Living With Mental Illness

As a lifelong sufferer of mental illness, I want to share all I have come to learn about the illness. I have an inside track, so to speak.

My hope is to help fight the stigma of mental illness by speaking out. I believe there are many sufferers out there that will be able to relate. Perhaps they won't feel so alone, because it can be a lonely disease.

I believe it is important for us with mental illness to know as much as we can about this brain disease. This includes some scientific as well as practical information. I will share some of my day to day struggles and triumphs and how being able to laugh at the absurdities of life helps me get through.

* All images shown here are mine.

Mental Illness In All It's Glory

Am I Crazy?

Mental Illness is a brain disease. Certainly no one asks to be mentally ill. Now THAT would be crazy!

There are so many different types of mental illness and the list seems to grow every year. Some would say that doctors are just inventing more illnesses that don’t really exist to explain every little, slightly off behavior. I beg to differ. Unless you have walked in the shoes of the mentally ill, you can not judge, you must not judge. You are just kicking someone when they are down.

Another fact is that many mental conditions can overlap. Also, many degrees of each illness exist and each individual experiences them differently. It is a huge gray area of gray matter. The brain is so complex, it may take centuries or forever to fully understand it.

Now, some people will tell you it’s all in your head. No kidding! The brain controls everything about us: our body and all it’s functions, our ability to form thoughts, our ability to have emotions of all kinds. Our brain has to produce a certain combination of chemicals in the proper amounts for it to work optimally.

If our brain is physically unable to produce one or several chemicals, or if it over produces any, our brain will not work properly. This may cause over reactive emotions, the lack of emotions, an inability to feel happiness, overwhelming despair and hopelessness, hallucinations, and a slew of other problems with thinking and perception.

People with mental illnesses not only have a terrible illness, but they are kicked when they are down. They are shunned, misunderstood, called crazy and generally marginalized by society. God forbid a person be a little different. That makes people uncomfortable.

We are not crazy. We have an illness. Everyone has something wrong with them. Some are just better at hiding their monsters.


I Doodle to Relax My Spirit

A window into the subconscious

Big Waves a Comin'......Blue marker on paper....not sure if it will cleanse me or drown me.

Red Woman....pen on paper.....I think she is some kind of Asian Queen from the future.

Depression Sounds Depressing

Am I Depressed or Just Sad?

Yes, there is a difference. One is an illness and one is a normal reaction to some of life’s hardships, such as a death in the family. With regular sadness, a person eventually comes out of it. Depression is a whole different ballgame.

According to the DSM-IV, a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, depression occurs when you have at least five of the following symptoms at the same time:

A depressed mood during most of the day, particularly in the morning
Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
Insomnia (an inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day
Recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
A sense of restlessness or being slowed down
Significant weight loss or weight gain

A key sign of depression is either depressed mood or loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed. For a diagnosis of depression, these signs should be present most of the day either daily or nearly daily for at least two weeks. In addition, the depressive symptoms need to cause clinically significant distress or impairment. They cannot be due to the direct effects of a substance, for example, a drug or medication. Nor can they be the result of a medical condition such as hypothyroidism. Finally, symptoms that occur within two months of the loss of a loved one are not considered to be clinical depression.

Symptoms of Depression

Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
Fatigue and decreased energy
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
Insomnia, early morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
Irritability, restlessness
Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
Loss of pleasure in life
Overeating or appetite loss
Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

Some of this clinical information was borrowed from Web MD

Stigma Be Gone

Fighting Stigma by Speaking Out

I am telling my story because someone may be able to relate and not feel so alone, not because I am stuck in the past. I am able to talk about it because I have dealt with it. Countless hours of therapy and reading to not feel I am to blame or ashamed. It wasn’t my fault and I won’t let anyone shame me for speaking out.

It is this feeling of victims that they must be quiet because it makes others uncomfortable. That is how we stay sick. We must talk. It takes courage and strength to speak out. This doesn’t mean that my chemical imbalance has magically gone away. That is a physical illness that no amount of therapy will cure. I can just hopefully find the correct combo of meds.

Those who love me, will love me anyway.


Art is good therapy

Artsy Doodles by Me

Yin-Yang and flowers. Blue pen on white paper. A lot going on but I find it to be an optimistic picture.

