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posted by Taylor Nelson alias Morning Dawn Photography on Tuesday 3rd of May 2016 04:13:49 AM

August 21, 2015 is the day I lost my sanity and sense of self. Ever since, I haven’t been able to really truly look at myself the same. I’ve been hiding behind anything and everything I can. I’ve tried escaping, running, and numbing my senses. I’ve been in denial. I’ve shut people out. I’ve tried to blame someone or something for my misfortune. Ultimately I’ve lost touch with who and what I am. I’ve pulled the curtains of my life shut and have tried to avoid the spotlight after the most traumatic events of my entire life, and that’s saying something from all the trauma I have in my past… I have so much shame associated with my illness and with what it can turn me into. I have so much contempt for the assumptions people and the public make in their minds without any understanding or education about my illness. Mostly though, I am frustrated that there isn’t more information accessible about my illness and what it’s like to live through it and with it successfully. There is such a stigma around bipolar that I get knots in my stomach even writing this sentence. Those who are close to me already know but many of them don’t really know how to talk about it without seeming completely uncomfortable. It’s a sympathetic fearful look. It’s a way in their voice and demeanor. I see myself differently through their eyes now even though I know they still love me. I hope it will change again as I get more months of stability and regularity under my belt. Maybe it’s just my inability to feel self-worth after seeing myself as so defective but many people have a hard time consoling or even putting up with someone who is suicidal or severely depressed and it’s pretty difficult to keep up with someone who is manic and it’s almost impossible to deal with something as severe as a psychotic break which I was blessed enough to deal with in September of 2015 after being poorly treated in the first hospital I stayed in. Not only did they not really do much to help me stabilize or help me understand what was going on with me they didn’t help with after care and because or all of it I slipped through the cracks and was allowed to go off my meds by a doctor who after listening to my story told me “don’t do anything to jeopardize your boyfriend’s career.” I was still in so much denial that I refused to take medication and they did nothing. This lead to 2 more extended hospital stays, a 3 week long partial hospitalization program, and multiple different trials and errors with medication regimens. I am finally stable enough to work again after months of not being able to work. I’ve been forced to take time off from school because of my inability to concentrate and retain information. This has been so hard because school is my livelihood and losing that makes me feel like a failure because many of my peers are graduating and I was already behind and now I am more behind. I know I will get there eventually and that there isn’t a timeline on things but this is realistically what I think about. I feel like I am behind and inadequate. This is what it’s like to live with a mental illness. It can break you apart and leave you with nothing… I haven’t even picked up my camera in months because I can’t look at myself. I’ve gained almost 30 pounds since all of this started. I have such a low self esteem and body image issues now too. I am finally at a point in my life where I am taking inventory from a somewhat level standpoint and I just genuinely feel as though I still have so much work to do. I am grateful for my family and friends who have stuck through it with me but I am a bit saddened because this whole struggle to them, at least from my standpoint, seems like it’s over and long ago but for me I am in the baby stages. I still relive it all the time. I can't get away from it. I am relearning how to live. I suffered from a serious trauma. I've learned I need to eat better or I can get off balance. I can’t just stay up late because of an assignment or to go out with friends. I need a consistent sleep schedule or I can get sick. I should be exercising to keep things balanced and to get me out of bed or off the couch. I shouldn’t drink alcohol or caffeine because one is an upper and the other is a downer. I should be in a pretty routine schedule to make sure I am not allowing myself to stew but I shouldn’t over extend myself because that could lead to burnout and could indicate impulsivity and mania. OH and that reminds me… I still have no idea what my triggers and red flags/indications are. I know all-nighters can make me fall into mania but they can also be an indication that I am starting to get manic. When I start sleeping 14 hours a day and don’t leave the bed is definitely when I am depressed. Isolation = Depression. Inability to stop talking above and beyond my social nature = mania. The scary and crappy part about bipolar (manic depressive illness) and mental illness in general is that it’s cyclical, meaning that something can be a trigger or an indicator and I am stuck at a point in my illness that I am almost constantly in fear of something leading me back to instability. I don't know if something is a sign of me getting back to a good point of happy and healthy or if I am too far in the other direction. To top off everything, I also suffer from anxiety and there’s a good chance I have PTSD. I haven’t worked with someone close enough or long enough to figure out all of my problems. The hard part of everything I’ve been through is that it’s hard to make progress when you are dealing with crisis and need to be stabilized instead of stability looking to get to a healthy and happy place. It’s really easy to believe you don’t need help and to just keep living your life until you absolutely need help which is where I’ve been most of my life with mental health care. I’m finally to a point of acceptance with needing medication that I’ll probably have to take the rest of my life to be stable. I am in the process of making life changes to keep stable. I am also in the process of getting into a normal mental health regimen