I have heard several times how people with mental illnesses are often really good at hiding it around other people. I am one of them.
For a long time now, I have learned how to “fake it til you make it” when it comes to being around other people. Mainly this comes off as being silly, sarcastic, or even silent. “That is just how Jenn is.” I would refuse to verbalize any “out of the ordinary” thoughts that I was having to the people around me. I just internalized everything, which made me the silent one in the corner at most events.
However, when I am alone and not needing to try and “fake it” there is a whole different me that people do not see. It makes it really difficult for people to understand because when I open up to them, they think they know who I am, but the truth is they don’t. They think they know me well enough for them to say, “no Jenn you don’t have that, I would know if you did” or “you are just stressed”.
Well, here I am. Opening up, being 100% vulnerable to verbalize my internal struggles. For people to see the me that I have been hiding for so long.
In a perfect world there would be a simple explanation but this is not a perfect world and there are many of us that struggle in similarity.
This post may be long and it may be jumpy, but I feel it will be worth it.
Mentally, you never know which version of myself will be there when I wake up. I have the “I can conquer the world” days and days where getting out of bed is rough. In a short answer I could tell you that I have depression, anxiety, paranoia, obsessive thoughts about death, and undiagnosed, but possibly bipolar.
Now even though I can say those terms and you could already know what the definition of them are (or google them) that doesn’t really give you a dose of reality of living with it.
Not a day goes by where I don’t think about death in some sort of way. Whether it is suicidal thoughts or thoughts about loved ones dying or after they have died. My brain sort of goes into a Final Destination movie. Anything and everything is a trigger for it. Sometimes it is more obsessive than others and during the more obsessive times, I become paranoid followed quickly by anxious.
An example of a worst case would be, the weather outside looks like a nasty storm is coming. My oldest son is at school and I have the two younger kids with me at home which is just a 4 minute drive away from the school. The sky is getting greener and here in the midwest that means a tornado could be brewing. I start to think, “what would I do?” What would I do if the sirens were going off and I knew a tornado was near? Would I stay in the basement with the 2 kids like I have been taught since grade school? Would I be able to keep all of my animals contained in a safe spot in the basement? How the hell would I keep my oldest who is at school safe? They don’t have basements. Would I rush to go and get him quickly, putting us all in danger? What the hell would I do? As I am thinking all of this, we happen to be driving home from dropping the oldest off at school. I happen to drive under a tree limb and think, “what if this tree just fell on us?” What if it did and how would I help my kids if I died or am impaled by said tree? The thoughts are obsessive from there until I finally can shake myself out of it.
It makes doing anything difficult. You never know when something as simple as a tree, that has obviously been in the same place for years, becomes a trigger.
My paranoia is always accompanied with anxiety. I no longer can watch or read news stories because they add to my obsessive thoughts and paranoia. I know I am not invincible. Anything can happen to me at any given time. With that out of my control, it can be haunting. Not only in relation to myself, but my kids as well. I want to always be able to keep them safe. In situations where my mind says I can’t then I won’t go. Almost never will you find me doing things alone for this reason. It is why I am happy being a home body. While there are triggers at home, it is definitely not as bad as outside my front door.
Some days are more obsessive than others. Some days I have hardly any “bad” thoughts at all. There is no telling what each day will bring.
I think a lot of this is the reason I am practically always on edge. I can be very short fused at times. At the same time, it could also very well be that I am bipolar and these mood swings are from that. I was thinking a lot about this the other day when I shared some pictures of the kids at the library. What you don’t see in those pictures, is not only me, but my actions. Trying so hard to remain patient, kids are just kids. However when one runs one way and the other runs a different way, I can only keep up with one while also having the baby in the stroller. How do I keep them all safe when I am alone? It keeps me on edge. It makes me want to yell at everything that they do, when really all I want is for them to enjoy the time at the library (or wherever else we are). Usually I will have a plan for doing something with them, 99% of the time I wait for my husband to be here. If for some reason I feel impulsive or “conquering” I will try and venture out alone. However usually the event is short lived as I am rushing in my mind to get back to safety (home). It makes me feel like a crappy mother. Like I am incapable of enjoying my kids because my mind is constantly racing about these things. I know they have to see it to, like “we just got here and we already have to leave?” Or “why is mom always mad?” Or as simple as what they want “I want to play”. What kind of parent am I that can’t even let or enjoy the kids playing? I feel so damned pathetic.
People don’t see that struggle.
Even at home, it can be a struggle. I don’t know how many times a day I find myself yelling. Between the dog and the kids, it just seems like I can never be calm and still. To an extent, it can be expected. I am only human and it does happen when you’re a parent to rowdy children. It just happens more often than I would want. Not that I am mean just to be mean or completely lack any self control (though I know that is an issue sometimes). I can’t even count how many times a day I am yelling at one kid to get off of another. Some days I feel like all I do is yell. By time my husband gets home I am exhausted and needing a break just to chill out. That doesn’t always happen though. I want to know how other people do it. When people tell me I am such a good mom, I shake my head. They don’t see the struggles. I often wonder how many others feel like they are struggling in the same ways with their kids. I think parents are the best at “faking it til you make it”. No one is perfect and I would never claim to be anything close to it. However I feel like if my brain were wired differently, I may just get to enjoy life more often.