This is a blog post I wrote on The Bipolar Blog. A post that helped launch my writing career.
We are all a little broken. But last time I checked, broken crayons still color the same. – Trent Shelton
This is a letter to anyone who has been recently diagnosed with a chronic illness or a mental illness. This letter will contain all the things I wanted to hear from someone when I initially got diagnosed. When I needed to be comforted and when I was experiencing inner turmoil and conflict. I hope this letter comforts someone in need of a shoulder to cry on.
Dear Lovely Friend,
It took me forever to get a diagnosis. For all the hospital trips that I made whilst seeking help made me feel worthless. I was being told from time to time that what I thought or felt “was all in my head” and that it meant nothing. That all the pain that I felt will be melted away by the pills that I was prescribed. Deep down in my heart, I knew I meant more than a diagnosis and a hand full of prescription pills. I thought that I would be happier after knowing what was wrong with me. Little did I know, I had so much work to do, so much healing to do. Not only was I unwell but I had no sense of self and I had no idea about who I was.
After being diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), and Bipolar disorder. I really felt like my past did define me. That I never knew who I was outside my trauma. For a while I felt like a label predicted my future and I felt so much shame because of it. “I am a failure and I would never amount to anything in life“, my inner critic would scream at me from time to time. I never knew who I was outside of what my abusers thought of me and outside the seed they decided to plant in me. I had never used my own voice for such a long time. I became so familiar with speaking in silence that I really expected other people to interpret my silence and have them possibly “read my mind“.
I was living most of my life feeling benumbed and not understanding how I could exist each day without true connection with my body, mind and soul and also with other people. My soul ached and craved to connect to those who have walked in my shoes, to those who were in similar situations but still I struggled to find them. I had felt so disempowered for so long that I forgot that I was my own safe haven and my own source of strength. I had lived a lie for so long because of what I had been told I would amount to, and how much of a failure I was. That I lost sight of my life purpose, most importantly I lost my spark, my self-esteem and my voice. I longed to be comforted and held by someone who could sympathize and possibly empathize, with what I was going through. I truly needed healing from someone’s soothing words. I needed a hero but little did I know I was the hero I was searching for my entire life.
To the everyone who struggles to get up in the morning, to the old me that was seeking comfort from all the wrong places because I could not find my own way. Here are the things I wish I knew then :
Nothing is more powerful than your own voice:
The biggest mistake I made was to allow my own voice to be drowned by the opinions of others. This was mainly due to my low self-esteem and the programming one endures during trauma or prolonged trauma. I learnt not to listen to my own voice, and I deemed my voice as something that was illogical or absurd. I did not understand that one uses their voice to express emotions, that emotions were meant to flow like water in a river. I was always surpressing my emotions and I had issues expressing negative emotions. Looking back now I wish I never bottled up any emotion. Emotions are meant to come and go and if one delays that process, emotions tend to lead to psychosomatic symptoms or other health problems in the future. Emotions are not abnormal, they are peculiar but they deserve to be expressed. Let them sift through your body without hindering that process. This most definitely had to be the most difficult thing I had to relearn. I still to this day, struggle with handling my emotions.
Healing is not linear:
Living with chronic or mental illnesses entails dealing with flare ups. There will be bumps along the road. I mean this is part of life and life is very unpredictable. It was really difficult for me to accept the fact that I have no control over certain situations in my life, especially with my health. The uncertainty made me feel uneasy, I wanted to feel safe. My constant need to control things was due to my fear of being harmed. I always felt a need to look out for myself even when it wasn’t necessary for me to do so. I do experience sparks in my life, where I’m really happy and content with my life. I have always tried to embrace those experiences. When I feel blue, working with a team of mental health professionals and a support system that are in sync with my personality often improves my optimism, and helps me create a frame work that keeps me sane. Meditation, soundness and yoga have helped me calm my mind and have helped me become more aware of how I present myself in this world. I became more aware of all the people around me and my surroundings. They have also helped me realize that I shouldn’t allow the future to collapse under the burden of my memory. The battle of man to seize the ear of his kind is one of the most important things I learnt. People with Mental health issues and Chronic illnesses deserve to be heard. They deserve to be understood and not criticized for their suffering. They should not be judged by the chapter of their stories (their lives) that people walk in on.
Missing who I was before My diagnosis:
I will admit that at some point in time I had issues accepting my diagnosis. This was due to the stereotypical and cultural stigma that forced me to discredit my diagnosis. This hindered my healing and led me to spiral out of control. At some point I was filled with so much anger and wanted to work towards being the person I was before my diagnosis. I also thought that what happened to me was not part of me – at all. I battled against so many people that tried to help me. I pushed so many people away because I could not trust them; even when they meant no harm. I lost so many friends and this made me feel lost and lonely. I thought something was wrong with me. I truly yearned to be who I was before my diagnosis. My life had changed so drastically after a couple of labels that were thrown my way and were now apart of my life – forever. It was only when I grew to realize that everyone is a little broken; some people hide their brokenness by disparaging how broken other people are. I decided to begin loving myself, loving how my body was unfolding, loving my empathetic and altruistic way of living. Despite what people had to say to me and about me. But most importantly, accepting my diagnosis. Looking back now, I realize there was truly nothing I did wrong. I am only human, failure and success are birth rights and there’s absolutely nothing I could do to change these. I am choosing to never let a stumble in the road be the end of my journey. I will not believe everything that I think because some of my thoughts were programmed in my brain. To ambush me of my dreams. These thoughts contributed to my loneliness, led me to further isolate myself from people and led to my feelings of unworthiness. I will follow my intuition and live my life the way I know how.
To the old me that was recently diagnosed, to the person who needs to hear this right now. Please note that:
Children never look back and this means that we must never allow the future to be weighed down by memory. For children have no past, and that is the whole secret of the magical innocence of their smiles. – Milan Kundra, The book of Laughter and Forgetting
Embrace your inner child and remember to laugh is to live profoundly despite whatever you go through.
Thank you for being with me. I look forward to seeing you here soon. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.