In 2014 I found myself – during what I now understand was a psychotic episode – on the wrong side of a balcony. It was then I realised I needed to see someone soon, or I’d be dead by the end of the week.
I’d always had ups and downs, been super emotionally sensitive. I’d already had a huge period of depression and anorexia, which I was ‘keeping at bay.’ I thought this was ‘just life.’ I thought it was normal to be paranoid to the point of locking yourself in a room for days. It was normal to go from sweeping depression, curled up in foetal position on the university bathroom floor, to absolute elation at seeing a text message: “what are you doing?” – all within an hour. I thought it was normal to cry at a song. To hurt myself because my head said I deserved to. To starve myself. To yell at my partner, my mum, myself, the wall.
But that’s not normal. That’s called Bipolar I disorder. That’s called Borderline Personality Disorder. That’s called my life. But that’s not all my life is – anymore.
Following the ‘balcony episode,’ I saw a psychiatrist. I didn’t believe her diagnosis. So I saw another psychiatrist who agreed. So I just became paranoid they were talking amongst each other (they weren’t). I started medication. Many adjustments later and now I’m on (#bae) Seroquel and antidepressants. I started Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) (“it’s this or hospital.”) I went to group therapy 9-3, every Wednesday, for a year and a half. I saw my psychiatrist 2h/fortnight. I saw my clinical psychologist 2h/week. It was exhausting, it was bloody hard, it was hell. But it saved my life and I graduated from group therapy this April.
However, the therapy never stops. Every day is a battle. I have routines to keep me feeling in control, but sometimes they start controlling my life. I try to fit in some study, but mostly I pack my life with ‘other things’ (AMSA, tutoring, volunteer stuff) because for 3.5yrs all I did was keep myself alive, and now I can do more than that. I still get my mania and depressions, but I now have the support network, the skills, the medication to make sure every phase is bit easier, shorter, less harrowing than the last.
Since I’ve found myself in this very privileged position (‘alive and well,’) I’ve started making change. Recently, I launched a campaign on my Facebook to collect people’s stories, information, experiences, memories so that I connect some dots, work out what’s failing us, what’s helping us, and slowly make waves and create change. I’ve realised a big part of the problem is the ‘tone at the top’ – older generations which perceive mental illness as the natural, hormonal imbalances of a vigorously sensitive, wild youth. Trust me, I’ll get there. But for now, I want your stories. So if you feel up to it, message me, I want to listen.