Expectation vs. Reality

It’s been heavy on my mind deciding when I would express my feelings and what I had to say after what happened with Chester Bennington. It hit a soft spot in my heart seeing that mental illness has taken yet another life of someone who had a lot to offer to the world. Many of us have grown up listening to Linkin Park. Ever since I was 11 years old, I could’t help but scream to the top of my lungs whenever “In The End” or “Numb” would play on the radio and attempting to scream like Chester. It’s disheartening to come to amends that Bennington left behind 6 beautiful children, a loving wife, and millions of admiring fans. Am I about to initiate the conversation that he was selfish to commit suicide? Definitely not. Was suicide his best solution? Of course not. But (there’s always a but), contrary to popular belief, an individual’s emotions can literally destroy them. It’s the overthinking, feeling of not being good enough, negative thoughts, lack of motivation. No matter how much people reassure that this individual is doing fine, the person suffering will always feel a sense of self-doubt. I want to shine some light for everyone who may or may not understand mental illness.

 

What is mental illness? According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illness is a “health condition involved in changes in thinking, emotion, or behavior. They are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work, or family activity.” The words health condition is what stuck out the most to me when I did my research. You know what else is considered a health condition? Cardiovascular disease. High blood pressure. Lymphoma. These are things that hold a person back from living the perceived perfect life due to physical symptoms. These symptoms may become so severe that they can kill the person suffering. So why is it easy for us to seek medical attention right when we see symptoms of these particular conditions, but we are so hesitant to seek help when it comes to abnormal brain processing? 1 in 3 people suffer from a mental illness and 4 in 5 people aren’t willing to seek help for what they may consider a mental disorder. Why is this? Well either A) they don’t want to be perceived as “crazy” (God, I love that word) B) they don’t want to depend on medication to get better and/or C)  they believe they can overcome their emotions on their own. Someone admitting that they have a chemical imbalance in regulating their emotions is one thing, but seeking help is key. The ability to recognize one’s own emotions is a gift above others instead of suppressing problems that are happening right now. Whether it be confiding in friends and/or family about what’s going on in their minds or even going the extra step of seeking professional help, people need to stop holding back how they truly feel with the idea of being judged. If your friends judge you for how you’re feeling, they either need to A) stop being your friends or B) figure out other solutions with you to make the situation better.

 

Time to get personal
From the outside looking in, people see me as a student with a 3.6 cumulative GPA, received a BA in Psychology at age 23, involved in sorority and took multiple positions, in the process of receiving an AS in the Physical Therapist Assistant Program at age 25, employed, engaged to the love of my life, spends countless hours at the gym lifting more than double the weight than someone her weight should ever attempt, and surrounded by loving and supporting family and friends. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard Adrien, you’re so driven and motivated! You have achieved so much and live an amazing life. You should be proud of how far you’ve come! And they’re right. I absolutely 100% agree with them. I am damn proud of how far I’ve come.

 

In reality, I have been constantly living with this feeling of self-doubt and am always striving for perfection. I decided to seek professional help last year (2016) because my emotions were getting the best of me. Getting out of bed was difficult, finding motivation to do the things I loved, constantly crying, the fear of never being good enough and/or people always leaving, the list goes on. After telling my psychiatrist and therapist how things on a daily basis affected me, they diagnosed me with major depression disorder, anxiety, and ADHD which is all tied into the mental disorder known as bipolar disorder. At first, I was confused as to why I was diagnosed with BPD. From what the media has depicted, we view someone who suffers from BPD as someone who is happy at one point then gets angry all of a sudden. Almost like an on/off switch. Switch ‘on’ for happy, ‘off’ for sad. With more research, I realized why they diagnosed me with BPD (thanks to Pinterest and background knowledge from all the Psychology classes I took). Hysterical crying episodes from the depression that feeds to the idea of my mom’s passing, the picking of the skin around my fingers whenever I was feeling anxious, lack of wanting to socialize from being so exhausted, losing focus after someone says more than 3 words, never being able to finish tasks. It all finally made sense.

 

