. So proud of you, Nadia.
    You write beautifully.
    So grateful you’re sharing your stories.
    xx-Christy

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    1. Christy, your words mean much. Thank you. x

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  4. Good for you, Nadia. I dealt with serious, debilitating depression for most of my life and can totally relate to hearing people tell me I was strong and seemed happy. Amazing how many of us hide the truth behind humor. I look forward to hearing your stories. –Julie

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    1. Yet the truth, although scary, is so so liberating. I wish I had been able to accept it sooner. But everything turned out okay, in the end. xxx

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  5. Nads, I have tears in my eyes. I have been to that dark place too and I sometimes feel like I live in fear of going back there. I am in awe of your courage. Every voice does it’s bit to dismantle the taboo. Thank-you for that. xxx

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I am sad to hear that you’ve also been there. Sometimes when things are going well, I get that gnawing fear too. I think bringing it out in the open eases a lot of pain around it. Your support means much, Leigh. xox

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  6. You kick ass, Nadia. Is it weird to say I’m “excited” about this blog?

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Great to see you out and about, Nadia. Can I call you Nads like somebody else did? Nads means balls, as in testicles, here in the states, so it made me giggle…

    Good for you sharing your story. It’s not surprising since so many people suffer from this on some level or other. Hell, I had a brief spat with it too a few years back. It’s embarrassing, but it shouldn’t be. The more people who share their story, the less stigma, right?

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    1. Ha! An Aussie told me that the minute I stepped on the Australian tarmac. (That my name means ‘balls’.) I felt pretty fucking special. But I laughed a little on the inside too. Just a little.

      Thanks so much for your support Don. That’s exactly it – nobody wants to hear about your unwashed hair and the feeling that the world is slinging you with shit. But I realised more people than I thought had gone through the same, and it eased the embarrassment and shame.

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  8. You’re one of my heroes, Nadia.
    No bullshit, I’m being serious – for once.
    it’s happens rarely, but I’d never lie to you.
    Nicely done and keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hook, I don’t know how to respond but to say thank you, thank you, thank you. Your support means more than you can imagine.

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  9. I am both envious and inspired by your honesty and bravado.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. It was a hard one to write, especially as I haven’t told anyone the full story except my mental health team. (And by the way, I am in love with your blog, and humbled to have you here.)

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  10. You are a very strong person for writing about this. I deal with anxiety and for the longest time I thought it was something that I shouldn’t talk about. It was silly to think that. It’s so great that more and more people are opening up about their mental health issues. You’re right, every voice makes a difference. You’re changing the world right here 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right?! I felt exactly the same way about the anxiety I was experiencing, and talking about it certainly helps. I have to say that I really appreciated your posts about it, as it made me feel less alone. And thank you for your kind, kind words.

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  11. I can’t wait to see how you develop this blog. Mental health/illness is an issue that’s very, very close to my heart! I’ve written several times about my brother, who struggled with schizophrenia until his death. It’s so important to be able to bring mental illness out of the shadows and discuss it with honesty, compassion, and sometimes even humor!

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    1. Valleygirl, thank you so much for your support. I am so sorry to read about your brother. You are absolutely right – the more I talk about it openly and without shame, the more I learn how common mental illness is. And having the ability to laugh about aspects of it has helped me tremendously. I might write a post about that… Hmm. Lady, you’ve given me food for thought. Much love. x

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  12. Hi,

    I have nominated you for a Leibster Award. You can find out more about your nomination and thus the award by clicking http://mentalhealthwritersguild.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/nominated-for-a-leibster-award-many-many-thanks/

    Many Thanks and keep up the blogging!
    Kind Regards and God Bless
    Kevin.

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  13. You are so brave to write this. It’s raw, it makes me cringe with having to confront my own shame and feelings of failure that are really manifestations of stigma, and fear of stigma. I’m glad I finally found your blog.

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    1. Thank you, Laura. Yes, sometimes I think the fear and the shame were sometimes worse than the actual illness. How liberating to be able to talk about it.

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  14. […] Read the post in its entirety!  Visit Passenger | heavy mental. […]

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