Thursday, March 29, 2018

I lost my mind but found myself

A short update on me; I'm doing good. Really good. My mood has been stable for a couple of months now and the medication adjustments have been minimal. I've been in this limbo stage of life, trying to figure out next steps but still scared of a relapse. Not quite ready to commit to anything, yet craving something to do. I've had plenty of time to think and reflect on my life as it is now, as it was before the symptoms and how they correlate. The problem is...they don't. Who I am now is not who I was then. The scary thing is - I don't know who I am now.

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder I was told that I could never go back to my old life exactly how it was. Things would be different now. I'd have to follow different rules in order to live a productive life, I'd have to make changes. It took me a long time to come to terms with that and if I'm being honest there are days that I still don't fully accept it. But I charged on. I went to treatment and took it very seriously, I wanted all the information and tools that I could get. I was thriving in that environment, but then I left. Life back in the real world was scary, I had left the bubble of treatment. I don't know that there really is anything that can fully prepare you for leaving treatment after having been there so long. But I pushed on.

I was still having major mood swings and was depressed like no other. So being out of treatment didn't mean anything to me. If anything it made it easier to stay in bed all day and try to fight through the demons. Then my medications started working, ahh the magic combination was finally found. As I got better I realized that I had no sense of self. I had lost my identity, my friends, my family, my religion. All the things that used to make me 'me' were gone. I spent the last couple years of my life fighting for my life and in it all I lost who I was. I mean, how could you not? One day you're someone and the next you have people telling you that you can never go back to that person again. Thrown into the unknown I could only focus on what was absolutely necessary - survival.

And now I've survived, so what comes next? The fight is far from over but I've reached some semblance of normalcy again. So what do I do now? It's a question I've been pondering for awhile now. I think I've finally figured out an answer - I have to figure out who I am again. What makes me 'me' now. I have to spend some time alone and rebuild my identity. It's not going to be easy, but I have to do it. I've let this disorder take a lot of things from me, but I'm determined to get them all back.

I'm not giving up.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 - A Year In Review

Dear 2017,

I could sit here and write you a very bitter, very angry letter but I'm not going to do that - I actually already did that but it's not appropriate to share with the internet. I thought you would be the year that I figured myself out. The year that I got this disorder under control and finally got my life back. Instead it feels like little to no progress has been made. Slowly but surely my optimism has faded as the months have ticked by. Progress has been slow and it's hard to be okay with that. Slow and steady wins the race but when your life is on hold all you want to do is hurry up and get it together. Don't get me wrong 2017, I recognize what has happened to move me forward but I'm still nowhere near where I wanted, no hoped, I would be. But that's something you've taught me this year - expectations only set you up for disappointment.

2017, you were honestly the absolute worst year of my life. My life has quite literally fallen apart in every aspect and putting the pieces back together is something that will take years. 2017, You've made me feel the worst sort of loneliness. You took my happiness, my optimism, my joy. It's gone and I don't know if it'll ever come back like it was before. You put me in situations where I felt so utterly helpless and alone - where the only way out was not living at all. 2017, you took my hobbies and things that once brought me purpose. You made surviving the only thing possible, the only thing I could do. All things considered I'd say I did it pretty well but just living gets tiring. I don't want to just survive anymore.

Hey 2017, at least you've showed me who my true support system is. It's much smaller than previously thought, in fact I can count them on one hand. You've taken my family, my friends - my best friends. People who I've gone through the worst of things with, just gone. Relationships will never be the same. Family, friends, it's all a mess. You tore apart relationships that were the most important to me. You distanced me from the people who are supposed to love and support me unconditionally. There's no easy fix for this and I don't think anything will ever be the same again. It's gone and there's no getting it back, which is hard to come to terms with.

2017, you've taken and taken and yet somehow I've survived. I'm not sure how I became this person, in fact I don't even really know who this person is, but I do know I'm stronger than I ever knew. You've put people in my life that I never knew I needed. Lifelong friends who I wouldn't have met had you not taken everything from me. You've taught me a lot about myself. Things I've always needed to know and will help me as I move forward. 2017, the most important thing you taught me is that I have to do this myself. No one else can do this for me. At the end of the day the only person I can truly count on is me. I have to make this better for myself. If I don't want it then it's never going to happen. Well 2018, I want it. I want it more than anything else.

