What does mental illness feel like? It feels like drowning, alone and helpless, surrounded by nothing but inky black water, and deafening silence. As an icy chill creeps down your spine, a paralyzing numbness begins to set in. Breathing is very difficult now as you feel a sudden scalding hot sensation burning the inside of your lungs, replacing what little oxygen you had left, leaving behind frigid water instead. Feeling tired now, your eyelids become heavy as you struggle to keep them open. The darkness that had surrounded you this entire time feels different now. All that is visible now is pitch black tunnel devoid of all light. Everyone has a story. A significant moment, or moments, in their lives that would go on to define them as the individual they are today. This is my story and the significant moments that made me the individual I am today.
Growing up, my parents did everything that they could to provide a happy and fulfilling life for my two siblings and me. Although many happy memories were made together over the years, their best efforts sadly were not quite enough. Medical bills and rent, among other expenses, were skyrocketing and debt was creeping in at an alarming rate. As my terminally ill mother’s sickness worsened, my family and I had no choice but to reside in a decrepit apartment complete with drug dealers, prostitutes and a perv next door neighbor and landlord, both with an eye for young girls. By my eleventh birthday, I had seen so much death, following the tragic passings of my mother, brother, and nephew. In the following years I would go on to experience this heartbreak twice more with the passings of my grandmother and my father. By the age of twenty-three, I had lost all of those that once were a big part of my life.
The horror story does not end there, however. To cope with the nagging, unrelenting pain of so many traumatic losses, I ended up finding temporary solace from grief through a revolving door of abusive relationships to fill the soul sucking black hole inside me. Physical, mental, and sexually abusive relationships became the norm, eventually convincing myself that these volatile relationships were the only cure for the otherwise incurable disease festering inside me. As the years passed, I began mixing abusive relationships with excessive drinking. At the time, this so-called coping mechanism worked wonders at keeping the multitude of repressed memories I had shoved so far down that I was sure they would never find their way back out. Every single one of these misfortunes took a part of me, changing me into a shell of my former self. At this point, I had lost all connection with myself and those closest to me at the time.
Mental illness comes in many different shapes and sizes, by-products of trauma. They affect an individual’s mood, thoughts, and behavior. Widely misunderstood and ignored by so many people, mental instability is an all too real horror, plaguing a shocking number of individuals of all ages. Disorders such as these are also known by many different names which in my case are:
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
As a wife and mother of one, I am in a constant battle with my inner demons who relentlessly torment me, inevitably making me question myself and those around me. Being an easygoing and present member of my family is one of the most challenging obstacles I’m blindly forced to navigate on a day-to-day basis. The absolute most frustrating and baffling part of any day is identifying, recognizing, and expressing not only my thoughts, feelings, and affections but also other peoples as well. This shortcoming appears to most people as being cold hearted and callous, which makes making new friendships and maintaining them as well next to impossible for me. This lack of emotions paired with an extreme fear of abandonment and rejection, constant feelings of embarrassment, self-loathing and fear, a crippling fear of public spaces and social interactions, paranoia, self-doubt, fatigue, volatile and unstable mood swings, racing thoughts, and melancholy are all commonplace for me on a day-to-day basis.
So, what does mental illness feel like? It feels like you’re drowning, alone and helpless. I however finally found a healthy coping mechanism to help me ease the many burdens I struggle with day in and day out, and that is Family. As tired and cliche as that might seem, I never truly understood the vital role family plays in my life. But the moment I chose to surround myself with people I care about the most instead of pushing them away, the weight I had carried with me for so many years suddenly lessened. Mental illness may seem impossible most days but if you allow it, family can give you the strength you otherwise never knew you had. Even on my worst days, I know I can count on my family to help keep me going.
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