What It’s Really Like To Live With Mental Illness

Not all mental illness is depression, but mostly I concur with the piece I’ve linked below.

My mental wellness is now managed in what my therapist and I call my “window of tolerance”. The nature of the disorder impacting me means I vacillate between low and elevated moods to the extent my decision making, productivity, thought patterns, mood and behaviors are notably impacted. This can manifest in different ways, but when managed as it is now, the mood swings are buffered and don’t go too high, and don’t fall too low. I still swing between mania and depression, but the poles are closer together thanks to medication and weekly therapy.

It’s challenging to have to face the fact I need to take handfuls of pills daily and check in with a mental health professional every few days to maintain a semblance of normal, but my regret is reserved for the fact I needed to do this all my life, and it took a major mental illness episode a few years ago for me to wake up and get the support I need on an ongoing basis.

Every week I’m confronting aspects of my mental health and how it impacts not just my life, but that of others around me. Separating out what is just who I am from the disorder is confusing, upsetting, hilarious and chaotic all at the same time. Recognizing how unwell I’ve been at different times in my life, and the ways I’ve coped or not coped with that, is truly difficult. But the fact I’ve been married since 1989, raised four astonishing children to adulthood and not been hospitalized (although that’s not a badge of honour, I probably needed to be at times) demonstrates to me at least how well I’ve managed.

I know my actions have been confusing, disappointing and irritating to people at different times in my life. But I’m able now to appreciate the disruptions I may have caused to others are not my work to do. My work is to find out who I am and be that. Not all the disruptive things I do are because I have a mental health diagnosis. Most are me being and doing what is my truth. I feel at times my tendency to mania has been an asset to my creativity and confidence, and I’ve no wish to medicate that away. The trick is finding the balance between the days I wake up and feel like I can take on the world, and those I wake up and hate myself and want to die, and keep doing the things that feed my body, soul, spirit and relationships at both ends of that spectrum.

I think a hell of a lot of folks are more mentally unwell than they think. Some have been very damaged, some are born that way. I’ve always been like this, even as a child. I know bipolar disorder – the name given to my particular kind of divergent thinking and feeling – is my normal, in fact. There isn’t a cure, because while I am broken, I’m not fixable. Some things can stay broken and still be beautiful, workable, functional, precious and worthy. I’ve always loved the broken things of this world, and loving myself as one of them is a lifetimes work.

Note: If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, please contact your GP for support or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.