Mental Health: My Truth

Mental Health | My Truth | Kimberly Kalil Designs

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams

It’s been a little more than a week since Robin Williams lost his battle with mental illness. The news of his death cut through me in a way words can’t adequately describe. I haven’t be able to stop thinking about him, his disease and the struggle he faced.

I’m bipolar and suffer from acute depression. My highs are really high. My lows are unthinkably low. I’ve always know something about me was different, but when I started having trouble getting out of bed, when tears soaked my pillow for no clear reason and when as an adult I fantasied of running away from my life … I knew I had to do something.

I don’t know what Robin Williams went through. I’m not sure how he felt. But I do know how the feeling of hopelessness can eat you up, slowly gnawing away at any peace and normalcy you desperately crave. I know what it’s like to stare at a darkened ceiling planning your escape from the life you can’t fathom living. I know what it’s like to have tears pour from your eyes and no idea what’s crushing your soul an causing you immense pain and sadness. I know what it’s like to be unable to sleep as you flutter through the darkness on a heady high, though manic moments that convince you that you’re capable of doing anything you put your mind to.

I have a good life. I have a good family. I have beautiful and amazing children. I have a great education.  I have a great job full of adventure and excitement. I have some of the most precious friendships with kindreds across the globe. My life is so good. From the outside, there’s nothing that should cause me to be so sad. But that’s just it, it’s not my life that makes me sad. It’s my mental illness that does. I have a disease and that disease makes my heart hurt, the tears flow, the frustration bubble, the manic moments fly by … But it’s a disease, just like diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure.

Why am I sharing this little secret about myself, you might ask? It’s simple: if one person reads this and feels less alone, then it’s worth it. If one person reads this and feels less shame, then it’s worth it. If one person reads this and asks for help, then it’s worth it. It’s taken me nearly 40 years to be comfortable with who I am and it’s time I used my voice + story to help those around me. It’s scary to “let it all hang out.” There are people who read this blog who don’t know me in real life. They might very well judge me. Some of my co-workers and business colleagues read this blog. They might very well judge me. Heck, my family reads this blog and they might be embarrassed or ashamed of my coming out. So be it. I’m will not let shame dictate the choices I make and neither should you. You are more than your mental illness. And you deserve to speak your truth.

I’m not a professional when it comes to treating mental health issues. I would never profess to know everything about it. What I do know, is what works for me.

I take medication. Over the years, I’ve gone on and off medication to treat my illness. My doctor tells me this is very common with bi-polars. When you’re feeling great, you feel like you don’t need your meds. As soon as you go off them then you spiral out of control. I’ve done this, and I know now that I can never do it again. Just like high blood pressure, this is a disease I’ll deal with for the rest of my life, which means I’ll be taking my meds even when I feel awesome (like I do now). I also use alternative methods, such as acupuncture and essential oils, which have proven to be super healthful.

I’ve built a team to help me. I have a psychiatrist and I see him every three months. These regular check ups allow me to check in with him and myself. We chat about how I’m feeling; how life has been going; and how my medications are working. We make changes as needed. I also have family and a few friends who know my whole story. These are people I can lean on and turn to in my time of need.

I practice flow activities. I seek out opportunities to loose myself in activities that take me out of my head and out of my life. Painting and creating are flow activities for me. I pour myself into them and nothing else exists while I’m in creative flow. It allows my mind to take a break and I connect to something beautiful and peaceful.

I exercise. I don’t love exercise and even though I do it almost every single day, I still don’t love it. However, I often joke that exercise “keeps my crazy at bay.” And in all seriousness, it does. Moving my body and working up a sweat are incredibly therapeutic. Everyone benefits when I exercise, as I’m calmer and more focused.

I fill my mind and body with goodness. For me a wandering mind can bring dark thoughts. I make a point of keeping myself busy and filling my mind with goodness. I read a ton. I listen to podcasts. I seek out things that are interesting and uplifting. In the same vein, I watch what I eat. I follow a gluten free diet and try to eat a minimal amount of processed food. For me, garbage in equals garbage out. So I’m thoughtful as to what goes in my mouth and mind.

