It’s ok to not be ok | Taking off the mask of mental illness

I’m back! I’m sorry that I have been vacant since last year.  Living with mental illness can be like that sometimes.  It’s been a struggle this past several months. Coupled with time in between where I have felt fine.  Sort of a day by day, week by week adventure, lol.  But today I am good and have been thinking for several days that I needed to do my part in removing the stigma of mental illness.  Hi I’m Wendy, and I have Bipolar II disorder :).  Please take note that I said “have” and not “am”.  Bipolar does not define me!

As someone who has lived with Bipolar for the better part of 25 years I would say that I have gotten REALLY good at wearing the “mask”.  You know the one..I’m always happy not a care in the world.  Most people would never ever know the thoughts and feelings that I fight most every day.  Not even my closest family members.  Because you see, those of us who suffer with mental illness, and I’m talking about ALL mental illnesses not just Bipolar, get really good at putting on a mask, to cover up what we are dealing with.  We do it to avoid being labeled.  We do it to try to convince ourselves that we don’t have a brain that doesn’t  function properly.  We do it so that we don’t make those around us uncomfortable.

But the truth is, it’s time to make people around us uncomfortable!  Heck we’ve been uncomfortable in our own skin for much of our lives.   It’s the only way for others to learn how to GET comfortable.  And I’ll tell you what, this is one of the scariest posts I’ve ever written.  The other one you can find here.  It’s HARD to take off this mask.  But it’s time.  Really it’s past time.

Those of us who live with mental illness, need to be heard.  Need to be healed.  Need to be loved and treated like anyone else with a disease.  After all, mental illness IS a disease.  A disease of the brain.  We should be talking about our brains and how to find a cure and how to treat something that affects around 45 million people every day.  That’s roughly 1 in 5 people!  Look around you.  That’s a lot of masks.  Not to mention all their friends and family who are involved.  And yet, we are still afraid to talk about it, and to really reach out and help those who are going through their own personal darkness, sometimes every day of their life.

I can only speak from my personal experience but compared to some, I feel lucky (if you can believe that).  I feel like I have had the support, for the most part, that I have needed to try and get on top of this.  But there have definitely been, and still are those in my life that just can’t understand.  And I get it, it’s hard to live with someone that you don’t know who they’re gonna be from day to day.  Are you going to get the “appears to be normal” person?  Or the depressed person that struggles to get out of bed,  that can’t seem to tackle the easiest of tasks.  Or are you going to get the chatty, goal driven, “I have a new idea and it’s gonna be AWESOME” person who is making and crossing things off their list as fast as they can go?  Are you going to get the mask?  It can be exhausting I’m sure.  Try being us, haha!

For me, most days living with Bipolar are fairly normal (if there is such a thing, haha). I mean there are definitely things that I need to do EVERY day if I want to stay on that line between depression and mania.   I touched on that somewhat in this post.  But for the most part if I am diligent at taking my medication and doing these 5 things, then I tend to manage pretty well.

However, the thing that is really tricky about mental illness, is that it can be constantly changing with things in the environment, hormones in our bodies changing (hello! Pre and post menstrual, pregnancy, Post partum , pre and post menopause,  etc. etc.). Of course I can only speak for women when it comes to hormone changes, but I know men go through their own set of hormone changes.  Mental illness is also affected by the type of food we eat, how much exercise we get, and the list goes on.  All of it affects the delicate balance maintained with medication or other ways that we have found to manage our personal illness.

I guess what I’m really trying to say in this very short synopsis, is that it is OK to not be OK with yourself, your brain, your situation.  Whether it is you that are suffering or your family and friends, don’t shut the door!  Don’t be afraid to talk about it.  And for friends and family, don’t be afraid to hang out with us.  Don’t gossip about us behind our backs and talk about how sad and awful it is. Don’t be afraid to talk to us about our illness, we need the support. We just want to be acknowledged and loved and supported and treated like anyone else with a life threatening disease.  Yes, I did just say life threatening.  According to NAMI over 42,000 American lives were lost due to suicide last year alone. Of course not all of those were due to mental illness but we can assume that a great number of them are.

