My Year To Thrive

"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style." ~Maya Angelou

A Brief(ish) History of Me

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Finally rewriting the About Me page, so I decided to write up my bio.  It’s longer than I want on the page, so I shall post it here & link back. 🙂  It feels a little Oliver Twist (before he meets the Artful Dodger), so I would like to say at my core I am a happy person.  That is who I believe I truly am.  That person just gets overwhelmed sometimes by the other voices waging war inside me.  Also, this is meant to outline my mental health experience rather than a full life story.  I have lots of funny, happy, good memories.  Stick around long enough & I might tell you some!

A picture of me at about 4yo.

It’s me!

I was born in the mid-seventies to a couple in rural Alabama, but my story doesn’t start there.  I was conceived in drama.  I’ll save the details for another time, but even before I knew the truth of my own origin story, I believed we absorb emotions in the womb.  Science backs me up, so it seems I was actually born to be sad (& anxious & irritable & angry).

As a child I was shy & very self-conscious, I was the kid who hid behind her momma wherever they went, which has followed me my whole life (but I did eventually grow out of hiding behind my mother).  I often preferred to play alone instead of with the other kids.  I have never been a group-think person & tend to want to do my own thing & be left alone to it.  I am the classic introvert.  Also, I was given to random bouts of terror.  Playing any sort of chasing game left me open to my brain switching from fun mode to fight or flight.  Suddenly laughing would turn to yelling while I ran for my life & found somewhere to hide, then sat & cried with no idea why I was so scared.

I was emotionally & sexually abused growing up, & some circles would also say physically abused.  The mental abuse was the worst because it was a near daily, if not daily, happening until I left my mother at seventeen.  I took the brunt of our mother’s anger through yelling, belittling, & name calling.  I was raised being told I was ugly, lazy, stupid, & worthless, & she wished I would die or she had never had children.  When I was fifteen she told me no one could ever love me because I was too cold-hearted.  I always knew she had a special hatred for me, even as much as she loved me, but it didn’t make sense until I was older.

My mother’s father was physically abusive to her & her siblings.  His father was even worse to them.  Other family members have similar stories about growing up.  Several of my family members have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, or Depression or Panic Attacks.  We have a few suicides & more attempts.  I don’t know of my mother ever being diagnosed, but I fully believe she was bipolar.  She could be the best mom ever & then turn on a dime to be a monster.  You never knew who you were going to get so life was walking on egg shells.

The depression really set in during high school, probably at fourteen.  I ran away from home at one point, maybe my junior year, & despite having always loved school & being an honor student, I nearly dropped out.  At some point I began praying every night God would let me die.  Eventually that turned into thoughts of suicide.  I admitting to thinking about killing myself to my doctor during a visit, & that led to my first hospitalization & being diagnosed with Major Clinical Depression.  That was my freshman year of college.  It was the following year when my diagnosis was changed to Bipolar Disorder, still called Manic-Depression at the time.

I ended up dropping out of school for two years.  During that time I only worked sporadically, never staying at one place more than a few weeks, & I did a lot of drugs, including the hard stuff.  I’ve done almost every drug, & every drug I was ever offered, but my drugs of choice were weed & meth.  Acid was a strong 2nd place.  I’m lucky I was never addicted & made it out alive, & without a record.  Most of the people I was with during those years weren’t so fortunate.  I finally got out when the people we were partying with picked up some serious people, & things were happening that scared me.  I had a long look in the mirror one night, & decided that was not who I wanted to be.  Holding a pair of scissors in my hand wanting to cut my wrists, I ended up chopping my hair off instead.  It was a true hack job, I just grabbed chunks & cut it off at the scalp, & it had to buzzed off to even it up.  I was Brittany before Brittany was Brittany.  I wore that hair-do back to college, & went on to get my Master’s (with better hair).

Grad school was the first time I ever lived alone.  Undergrad had drained me a little, but my Master’s was only going to take a year so I plowed ahead.  During that time the Depression started creeping back, & I began isolating myself.  Getting advanced standing meant the other students had been together a year when I started, so bonds were already formed & we were too busy for much socializing anyway.  The years after school I continued to live alone with differing degrees of being social over time.  However by the end of my career (at the time, it hasn’t ended permanently; I WILL get back out there), I had spiraled down so far, I ended up quitting my job & hiding inside my house.  Living a couple of hours away, I cut off contact with my family.  Eventually my mother sent the police to check on me.  While I usually ran & hid when someone came to my door, the officer caught me on a better day so when I saw it was the police I answered the door.  Of course I was fine when he talked to me, so he went on his merry way.