I set goals. If I don’t have something to work toward, I can get lost in the chaos of life. Setting regular goals has helped me to look forward and not wallow in mistakes and sadness. Right now, Mike and I are training for the Tucson Half Marathon in December. We also set a goal to read 50 books on 2014. Those sorts of goals help me stay focused and I take small steps to achieve them each day.

I write. I write to work out my feelings. I write to tell stories. I write to connect to others. I write to purge myself of the yuck when it starts to simmer and bubble over. I write because it makes me happy. I write because it sets me free.

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You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.
-Robin Williams

There was a time that I was ashamed of my disease. I was embarrassed I wasn’t like everyone else. I no longer carry shame with me. My story may not be ideal and it may be a tough story, but I’m not broken and I have value in this world. I suffer from a disease that will not define me. Instead, I focus on my truths: I’m a good mother. I’m a great wife. I’m a hard worker. I’m a loyal friend. I’m a creative soul who loves paint, paper and words.

I’m proud of the woman I have become. I’ve lived a full and good life thus far, and will continue to thrive as I manage my health and illness. I’d be lying if I said I don’t have bad days. I do. There are days I crawl back into bed and can’t for the life of me figure out why I feel so miserable. But those are the days that I’m constantly reminding myself “Hold on, the light will come.”

If you’re struggling, hold on. The light will come. Reach out. Ask for help. Know that you matter and though your struggle is hard, it can get better. It’s hard work, but you are worth the work.

 

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15 Responses to Mental Health: My Truth

  1. kelly barton says:

    i simply love you.

  2. So heartfelt. I am so happy you are making things work. Thank you for sharing.

  3. jill says:

    i was directed to your story through a friend’s blog. i think you are incredibly brave for sharing your illness on your blog. i hope that you are able to continue to manage the dark and i hope that the sunny days will always out number the cloudy days. you are not alone. thank you for helping others to feel less alone as well.

    • kimberly says:

      Jill! Thank you for the kind words. I’m so blessed to be in a happy place and I appreciate the love and support of all those willing to connect with me. Blessing to you.

  4. Joanne Hanson says:

    I read your blog when Alli wrote about you on her blog. What a powerful way you have with telling your story. It will be a great help to many people. Thank your for being so brave to tell your story.

    • kimberly says:

      Joanna, Isn’t Alli awesome! She’s so great and I’m blessed by her strong spirit. Thank you for coming to my blog and reading my story. It warms my heart to have people read my words and share love and support.

  5. Kelly says:

    My daughter has anxiety disorder and OCD, likely brought on by a head injury in her early teens. She was wise enough to know to get help her first year in college and has been in therapy and taking medications since then. At first she didn’t tell many people either, but now is very open about her illness for many of the same reasons you are. She recently told me that she wouldn’t change having her condition — it allows her to be very focused and attentive to details, it makes her a great employee, it makes her who she is. She just needs to stay on her meds and in therapy to stay in control.

    Thank you for sharing your story and putting a face to an illness that hurts far too many good people.

    • kimberly says:

      Kelly, Thank you for sharing a little bit about your daughter’s struggle. May she continue to manage her illness and find goodness in this world. I absolutely know it’s possible. Big hugs!

  6. Paula says:

    You are not alone! So many share the ups and downs of bipolar, anxiety, social anxiety, depression, OCD, sensory issues and many other “comorbid” condtions. Being different is both a struggle and a blessing. You are a more attuned, sensitive, soul searching person when you have these conditions to work with in life. My child is realizing her differences deserve to be addressed and respected. I admire her strength and yours. It’s not easy yet the victories are sweet.

    • kimberly says:

      Thank you for reading my story Paula and sharing your words. It’s so comforting to hear other peoples stories, ideas and supportive words.

  7. Kelly says:

    Wow! Very powerful and touching. It was like reading about myself to a tee, except for some of your goals. I couldn’t have said it better if I tried!

    Thank you so much for sharing. I will be sharing your blog as I really want people to know what it’s really like to have/live with mental illness.

  8. Jenifer says:

    Thank you for sharing.