Times and dates are approximate. Just so you know, it’s extremely rare for me to talk about my mental illness with people. Only a few good friends know, literally.  Even though they know, it’s not talked about it. I’m always trying to analyze why I don’t talk about it. Maybe it’s my upbringing, and/or the fact I do not want people to change their opinion of me. I know mental illness is so out in the open now,  but I still feel people would feel different towards me.  They may have pity for me… and I absolutely do not want that. Maybe I refuse to let my illness define who I am. So I choose not to say anything.

I was barely in my twenties, 2nd Year of college. There was definitely something wrong with me. I actually thought I was psychotic.  I was raging with indescribable anger and sadness. I was having horrible thoughts that I knew if I didn’t get help, something bad was going to happen. When I think back now, I’m positive I had bipolar disorder when I was a teenager that went undiagnosed, and my behaviour was chalked up to being a “rotten teenager”.  During treatment, a memory surfaced of the times I used to cut my face with broken mirrors. Depending on who I talked to, I either blamed a cat that I didn’t have, or my mother.

Anyway, back to the story, Luckily, I had a good doctor, (I have to say I grew up in Hamilton)  who referred me to a psychiatrist.  I was diagnosed with depression. I think I recall the words major depressive disorder. For the next 5 or so years, I was on and off medication. A few times when I was feeling good, I thought I could go without meds. Each time, when the depression resurfaced, it seemed worse than the last time. I would engage in self-destructive behaviour. Cutting myself with knives or Exacto knives was one the most rememberable. One time, I had to take myself to the walk in> clinic to get stitches. After this episode, I stayed on Zoloft for more than 15 years. I lead a “normal”  happy life, of course with its ups and downs, but for the most part, it was good. I have the best husband anyone could ask for and I’m privileged to have such an awesome 13-year-old daughter.

While I was pregnant with my daughter, my doctors suggested I stay on my meds as they were worried of what would happen I went off. I took their advice, as well, I contacted Mother Risk and they said they’re was no evidence of any negative side effects of taking Zoloft while pregnant. ( I think there has been recent controversy with Mother Risk and they are no more?) I had a great pregnancy. The downfall was my daughter was born with the shakes you get while going through withdrawal. It was so humiliating when the medical staff kept asking if I was smoking tobacco or drugs or drinking alcohol when I was pregnant.

Again, after this, life was what I thought was pretty good. I still had, as I like to call it, struggles with my brain.  With medication this was easier to cope with. Around 4 years ago, my medication was not working anymore. I recently learned a new saying, it Crapped Out.  I started feeling the way I did when I was first diagnosed way back.  I recognized the symptoms and took myself to the doctor. We did some trial and error with meds to no avail. Things got so bad I had to take a leave of absence from work. (I’m a professional working for the school board). My doctor referred me again to the psychiatric hospital and I was seen by the psychiatrist I had 20 something years ago. It took almost 2 years of trial and error with meds, psychotherapy, a new diagnosis of bi polar, and consultation with the head of psychiatry to get my illness under control. I was a tough case. I’m currently taking 3 different meds. It used to be 5, but I cut out 2 of them. Not because I’m anti-medication obviously, but because these 2 meds are no longer needed to be in my daily cocktail. They are options if/when I need them.

I was forced by my insurance company after a year and a half, despite the doctors recommendation that I wasn’t ready, to go back to work. I did. I had no choice. It was hard, but somehow I managed. Currently, at age 46, I continue to live a happy life with my family, friends, and work, but it is still almost a daily struggle with my brain.  There’s a lot of things I wish that were different, things I wish I don’t have to deal with, but I have to. ( I have so many stories ) I have this illness I need to manage. When friends come out to me that they have an illness, I offer support, and say I truly understand, yet I don’t go into the fact that I have an illness. I feel it’s not my place to overshadow their coming out to me with my stories of living with an illness.

Why am I “coming out” now, in a public forum? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s to help others learn they can live with a mental illness despite the trials and tribulations they go though. That with perseverance and help it can be managed.

Thanks for reading my story.

Susanne