My name is Michelle. I am fifty-five years old. I have lived with mental illness all my life, at
least since I can remember.I never fit in as a child. I was the one people bullied. I was called “Cry Baby” probably because I cried a lot; not just when the other people bullied me, but randomly. I didn’t understand why and it frightened me.
I have chosen not to write about my family of origin because it would cause more harm than good. I love them and I hope they love me. Let this suffice for the purpose of my writing; to help others and myself as I continue my journey. So, if you’re a family member or friend of someone who has mental illness please don’t abandon or give up on them, they need you.
So the first thing I’d like to say that has helped me go from incapacitated to functional is a spiritual experience. I have a beautiful and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I unashamedly call Him my Lord and Savior. I think it’s important to believe in something or someone greater than yourself. The second thing is my relationships with my psychiatrist and my therapist. I am blessed to have them within the same practice and they work well together on my behalf. I trust them with my life and that is critical because I have been suicidal so many times at which point I usually end up in the hospital upon their recommendation.
Then there is the routine of daily life that I must follow if I am going to stay out of the hospital. I Take my medication as prescribed whether I feel good or not. One of my downfalls is mania and when that occurs I think I don’t need medication. Mania is when I feel too happy, easily excited, I don’t sleep, eat very little, have grandiose ideas, start inspiring projects but never finish them because I think of another one that’s even better.
Then the inevitable happens, “The Crash”. This is when I sink into that deep, dark pit of depression and I just want to never wake up or even worse; die. Actually, I just want the mental emotional anguish and confusion to stop and the only way I think would solve my dilemma is death by suicide.
So following my routine is critical. I practice sleep hygiene, a regular bedtime so I get 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night and I wake up at the same time every morning. I exercise first thing in the morning. I study my Bible and journal about what I have read. I pray for others and I ask for Gods guidance for that day. I eat something, whether I feel hungry or not; this is so I can take my medication and supplements without upsetting my stomach. Then I check my schedule for the day, plan my lunch and dinner meals according to a diabetic diet. I need to lose more weight and I am not going to say how much due to a touch of vanity on my part.
NAMI - The National Alliance for Mental Illness is a positive part of my recovery. I am a trained facilitator or co facilitator as needed for our support group called Connection. We meet on Thursday nights, 7 pm, at Sparrows St. Lawrence campus in Lansing, Michigan. It is only for people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness; it is an anonymous group so we don’t allow just anyone to come in off the street to attend. This is important to me because it helps me feel safe to share how I feel or what I am really thinking.
I am also a trained “In Our Own Voice” presenter and enjoy telling others my story of living with mental illness. I carry a message of truth, courage, and hope for anyone who has ANY experience with mental illness. There is life worth living even with mental illness, whether you are the one with the mental illness or you know someone with a mental illness. Never give up hope. That is the 12th Principle of Support in NAMI and it happens to be my favorite.
I hope to see this stigma and prejudice of mental illness to end one day. I guess that is why I am writing this, it has to start somewhere with someone – why not me?