My journey starts as a child, extremely depressed and anxiety ridden. As far back as I can remember I hated life. Surrounded by mentally ill parents (who to this day are not diagnosed or treated in any way) and being severely depressed, I had no way to see the joy in life. Around the fourth grade, I wanted to walk out in front of a bus and end it all; I just felt like I couldn’t take any more. It was distressing because I knew it wasn’t right. It wasn’t who I was, but it was being seriously considered. I was distraught, my mother was difficult to deal with, and I had no purpose for living at that time. Yet to part of me, that idea was a way to get relief, which I desperately wanted. I survived that year by talking to my friend, Stephanie. I talked to her about it, and with her support, I got through that year and on with life.
My home life was stressful, full of anger and belittling. I had absolutely no self esteem and really didn’t understand why I was here on earth and still breathing. As I got older and reached my high school years, I completely withdrew from life. At school I had almost no friends (just one really), and I never socialized with anyone. Tania was the total opposite of me and did help me see a bit of life; I love her for that to this day!
She opened me up to someone who cared about me, accepted who I was and overlooked those flaws to see the person I really am inside. She got me out of the house from time to time even though I wouldn’t party with her. She cared for me, and I felt it. This gave me a bit of confidence!
Tania didn’t really help me overcome being bullied, but she made me see that I was lovable and gave me that bit of confidence to stand up to it. Really, the bullying made me withdraw more, but she helped offset that.
I ate my lunch at the door of my next class and did homework while I waited. I always looked down as I walked through the crowded hallways, and had people push and shove me for no reason. If anyone went too far I blew up and scared the crap out of them. I think they all thought I was crazy. One time I threw a desk across the room in my Spanish class because the kid behind me was banging it against my seat and refused to stop.
Although I was not abused sexually, I was mentally and (a little) physically abused. I was an easy target for bullies and had my share of problems with them, the worst of which was my mother. Don’t get me wrong, I know now that she loves me, but she has some issues with depression, etc.
My mother was downright mean, and you never knew what she was going to do or say next. She had a way of cutting you to the bone and making you feel like a horrible kid with just a few words. My father was full of anxiety and depression, and off partying all the time. Personally, I think this made me aware of how my actions would affect others and how uncaring my parents felt toward me, even though they loved me in their way. It helped me to accept my own illness later in life and also helped me accept others flaws. No one is perfect.
As I became an adult, I was determined to get out from under my mother, and discovered I had some serious mood and anxiety issues although I didn’t know that was what it was. There were times I couldn’t leave my apartment at all and needed someone with me in order to go out. I fought that by going to a local store. No matter how long it took me to get prepared to go out of the house, I walked to that store, looking at stuff as long as it took to bring my anxiety down. Finally, I was able to go do some things alone, but it took quite the effort just to leave the house.
As far as dating was concerned, I had no idea what I had to offer or how to act around a man because my father was a bit detached when I was a child. I think I dated three guys before I ended up living with one of them. Then I got pregnant accidentally and lost the baby, which added to my depression. A year or so later, we broke up, and I moved out and back to my mom’s house. Then I met my now ex-husband, and we just clicked! In three months he was living with us at the house and we were in love, or so I thought! Our relationship was rocky, partly because of my insecurity and depression/anxiety/mood issues. He also had a one-year-old son from a previous marriage. That was hard on our relationship as well, but that’s another story. We were together for 17 years, married after we had our two girls, and separated seven years later when my daughter caught him on the phone with his girlfriend telling her he loved her.
But to back up a bit…during that relationship, after having my first child in 1995, I began to realize that I wasn’t just that bitch that everyone had labeled me as! I knew something had to be wrong. I didn’t have control over my moods, reactions or the things I would say. As it got increasingly worse, I began looking for some help from doctors. I went to the family physician, got some anti-depressants and felt a bit better, but it did not last. Many, many doctors appointments later and after visiting different doctors, they told me, “I can’t help you, you need a psychiatrist,” and I got a referral. One psychiatrist helped me some but wanted to do electric shock therapy to pull me out of my depression. I wasn’t having that because we hadn’t tried enough medications yet. After a while, I realized he wasn’t the doctor for me and set out to find someone to help.
