What You Don’t See

Psychotropic drugs are usually accompanied by a set of expectations, myths, misconceptions, hopes, and beliefs. When discussing it with your doctor, he/she might only give you the pertinent medical information. Your friends and family, on the other hand, will let you know how it affects you in real, day to day life, as they are the ones who notice the impact it has on you and the side effects it brings on. Yet, you are the only person who can really decide if it’s working for you or not. Only you get to experience what it feels like to take the drug or not. Only you get to experience the side effects to its fullest extent. And only you get to decide if it’s worth it or not.

Doctors will mostly share the major side effects, like death, immune system failure and body tremors. Knowing all of this is indeed important, and yet, there are so many little things that you will soon discover come with taking those drugs. Some doctors might fail to notify you that sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. And suddenly without prior notice you find yourself in worse moods with depressing thoughts, puzzled and not knowing how it happened. Also, you might be told by your family or friends that you grind your teeth while sleeping, that you snore, or that you drool excessively. If you’re in a relationship, your partner might suddenly be dealing with a hit of mood swings from your part, until your body gets used to the medication. So often, our libido or sexual drive goes down to nothing while on medication and your partner might be wondering if there’s anything on their part that has caused it, making them feel inadequate and like a failure when it is completely not in either their control.

Each one of us, deals with our unique situation and therefore, unique side effects. And though one medication might fit perfectly with you, it might do more harm than help for me. Some hit it off with the right drug at the first try, and others can go through months and months of trial and error, medication change, and adjustments.

Sometimes, our loved ones only see and understand what is visible to the naked eye. What they don’t realize is that there’s so much more hiding beneath the surface. They might only notice our fatigueness and drowsiness, without realizing that instead of no sleep at all, we had 4 hours of sleep. They only see us dragging ourselves out of bed in the morning, without realizing that we might have spent a week in bed if not for our medications. Thus, I find it important to destroy the stigma that surrounds mental health and mental health medications. The more familiar we are with what’s happening to us, the more we can make our loved ones understand what’s happening to us. Because most of what’s happening to us, is invisible.

What people fail to notice are how our successes measure up, despite some drawbacks. They fail to notice that behind all those side effects that change our appearance, like weight gain, acne, or tremors, there are benefits that are essential to our happiness and ability to go through with day to day life. They fail to notice that it hurts to be judged based on something that is completely out of our control.

Recently, I broke up with a guy, who I was hoping will be my forever guy. The reason we broke up? Because I put up too much weight causing him to lose his attraction to me. To be honest, I was very hurt, even though it was the honest-to-goodness truth. In two months, I have put up 30 lbs. Not because I was careless or was overeating, in fact I have been walking a lot more every day and have focused and made sure to have three healthy meals a day. So what happened? I have been experimenting with different medications, trying to find the right one. I felt blessed to have found one that works after a while. The downside? The side effects of that particular drug is weight gain. And so, I found myself a lot happier but also a lot heavier. And for that to be the reason for a break up, hurt a whole lot, because it was something that’s completely out of my control.

And therefore, I am writing to all of you; those with mental illnesses and to those who live and love someone with mental illness. Know that there is more than meets the eye. If you notice that your friend/family member is more fatigued, ask if he needs help with daily tasks and chores. If you notice something that concerns you, ask them to bring it up with their doctor. Don’t judge, because there is so much beneath the surface of what you see.

And please, even though we put up 30 lbs, drool excessively in our sleep, or experience tremors throughout the day, love us anyway. We are self conscious about all of those changes that are happening to us and it’s hard to practice self-love. We try our best to live life as best as we can with our challenges and receiving love and reassurance can mean the world to us. Literally. The whole wide world.

And to those of us fighting the good fight, keep fighting. If you have concerns or are uncomfortable, speak to your doctor. If you need help or some tender love and care, don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends.

And though my relationship has ended, it strengthened my relationship with my inner self. Because I stood in front of the mirror and saw what you don’t see. Hiding behind my extra 30 lbs was a good heart who tries its best.

Last Night

Last night, you dragged me home from the pub -drunk- after a drink too many of Chardonnay. And this morning, as I nursed my hangover, you ¬†shared with me how scared you were last night. And yet, I have no recollection of the night’s events.

You are not the only one to tell me that you’re scared. My therapist says that my nihilist attitude scares her. My friends and family keep checking in on me, because they are afraid I might act on my suicidal thoughts. Strangers keep a distance and think twice before befriending me, because I scare them away. ¬†And I know you have my well being in mind, I know you want the best for me, and you mean well when you check in on me. But, still, it hurts to know that I scare people.