This is the year I live.



Friday, March 31, 2017


I can hardly believe that we're already almost done with three months of 2017. It seems like just yesterday it was New Years Eve and the idea of starting fresh was all anyone was talking about. Now that's died down and things have gone back to normal but I still haven't been writing on here. It's not because I don't have anything to say - I honestly just haven't had the time or energy to sit down and write about what has been going on. However, the other night a lovely friend stopped by my house with flowers and the loveliest of cards and as we sat talking for a couple of hours I realized just how much I've been keeping to myself lately. I have my family and a select few friends that I've let into my life on a daily basis but everyone else I've pushed away. I've let myself be isolated and stopped talking to anyone about what is going on and what I'm feeling. Now that I've had this realization I don't want to do it anymore. I need to share what's going on with me and be better about not isolating myself so much. So here I am taking the first step and writing about how I've been and where I'm at in my recovery process.

At the beginning of January I was admitted into an intensive outpatient program run through St. Luke's hospital. This turned out to actually be a partial hospitalization program which meant that I would spend five days a week 9am - 2pm at this treatment center for an unforeseen amount of time. For 6 weeks I faithfully attended treatment and I really liked it there. Don’t get me wrong it was a lot of hard work but I was learning a lot and seeing the benefits. During the time I was there my doctors were also messing with my meds and trying to stabilize me. This came with lots of bad side effects. I even ended up at the emergency room a few times because of it. My doctors and I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to be taken off of my main mood stabilizing medication (Lamictal) and put onto another (Lithium). Together we decided it would be safest if I checked into St. Luke’s hospital to do this. So March 2nd I checked in and I stayed at the hospital for 3 days in order to make the medication change. The experience was my no means horrible but it definitely is not something I’d want to ever do again. Since getting out I’ve still been trying to adjust to this new medication. The number one thing that it’s been doing to me is making me super sleepy. I can’t seem to wake up when I’m on it but with some recent adjustments I’m hopeful that maybe we’ve figured that out and things will get better.

I continue to remind myself that this is a journey, it’s not always going to be easy and it’s not always going to make sense, but it will be worth it. I’m still not 100% on board with this new medication, it does make me feel quite weird, but I’m hopeful that with time everything will straighten out. On Monday I start back up at the treatment center I was previously going to. It’s been nice to have a break but I have realized just how much being in treatment has helped me and I am very excited to go back and be able to learn even more. I also just want to say thank you. Thank you for your messages, letters, prayers, random visits and everything else you’ve done for me. It seems like whenever I have a rough day I receive a letter, text or something from someone that puts a smile on my face. You’ll never know how much the little things you’ve done have impacted me. I have felt and continue to feel your prayers on a daily basis. I could not do this without the support of everyone around me and I am eternally grateful for you all.

So that’s my update for now; this thing isn’t over yet - but I think we’re making progress.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


This is potentially the hardest blog post that I will ever write. I contemplated even sharing this experience with anyone outside of my immediate family and yet here I am again telling the Internet. It's weird how life works out that way for me time and time again. I prefer to write when I'm in an okay state of mind but I'm absolutely not in that place right now and haven't been for awhile. Despite that, I've put off writing this for too long and I feel so strongly that I need to tell you this. So here it is - I'm really struggling right now. After my last post I really wish I could come back here and talk about all the progress I've made and how I've embraced this new information that has been thrown at me, but I'd be lying. In fact, I'm so far from embracing it that I have used any and every excuse to not learn about bipolar disorder. Every single time I sit down to learn more about it I end up overwhelmed and in tears.

My first mistake - I started keeping all these emotions inside and not letting anyone know I was struggling so badly. I know that bipolar disorder is the answer I've been searching for. I can very clearly look back at points in my life and see them as depressive/manic episodes. As I look back I realize that this started when I was in high school, maybe even earlier, and now here I am 26 years old and barely figuring my life out. It's hard not to feel like my life up to this point wasn't mine. Like these past 26 years were a dream and here I am now, facing a reality I never thought I would have to face. I've been living with this disorder for years but I'm just now realizing how ill I've been all along. I can't help but to feel at times like this disorder has taken everything from me. Before this I was working/going to school and was finally becoming a proper adult ready to take on life. In an instant that all changed for me. I’m unable to work and go to school because most days it’s a miracle if I make it out of bed and that frustrates me. I’m so dependent on others that it’s hard to deal with at times. It makes me feel guilty and like I have nothing to add to this world. Which leads into this very personal very scary experience that I feel like I need to share with you.

