Hurting people hurt people. It’s a saying I hear a lot and have said as many times when someone has done something hurtful to me or someone else. This is a phrase I have always applied to someone else. I love Jesus and follow him daily. I wouldn’t hurt anyone!
Well, I wouldn’t intentionally hurt anyone, but the truth is that I am a hurting person and I do hurt others. Especially lately.
You see, my hurt comes in multiple layers, like a scab that continues to be stripped off of the healing wound. Our family has been through so many struggles over the last few years. Starting a business in a rough industry. A hard pregnancy and near death postpartum experience. Not one but TWO house floods that displaced us over the course of 6 months. Nearly getting evicted from our business’ building for no plausible explanation. Being taken financially advantage of by a family friend and then my being bullied by him. I was pushed, pushed, pushed, pushed over the edge of what my crisis weary mind could handle. Sandwiched between my postpartum trauma and all the other blows, was a diagnosis of manic-depression.
I felt like I had just moved past the recovery phase of my postpartum trauma. Then the other crises started piling on top of each other like a game of tetris in the final level when, instead of floating down like pieces of paper, they plummet onto each other like bricks. First slowly, then faster and faster. I broke. I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t hold up the weight of it all.
And in May 2019 I began to hurt people in multiple ways – most specifically the person I am closest to – my husband.
My husband and I have adopted “cycling” into our regular vocabulary when referring to my moods. Manic-Depression is a mood disorder that operates on a spectrum of manic, depression, and everything in between. My cycles mostly seem to be pretty fast, like a punch in the gut. When I first started experiencing these cyclical swings, I would go up to a hypomanic mood then back down to depression all within a week’s time.
Hypomania, a less severe form of mania, involves (for me) racing thoughts, fast talking, high productivity, difficulty sitting still, irritability and severe anxiety attacks.
My depression is something I’m more familiar with as I’ve been aware of it for several years. I am depleted of energy and have a feeling of cold hopeless dread weighing on my chest. It can hurt so bad that I literally hope to die.
I saw my general physician. I thought my hypomanic phases were just an increase in anxiety because of all of the stress I was experiencing. I talked to her about adjusting my current medications – maintenance doses for anxiety and depression. She added a new medication and asked me to return in 6 weeks. In that time, it got worse, she increased my doses and we scheduled another appointment.
It got worse. And worse. Much worse. My cycles were lasting longer. I went into full mania. I had lost all control of myself. I experienced euphoria, boldness like I had never had, constant and uncontainable energy. It made me angry. Very angry. I hated the feeling of mania and wanted to run away. Constantly. A continual battle of fight or flight. Depression was at least familiar. Mania was an intruder into my previous perception of my mental condition.
The afternoon before Hurricane Dorian was to make landfall, I was convinced that I needed to head to the airport and hop on a plane to visit family…without taking into account that all airports were closed. Many irrational incidents like this occurred. Another time, I rearranged our office spontaneously. One day I just pulled all of the furniture out, and moved all of it back in at opposite sides of the room. Some of which were extremely heavy.
At the end of my manic episodes it felt like I reached the top of a mountain and then exploded and fell off of a cliff. The drop to depression was severe. I could wake up in the morning on top of the world and by the end of the day I crashed into what felt like paralysis. Hopelessness. Dread. Inability to function.
Living with manic-depressive illness is like continually being slapped in the face with a big fish. During the manic benders, I grab that fish by the gill and either fight it to the ground and cook an extravagant meal out of it that (to me) would win all reality cooking shows everywhere, or tuck it under my arm like it’s my best friend and take it to Disney World.
In the depressive phases, all the life drains out of me. I have no choice but to let that fish beat me to the ground. It’s painful, yet unemotional. The ability to explore emotions is naught, so I push them down until they succumb to numbness. My memory of events in the most extreme moods is hazy at best. I don’t have the strength to feel emotions because my brain only has the capacity to process the pain and simultaneously try to do life “as usual.”
Except, with manic-depressive illness, there is no “usual.” There’s a constant cycling up and then falling down. Hard. It’s exhausting, but thank God for medication! And His saving grace that brings hope in the storm.
In August, I was a ticking time-bomb. I could explode at any minute. As much as I tried to channel my mania into productivity, it wasn’t enough. I was too anxious, too ahead of myself, too jittery and jumpy to be productive. My peak usually manifests in anger and I explode at whoever is there in that moment. Usually my husband. I needed an out. I needed space to breathe.
My family pulled together to allow me to take a much needed mental health vacation. I found an affordable (and wonderful!) AirBnB in South Tampa. I was able to clear my mind, read, pray, and reflect. I sat for hours near the ocean. No schedule. No responsibility. Just space. I finally got to process my diagnosis after many months of trying to get on top of my symptoms. It was refreshing. But not enough.
As I’ve begun to heal and cope, my cycles have become less severe. I was able to shift my role at our family business so that I could have space to rest and take steps towards healing. COVID-19 forced me to be home with our 3 year old, which is what I’ve always wanted. My fast paced life that seemed to exacerbate my symptoms began to slow down and I have started to find peace. I am beginning to recognize the rhythms of my cycle and am learning to be proactive in preventing my explosions. I am praying that one day, I will stop hurting people. Thankfully, confession, repentance and forgiveness is afforded me.