Hello, my lovelies! Thank you for being here because I have a super important, super exciting announcement to make. I am nominated for Blogger Of The Year at the MH Blog Awards this year! But there is a catch, I need your help! From now until June 4, you can go to the MH Blog Awards website and vote for Amber @ The Winter Of My Discontent for Blogger Of The Year!
I’ve decided to republish the original posts from May 2020. I didn’t know about my disorders then. I just knew that I was tired of being pushed around and being hurt for something that I couldn’t control. I wanted to spread the word; to speak out to let others know that they aren’t alone.
Any notes from 2021 Amber will be highlighted in purple. This post was never published, but was written in May 2020.
Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.– Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The Fall after I turned 23, the dark finally caught up with me. For several years I had been fighting a deep and abiding depression and it was finally about to swallow me up. Luckily, in the months leading up to the breakdown of my emotional health, I had met a group of people that would eventually carry me through some of my darkest times.
I don’t remember why or how it started, but by December, I was scrambling to hold myself together. I was in a transition period, trying to find a better job; something with a defined schedule and salary. I still had an active social life, something that I owe to my friends who sometimes took shifts coax me out of the bed and into the shower to get out of the house. While I was still serving tables, it was easy to get shifts covered and I would sometimes stay in bed for days; coming out occasionally to eat or smoke pot with my roommates.
I was often sleeping 12-14 hours a day, I never cleaned my room, and I rarely showered or brushed my teeth. People often wonder how anyone could possibly sleep so much. Depression and anxiety are exhausting. Fighting against yourself all day, every day is sometimes all you have the energy for. When your illness is winning, you often don’t even have the energy for that.
I had no confidence in myself and who I was. I was out-going, fun, and thoughtful with my friends but shy, intimidated, and embarrassed in social situations. Though I had lost a lot of the weight that I had gained in my early 20’s, I hated my body. This is part of the reason I never seriously dated, nor was I sexually active, during this period of my life. I was ashamed and I couldn’t open myself up to sharing that part of myself with anyone.
My moods would swing, wildly, sometimes multiple times a day. I would wake up, sad and distraught. By the afternoon I’d have thought of some amazing idea; a book I would write, a bookstore I would open, how I would finally get discovered by Hollywood. I’d call my mom and talk manically about how this, this amazing idea, was going to change my life for the better. This time I was finally going to find a way out of this. Maybe they would have. They were often really great ideas. Then, by dinner, depression would have swallowed me up again; idea forgotten.
I also had a bad habit of building up scenarios in my head and then be absolutely crushed when they didn’t work out the way my brain had told me I would. My friends and I would go see my favorite band and in the weeks leading up, I’d have imagined us meeting with the band after the show and having a great time and talking about music and being best friends forever and…
We’d go to a party that I knew my crush would be attending. Inevitably my crush was always some poor guy that I didn’t know a single real piece of information about, save their name and superficial details, but I had projected my “perfect man idea” onto. I’d fantasize for weeks about finally getting up the courage to talk to him. I’d be witty and quirky and perfect and he would fall in love with me and we would be happy forever. Finally, someone would love me. It would be magical and beautiful…straight out of a movie.
Afterward, the disappointment would be crippling. Sometimes it would start in the car on the way home. Other times, I would just go to bed when we got home and never get up the next morning. It wasn’t unusual for me to spend a few days in bed after a night out. My friends worried about it and I knew that it wasn’t healthy behavior, but I didn’t know how to stop doing it. My brain was steering the ship, at that point, and I was just helplessly watching it get overtaken by a storm.
I was mostly working in restaurants at this point, so no insurance to speak of. I was also losing a lot of jobs during this time. It was always for some stupid mistake. I forgot to card someone for their alcohol or, at one job, “it just wasn’t working out.” Every time I would lose another job, it would feel like the whole world was about to end and I would crumble all over.