A few weeks ago I tried to commit suicide.

I've had suicidal ideations for months now but this time was different. I subtly said goodbye to people. I wrote goodbye letters to my family. I had the plan and this time - I attempted it. I'm not going to go into details but it's pretty obvious that it didn't work. I'm still here and I'm very grateful for that. I did something that I've spent years saying I would never or could never do. Yet I fully became this other person who could do those things. Who could say goodbye to their family and friends. I don't even know who that person is, but I know it's not me. It is from this experience that I have learned that I cannot do this alone. I cannot keep everything inside and to myself anymore. I need people. I need to talk. I need to share. I need support. I'm not good at needing things and asking for them, but I've reached a point where my pride cannot be in the way anymore. I'm asking for help. I need it now more than I ever have before.

As for where I'm at right now - I honestly don't know who I am anymore. I feel that this person I thought I was in the past wasn't really me; it was an illness. I was in there somewhere, but it's hard not to wonder how life would have played out had I been diagnosed sooner. I've been me for 26 years and yet I feel like I've never really known my true self. I don't know my "normal" anymore. Any emotion I have I find myself asking if it's a manic or depressive episode. I feel completely lost within myself because I don't have any sense of what normal/stable for me looks like. The more I force myself to learn the more afraid I get. I'm still overwhelmed with all this new information and honestly I'm unsure as to where I go from here. With the diagnosis I was able to get into my state's mental health program, which is absolutely a step in the right direction. I start meeting with my team on Tuesday and I'm hopeful but trying not to get too invested in case it doesn't work out. All I know now is that I need help to deal with this. Professional help. I know that I'm surrounded by so much love and support but at the end of the day - I have to do this myself.

This is absolutely the hardest thing I've ever done and I'm nowhere near being finished, but at least I'm trying right? That has to count for something.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Sometimes we have really defining moments in our lives. Moments where we remember exactly where we were and what surrounded us when they happened. Moments that we truly will never forget. September 24, 2016 was one of those days for me. It is on that day that I walked into a psychologist’s office one person and came out feeling like I never knew myself at all.

If you’ve been following me for a while you will know that 7 years ago I realized that I needed to seek out help for what I thought was depression. After some minimal testing I was diagnosed with major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety. At the time I felt that the diagnosis fit perfectly. It really did encompass everything that I was feeling. For 7 years I held onto that diagnosis and re-arranged and figured out my life based around it. I thought I was doing a pretty good job at handling things and living a normal and happy life. Sure there were times where I was really depressed but everyone gets sad right? I could deal with it. Here’s the thing; I think I’ve always known in the back of my head that this was more than just depression and anxiety. I just refused to acknowledge it. I had been tested for other things, like mood disorders, and while I did have some of the characteristics that fit some mood disorders I didn’t fully fit the criteria and so they were ruled out. After hearing that, I held onto it for dear life. Well, here I am 7 years later dealing with something that is very clearly not my original diagnosis. The majority of this year I have been very depressed, moments where I have felt so completely out of control; so much so that I voluntarily admitted myself to an emergency room under suicide watch one night.

My whole life all I have wanted is to be happy. At times in my life I have felt like I would never know true happiness. There was too much wrong with my life. Too many negative things that I had no control over. There were so many things I needed to start/stop doing before I could achieve true happiness. It was daunting, not to mention really hard. I didn't even know where to start. At the beginning of this year I met someone who truly pushed me to become a better version of myself. I finally started to be the person I always wanted to be but had previously felt like I never could. I kept thinking, wow I've really got it all together, shouldn't I be happy now? I was finally where I wanted to be - and you know what? I was happy for a couple months; truly happy. It was then that it all came crashing down.

I’m not going to go into detail about what I've been dealing with recently because I already wrote about it here but long story short, these past few months have been really rough for me. I have felt so out of control and all I've wanted was to get another diagnosis and find out what I'm dealing with now because it very clearly is not what it used to be. After months of fighting insurance and getting nowhere; an amazing human who I am so grateful to have in my life provided me with a way to bypass insurance and pay out of pocket to get the diagnosis right away. We were all tired of waiting, we needed answers now. After intense testing I found myself two weeks later on September 24, 2016 at my meeting with the psychologist to get the one thing I've wanted all year - a diagnosis.

