I’m crazy. As I’ve shared before, I don’t really remember a time before the realization that my brain chemistry wasn’t quite right. I have spent most of my life trying to figure out how to deal appropriately with … well, with everything. I’ve been (more or less) stable for about a decade, and this has made it easier to sometimes pretend that I’m not depressed, that my anxiety isn’t strong enough to completely cripple me. But I don’t. I can’t.
Some would say that being open about my history (and present) of mental illness is a dangerous choice. There was a time I agreed with that statement. I was really sick once. I couldn’t take care of myself. I wasn’t eating. I was cutting daily just so I could feel something that wasn’t empty or angry or unbearably sad. I didn’t sleep more than 2 hours a day. I was hospitalized for almost 2 months during that time, and had months of 1:1 check-ins with a psychiatrist and psych nurse once I was released. I still refer to that time as the lost years, because I’ve never recovered some major memory gaps. From what I hear, this is for the best.
I got pregnant about 9 months after coming out of the fog. I was terrified. Not that my parenting would suck, that I would wreck my child with my crazy, but that everyone else would automatically assume I would. I felt, from the moment I made my pregnancy public, like I was under public surveillance. In case you’re wondering, I have never suffered from paranoid delusions. And I’m not alone. Many mothers with psychiatric disabilities are terrified of losing custody of their children. Asking for help equals not being able to do it ourselves, or at all.
I did everything I could to distance myself from my illness. I’d “had a rough time,” a “one-time breakdown.” It was something I had put behind me, and I was better. Totally normal. I was a one-woman overcompensating machine. My pregnancy was uneventful, and for the first 6 months or so after my son was born, I really did feel fine. Whether I’d bought into my own denial, developed good coping strategies, or some other factor created a genuine time of neurochemical stability, I don’t know. What I do know is that it was so so easy for me to believe the lie.
Then I got pregnant again. This time around, I wasn’t so lucky. I could feel the crazy building. Slowly at first, through my pregnancy. Obsessive thoughts, irrational fears, mood instability. The baby came, and things got so much worse. Sleep deprivation didn’t help, nor did the fact that my relationship was tanking. Still, I could not ask for help. Treading water, with a baby on each breast most of the time, and there was just no way I could tell anyone that I wasn’t okay. Had I experienced these feelings for the first time, maybe I would have been more open to being open. But with my history? No way.
When my youngest was about a year old, things started getting better again. I started to open up a little more to family and friends. When I needed help, I asked for it. I got better. And I realized that no matter how well I felt, I was still crazy.
So I talk about it. I’m out as a crazy person. I have depression. I have anxiety. I have let it almost kill me, more than once. I have let my fear of losing my children lead me closer to that actually happening when they were tiny than I’d ever imagined possible. I need to talk about the crazy to stay in control of it. I need to share my own experiences of crazy with my child who has already started showing signs of their own crazy. I need to share my crazy so people like me know that it’s okay to BE crazy, and it’s okay to ask for help.
I will not be quiet again, though. SIlence and denial cost too much.