June 5, 2017

Grief and Mental Illness: End the Stigma

I almost started this post with an apology for being absent from this space for so long. Then I realized that I don't owe anyone an apology for taking time for myself and my own mental health while we grieve Colby. We are still grieving, and I have good days and bad days, but we must keep moving forward if we are to honor his little life and give him a little brother or sister.

I have lived with a mental illness for most of my life. Although I went undiagnosed and untreated for at least a decade, looking back, my depression began in my early teens. Nothing I did made it better, at least not in the long term. It wasn't until my early twenties that things escalated to the point it was affecting my relationships with the people in my life, but I didn't want to be "that crazy girl" who has to take medication to be "normal." But, in 2011 on a rainy afternoon I sat in my car crying to my mom on the phone in the Target parking lot, that I finally realized that I cannot do this on my own. I made an appointment with my family doctor, and was diagnosed with major depression and given a prescription for an antidepressant. Those were turbulent times. I wasn't always able to get my medication, and I spent many nights wishing to go to sleep and not wake up.

When I moved to Missouri in 2013, things got better (thanks to my wonderful husband). After we got married I was able to get back on my medication, and I started therapy. I wanted to be better, to be well. After a two medication changes with no improvement, I decided to have a formal psychological assessment done. December of 2016 I discovered what I've been fighting for the past 20 years. PTSD, depression, anxiety, and Bipolar II. So many emotions ranging from shock to relief flooded my mind and body. I immediately began to research these diagnoses and the medication that go along with them.

We found out we were pregnant in November, and at 14 weeks and 2 days gestation we lost our son, Colby, on January 20, 2017. It's been 19 weeks and 3 days (as of Monday) since that awful night and they have been the hardest days of my life. The most important thing I've learned from this is that the grieving process is so different for each person. There is NO set time that you have to "get over it" and "move on." Losing a child is extremely hard no matter what age, and that takes time to heal enough to start being ok again. I've learned to brush off the people who want me to get better at a faster pace, the ones who don't know that their words hurt, and the ones who don't offer any words at all. You really do find out who cares most when you experience a loss like this.

Grief on top of my existing depression and Bipolar II has made things difficult for not only me, but for those around me, most of all my husband. I'm learning to distinguish between grief emotions and reactions, and the "normal" ups and downs I experience with my Bipolar. And hubs is learning how to support and reassure me as we try to heal.I am now on new medications that are geared towards stabilizing my moods and am still in therapy. I also found a support group for miscarriage, pregnancy loss, and infant loss, and that has helped immensely.

I'm not telling you this to gain pity or sympathy, I don't want any of that, thanks. I am telling you this because this is me; this is my "normal." I am not ashamed of my mental illnesses, nor am I embarrassed that I need to take medication to balance the chemicals in my brain. I know my limits: what I can handle in a healthy way and what I cannot. Mental illness does not make me weak or less than, and I don't want to be treated as such. We need to break the negative stigma. It keeps many people from seeking the help they need, and encourages the rampant ignorance of psychological disorders in the general public.

I hope that by being open about my grief and mental illnesses I can shed some light on this side of the story. That I can help even just one person by letting them know they are not alone, and it's ok to get help. If you just need someone to listen, I'll be that person. If not me, reach out to a friend or family member. There are also support groups; find one in your area or even online.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Thank you for stopping by!
I read, appreciate, and try to respond (on the blog or via email) to every comment because I truly love receiving feedback from you lovelies. If you don't hear from me, please make sure you are not a "No Reply" blogger.