I was the most nervous I have ever been for anything in my entire life. I think I knew in the back of my head that what I was going to hear was going to be the one thing I've run from my whole life. Despite my personal mental health journey only really starting in 2009 I've had experiences with mental illness my whole life, pretty bad experiences too. With people I swore I would never have anything in common with. People I never wanted to be anything like. I've always been such an advocate to end the stigma of mental illness yet this whole time I've had a personal stigma attached to this one word and I didn't even realized it. When my psychologist finally said the word to me I was terrified. My worst nightmare had become my reality. What do I do now?

It's taken me awhile to wrap my head around it. In fact, I cried for 3 days straight after finding out. Actually, I still cry almost daily. I feel alone, scared, and unsure of what to do next. I feel like I am a stranger to myself; I feel betrayed by my mind. How could I have this disorder and not realize it? But the truth is - I've known all along. I just always pushed it away and focused on something else. Trying so desperately to not recognize the signs I knew were there. This diagnosis is serious. This diagnosis is life changing. I honestly still don't know what to do with the information I have been handed. I couldn't accept it right away and while now I have come to terms with it, I haven't yet been able to truly embrace it. If I embrace it, it becomes absolutely real. The few people I really have talked to about it are so supportive and yet I feel almost no comfort in their words. I feel lost. I feel alone. I feel afraid.

Despite all of that; and after a very much needed getaway with my family, I have decided that I no longer wish to hide this. By keeping this secret I am keeping myself from fully embracing what it means for me and my future. I know without a doubt that this is the right diagnosis. I can see the signs not only now, but linking back into my high school years. So much of my life up to this point makes so much sense now. And while I'm grateful and feel comfort in knowing what has been going on with me all these years, I also feel terrified. I feel a loss for that perfect dream of who I was hoping to become. I know that now, I can still become that person, it's just going to have to be in a different way, it's uncomfortable, it's scary. I can no longer live like I used to. In order to be healthy and reach my true happiness I have to change basically everything about my life. It's quite a daunting task and I feel overwhelmed by it daily. I know that I'm no different today than I was in 2005; I just have more information now. I need to use it to my advantage. I've been living with this disorder for years without knowing it but it has now spiraled out of control and I need to take care of it. I think I needed everything I've been through so far to happen so that now in this moment I will take this diagnosis seriously and really put everything I have into living my best life with this disorder. I know it's going to be hard and there will be many ups and downs but with help I can figure out what I need to do to achieve the one thing I've always strived for - happiness.

Hi, I’m Mandi and I have bipolar disorder.

Monday, October 10, 2016

World Mental Health Day

📸: Kellie Harley

Today is #WorldMentalHealthDay which is something that over the years I have become very passionate about. I received my first diagnosis 7 years ago but if I would have had the knowledge I do now and if there wasn't such a stigma surrounding mental illness I would have been diagnosed many years earlier. 7 years ago I had no idea what mental health was and how to take care of it. Over the course of these last 7 years I have learned a lot about myself, my mental health, and ways to take care of it that work for me. Along this journey of learning about myself, I have become very passionate about mental health and educating those who, like me, grew up not knowing anything about it.

With everything that I've been through this year I am more passionate than ever about speaking out and educating others on not only my personal experiences but about mental health in general. Mental health is not just for the mentally ill. Much like our physical bodies, everyone needs to take care of their mental health as well. Mental and Physical health come together to create who we are as a whole human. Not all of us have a mental illness but all of us do need to pay attention and take care of our mental state. It is truly just as important as the things you do to take care of yourself physically.

As someone who has mental illnesses, some of which I've shared and some of which I haven't yet, I have learned the hard way how much of an impact mental health can have on you. I have learned how important it is to be aware of. I have learned how important it is to be educated about it. When someone you love is suffering with something that you may not know anything about it is still so important that you be there for them. Reach out, research, try to understand what they might be going through. A good support system is so so SO important.

