Leading By Example

Today’s post is no where near as elated or confidence exuding as my previous ones. It is a rather solemn one, and a hard one to write.

I firmly believe that one of the best ways to lead someone is to lead by example. The best way to teach, is to teach through your own story. Well, I can’t exactly lead by example or teach you through my story if I never tell you what that story is.

Well, I am about to.

There are things in here that I have never told anyone. This is also where I say that this post may trigger some people. I will not go too far in depth, but if you are highly sensitive to things such as self-harm, the topic of suicide, or talking about depression, I urge you to think before continuing.

That being said, I suppose I can continue.

I haven’t really any idea where to start. I know the things that I would like to talk about, but finding one to start with is difficult. I can’t start from the beginning, because that’s just too far back, and I can’t start at the end and work backwards, because you will be lost until about half way through.

I suppose I can start here: Approximately five years ago, in my freshman year of high school, I had my first major depressive episode. For much of the winter, I existed in a very dark frame of mind. I was not actively suicidal, not that I remember, but I saw no reason to live. I would lie at the edge of the road (we lived on the outside of a curve in the road), hoping that some car would pass and be just a little over the outside line. I jumped off of my one story house, into a pile of mulch. I began to self harm – a mix of cutting myself and alternating between not eating enough, and eating too much. I became an insomniac. I would get maybe 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night. I felt nothing inside. I lived in a hollow, numb, dark place.

As time progressed, I lifted out of my depression, and have yet to experience another major depressive episode that lasts that long. About two and a half years later, during exams of my junior year of high school, I was admitted to the hospital for suicidal and homicidal ideation. Simply put, I had no specific plans to do anything, but was thinking a bit more about it than I should have been. The first doctors didn’t want to admit me, and couldn’t to the hospital I was at, but someone fought for me, and got me a bed at a hospital in a city a few hours away. I spent a week there, with other kids. I miss that place to this day. I had absolutely no worries, no concerns. And I was able to help other kids while I was in there. It was wonderful.

Upon leaving, I received a diagnosis of Type 2 Bipolar Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. At the time, I thought they were wrong. Even until recently, I thought for sure they got it wrong. But they didn’t.

I don’t know how informed you are about these things, but I am just going to tell you what I personally struggle with. Everyone who has a BP or an OCD diagnosis does not experience the same thing. Each person has their own flavor they deal with. I urge you to read more about Bipolar disorder (A good place to start, Read: This article by the NIMH).

In my Bipolar, I have long periods of time where I am relatively normal. Life feels kind of hum drum, but I can get through it okay. Not much of a fight these days. But this never lasts, I always cycle down. My depression does not last very long, I rapid cycle. Most of the time, when I am actually in a depressive episode, it will last at least 3 days, and up to about a week, maybe a little longer.

Recently, my depression has changed. It is no longer the numb hollow dark feeling that I used to feel. I now become self conscious, I lose self worth, I feel actually sad as opposed to numb. I have cried more in the last 2 or 3 months than I have in the last 5 or more years before that. I feel trapped in my situation and all I want to do is run away or hide.

I can usually maintain some shred of hope though, and that is knowing that my depression will never last forever. Usually right after a depressive episode I will cycle right up into hypomania. I become highly optimistic about life. I regain all of my self confidence and self worth, and it usually becomes slightly inflated. I will get a lot of energy, but I usually do not have a decreased need for sleep (something that is very common in mania, and to a lesser extent, hypomania).

Often times, I will also experience what is called mixed state. That is when I feel depressed and hypomanic at the same time. I will usually become very agitated, my sleep and eating patterns may change dramatically, and I am just not a very pleasant person to be around.

I will not talk too much about my OCD, I can save that for another post, but I would like to add that I also experience (part of my OCD and Bipolar both) frequent anxiety about multiple things. I can become very overwhelmed very quickly. I usually do not shut down from it, but it makes it much harder to function in my day to day life.

I also struggle with (and it is very difficult for me to admit it) personal hygiene, as if very common in all types of Bipolar disorder, along with other mental illness. In particular, I struggle with brushing my teeth. What makes it even worse is that I know it only takes a few minutes, I know that I would feel much better for doing it, but there are days that I just cannot force myself to brush my teeth. I also will go entire days without eating much of anything, which is also not good for me.

So why did I tell you all of this?

I didn’t share these highly personal things because I enjoy talking about myself. I shared them as a way of telling you that, if you are experiencing any of these things, you are not alone. I wanted you all to know that the things that I post, like my recent one, On Living In The Moment, I do those things. And it isn’t easy. I struggle to use the things that I tell you, but the do work. Little by little, it helps.

I could add a whole bunch more to this, but I believe that this is enough for now.(And at nearly 1200 words, I shared a lot of information!)

As always, if you see anything that you relate to, or helped you, please share it, so that it can help someone else too!

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, I implore you to seek help, or to help them seek help. Suicide is never a solution to the problem, it only eliminates the chance to find one. Call the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor.

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