What having bipolar disorder feels like:
If I could sum up how I feel 99.9% of the time, it would be that I am never satisfied. Trust me, it’s annoying to feel this way. Looking back at what I have done with my life, the average person would be satisfied with what I have done. The thing is, I get bored easily with what’s going on in my life. This is generally when the term ‘bipolar’ comes into play. I continuously have to be doing something or else I feel lost. If you really knew me, I like to keep a laundry list of things I want to accomplish, whether it be short-term or long-term. I find it very difficult to just be in one place and have to always be doing something. I honestly can never just relax. If my list only consists of only long-term goals, then that’s when I start to get frustrated. I don’t have something under my control at the moment. The anxiety starts to build up inside me, constantly feeling like I should find something to work towards or else I’m not going to go anywhere in life. Being patient, if you couldn’t already tell, is very difficult for me to do. I just wish I could fast forward to the later parts in life when I finally have my answers. There are times when I cry hysterically because I get so frustrated and caught up in the moment that there’s nothing I can do. Then typically my anxiety gets triggered and I panic. An anxiety attack is not fun at all. Don’t ever think people are having attack just to get attention. It’s not a cry for help. It’s more of a release of all the bottled up emotions that we are trying to constantly fight in our minds. People who suffer from mental illness are always having a debate in their minds over the reality of what’s going on in their everyday life versus how they negatively depict their life. It really is exhausting to live with a mental disorder, let alone having anxiety attacks. You’re trying to release all the negative emotions out of your mind through hysterically crying, and at the same time, your body is responding by intensely shaking and your heart rate increases. Anxiety attacks are physically and emotionally draining. It leads to the point of me wanting to just give up and do absolutely nothing. Completely different end of the spectrum. All I want to do at the time is lay in bed, sleep for countless hours, and just not be a part of the rest of the world.
In order for me to stabilize my moods and have level thinking, I have been taking several different medications. The thing with trying to take care of mental illness through medication is that there isn’t one medication that cures all. Hell, if there is, please bring it this way because I’m tired of the roller coaster of emotions!
“But Adrien, you shouldn’t be dependent on medications. You should find other outlets to make you feel better. You’re too smart to be doing so and taking medication to get better is such a cop-out.”
Stop right there. Unless you are my psychiatrist or therapist, please stop telling me what I should do in order to feel better or how to get over BPD. Do you really think I enjoy going through anxiety attacks, crying, and having numerous negative thoughts run through my mind constantly? Do you think I haven’t already tried multiple outlets to make myself happy before having to rely on medication to get better? So you’re saying not only do I have to deal with my emotions regarding my own life, but now I have to add to the list about worrying about how others feel about me taking medications? It definitely is hard not to care about people’s opinions on antidepressants, especially if it’s coming from the people you care about the most. Of course, they only want what is best for you in their eyes. But my therapist brought up a good point. If someone had high blood pressure, you wouldn’t tell them to stop taking the medication due to the possible side effects. You would focus on the long run of the medication: the goal of regulating their blood pressure. This idea should be treated equally with antidepressants. The goal of antidepressants is to increase serotonin levels in an individual to retain positive emotion again.Trust me, I didn’t want to be that person who was on medication to get back to feeling normal. To be happy with life again. Yes, there are people who abuse antidepressants. But you can tell the difference between the people who use antidepressants for the wrong reasons versus the people who actually need antidepressants to get better. To add onto the list of things that people need to stop telling others who suffer from mental illness, stop telling them that ‘everything is just in their head’ or the good ol’ (OMG I’m cringing about to type this) ‘calm down.’ If you tell me to calm down, I will only get more anxious and angry and probably want to kill you (not really, but just don’t do it). My blood starts to boil so much that I’m impressed my body is able to control it from exploding out of my skin. Alright well remember when I said I went through multiple medications within the past year and was going through an emotional roller coaster?

 

Time to get even more personal

 

What I am about to share is very difficult for me to publicize. The reason why I am doing so is not because I want sympathy. I’m sharing this because I know I’m not alone with these emotions and if you’re one of those people who are scared to tell anyone, you can always come to me. These are very deep emotions and thoughts that I have underwent the past year, so prepare yourself.

 

The first medication I started talking was Wellbutrin XR 20mg. This antidepressant was supposed to help increase positive thinking as well as target the ADHD since I couldn’t stay awake during the day or focus for the life of me. After 2 weeks of taking the prescription, I finally felt like I was getting better. My relationship with my significant other and close friends were better because I was more clear minded, I finally felt like I was in control of my own life, I finally felt happy again. After a couple weeks I realized I was completely wrong. The thing with taking antidepressants is that it takes your body a while to adjust to the new prescription because your hormones and thought processing are altered from before. That’s why they say it can take up to 4 weeks for your body to get adjusted to the medication. Antidepressants aren’t like ibuprofen, when you can feel the medicine working on wherever you’re feeling pain in the next 20 minutes or so. Things in life were affecting me way more than they used to. I was crying over simple things, like if I wasn’t getting scheduled enough at work or even the fact that I received a B- on a test instead of a B.