For me personally I have an amazing support system. I honestly would not be alive today were it not for my core group of people. When you go through something as hard as this you realize just who you can depend on and who is just saying what they think you want to hear. If you feel inadequate to help someone, you aren't. Don't back off and distance yourself, just support and be there for them. When all this started for me my core group knew nothing about the mental illnesses I was dealing with. Some still don't really understand it but they are totally and completely there for me. You never know what reaching out to someone in distress might do. Be there for the people you love. Be present for the people you care about. It makes a world of difference. Trust me, I know.

In summary I guess what I want to say is; to those with mental illnesses - You are not alone. It may feel like you have no one and no one truly understands you but I PROMISE that is not the case. Let others help you. Let others lift you up. It's okay not to be okay. For those of you who don't have a mental illness - You still need to take care of your mental health. It is so very important, don't forget that. For those of you who have someone you are trying to support - You don't need to know everything about the situation to help. Just be a friend, be someone that they can turn to when they are needing someone. Just talk and listen and offer support. You never know when you're saving a life.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


You know that something is wrong when you listen to 21 Pilots and start relating to their words a lot more than you used to. But that's not the point, we already knew that something was wrong with me. That something in my head seems to be just...not right. It's frustrating to have that knowledge and yet everywhere you turn to for help there is one reason or another that they turn you down. If I've learned one thing these past couple of months its that getting mental health services is hard. My options are so limited, especially as a student who is on AHCCCS without any money to shell out for services. If I'm physically sick getting in to see a doctor is easy; it doesn't even take that long, a day or two at most. But because you cannot see this illness, because this illness is invisible, it is somehow less important. I've had my fair share of physical illnesses in my life and very few come anywhere close to this illness that's in my head. Dealing with this disease in my brain is at times torture. It's much easier to have a major surgery than to deal with living with these thoughts inside my head.

One night when I was having a really bad suicidal episode I sat alone in my room trying to figure out how to get myself out of it. I ended up grabbing my computer and writing out everything I was feeling. In the moment it helped but the next day when I read what I had written I was terrified. How did I write this? How did I feel so low and how was I so close to giving up? Often when I'm going through an episode like that I don't feel like myself. I feel so out of control and that is definitely reflected in the passage that I wrote. I wasn't sure I was going to share this but for whatever reason I feel like I need to. What's going on in my head and the things that I'm feeling are really scary when laid out in front of you. It's a shame that because this illness is not physical I have still yet to find any medical professional to help. To me, that just isn't okay. Mental health and physical health should be treated the same. They work together to create the whole person. They need to be treated as equals. Maybe someday they will be.

DISCLAIMER: If you choose to read this just please remember that this was weeks ago and as of writing this I am doing okay. I still feel this way occasionally but most of the time I am in a much better headspace than this. This is an extreme.

For the past couple of days I have felt like I've been walking on a ledge. I appear to be holding it together but in reality I'm a mess. I am just waiting to tumble. To spiral. To be where I am right now. I saw and felt the warning signs but chose to push through and keep my mask on. I don't like to let people down. I don't want to fall apart again. I've got it this time. Except I don't. I see the start of a spiral and I immediately shut it down. Leave the house, get out and keep my prior commitments, and then come home. Coming home is fine, home is safe. It is then I lock myself in my room and let it happen. Let the darkness overtake me. Suddenly I'm drowning. I reach out to people. This is what I've been told to do. I get frustrated because no one has the answer. Everyone talks logistically. Bless their hearts but they don't have what I'm looking for. I don't even know what I'm looking for. I try anyway. I already know what everyone will say. I've heard it time and time again. What no one realizes is that I'm tired. I feel helpless, useless, and utterly alone. I'm surrounded by the best people but no one understands what really is going on in my head. No one understands that at times like these I feel like I have zero control. I'm scared. Terrified. How does this happen? WHY does this happen? I wouldn't wish this feeling on my worst enemy. How do I stop this? Isn't there a way I can just make this all go away? Sleep. Death. It all seems so appealing. But no, back to logistics. I can't do that. So many people would hurt. I help people. I don't let people down. I don't hurt people. No death. So now what? I'm tired. How can I make this all stop. I'm tired. I don't think I can fight this much longer. I'm tired. Everyone keeps telling me how strong I am but I don't see it. I'm tired. Haven't I reached my breaking point yet? I'm tired. How much is too much? I'm tired. I can't do this anymore. I'm tired. You'd think I'd have run out of tears by now. I'm tired. I give up.

I am tired.