In the meantime I had my second child in 1999, and boy did things get worse after that. I saw many more doctors, but then my first child started having mood issues when she was five years old. So I am still looking for a doctor for me and, now, a doctor for her. We went through many doctors for her as well. To make a long story short, we ended up at a great psychiatrist, who then diagnosed us both as Bipolar 2. It was not what we wanted to hear, but I also had a good therapist who really was there for me and helped me see things from a different point of view. During this time I started doing research on my own about this illness. As they say, “knowledge is power!” There are lots of great people and information out there, if you look and are persistent.
So after about 15 years of treatment, medication and self improvement, I found “me” and found out that I am not that bitch that others labeled me as. I actually have a mental illness that was in control. I knew I was in there somewhere and that I was a good person. It was quite a search to find her, but here I am at 42; I’ve been on disability for nine years and am raising my kids. I’m happy and dating a wonderful man who treats us all with love and respect! After my separation from my husband and divorce, I realized that “happiness is a choice,” and I kept telling myself, “I don’t have all I want in my life but I am not unhappy. I can choose to be happy.”
My oldest daughter remembers how I was and actually having that memory gives her respect for the work I did to become who I am now. My youngest I’m not sure really understands it at this point, but she is of course inheriting her own issues from us. I think they both see how strong a person can be no matter how you feel; you can survive it and be happy! As far as the man I’m dating now, it has allowed me to open up to him and accept his flaws as a glorious part of him. It has allowed us to have a better relationship I think.
Truthfully, I probably know myself better than most people. I was able to take the initiative and time to work on who I wanted to be and become who I truly was underneath all the illness and emotional abuse I endured. Because of the illness, I have to monitor every feeling and reaction I have to everything because if I am not paying attention it can get out of control quickly. If I don’t feel well emotionally, my medicines may have to be changed. We see the doctor once a month when we are ok and more often when we are not.
I am a partner of a website called LeanOnUs.co and hope to offer the same support I got online through my journey. We are here for anyone having a good or bad day or looking for a friend to lean on or an ear to listen. We offer friendship and support to anyone and everyone. We are “A Community Here for You.” This is where I think I can use my intuitiveness and my heart to help others on their journey to happiness!
If you or anyone you love struggles with depression, please realize that they aren’t in control of what they do at times. Encourage them to get help; there is no shame in being ill, just in not getting the help to live free of it. You must accept that you have a problem and do what it takes to handle it; there is good help out there. Learn, learn, learn and be persistent with your mental health providers. Make sure you are being as clear as possible with them; they must understand what is going on inside you to help you. If you think there is a better person inside of you then you are probably right. Go find that person and develop him or her, take the control away from the illness and drive through your journey. Realize not every doctor is the best fit for you and keep looking until you find the one that is. The best lesson I learned was that I am responsible for my own happiness, I can’t make others be happy, but just encourage them through their journey.
About Shauna Smith
I am the mother of two teenage girls, ages 12 and 15. I love my girls to bits; they are the light of my life!
My life has been a struggle from almost the very start. I have had to deal with depression my entire life basically. About 16 years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II and have been in treatment for it. I am pleased to say that I am doing well with the treatment, but it hasn’t been an easy time.
My illness definitely had a negative affect on my marriage; I was out of control at times, and I know it isn’t easy to live with someone like that. I recently divorced after being separated since 2006, and almost a year ago I met a wonderful, caring man, whom I am still dating.
My life has been difficult, but I worked hard to learn to control what I could about my illness and changed some bad thought processes. After my separation, I realized “happiness is a choice!” I have always been a real intuitive person, and I think I may be able to help others realize happiness! My goal is to help others achieve true happiness, friendship and support, and that is why I am now working as a partner at LeanOnUs.co.
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