January 28, 2010

My story

We (the momma and I) have decided to make February a month of sharing stories to fight stigma. So, along with our newly posted video on YouTube we are going to start sharing our stories and learnings on our blogs, starting conversations about it on our Facebook and Myspace sites, and commenting on it on our Twitter page. So, visit us, chat with us, and learn with us. And without further adieu, here is my story...

There was a moment in my life when I almost drowned.
Living in the largest dorm in the country with three best friends, experiencing my first serious college boyfriend, living the perfect life of a well-off artsy college kid, I couldn’t have dreamt of anything better. That is, until I turned my back to the ocean and was swiftly and dramatically pulled in by the undertow.
One moment I was there and one moment I wasn’t. It was as if I had suddenly had my brain replaced by someone weaker, angrier, sadder. I didn’t know where I was or what I had set out to do anymore. I couldn’t understand what went wrong. I couldn’t understand why I was suddenly seeing pools of blood every time I closed my eyes.
It was a dramatic and intense case of depression. I stopped eating. I broke up with the man who was, at that time, the love of my life. I stopped leaving my room. I stopped all contact with the world, and whether I pretended I was there or not, my eyes were empty.
This went on for several weeks. Floating around Chicago, the city that I had worked so hard to get to. To me this went on for a lifetime. I floated out to sea.
Then my boyfriend, who was now just a friend-friend, called my parents. He called, and just as swiftly as I was pulled under, I was pulled out.
My dad arrived from Seattle no less then ten hours after he was called. My life, my room, and my thoughts were packed up and shipped out. Flown back to Seattle and, in my mind, never to return.
Nothing could have been more painful. Nothing could have been more dramatic to me at that point and place in my life. Nineteen years old and suddenly I was forced to leave my friends, my life, my freedom and everything that I had built within the last two years of hard-earned independence.
I arrived home tired, cold, and wet, water still in my lungs.
The next couple of years moved from an undertow to a tsunami. My mind moved quickly from a simple depression to a devastating suicidal obsession. Looking back I am amazed I am even here to tell my story.
In the next year and a half I spent time in hospitals for suicide prevention and for overdose recovery. I spent time in apartments, manic and drugged and depressed and dangerous. I spent so many hours feeling completely out of control of my mind and so many hours trying to fight against it with every form of self-medication and self-harm I could find that I am amazed I have the ability to form thoughts or press my fingers to these keys.
It took me a long time to come to terms with what was happening. After having a “wait and see” diagnosis of bipolar disorder II at nineteen I spent many, many months fighting the label and implications before I finally received my final, “for sure” diagnosis of plain old bipolar I. My months and years of fighting only made things worse and it took me a long time before I realized that if I was good to myself and my body, my bipolar would be good to me. Who knew stimulants could make you manic or alcohol could make you devastatingly depressed!
Once I finally gave in and decided to change my life things began to turn around again. Though it took lots of self-care and finding the right doctors, counselors, and meds, my stability allowed me to live the life I had always dreamed of living. My stability was more then just taking care of myself and finding the right help however, it was also my amazing luck to have the opportunities and support network I do. It was this fact that inspired me to begin to make a difference in the mental health world.
Having spent time in the worst psych units with the saddest cases I realized that things must change. I realized that people need to talk about these things. People needed to be able to talk about their thoughts, lives, and feelings. We need to be able to share our stories.
So…here I am today, graduating, speaking at conferences, in classrooms and auditoriums, writing and collaborating with mental health and education professionals, working with amazing mental health organizations, writing a book. Through my experiences I have realized that I needed to make a difference, and through my opportunities I have hopefully begun to do so. I am so excited and pleased that I have the opportunity to make the differences that I am seeing.
Today I have found my way back to dry land where I can finally stand on firm ground, and it is here that I will help others do the same.
(This picture was taken when I was 20. I look a little different now that I finally take showers and have let my natural hair color grow back.)


Elizabeth said...

You are brave and good and beautiful. I so look forward to learning more about and supporting your journey.

Erica said...

Why people think you are brave:

The reflection of one’s life is the intense personal ideology that creates the essence of what we are; the bundle of thoughts and experiences we all hold deep within ourselves. If one is to give others a window into who they are, people will respond. People will think of one as brave regardless of the ease (or difficulty) in which they experience their life because it is difficult to share a life.

It is terrifying to allow someone else into our deepest realms of being because in giving them our inner most thoughts, we are in a sense giving part of ourselves to them. This fear is not uncommon in people. This is the reason people so often closely guard their first silly crushes or feel embarrassment by their perceived mistakes. It is hard to feel judged. Once one realizes that in sharing they relieve themselves of being the sole conveyer of their burdens, life is easier and sharing it (to their personal comfort level) is rewarding.

When anyone takes a moment to share something personal, something genuine, it is rare. It is a great gift that someone gives when they give their trust. Nothing represents one’s trust more than allowing an interpersonal relationship between people: friendship and love.

The reason people think you are brave is not because of what your story is, but because you trust the world enough to let your story shine. You have invited the world in to see you, extended friendship to those who want it. It is an honor to know someone who is open and willing to give of themselves and to be a catalyst for change. Thank you Linea. Thank you Curt, Cinda and Jordan for sharing your family and your love.

linea said...

Wow, and thank you Erica and Elizabeth. You are proof of how open the world can be when you share your self with it. You are proof that it is okay to let it out and it can even help others to do the same!

Anonymous said...


Nancy C said...

I am so grateful to learn about your journey. Your metaphor about the ocean is apt.

Mrs4444 said...

I'm happy for you :)

crazybeanrider said...

Thank you so much for sharing your gut-wrenching life's experience here with us. This should be read for those who understand and can identify and for those who have no idea the horrific struggle we carry.

Your a beautiful writer.

S said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story and for changing the way people see mental illness.