After my latest bipolar episode, my bedroom looked like a complete disaster. Things were everywhere, and in places they had no business being. Clothes, food, my pills… you name it. That there was a breast pump anywhere on the premises (and in one of the pics below) is ludicrous. My kids are all teenagers now. So things were strange and it was terrible. I ‘woke up’ after feeling better and was devastated. But instead of getting upset with myself, I decided to act. I knew things had to change for the better this time. I took a picture of what my living space looked like after this episode. I thought seeing it up close might help me put things in perspective.
As a reference point for someone trying to understand what a person like me goes through, I’ve included a collage of pics in this article. I kept them somewhat blurry and nondescript on purpose, to protect my privacy. I took pictures of my regular living space, and the downstairs rooms as well. My townhouse has 4 floors in total. I was shocked at what I saw reflected back when I was feeling rested.
I noticed that the kitchen and movie rooms were virtually untouched by me. I almost never go in those areas of the house. The difference in cleanliness, wear and overall use was hard to take. It was like different people lived there, as opposed to my bedroom. It was clear I hibernate upstairs most of the time, no matter what mental state I’m in. That needs to change. My therapist has been urging me to go downstairs for months, if not all the way out of the house for regular walks. Once I saw the pictures, I understood his sense of urgency. And though I’ve been tweeting for months that it’s unhealthy for me to be in my room alone all the time, seeing my room destroyed in this way, brought the point home.
My kids and I had fun cleaning the loft when they came over. I enjoyed listening to my youngest daughter dancing around, singing and entertaining herself; finding things I’d long since lost. Her job, she’d decided, was to lecture me on my diet and sleeping habits. Normally I’d cringe at a child taking in this role. But there are three of them, my kids. They don’t feel the fact that they are doing what I normally do. Plus by the time they came for their weekly visit, I was well enough to parent again. So I let them feel as though they were helping me, although really, I could have stepped in at any time. The older two insisted on cooking me dinner and finding my entertainment for the evening. By the time they were finished with everything, my room resembled my normal living environment and I was happy I had their help that night.My episodes are different each time. Sometimes OCD takes over and I clean religiously until I’m tired out. Not so this time, obviously. Only because I know how unwell I’ve been overall, do I even share these photos. It’s out of my control, and I want to illustrate my world in general. I also want to show how I was hurting at this particular time. This is what loneliness and isolation does for someone like me when I’m unwell. This is what it means for me.
I saw a picture like mine once. I venture to say the space may have even been more lived in, and more ‘well loved’ by a person experiencing mental illness, though I can’t be sure. It was in a candid article on the true realities of mental illness. The woman in the article wanted to show what her house looked like during her deep depression. She said that sometimes people don’t show this side of mental illness because it’s not pretty, and people are afraid to stigmatize themselves and others with certain diagnoses. Well, this is my truth. It’s real, it’s raw, and it’s not necessarily attractive. Some days I do better than others. Sometimes I cry. That’s my illness. Today I’m deciding to show it and to discuss this part of it. To hide it is actually what shames me and others like me.
A final thought. Once someone asked me during a depressive episode if I had any dignity, because they saw my room, and it looked like this. I’m not sure if they meant this as a challenge or a taunt. Either way, at the time they asked me, I was unwell and unable to care for myself. This is what articles such as this one help to uncover and why I’m becoming more vocal. I’m not ashamed of my illness anymore, and and there’s nothing undignified about being sick alhamdulillah.