My Very Real Truth

I’m a liar. I’ve lied about being well. The truth is that I’ve had decades to perfect this lie. I learned from a very young age how and what people need to see or hear to make them think I was okay. I haven’t been okay. I know I have talked about myself not being normal before. I don’t mean that in a “I have a unique style” or “think outside the box” way. (Although I guess I fall into that “not normal” too though.) What I mean when I say that I am not “normal” like others, is that my brain is different than others. I don’t hear, see, smell, process, etc., like others. I remember as a young child (kindergarten) being very overwhelmed by the world around me. Almost as if I was being suffocated by my overly heightened senses. Not knowing what to do with feelings of panic or being able to communicate what was happening shut me down. I am just a few weeks shy of 34 years old now and just now being able to identify and communicate my minds funny tricks, but only after I recently lost my mind. My mind has had 30 years to settle into what I now know as my manic world.

Mental illness, the silent killer. When you don’t treat an illness, it has the potential to get worse or even kill you. Mental illness is not excluded from this. I can’t believe I lived through the last two weeks and I am here to tell you about it. I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to survive the day to see the next. Would you have had any idea? Here’s the other part. Me not making it would be at the hands of myself. I would’ve been the one to end my life. That’s what my illness will do to me. Kill me. I’ve left my mental illness untreated, and it’s almost costed me my life more than once. Struggling with depression and anxiety most of my life it was easy to chalk up things to that. Add in some trauma and PTSD and well how could I or anyone tell what was that and what was something else? Not to mention when you start doing drugs at a young age (as I had) that can also mess with the development of your brain affecting my mood, decision making, actions, etc. I had enough strikes against me that it was easy to blame things on any number of things.  Basically, I was fucked up.

I started to work on my recovery 7 years ago. Thinking I was suffering, because I didn’t have any coping skills. Thinking I was suffering, because I didn’t know how to communicate. Thinking I was suffering, because I hadn’t faced my trauma. Well that was true. I did have to work on all that,but little did I know that was just the tip of the iceberg. Slowly by slowly, I started to clear things up in my world and learned new skills to cope and live. I’ve continued to push myself in every aspect trying to get myself to a point where I can just feel better. I pushed myself psychically, mentally, emotionally, etc. I managed to build myself a beautiful life in my time of healing. I did feel better. The thing is when you’re manic, everything feels better. I compare it to being on meth. For those of you that can not relate, it feels like a super hero feeling. Euphoric, false sense of confidence, hundreds of ideas flowing, intense talking, little to no sleep, etc. Looking back I can see my mania revolved around my recovery. So I went hard. Only to turn around and feel more depressed than I’ve ever felt in my life. The good thing is that I was doing REAL work on myself. Learning actual coping and life skills, communicating, talking about my trauma, forgiving, meditating, exercising, counseling, learning, etc. I wonder if I had not been working so hard on building myself a healthy life, if  I would’ve been able to survive thus far. The reality of my situation is that I can do all the work on myself as I can and want, but I need help. Real professional medical help. I’m sick and I need help.

I’ve spent the last four years trying to get back to my only moderately crazy self that I was prior to fertility treatments and having a kid. However, I never could get back to that version of crazy. Things had changed for me. Yes, obviously I had a kid and that was huge, but I’m talking inside of me. Once again I started with the reasons why I felt the way I did: I have postpartum depression, I’ve struggled with depression all my life so of course it’s just worse for me, my hormones are off, I have endometriosis, I’m still healing, etc. However, this time things were very different. My episodes of mania and depression were on their way to getting worse and worse for me and I had no idea I even had episodes of mania. I was in for a very rude awakening. I made it through to around a month ago, where I just couldn’t. I felt BAD. I say bad, because I don’t think I can put into words just how bad I felt. There wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t wonder if my family would be better off with me killing myself now or later on. I started to not have any control of my brain (losing my mind).  I started to actually see that I was in a manic episode. I was out of control in every aspect. Absolutely terrifying. I was in fear of my life.

I spoke up. I said I needed help and reached out. Counselors would tell me I needed more care than they could provide, psychiatrists said they could take me.. in november, I could go through the system, but they said it would be months, before they’d get to me,  I considered just admitting myself into the ER and telling them to lock me away, etc. I just wanted help. I needed help. I was in a deep depressive state and wasn’t sure I could survive another episode in either direction. Out of desperation, I saw my primary and explained a little that was going on. She started me on medication and then I was thrown over the edge. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly feel any worse. Boy, was I wrong. I couldn’t walk in a room without seeing all the ways I could off myself.  I needed my mom to come be with me ASAP, because like all other grown ups, when you’re sick you call mom still, right?