but this is after walking through some fire and ice storms. For a while when I was manic I felt the need to write down EVERY single thing and thought. I wanted to document everything even if it was insignificant. Eventually I will post a few photos of some of the pages of the multiple books I filled front and back pages of in tiny writing in just a few days but just know it’s impossible for me to even fathom how it happened and I am the one who did it. It’s mostly nonsense and I don’t remember what most of it even means now. I suffered from something called a thought disorder, which meant my words literally didn’t even make sense as I would write or say them even though to me, because of my mania, they felt as though I was speaking prophecy. After my mania passed, I fell into a suicidal depression that made me fearful for my own life and fearful if I was even in control of myself enough to stop myself from ending my life (which lead me to move back home for a few months and then, feeling as though I was normal, even though I had seen no one and was clearly still depressed, I moved back to attend school- away from everyone who was trying to help take care of me… not the best decision but not the worst either because it lead me to where I am now and allowed me to be in the partial hospitalization program). Due to my debilitating depression I was not able to concentrate long enough to read even a sentence and writing one was not about to happen… (To be fair, I had probably written enough for a lifetime during my mania). This was all really unfortunate for me and my attendance and GPA for class. I was sleeping around 14 hours a day, eating one meal, and watching episodes of Netflix most of the night because I couldn’t sleep… repeat cycle. I basically stopped going to class after the first week and when the first round of tests came I almost ended my life due to the stress and then I ended up in the hospital. The partial program was a god send because it got me out of bed and out of the house and gave me a place to be and people to talk to every day of the week for 3 weeks. It helped me realize just how sick I actually was. It helped me realize how important a schedule is and how important meals are! It also lead me to leave school and move back to Chicago and even to write this as open and honestly as I am. Honestly, I don’t really know what I hope to gain by sharing this… I just am so used to using my photography and my words to express myself and I haven’t had that because of my illness and that has hurt me the most. I am finally getting back to a point where I am able to function. People have told me how much more like myself I am and it feels nice because I know I have made so much progress… but I am still so far from where I want to be and I am so impatient. Healing takes so much effort and even more patience and mostly it just needs time. It feels like I’ve been carrying an elephant around with me that I haven’t been able to really let go of. On some of my worst days, I have even missed my mania because I’ve been in the depths of this depression for so long but I know it can be so dangerous so I stick to just working towards stability and health. The elephant is lighter than it used to be but it’s definitely still around. I still have shame and guilt about what happened. I still haven’t been able to go back through my over 100 incomprehensible facebook posts from the worst days of my mania and my psychotic break. I still fear that I will get back to a place where I am out of control and I will hurt those I love again. However, something I haven’t had in a long time is hope. I have a lot of hope because I see a future again. I am starting to enjoy things again. I am able to go to work and deal with people and my fellow coworkers. I want to talk to people again and do things outside of the house. I am, for the most part, on a normal sleep schedule. I live in a place I love with the love of my life. The plans I had for myself changed and that’s been part of the hardest thing to accept. I don’t like change even though I love being spontaneous. I would say I probably have some control issues and not being able to control my life the past year has made me scared, confused, and uncertain in many areas. I feel like I am starting over. I have picked up some things about myself I don’t like that I am trying to change and I’ve found new things I never knew I could do. I’ve become hyper aware of myself and I’ve also become a bit hypercritical. I’ve gained new ideas and new coping skills because of everything. I’ve been blessed and cursed just like Kay Redfield Jamison said in the first book I was able to read that I just finished a few weeks ago. I received it from someone very important to me when I was still in a lot of denial and then was reminded of it later in life when I was finally able to get through it and connect its relevance to me. The book is called “An Unquiet Mind” and it’s about a psychiatrist that talks about what bipolar has been like for her. There’s a quote from it that really meant a lot to me. “Beneath those stars is a universe of gliding monsters.” Some days I will be among the stars, others I will be with the monsters... but sometimes I will be able to stand in the middle and say I've seen them both and survived. I've been given the chance to learn from both. I guess the thing I’ve learned most lately is that moderation and balance is what is most important and to not be so hard on myself… Through this entire process I’ve had a hard time even admitting to myself that this is something I have to deal with and will continue to have to deal with let alone talking openly about it but I’ve always been open and honest about my depression and anxiety. This has just been so difficult because it holds a lot more weight in my mind and in the public’s eye and it’s capable of more things than just unipolar depression. I guess I just needed to get this off my chest because I’ve felt like a prisoner to my illness. I am Taylor Nelson. I have bipolar. I am stable and I love myself even though some days are a lot harder than others to be and do so. I guess that’s all for now.

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