My Life With Mental illness
I was once a happy person, so full of life and joy. My love for those around me was all consuming. I met life and challenge with passion and determination. I clung to fun and adventure and ran from monotony. I was me, and that was a beautiful thing. A mere moment after I gave birth to Ollie, the old Hannah was taken by mental illness. All that remained was a shell of who I once was.
It didn’t take me very long to realize that I was changed, and that something wasn’t right. When the dust had settled from the birth, the visitors had all left and everything was quiet, I was able to see that I was in a fog. I felt like I wasn’t seeing life through the same eyes anymore, almost like I had tunnel vision. Everything looked darker, and my vision felt incredibly distorted. I felt disconnected from reality, sometimes like I wasn’t even in my body.
I felt a powerful and all-encompassing sense of panic and paranoia. I had irrational and intrusive thoughts about the sudden death of my son, my partner and myself. This panic led to sleepless night after sleepless night, and before I knew it I hadn’t slept in weeks.
I had several psychotic episodes where I felt as if I had completely lost my mind. I had lost touch with reality. There was a constant storm ensuing within me, and I couldn’t find solace or peace. I couldn’t quiet the voices in my head, I couldn’t remain calm and I couldn’t continue on with an independent life. I required care and attention at all hours, which led to me feeling like a burden to my family and partner. I resided in a living hell, that I was convinced was permanent.
All I could do was cling to my son for hope and grounding. He helped me find reality when the psychosis had skewed my sense of it so strongly. He gave me a purpose to live, greater than myself. He kept me afloat when I was gasping for air. For him, I am eternally grateful.
This hell continued for months before I was able to get the help I sought. I finally opened up to my partner and family, and together we started the journey of healing. I talked to doctors, my therapist, and finally a psychiatrist who was able to give me a clear diagnosis. She was a godsend, and I’m thankful for her every day.
It has been 12 months since all of this began; 12 months of profound suffering and desperation. I have now received the diagnosis of postpartum onset bipolar and started on the journey of pharmaceuticals and the search for a fitting treatment. Finally, I think I’ve almost reached a peaceful existence again. It has been a journey unlike anything I have ever known, full of the most manic of highs, to the most suicidal of lows.
After living this torture, the single most important thing that I have learned is to speak up. Don’t let any fear or apprehension keep you from sharing what you are going through. Talking will help you get the support that you need and deserve, but it is only obtainable if you make your struggle known. There is absolutely no shame in suffering, and admitting it is an admirable and essential step in the journey of healing. Please, be open about what you’re feeling before it becomes bigger than you.
Photography by: Jay Eads