by Ashlee Fleming
I remember ever so vividly in middle school, I didn’t feel like myself anymore.
Something was wrong and I had no clue what it was. I was extremely sad for no reason whatsoever, and it wasn’t the sadness that I was used to. I was having crying spells, I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. I had no one to turn to because no one understood and couldn’t possibly know what I was going through.
Honestly, I couldn’t even explain it myself. Eventually, I was taken to Tucker’s Psychiatric Hospital where I was later admitted. It had gotten so bad that I didn’t recognize my parents, I’d jump when they’d try to touch me. Everything around me seemed so foreign, I was so paranoid I felt as if everyone was against me and trying to set me up. I stayed there for about two and a half weeks.
I felt much better when I was discharged but little did I know, this thing was far from over
By the way, the doctors misdiagnosed me with Anorexia. I started seeing an outpatient Psychiatrist, where I was later diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I didn’t know anything about bipolar so that every day I grabbed every brochure in that office specifically on that mental illness.
As I read it, I was in awe because everything I was experiencing was right there in that little book. I felt a huge relief, I knew this was just the beginning but what I was feeling was real and I could get the help I needed. I had no clue how bad things would get, I could never have imagined how this illness would alter my life.
I missed so much school because when I went into depression episodes I wasn’t able to function. I’d stay in bed most of the day, I wouldn’t eat and I was barely able to stay on top of my hygiene. All I could do was cry, along with the racing thoughts. My grades started dropping and I lost all hope. How could I be successful at anything with this thing having so much control over my life?
I managed to graduate high school, something I thought I wouldn’t accomplish. I wasn’t at the top of my class but I accomplished something so great all while battling the greatest obstacle of my life. I was also pregnant with my first child when I graduated, a lot of excitement at one time but I was grateful.
Two years later I was pregnant with my second, I had to change medications because the ones I was on could have a negative effect on the baby. After giving birth, I stopped taking my meds completely which was probably the worst thing I could have ever done.
I went into a manic episode
Mind you since middle school I’d only ever had depression episodes so this was new to me. Just a few weeks after having my daughter, I was hospitalized. I wanted so badly to be with my newborn baby but mentally I was in no condition to go home. I was in and out of mental institutions during that period of time, that episode lasted for about 6 months. Within that time I hurt a lot of people, I did things that I would have never done in my right state of mind. I was living a risky life and I had no control over myself whatsoever. It was scary.
I still can’t believe I went through something so traumatizing and made it through. I would see things that weren’t actually there, I’d walk the streets all hours of the night, take showers in chemicals, etc. I was arrested one time for jumping on someone’s car, I had never been in trouble until then. I had a probation officer and had to get drug tested which made me feel like a criminal for something I had no control over. After that I felt like there wasn’t anything I couldn’t withstand, that was my lowest but I kept the faith. That was the craziest time of my life but I thank God for covering me, without Him, I wouldn’t be here today.
That was my only manic episode but I still deal with my depression. I am better able to cope with my condition because I’ve learned to do things that help me feel better. I have a daily routine that I stick to even when I’m down, I make sure I show up. I advocate for mental health because this is something I’m extremely passionate about.
Not only is it therapeutic for me but I know that my story can and will help others out there like me. I feel a connection to those with mental illnesses, those who are suicidal, and the families of those we’ve lost to suicide. They are me, I am them! I will use my story to change the face of mental illness and be the voice for those who can’t or couldn’t be a voice for themselves.
Recovery isn’t easy, but I am in a place where I can see a brighter future and I know there’s a bigger picture. I wasn’t given this awful illness to be defeated, I found my purpose in the midst of my pain. Even in the hard times, I’m grateful that God felt I was equipped to fight this battle. He has a plan for my life!