“Last year, when I was a freshman, I started school at Barnard College of Columbia University. It's an all women undergraduate school, and it was a huge change for me. Going into it, I knew it would be hard, but I didn't know exactly what was wrong with me at the time, so I didn't know how to handle it.
I always thought from a young age that I was depressed and anxious, but at some point, I thought that it might be something more. After a semester, it was all too much for me. I felt like I didn't belong there, like I didn't have friends or time to do anything, and I was completely overwhelmed physically and emotionally.
I was diagnosed this past summer with a high functioning mood disorder, as well as depression and anxiety, and I felt relieved. I have known there was something wrong with me for a long time and I have really struggled with that. Having a high-functioning mood disorder means I have mood swings that I can’t control, I have ticks, such as an obsession with being clean, having close friends that I can trust, or spending certain amounts of money.
With being high functioning, I have no problem taking classes or working, but it affects my everyday mood and interactions with people. It is also hard for the people I am closest with to be able to see any sign of a problem because I try hard to cover it up.
My mental illness affects me every day. I constantly feel as if I am unworthy and unneeded. It is hard for me to do things or go places when I am in a ‘down’ mood. I have had consistent series of suicidal ideation, where I am unsure of everything and everyone and I feel as if I don’t belong in this world. I get attached to people fairly easily, and those attachments cause me to become incredibly jealous and possessive of people. I struggle to make friends because I don’t trust easily, and I feel as if I will be judged for who I am.
To give you an idea, I dated this guy seriously a year ago, and I told him about what I thought was wrong with me and he still made the decision to date me. As time went on, I became attached to him almost fully, and my moods were dependent on how much he paid attention to me and how kind he was to me. It was the categorical relationship for someone with a mood disorder, as well as social anxiety. He just made me feel safe and cared for. My attachment to him made it harder for me to make friends, as I was more unsure of everyone outside of that relationship.
Today, he and I are still friends, as he understands that I can’t control my emotions. I guess that’s what the take away from this is- I have no control over how I feel or react or what I do. I just have to endure.
Even more recently, when I was home for break, I couldn’t bring myself to work on anything. It wasn’t anything more than just the pain of existing as I like to refer to it. But it’s this idea, or I guess feeling, where everything hurts and is too much all at once, and it doesn’t stem from anywhere but my own mind. There is no trigger to it, and I can almost always feel it. It’s like this constant state of existential dread.
It was likely caused by a series of the environment I was raised in, hormone dysfunction, and genetic. I was born with a disposition for it, that was triggered when I was in high school when I was in a very codependent relationship. It may have improved if it hadn’t been for an on-going custody battle between my parents that only ended when I turned 17.
I currently see a psychiatrist, as well as relying on my friends for support. I have found that my art has helped me a lot with conveying how I feel about things to people who may not fully get it. The studio is one of the very few places that I always feel like I belong. I can paint or create for hours and I will feel better almost immediately. It’s a way for me to tell my story, and for people to actually listen, even if they aren’t sure what they are listening to.
This isn’t something I talk to people about usually, besides my parents and close friends. It’s something scary and hard to talk about because when people think of mood disorders, they think of someone who is ‘psychotic’ and ‘crazy’, but that’s not it. Most days I go to work, and I go to class, and everything is fairly normal for me. I just have bad days, where I have a lot of feelings and I can’t do anything but hold on through it.
A mood disorder doesn’t mean I am any less whole than anyone else, it just means that sometimes I over react and over read situations and can’t help it. I feel like there is this idea that this is something that I am making up and I just need to get over it and honestly, there is nothing for me to get over. It is a part of who I am.
If you’re struggling: find your thing. Your thing that makes every day a little bit easier. Whether it’s a funny little cartoon you draw for yourself, or a TV show that always makes you laugh, or a person that you can rely on and trust. Find that thing and hold on to it. Because when you make the decision to reach out and get help, you will be thankful you had that thing to keep you holding on for as long as you did.”