 

My psychiatrist warned me that one of the possible side effects of taking antidepressants is thoughts of suicide and/or worsening of depression. I couldn’t help but think ‘that could never be me’ or ‘my life is too good for me to even consider suicide.’ The only real time I ever even implanted the possible idea of suicide was when my mom passed away. I thought that I had lost everything when she died. I was completely wrong again. Every time I had an anxiety attack (at one point they were happening almost every day for 2 weeks straight and even happen 2-3 times a day) I just felt like wanting to, lightly saying, not exist anymore. “I feel like the people in my life would be better off without me here because I’m such a burden. What if I just died? Would people even care?These are, excuse my French, really shitty thoughts to have. Why do I have these thoughts? Just like figuring out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know. There were days where I just couldn’t deal with my emotions anymore that I didn’t want to deal with life anymore. I will say that I actually don’t have enough will power in me to commit the act. The reason why I haven’t done so is because I feel it would be selfish to leave the people that love and care about me on a negative note. My family specifically is who drives me. The three of us (dad, brother, and me) have gone through many obstacles together that if I were to just leave them, that’s another loss they would have to go through, and I would never want them to go through that.

 

Majority of the anxiety attacks that happened to me, I couldn’t figure out why they would happen or figure out what the people around me could do to help. I felt horrible going to people whenever I had my anxiety attacks because I would just be hysterically crying and couldn’t talk. I was at a point that I would try and handle my attacks alone, but I realized this made matters worse for me. Whenever I did this, I will admit to hurting myself. Before you’re quick to judge about people who hurt themselves, please hear me out on why I did so. Let me first state, I am not proud of this action. It was definitely out of impulse, and people with BPD are very impulsive. In the moment of me hurting myself, I guess it felt like a release for me. Like I just had so much emotion building up internally and that the only way for it to get out is through hurting myself. Pain is just weakness leaving the body. I felt that the more I hurt, the more likely the emotional pain would just go away also. Almost like having a breath of fresh air after leaving the Hollister store that’s oversprayed with cologne, except way less painful obviously haha. Another example is like going out to the bar with friends. Before the occasion, people may plan on having 1 or 2 casual drinks, but in the spur of the moment, 1 or 2 casual drinks ends up being 4 or 5 Long Island Iced Teas. At this rate, if you’re like me, you’d be stupid wasted. When people drink, they may continue to do so because they feel a sense of freedom and can forget about any problems that may be going on. They are simply living in the moment. They’re surrounded with good people and want to have fun solely by drinking. The next day you regret how much you drink because of how severely hungover you may be, but you learn your lesson. Drinking that much = shitty hangover and even worse if you have to work the next day. I am not pushing the idea that it’s okay to cut yourself, but again, it’s an impulse decision. I’ve learned from those instances and try to promise myself to never do it again. But I am no fortune teller. Just like all the times you told yourself ‘God, I am never going to drink again!’ but end up drinking the same amount the next weekend. You just never really know when these times happen. I cannot reiterate how important it is that if you know someone who is undergoing the same things I have just stated, be there for them. Don’t tell them they’re stupid for hurting themselves or having thoughts of suicide. Reassure them that things will be okay and that you will be there the whole time. If they feel like that no one is there to help them through their journey of mental illness, the next step is, unfortunately, suicide. Take action and do everything you can to prevent this from happening.

 

From then my psychiatrist and I went through trial and error of different medications. I am currently taking Lamictal to stabilize my moods, Adderall to help me focus, and Seroquel for my insomnia. So far, the medications are treating me well, but only time can tell what the next step will be. Who knows? At the end of the day, I just want to get better.

 

So what now?
If you’ve read this far, I am really impressed. To be honest, I actually really appreciate it. It shows investment on what’s going on through my mind on a daily basis and that you want more information about what it’s like dealing with mental illness. What I shared is a lot to take in emotionally and it’s not like everyone you associate with is like me. My goal of writing this blog was not only to share a deeper side about myself, but for everyone to be more aware of how the people in your life are feeling. A simple ‘how are you?’ or ‘how’s life?’ is really all it takes. From the outside looking in it may seem like that person is doing just fine. At the same time, they are overthinking about how horrible their life is in their head. If you know anyone that is suffering from a mental disorder, reassure them that you truly care about them. Reassurance and support. The thing with mental illness is that you can’t really tell what a person is thinking about without having them talk to you about it. Whether it be that they’re embarrassed for feeling a certain way or they’re trying to figure things out on their own, let them know you are there to listen whenever they are ready to talk. Realize that mental illness is an ‘on your own time’ type of thing. You can’t simply force someone to be happy (as much as we’d love to) or have them talk about a situation because you want to. They have to be ready to talk about what’s bothering them when they are ready. The bumps in life represent the problems you may be going through. Whether it be relationship, financial, or even figuring out what to eat tonight problems, they’re difficult to get through but you’ll get over the bump one way or another. If you suffer from a mental illness, I cannot express enough that you are not alone. God wouldn’t put you through anything you couldn’t handle in life. Surround yourself with uplifting/supportive people and delete the toxic people who bring you down. Breathe and realize your self-worth. Stop the stigma on mental illness and realize it’s a real problem before it takes another innocent life. RIP Chester Bennington. Thank you for helping me realize that I am not the only one going through this and you will be truly missed.

 

Just like what Chester said, “And the shadow of the day will embrace the world in gray. And the sun will set for you.