Let me tell you how I feel. I’m scared too. I scare myself every night. And when I wake up in the morning, the fear is still there. I am scared by my suicidal thoughts and even more so that I can’t stop them. I am afraid that I might not be strong enough today and engage in self harm. I am scared by my bitter attitude, knowing that it pushes people away and leaves me on my own to fend for myself in this scary world. I’m scared of my urges to drink and smoke, because I don’t know if I’ll be strong enough to not act on those urges. I’m scared to look at my bottle of medication, because it triggers more fears. I wake up afraid, and go to sleep afraid; I can be my biggest enemy.

Last night, when you dragged me home and told me how scared you are, I wanted to hold on to you, keep you close, and tell you how scared I am. I don’t want to scare people away, because I know how it feels to be scared of myself. Last night you experienced what I experience every night. (and sometimes every day)

So please, when you feel afraid, know that I am just a frightened little girl and I need all the support I can get. I know it’s hard, but together we are stronger and together we can conquer our fears.

Friends Through Hell

Life is not easy as a person suffering from mental illness. There’s so many ups and downs and I never know which is better, the up part or the down. Each one comes with its own trials and tribulations.
Yet, today I’d like to do a shoutout to our many friends. This is for all of you who watch us suffer, grow, heal and fall back down. Thank you for being there with us in our hell and for teaching us how to fly when we forget how to use our wings.
Good friends are priceless. And I’ve learned that sometimes they make all the difference in my mental health.

I gulped down a can
Of bright, red paint
Its color was 100 mph
So the label said
And it was true…

For I felt it cascading
Down my throat
Filling each crevice
And chink and dent
Millions of em; who knew?

I was a walking sculpture
Of bloodied hell
Fireworks, explosions
Red pain searing
Blistering; grueling view.

And you stood by me
Walked through the blaze
Cleared the smoke
Focused on a vision
The whole way through…

Artistry and skill
And so much goodwill
A heart that’s made of gold
With kind precision
Transformed the red statue.

Brush strokes of kin
Added gloss to red paint
And sketched roses
Bordeaux wine, maraschino
An image brand new…

I swallowed red paint
But maybe it’s not all bad
Who said red’s solely hellish
Maybe it is a brother
For I know it’s friendship too!

I Am Not Perfect

I am human. And yes, I have faults too. Yet, unlike my friends, my faults are obvious and up for discussion as I suffer from mental illness. 

One of my toughest issues is learning how to navigate relationships. Friends are important to me, as mental illness can sometimes make me feel isolated and alone. Unfortunately, though, it is hard to be my friend. Trust me, I’ve tried. 

My friends reading this will know what I mean. They will know, as they have continually been shut out. They have to deal with rejection every day. They have to listen to my fifteen minute rants a dozen times daily telling them why we shouldn’t be friends. This behavior is in direct contradiction to my statement above that friends are important to me. I know. 

One of the toughest issues I battle is extreme fear of abandonment and rejection. Every time I suspect that I might be rejected, most of the time it’s based on irrational assumptions, I will begin a frantic effort to ensure that I am not being rejected. I will ramble about my horrible personality and how nobody will ever be there for me, until my friends will reassure me that I am not horrible and they’re glad to be here for me. Some of you might think of it as manipulative behavior; but it is not. At that moment in time, I am unable to clear my brain of those thoughts. My body enters a fight or flight mode as it has encountered danger; rejection. And the only response I know is to reassure myself that there is no danger. 

The problem? Nobody wants to spend their days reassuring again and again. And yet again. It gets tiring, boring and burdensome. After hearing three times a day of what a horrible person their friend is, everybody starts getting fed up. And after being pushed away for too many times, everybody begins liking it and stays. 

Now, my fear of abandonment renders destructive behavior which causes rejection. The fear of rejection is then intensified and the destructive behavior continues at an even more aggressive pace. See? 

Being my friend is nearly impossible. My brain works on overdrive. Every statement a friend makes is dissected and analyzed a thousand times. I will sometimes respond to statements three days later when my friends have long forgotten what they’ve said. 

Why am I writing this? First, as a note of gratitude to my friends for still being around. Thank you. Your efforts haven’t gone unnoticed and I appreciate it and it means so much to me. Also, I am writing this to explain to them where this behavior stems from. I am not trying to say that this behavior is excusable. All I am saying is that I am trying my best to work on changing my behavior. I am training my brain to shut those niggling thoughts out. I’m teaching myself coping skills and better ways to deal with my fear of rejection.

Thank you for bearing with me. Even with my faults. And a piece of advice, it’s ok to tell me when I’m too much. 

Nobody is perfect. Not even me.