Flaming asteroid or Flaming ovary. Water color on paper. One part calm, one part on FIRE!

Memories. Pen on paper. Complex, busy and interesting on the outside. But there is a red, bleeding area in the head; explosion that distorts the face.

The Pond. Water color on paper. I see things growing at the bottom of a pond, including fish eggs. I never plan these pictures.

Creeping In. Water color on paper. Things look ok, but there is the pain off to the side ready to drown out the pretty.

Damaged. Water color on paper. Unrecognizable as a woman, except for one breast.

Under the Sea. Water color on paper. I see sea creatures; maybe an octopus and its' tentacles.

How It Began For Me

Just A Kid

Me at about 5 years old What a story! How do I begin? It’s a long story, to be sure. I may have to do it in installments, for Heaven’s sake. It is a life long story and it is a story that continues to this day and will continue until I die. It took me a long time to accept that fact and some days I still have a hard time accepting this illness. This illness is mental illness; primarily Major Depression and Anxiety. I’m nervous, but here goes…

I was born the 5th of 7 children to a mother and a father that both suffered from mental illness. There are debates about their precise diagnoses, but suffice it to say that it was pretty severe. I can remember both of them having multiple stays at inpatient psych wards. My mother finally kicked my father out when I was 4 or 5 years old. Now my mother had 7 kids, the youngest being just an infant and no help from my father, financially or otherwise.

My mother shortly became unable to take care of all of us. The 3 oldest were teenagers and could do for themselves, but us 4 youngest ones were sent to an orphanage / children’s home. It was an institution. I was 6 years old. Looking back I can see that this is when my own mental illness was first triggered. This is when I first became terrified of the world around me

I began to do anything to avoid school and when I did go I wouldn’t talk or do the school work. After this scary place, we were sent to a scary Catholic run orphanage and then scary foster homes. I was gone for 2 years; I was in a constant state of fear and high anxiety. Every moment of every day I pined for my mother. When I finally got to go home, my new step-father began sexually abusing me. This lasted for years.

That was the beginning, although I wasn’t diagnosed for the first time until I was 20 or 21 years old. I had a very strong genetic tendency for mental illness that was triggered at a very early age by traumatic experiences. I can just remember always feeling like I wasn’t right. I couldn’t name it or describe it, but I knew there was something terribly wrong with me.

I will continue my story on another day and tell you where my illness sent me. I am telling this because I know others will be able to relate and perhaps not feel so alone.


Recommended Reading

The Effects of Childhood Trauma

I am a compulsive reader. I can't help it. I believe that the more I learn about the issues that affect me, the more I will learn about myself, how I tick and therefore how I can help myself. I have read many books about childhood trauma and they have helped me feel a little less alone. Here are a few books I find interesting and hope to add to my library soon.

My Saga Continues

It Get's Harder

At !5 all looks fine on the surface I wrote earlier about the beginnings of my life and the genetics and early trauma at the root of my mental illness. I can remember, as a kid, thinking heavy thoughts, worrying too much and having an almost constant feeling of dread and fear.

I recall sitting in my house on a nice day, looking out my window, seeing other kids riding their bikes and being too afraid to leave the house. Sometimes I could go out, sometimes not. I stayed home from school as often as I could get away with it because I frequently felt an unnamable terror that kept me glued to my bed, paralyzed.

My first suicide attempt was at 15 years of age. I was in unbearable psychic pain and just wanted to stop the pain. There was no one I felt I could tell. I didn’t even know how to verbalize it; explain it. I felt no one would believe me or understand. I felt hopeless.

I looked for whatever medicines I could find in the house to take until I went blank. I took a whole bunch of aspirins; Nyquil and sniffed aerosol because it said it could be fatal. I became violently ill, vomited and then dry heaved for at least 2 days.

I told no one what I did, even after my mother took me to the doctor, because of the non-stop heaving, and he asked me if I took anything. I was ashamed. I suffered in silence. I was alone. But looking from the outside, no one would know I was in so much pain. I became adept at hiding it from the masses and pretending I was normal.

My next attempt was at about 20 years old. I took a bunch of speed this time. I was taking a few at a time so I wouldn’t throw them up; started getting a massive headache and again proceeded to be horribly sick for a couple of days. I told no one. By this time I had dropped out of college for the third time. I was just seen as unreliable and lazy. That is how I thought of myself too.

