My mental illness taught me to fight for myself

roadtripIf you asked me 15 years ago, 10 years ago, 5 years ago, I would have scoffed at the notion. All my Bipolar did was set me up for failure.

Failure is an interesting thing — especially when the root comes from something you have no control over. It tends to do one of three things: cause you to give up, cause you to give in, or cause you to stand up and fight.

I wish I could say I was one who stood and fought back right away, but I wasn’t. I’ve shared my story of different times I was prepared to die because I had given up all hope. Truth be told, it was often only my stubbornness preventing me from ever fully succumbing to those thoughts.

There were times when I gave up on all hope I would ever do something or be someone of value.

And then, there were times where I just gave in, becoming numb to the pain, to the insanity, and the darkness, believing things would never get better.

Much of my childhood, and up until my early adult years, was spent in darkness and depression, barely hanging on. In fact, it got so bad that, by the age of 23, I had come completely emotionally and mentally unhinged. When I look back on that time, there are many situations in which I cannot discern the truth. My mind is a mess of reality and the twisted false truths my mind concocted. There are many times I cannot even recognise what my logic was.  Scattered throughout both, however, is nothing but pain and hurt.

I was in a living situation detrimental to my mental health. People who didn’t like me surrounded me, among others who pretended to but spoke about me behind my back. I was working more hours than I should be and my insomnia was raging.

One night, I simply snapped. I went completely berserk on my parents in the middle of a restaurant. Screaming at them for an hour in the car, I had no idea what I was coming out of my mouth. I was oblivious to the fact that, in the panic, I was shredding my arms with my nails. When I finally calmed down, I returned home. A friend had promised to be there to talk to me after what happened, and when she was not there, I snapped again.

I used to call them my bipolar blackouts; they would trigger as I became overcome with emotion and with pain. I was left literally unaware of my actions or surroundings during those times.

When I snapped out of it, there were scissors in my hands and slices up my arms.

That was the night I decided to fight back. I moved back in with my parents — the only ulterior option I had been given to suicide watch. We booked an appointment with a psychiatrist, and I began to research everything I could about Bipolar disorder and any subsequent mental illnesses I thought I could potentially have.

I decided I was tired of letting the darkness control me, letting it debilitate me, and letting it destroy my life. I had nothing – no job, no life, and I had no idea who out of my friends I could trust.

Being completely fed up, I did the only thing I could — I fought.

As I fought, I learned something about myself; I had really been fighting all along.

Each time I refused to give in and end it, I had been building strength. Whenever I picked myself up and moved forward even though I felt it was going nowhere, I built perseverance. Each time I tried again to achieve a goal even though all I saw was my failure, I was building courage and character.

In realising that, I never gave up. When I began my fight to get my life, to go where I wanted, to become who I wanted, I examined each failure, each struggle to learn something from it. To learn, not just about the lessons, but about the way they affected me, and the way the illness worked. I learned to identify the patterns so I could stand against them when they tried to take hold.

But most importantly, I learned to stop hiding out of fear of what the world would think. When I did that, when I embraced everything and realised that I shouldn’t be afraid of the results, that’s when I was finally able to find my voice as a writer. I was able to discover something about my talent, and who I wanted to be; that I do best when I am raw and authentic. When I don’t hide away from who I am, my past, or my present, I have the ability to inspire change.

My story, my struggles, and my failures are where I draw the strength of my voice from.

Being authentic challenges me to try my hardest, to do the best that I can so that I can achieve my goals. If it weren’t for the fight that my Bipolar gave me, I don’t believe I ever would have gotten here.

9 thoughts on “My mental illness taught me to fight for myself

  1. This was so powerful to read, my friend. Your story has an incredibly important message and purpose. Your relentless fight has gifted you with strength and great insight into what it means to truly battle… and triumph through it. Reading your experience, I can only imagine the great pain you were in. I am SO glad you have found a way through it and into this beautiful path and passion! OH what a blessing! And your voice will surely make a profound difference in helping others find a way through their battles as well. What a mission you have before you, my friend!

    1. Thank you Chris! There are days where I’m scared of that mission, but I know that if my words can help someone, then I can’t afford to be afraid.

  2. Tabitha, this is so incredible! You are one of my heroes! I can tell from reading this I just love you! As you know, from the standpoint of a parent, I write about mental health frequently, and I feel just as passionately about breaking down stigma and shame. I was severely depressed in 2008, and it almost came to tragic circumstances. I am so grateful you are here and writing with purpose! It’s so clear God has been strengthening you toward this. The Light wins over the darkness. I really appreciate your transparency and your authenticity. Prayers for you to stay strong. You are shining His Light in dark places where people need hope. Blessings!

    1. Bonnie, I first read your comment while at work and didn’t get a chance to sit down and respond. Thank you so much for your words. You made me tear up, in a good way. Words are empowering, and tonight, you’ve given me a lot of encouragement.

  3. Isn’t it amazing when we learn we’re braver than we thought we were? And that God has a purpose in all we live through? Those are cliches – they are the facts of our lives. Thank you for this brave post.

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