Living with trauma and mental illness – May’s story

Living with mental illness is hard. I’m not talking “it’s been a bad day” hard I’m talking hide under the bed and pray the monsters can’t find you hard. There is a certain darkness that can’t be escaped when your brain is the part of your body that illness is attacking. The stigma is inescapable, and it is this stigma that I tirelessly fought seven years ago when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar- just so I wouldn’t be ashamed to admit that I do, in fact, have early onset-Bipolar Disorder.

Seven years ago, I knew I wanted to fight the stigma so I could reach stability. So that I could say “I have Bipolar Disorder” without shame. And, I got there. I could say it, and I wasn’t ashamed, and I was stable. Unfortunately for me, I did everything right, I got the miracle (I was stable and medication free!) and yet mental illness has shown that it’s not done with me yet.

In my life I have had to put up with a lot from mental illness starting with severe anxiety, panic attacks, and an unhealthy obsession with weight and body image, to obsessive compulsive behaviors, psychosis (auditory, visual, and tactile hallucinations), paranoia, flashbacks, nightmares, and dissociative episodes. From self-harm thoughts, and suicidal ideation to mania, intense emotional dysregulation, and chronic feelings of emptiness. Oh, I have never experienced emotional dysregulation like this before. It makes me more strongly feel emotions I don’t usually feel i.e. jealousy and anger, to fear, shame and guilt.

In all this struggling I have often felt worthless, or too broken for anyone to really love me. It’s all I can do to remind myself that I did not ask for any of it. I didn’t do anything to deserve it, and I didn’t ask for it. My mental illness is largely the result of genetics, and environment. It is the result of years of trauma. And yes, sometimes I may even find myself countering such thoughts as, “it wasn’t that bad” and the idea that I’m exaggerating what I went through. Like I’m being dramatic, but I’m not. I’m just hurting.

Because, here’s the truth: no, I wasn’t physically abused. No, they didn’t lay a hand on me. They just yelled at me enough to scare me into being too afraid to speak, move, or even breathe. They didn’t lay a hand on me, they just terrified me with yelling. They called me names and told me I wasn’t good enough for months at a time, until I believed them. They didn’t lay a hand on me, they just threatened to lock me up. No, they didn’t touch me, they just beat me down with their words, with yelling, name calling, and threats until I felt worthless. Until I felt like I was too broken for anyone to love. No, they didn’t rape me, they just touched me in such a way that made me feel violated, dirty, broken and worthless. Do you know what that’s like, to feel so broken that no one could ever possibly love you? I do, I’ve had to not only live with it but build my life around that feeling.

I didn’t ask for mental illness. It’s a part of me because of my genetics, and because of my environment. It’s a part of me because of the trauma I endured. So, why is it that I feel broken, dirty or unlovable when all I have done is survive when this world tried destroying me? Why do I feel like this pain I have been through makes me unfit for love, like I’m not marriage material or even mother material? All I have done is survive and, dare I say, thrive, despite everything I have been through.

I’m a survivor of not only childhood trauma, but abuse (in childhood and young adult years) and medical trauma, and I’m currently being treated for Bipolar disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder with three anxiety disorders thrown into the mix.  I’m not broken, unlovable, or disposable. I’m a fighter, warrior, and I’m here to stay and not give up!

Follow May on Instagram @priceofgenetics

You're going to make it


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