I have been fighting my illness alone for long enough. I have been hiding and lying saying I was well. Thinking I had this under control and I could handle this by myself. I spent decades getting really great at convincing others that I was okay, and I couldn’t and can’t anymore. I am not okay. I am sick. I am mentally ill and there is no cure for me. With a lot of desperation, tears, panic, hunt, money, and the help of a couple random people who saw the light going out in me, I am able to finally get some help. And I wonder about all the others that struggle and do not have the resources that I do. That are at their end and can’t chase help. What about the people that can’t afford private care? What about those that reached out and got an appointment months away, because it’s all their insurance would cover? WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR SYSTEM? PEOPLE ARE DYING!!!

I write this now at the beginning of my new journey. I now have a team of clinicians working with me. My life will forever be changed as I move forward. I’ll have a lot to process and work through as my diagnosis becomes more clear and I rebuild my life to better suit my brain. I can’t do it alone though and I can’t do it, if I’m not honest. Honest with myself and honest with others. It’s easy for me to tell you all what you want or need to hear, but I need to give myself a full chance at survival and it’s has to start with honesty. So here I am putting the embarrassment, fear of judgement,  and all that petty shit aside. This is me. You all know me when I’m manic, happy, funny, confident, etc., but this is me too. I hide this other huge side of me and this is ALL of me.

I’m Gabi. I’ve struggled with mental illness all my life. I’ve tried to kill myself two times in the past and I thought I was passed that. However, the last 2 weeks I didn’t think I was going to be alive to see today. Now in my 30’s I am in the process of being diagnosed with a mood disorder. I want to share my journey with you.

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Finding myself at 32

I was around 10 years old and at my brother’s basketball game. I remember being at the very top bleacher. I also remember thinking to myself, “blend in and act like everyone else,” before we all arrived at the gym. So there everyone was cheering, watching the game, acting normal, when the moment that accurately describes me happened. I fell off the top bleacher. Yes, in the middle of an ongoing basketball game. Do you know what the sound of chubby 10 year old hitting the gym floor sounds like? The ENTIRE (yes, including the players and referees) gym stopped and looked at me. For those wondering, I was fine. Perhaps it was because I was chubby that I was left undamaged… physically. I still get some anxiety on bleachers. Haha

I’ve always thought of myself to be shy. When I was a young girl, I remember being scared of people and things. I also had three brothers, a busy mom, and a grandma that was pretty rough around the edges that helped take care of us. My first memory is of my father getting mad at me and then never seeing him again.  So most of the times I found myself doing things I didn’t want to do, saying things I didn’t want to say, eating things I didn’t want to eat, etc., because I was too scared to say or do otherwise. I’ve always told myself to blend in, act like everyone else, act normal, don’t attract attention, etc. I’ve continued to tell myself that into my 30’s, until recently that changed for me. 

Recently we attended a birthday party for my friend’s 3 year old daughter. They had great live music, incredible food, family and friends had filled the home, and a piñata. We watched and sang as the kids took turns swinging at the piñata. After all the kids took their swings, a full piñata hung. So adults turns right? “Just blend in, Gabi.  Act like everyone else. Look what the other moms are doing. Play it cool, Gabi,” says my head. It was too late. I was already sprinting to get the stick to hit the piñata. It had  been raining and  it was a little misty that night. Well it’s Houston and still warm outside (yes, in January outside in the rain.) So I thought it was a good idea to wear sandals. You all know where I’m going with this. I’ve attached pictures so you get a full effect. Before I started swinging, “blend in me” was acting like Babe Ruth. Circling my bat with my fierce batting stance. Then, it was game time. I swung like I was at the World Series. I felt  everything that moment. Both of my feet lifted off of the ground. I felt my feet moving forward and up. I mean, I caught good solid air. I remember feeling my shirt fly up and my belly jiggle. Bam, I hit the ground. What part of blend in didn’t I understand? 

My whole life I’ve thought I was this shy girl. However, moments like falling off the bleachers and the piñata fall have followed me my entire life. I’m definitely scared of things and people, but I’m most definitely not shy. I’ve told myself to blend in my whole life. I’ve always felt like an outsider looking in. I knew that I was different, but I was scared. Scared to be myself, scared to talk, scared to be left, scared to be unliked, scared of everything. 

That night after a lot of laughter with my husband (who took the pictures and stayed married to me), everything hit me.  I’ve been telling myself to blend in and act like everyone else for decades. Not anymore. I needed to stop lying to myself. 

I’m not scared of being myself anymore. I no longer care if I blend in. I’m not scared  to tell the truth about myself anymore. I’m not scared that people will know I’m not like them. No offense, but I don’t care what anyone thinks about me anymore. I can have an unpopular opinions, fall off bleachers, make bad decisions, get stuck in trees,  babe Ruth the piñata, etc., and it’s me. This is me y’all. I’m a mess. I feel like I’m forever working on my shit. I attract unwanted attention. I’m no longer trying to blend in and I can’t tell you how liberating that is for me.