Author’s Note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  I share my experiences with mental illness occasionally on my blog to raise awareness about battling mental illness, especially while raising a child with special needs. The words written below were done so during a very low period. I am under the care of both a psychiatrist and psychologist. And today, today was the best day I have had in weeks despite some challenges.   

The blackness that surrounds me has a certain softness to it.  The medication smoothes the edges but it doesn’t take them away.  There are moments when I can almost touch the passion that once defined me as a person but that is as close as I get. That’s the trade off, I lose my passion, brilliance and energy in exchange for a fog that protects me from feeling too much. 

Yes, I am predisposed to mental illness but my very existence is one that breeds stress, not because I seek chaos but rather because I seek calm and order.  A blurred beauty surrounds me. On the good days, the really good days – the muscles in my face ache from smiling but more days than not it is from frowning. Joy has become redefined as an euphoric high because in its truest form it is so rarely experienced. 

I spend so much time trying to break out of my own mind that it is exhausting.  I know the signs, I try to hide the symptoms from my ladies, I seek help and most days I force myself to “fake it until I make it.” As I lay awake in my bed each night, I hope that maybe tomorrow will be the day when my energy returns or that I am able to make it through the day without feeling cognitively impaired.

I do not run from problems, I do not hide them. I was doing good for awhile, I didn’t need chemistry to get me by. But then almost overnight, the light dimmed and I called the doctor immediately. In the past, I would go on meds, start feeling better in a month and be able to taper off within a year.  This time, the meds that have traditionally worked are not.  I am on my third round of tapering and starting a new regiment.  The problem with tapering is obvious, I lose any and all benefit from the drugs.  I also start to feel again – for months I have not rocked myself in the fetal position letting out animalistic cries but I have the last two nights.  It is because I am “tapering.”

Tonight, was a night I was looking forward to for months.  I splurged on tickets to a concert for my birthday.  This morning, my babysitter called to tell me she was terribly ill.  So I did what any self-respecting clinically depressed person would do. I went to my already scheduled therapy appointment verbally spewed all of my insecurities to a shrink, cried in my car for 20 minutes and went to pick up my ladies from school. The weather was beautiful so we had to stay and play on the playground – I don’t think I did a good a job of hiding my fog. 

In the end, I stayed home with Caroline. Who ended up taking 5 baths – the most that the hot water heater would allow. Caroline is obsessed with baths and I didn’t have the energy to stop her. John and Vivian went to the concert.  Yes, I could have gone. I could have gone alone or with Vivian but the disappointment of this night not going as planned while I am “tapering” was just too much to bear. 

I don’t feel weak because I won’t give depression that power. I feel exhausted from fighting so hard to free the me that is deeply buried beneath layers of stress, frustration, fatigue, loneliness, guilt and anger.  Sometimes, something so great happens that it is able to stab through all the layers and allow moments of joy but that has been rare for awhile. More likely, something great happens and it stabs through a few layers so I am still numb, seeing cloudy blurry images but I am able to recognize that my mind is putting a filter over the image – the original is clear, colorful and hypnotisingly beautiful.