A few times, I would get a job with insurance benefits and I would go see a doctor. One of these times, I finally found a psychiatrist who could see. Upon my first meeting with him, after a 45-minute visit, he told me that I had Bipolar I and put me on medication for it. Two things happened simultaneously. First, I started spiraling over the diagnosis. This was the first time someone had ever told me that what I was experiencing was a life sentence and not just some awful, painful phase I was going through. The idea was exhausting and heartbreaking. I didn’t know how I could survive a lifetime of this.
Second, I wasn’t bipolar, so the medication they put me on actually put me in a tailspin. I didn’t know that, at the time. I just thought it was more of the same. After about a month and a half, I was fired from the job that I had and promptly lost my insurance. I called my psychiatrist and explained what happened and asked what I should do. Their answer? “I guess you’ll have to stop taking the medicine.” So, cold turkey, I did just that. It was a big mistake.
After losing my job, my depression became even more massive and ominous. I was tired. Tired of losing jobs. Tired of being unwell. Tired of the pain and the emotional labor that I had to put in to just exist. Within a month I had a new job, but by that time I was well and truly suicidal. I would get up, go train at my new job for a few hours, and then come home and get right back in bed. Putting a smile on my face and going to work every day was torture. Every day I would find some reason to keep going. Most of the time it was my sweet little dog that was my reason.
But even my love for her wasn’t keeping me safe from the ever-demanding thoughts in my mind. I started researching ways to kill myself that wouldn’t hurt. I looked for ways that weren’t messy, so as to cause as little trauma as possible to whoever found me. I was so sad and the pain was so excruciating. I didn’t want to die, but I couldn’t live anymore either. I was losing control over the situation and I knew it was only a matter of time before I acted.
So, I called my parents. I didn’t know who else to reach out to. I called my mom and dad, separately, of course. “I need help. I’m going to hurt myself, or worse. You have to help me,” I sobbed into the phone. The called each other, came up with a plan of action, and called me back with instructions. I was to go to the nearest emergency room and ask for Mobile Crisis. They would come to me and they would be able to help.
The next day, with my aunt and my roommate in tow, I showed up at the hospital and did just that. I won’t go into details about what happened on that emotional day, but I will tell you this: The system let me down, yet again. I did not find help that night, not from the hospital and not from Mobile Crisis. They made me feel worse and they blamed my depression on me. They made me sign a contract saying that I wouldn’t kill myself over the week and they sent me home because, “we can’t give you a bed here if you don’t have insurance.”
It was the only time in my life that I felt bad enough that I was willing to commit myself to the hospital. I desperately needed help that the outside world wasn’t giving me and now here I was, cast out by a crisis center because I couldn’t pay them and didn’t have insurance. I went home and, somehow, I was able to soldier on. I started making new friends at my new job and my old friends were steady and kind. They held me up and loved me when I couldn’t love myself. They sat with me while I cried and they laughed with me when I was able. My friends and family saved me that time. Not doctors and not medicine.
For the next several years, it was more of the same story. More agonizing pain, depression, hopelessness; periods of being okay in between. I would be on and off medication, though no one ever tried to treat me for Bipolar disorder again. For the next several years, I fought it the best that I knew how. I adopted it as part of my personality. I was the funny, sad girl. I accepted my fate as perpetually depressed.
In my late 20s, I met a boy. Eventually, I married him and had a beautiful baby with him. I was happy, for the most part, then. Though, there were clear signs that I still wasn’t okay. I was unhealthily obsessed with our relationship. Afraid of abandonment and rejection, I clung too tight. I fiercely wanted to be loved and so I tried my best to be what he needed me to be. I was paranoid and my self-esteem was low, which made for tough times for me. I felt replaceable; expendable. Still, I did my best to be healthy and happy. For a while, it worked. Nothing lasts forever, though.
A few months after my 32nd birthday, everything would change. My life would hit rock bottom, through no fault of my own. Somehow, I would become sicker than I’d ever been in my life, and then…
Stay tuned for the next post in the series!
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Love and light. Keep fighting the good fight! 💜💜
Writing about living with ADHD and mental illness and my journey down a thriving path forward. Breaking stigmas and creating community, one post at a time.