So next time you are thinking about your friend or family member that suffers from mental illness, let them know.  Tell them that it is ok with you that they have a defective brain, lol.  Tell them that you want to do whatever you can to help.  That’s really all we want.  Deep down we just want to take off the mask and be seen for who we really are.  Defects and all!

BTW, mental health awareness month is coming up in May!  Maybe you could do something like donate to find a cure. 🙂 .  If so you can do that Here

Oh and if you think someone that you know and love may have a mental illness, please support them in finding the help they so desperately need!

p.s.  I am so incredibly thankful for the love and support that I receive from family and friends.  You know who you are, and I love you all!

 

 

 

Am I enough?

Why is it that we, especially women, think that we need to be completely perfect?  From our head to our toes, inside and out, we are constantly chasing that ever elusive perfection!  This thought has been on my mind quite consistently over the past several months as I have thought back over my life and the many mistakes that I have made in search of “perfection”.

It seems I always come back to my illness, because it is part of who I am and has helped shape me into the work-in-progress that I am today.  But I haven’t always felt that way.  In fact it is a day to day struggle to accept that this is part of who I am.  My personal struggle to let my light shine through the darkness, at times, becomes diminished because I let doubt and fear creep in.  I let Satan convince me that I am not enough.  But what I have learned over the years, is that I can, through His Grace, be perfected in Him! That no matter how hard I try, I can’t earn Christ’s love because it is freely and fully given to me.  It is His great gift to all of us!

In the Book of Mormon, Moroni counsels us in 10:32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you…

What we are aiming for is to become accepting of His Grace by showing gratitude and showing love.  Not only to others, but to ourselves.  We are relentlessly harder on ourselves than anyone else.  We tell ourselves constantly that we are not enough. We demean and discredit ourselves instead of lifting and building ourselves.  We must stop it!  We must learn to love ourselves. After all it is the second great commandment love thy neighbor as thyself… not, love thy neighbor and forget thyself.  No! LOVE THYSELF! YOU ARE ENOUGH!

you are enough

There is no shame in wanting to improve and become better.  In fact, that is the purpose of this life right?  We are trying for perfection, even though it is something that will not be attained in this life.  It is “toxic perfectionism” that we are trying to avoid. What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure.  We must learn to embrace failure.  Avoiding toxic perfectionism doesn’t mean that we quit or give up. No, we keep trying.  Though the road may be long and hard and winding, we must press forward with steadfastness in Christ, knowing that He will make up the difference in the end.

One truth that I have come to understand is that Satan tries to convince us of all that we are not!  Satan’s biggest lie is that we have to be perfect! And we have to do that all on our own.  It is a tool that he is using, and quite successfully I might add.  So many of us are convinced that we have to be perfect in every way and that if we fall short, if we fail, then there must be something that we are doing wrong, there must be something wrong with us.   And so we just try to push harder, we wear ourselves and our souls out trying. We become over stressed and our light begins to dim.

Satan’s deception keeps us from perfection.  It produces shame because we become so consumed with having to do everything right that when we fail (and we will), we feel ashamed and unworthy of Christ’s Grace.  But failure is not a sign of imperfection, it is a sign of progression.  If we aren’t failing then we aren’t trying. And the important part is to not give up, to get back up after we fail and try again. But in that process remember that you need Christ.  You need His Grace!  It is that process that creates and builds confidence and love for ourselves.

After all, it is Christ who said “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” Matthew 5:48.   Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the twelve apostles said “Surely the Lord would never give us a commandment that he knew we could not keep.”  “If we persevere, then somewhere in eternity our refinement will be finished and complete.”

The Savior convinces us of all that we are and all that we can be!  He says come unto me and I will make you better than you can be on your own! Because He loves us, because we are His. What He wants us to know is that we are enough.  That through Him we can overcome the obstacles, we can move forward and build ourselves up.  Turn on your light!  And let it shine bright!  You ARE enough!

We don’t have to be perfect, in fact we will never be perfect in this lifetime. So give yourself a break from chasing that “toxic perfectionism”.  Keep trying, keep pushing, keep moving forward but realize that His Grace is sufficient.  YOU ARE ENOUGH!