Ambroseanda, a Community Living Specialist from our behavioral health program in Harris County, TX shared her experiences with a mental health condition as a part of Mental Health Awareness Month's #mentalillnessfeels like campaign.
Impulsiveness, racing thoughts, mania, depression, isolation, self-medicating, manipulation, anger, anguish, and emptiness in the pit of my soul that could not be filled because I had no Idea where to begin to get help. I felt like the only person going thru these emotions, and I hated it. I hated myself for not being strong enough to “fix” myself, I felt stuck, and most of all I felt hopeless. This is what Bipolar Disorder felt like to me. It was pain, confusion, self-destruction, and the feeling of needing to end it all at any means necessary.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder about five years ago. When my doctor told me I denied it. Coming from a family who suffers from multiple mental illnesses, I decided that could not be me. I knew at age ten I was different, but having a sibling with autism my mental illness was never addressed. I remember in my teenage years crying and asking my higher power, why me? Why can’t I just enjoy the small things? I began isolating myself from fourteen until my mid-twenties. Imagine a young 20 something year old going through college experiencing the racing thoughts and dealing with mania. On the other hand, sometimes I would feel so good from the mania because I felt that I could conquer the world. This was explained to me as grandiosity. I literally tried to conquer three careers all at once, and followed out with beginning them, telling myself that “I feel fine.” In fact, I felt great! Awesome energy, my racing thoughts were being directed… so I thought. In 2015, it became too much for me to handle. I became a prisoner of my own home. I was paranoid, and my mania would keep me up for days. I had hit rock bottom in more than one way. I was tired of my mental illness now controlling every sense of my being. In March of 2015 I stopped denying my bipolar disorder and decided to work with it, like any illness I learned that there was another life out there for me I just had to make the decision to accept my life with my illness.
I’ve always wanted to help others with my own struggles…but first I had to help myself. The only thing required from me was willingness. I got on my medication, changed my lifestyle, reset my mind and consciously worked on myself every day. To this day, I continue to work on myself and managing my Bipolar Disorder. Living with a mental illness is not something that I would wish on anyone. Some people never make it out of their own misery, and those are the ones I decided to help once I got help for myself.
In August 2015 I began to work with YAP, working with at risk youth with similar mental illnesses. I decided that I wanted to help those young enough to implant the seed of “hope.” What I learned from my own experiences is that everyone needs help, even if they don’t realize it. Everyone needs a strong support system to teach them, and to reprogram their thoughts with a strong support system. It’s true that it takes a village to raise a child, especially an at-risk youth. If this was not a paid position, I would do it for free because I am passionate about this field. I work with kids with my own diagnoses and other diagnoses that just need guidance and someone to teach them that there is a life out there, and it is theirs for the taking, if they have the willingness to go get it.
Mental Illness for me now feels like hope. I have a strong support team and I am doing my part. I am currently on medication to ensure that I do not go back to my old ways. Mental illness for me now feels manageable, I feel self-reliant, I can control my racing thoughts, depression and mania, and I no longer feel empty inside. I feel free. Some days are harder than others, but now that I know how life can be managing my mental illness, I will never go back to how my life was before. It’s an easy slope to fall down faster than you expect. That’s why I love working with YAP, teaching life skills in order for my clients to begin early on to take charge in managing their mental illness. Nothing is impossible. Impossible is no longer in my vocabulary and no longer in my client’s vocabulary. Working with YAP is one of my coping skills, knowing that there are youth that feel hopeless, and I’m here to teach them a better way to live with mental illness and to let go of guilt and shame and work on a way to move past it and to see how their future can be if they put forth the effort.