Somewhere in here I must have seen a doctor and gotten some kind of diagnosis, because my third attempt involved taking almost 100 antidepressant pills. Obviously they weren’t working. I took the pills, locked the doors and laid down. I waited to drift peaceably into oblivion.

After an hour, I knew it wasn’t going to work and I became afraid. I called my mother and she called an ambulance. I was hospitalized until I was physically stable and then they sent me to the psych floor. Now everyone I knew or ever met (it seemed), knew I was “crazy”. Oh, the shame I felt!

Now began a rollercoaster of medication juggling. It wasn’t going to be quick and it wasn’t going to be easy.

To be continued…

All Grown Up and Making a Family

I'm Up and Then I'm Down Again

A happy momma with her babies I had many periods of feeling okay, good and even great. Sometimes medications worked for a couple of years at a time. Usually, after a few years, whatever medicine I was on stopped working though. This happened many times over the years.

I would once again fall, fall, fall, into a deep depression. I wouldn’t get out of bed for days, even weeks at a time, except to go to the bathroom and get something to eat. I wouldn’t shower, call anyone or want to see anyone. I had no motivation for anything. The thought of having to get out from under the covers and go somewhere created intense anxiety and fear.

During an upswing, I met my husband. I told him all about my illness. In fact I warned him away, but all he saw was an upbeat, happy girl. We got married and had our children.

I had a fairly long period of mental stability during this time, It wasn’t depression free, but it was definitely the happiest time for me. No matter how I felt, I couldn’t and wouldn’t ignore my babies. They completely depended on me and my body filled with the adrenaline needed to take care of them.

I knew now I could never hurt myself again and leave them.

I would like to say that the deep depression never came back again…..but it did. As my children grew and became able to do more for themselves, that survival adrenaline, couldn’t be magically conjured up at will when I was depressed. It was hard on them and I hated myself for my illness.

Friends and family would say things like, “Just get up and make yourself do it!” or “Just think positively!” or “Just stop feeling sorry for yourself!”. I would think, “Golly gee, why didn’t I think of that?! All this time I could have been cured!”.

Then I would hatefully wish depression on them, just for a short time, so they could understand how I feel and how insulting their words are. I have come to realize that they aren’t trying to be hurtful; they just don’t get it. Many people don’t get it and I mustn’t take it personally.

It is just important that I understand it. And it is a blessing in my life that my husband understands it. It was a hard won understanding, for sure!

To be continued


The Healing Power of Music and Meditation

Heal Thyself

I can not stress enough how wonderfully healing music and meditation can be. It helps me sooth my racing mind. It relaxes my tense spirit. Maybe it won't feel natural at first and you won't think it is helping. Just keep doing it and you will see that you can really calm the storms inside of you.

The Years March On And So Do I

Up and Down and All Around

Being silly is healing for me. Sometimes everything comes together and works for awhile and other times, not so much. Over the years I saw several therapists who helped me come to terms with my past, learn coping skills and ways to take care myself. Sometimes it still all fell apart because it is very hard to care about much, especially yourself during a bout of depression.

I also saw several different psychiatrists who prescribed many combinations of psychotropic medications, inpatient and outpatient. Some combinations worked for awhile and many didn’t. I was told that I have a treatment resistant depression. It wasn’t responsive to many medications. This doesn’t mean that I refuse to respond, it is my brain that won’t cooperate.

This doesn’t mean that it is hopeless. It just takes longer to find the right combinations of medicine and then they seem to stop working after several years. This is just personal experience. Everyone is affected differently. Some people are able to find a medicine that works and it works beautifully for them for many, many years.

I struggled and I still struggle. But I have had and still have happy times. When I have an okay day, it feels absolutely wonderful. I can really appreciate the little moments of just being glad to be alive. I can be grateful for the good in my life, especially my beautiful children and caring husband. I know I am lucky and I frequently remind myself of that, daily.

Remaining grateful today.