I continued to spiral into a delusional episode.  I began to believe I was either a ghost who just hadn’t realized she was dead or an alien hybrid planted here to see if I could pass.  I couldn’t decide which I was, & I was too afraid to look for my body because I was afraid of seeing myself dead.  I don’t remember how long that lasted, but my suicidality ramped up & I made a plan for how I was going to kill myself.  I was going to sit in the bathtub fully clothed, & slit my wrists.  I didn’t want to be found naked or leave a mess for someone to have to clean up – it was a rental after all.  I was going to call a friend to let him know, so someone would find me soon.  Before I got the when to my how, I came out of it enough to reached out to a therapist.  I even found a part-time job!  It was retail & the holidays did not go so well for me.  I ended up having to move home & live with my mother.

After a few months at home, I found another job in my field & moved an hour & a half away.  I was living alone again.  This job lasted about eight months before things went downhill again.  A big problem with working has always been treatment meant missing work, so I never kept it up.  The months after this job went from bad to worse.  I worked a few part-time jobs in retail again, & one was temporarily full-time.  I had a couple of friends move to town & live with me while we set up a new store.  That ended with too much drama to even get into on this blog.  My mother died suddenly over the summer.

Grief turned bad to worse into worse to worse(r).  The first holidays after hit me especially hard, & I ended up being hospitalized again the day after Thanksgiving.  By this time I had moved closer to home & was living with a friend.  I lost my job while I was in the hospital, & after that I couldn’t get another job.  The next summer my therapist wanted to hospitalize me again, but we compromised on a two-week residential treatment program with an outpatient aftercare program three days a week.  I was readmitted from day treatment because I started “practice cutting” on my wrists trying to work up the nerve to finally do what I had been thinking about for so long but was afraid of doing.  I lasted about a day before leaving.

Around this time is when I started running.  At first I could only run for maybe a minute at a time.

During the first stay, the psychiatrist recommended I try for disability, since I had no income, no insurance, & was unemployable.  I started the application process while I was there.  Miraculously, I was approved on the first try, & as quick as it could happen.  This was the end of 2009.  I think it’s because I had a fifteen year history of psychiatric treatment, & was able to detail every doctor I had seen, clinic I had been to, inpatient treatments, & drug regimens.  I also went back to college & worked professionally after my diagnosis & there was a clear break in 2006 where things changed for me.  Maybe none of it had any bearing & it was just luck.

That pretty much brings us up to the present day.  I have taken on treatment as my new job, so I’ve been pretty consistent in treatment with just a couple of hiccups when I had problems with the clinic I was using.  I was hospitalized again last fall, & my suicidal ideation had expanded to include another person for the first time.  I don’t believe I would have done it, but the fantasies about it became so strong I felt admitting myself was the best thing.  I needed a break.  I went in on one med & came out on three.  My doses on all three meds have been titrated up over time.

Things have been okay since then, not counting this summer.  I began dating again & am in my first relationship in ten years.  We moved in together this Spring, & over the summer his eight year old son came to stay with us.  At first it was okay, but then my boyfriend lost his job & began another one that meant he had to spend a lot of time away at odd hours.  I was left alone to care for his son more than I would have liked, & the stress began piling on.  We were fighting all the time & I started to resent his son.  I was so angry all the time most days I spent as little time interacting with the boy as I could because I didn’t like the way I was when I with him.  I have never wanted anyone to feel the way I did growing up, but I felt that inside me.  This added more stress to my relationship, & I was spending so much time alone I started having dark thoughts again.  I also developed some obsessions during this time that were not healthy & did some things of which I am not proud.  I considered having myself hospitalized again, but I needed to be there to watch his son so he could work.

I was diagnosed with OCD, which is just an extension of the anxieties I have always had.  I have the obsessional type, which I did not even know existed before.  I have long been known for my obsessive nature though.

The son went home, & I moved back in with my father.  The bf & I are seeing each other again, but we both have a lot of issues to work through so things are moving slowly.  They are getting better though.  I am doing much better & working on getting back to my good habits, especially running.  It’s a struggle, but I know if I’m patient with myself I will get back out there.  Running is like blogging, I don’t need it to become another source of stress, another reason to feel like a failure.  I take breaks, but as long as I know that’s okay & will continue to happen from time to time, I pick it back up.  So even though I have been running for years, I remain the perpetual beginner because I am always starting over, albeit a little stronger each time. (hurray)

So that’s me in a nutshell.  A really long nutshell, like maybe a giant peanut – a giant boiled peanut because those are the best!

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Author: despitemyself

A person in flux.

2 thoughts on “A Brief(ish) History of Me

  1. You’re so brave and a huge inspiration to me. I’m so glad I know you.

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