I Would Love To Hear From You

Comments, Musings, and Feelings

Send me a comment about any thoughts and feelings you have on what I have written above. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read about this important subject.
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  • hjohn1024 Mar 02, 2014 @ 1:22 am
    Maureen I am really impressed with your article and I can just imagine what your future articles will look like. This is a really great first article and I must also commend you on the courage you displayed in writing on this topic. I also think that your doodles are excellent works of art. Well done!
  • maureenpass Mar 07, 2014 @ 2:41 am
    Thank you so much!
  • Cercis Mar 01, 2014 @ 4:11 pm
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. It takes a great deal of strength to speak out as you've done.
  • jamiesetia Feb 28, 2014 @ 7:02 am
    Thanks for you sharing.
    yes, everything be hate at past time, exception in your self to be try, try and try again be perfectly.
  • ArchaGhodge Feb 26, 2014 @ 1:44 am
    Your experience might help so many more to come out of depression. I guess meditation is something that can help a lot to get out of depression.
  • paperfacets Feb 25, 2014 @ 8:00 pm
    I am so glad I have the medication I need to calm the effects of depression. It took trying a few, but I have the chemicals balanced now. What a relief. Mental anguish is so painful and time consuming. All the best to you, and that new memories can overcome and the old ones will not matter anymore.
  • Umanitea-T-4Life Feb 25, 2014 @ 6:56 pm
    Thank you for sharing your plight of life. The mind is amazing...and we think that we can control the things that go on within us and that is not always so. You said it so well when you said " There is something wrong with each one of us, we just have a better way of hiding it." No truer statement can be made. So many of us have fought those demons back and down...but will put on a smile to fit in or to act like "I'm okay." When you may have a psychosis. What I am proud of is you and your journey and your mind having clarity to share with us your history. So sorry about the pathway and experiences which led you to such turmoil...but one thing is true for you...your light is shining and you are in the light. And you are sharing that light with us in the form of "truth". Keep shining. Keep Shining.
  • LynnKK Feb 25, 2014 @ 4:46 pm
    Mental illness hurts deeply and in so many different ways. My heart is heavy and so sad for your loneliness and profound sadness at all times of your life, but especially when you were a child and adolescent. I wish you peace and lightness. It took a lot for you to share this -- I hope it gave you some positives.
  • pegdotida-lee Feb 25, 2014 @ 9:13 am
    Well, enjoyed reading your post and it sure hit home. I also live with mental depression. Mine was all started back when I had a brain trauma. It is is tough to live with this illness. It makes more tougher when nobody understands your mood swings. It is a lonely road to travel when you're fighting the mental illness alone with no moral support. I live dad by dad by day anymore and I pray and thank God I get through another day without any outbursts. I Congratulate you in all you accomplish in your life. I have nobody to turn to except God, He seems the only one who understands. My mom had mental illness, Grandma and my and my dad raised me because of Mom's mental illness. It is a every day challenge that is for sure.
  • susan369 Feb 25, 2014 @ 5:29 am
    Big congrats on LotD! I think we all walk on a thin line trying to keep things together. It seems you had it tougher than most of us though. I suffer from occasional mild depression and anxiety but it's nothing compared to what you've described. Enough though so that I can understand that this can happen to people and I can thoroughly emphasize with you. It's so true that art can have a therapeutic effect. I always think people need to find an occupation (and by that I don't a job but a hobby) that makes them happy. Keep up your doodling and best wishes for the future!
  • clouda9 Feb 25, 2014 @ 12:28 am
    Your heartfelt, true story of living with major depression is, without a doubt, going to reach and help so many people. Awe-inspiring and well deserved choice for LOTD. Keep on keeping on!
  • lazywrites Feb 24, 2014 @ 11:03 pm
    I love this! you are a very strong woman Maureen. It's amazing to hear you share your story, we have a lot to learn but very little people are as brave as you. Thank you for the inspiring lens and unselfish knowledge, congratulations! :)
  • LiteraryMind Feb 24, 2014 @ 8:49 pm
    It's very brave of you to put this all out in the open. It's also a big help to others who feel alone in their suffering. Learn to ignore the people who say "Just get up and make yourself do it!" or "Just think positively!" or "Just stop feeling sorry for yourself!; they are uneducated about mental illness and therefore their opinions are invalid. Sounds as if you are doing well with identifying your problems, seeing them realistically and getting the help and coping mechanisms you need. Congratulations on LoTD -- well deserved.
  • BunnyFabulous Feb 24, 2014 @ 7:43 pm
    What a beautifully written lens to give us all a window into how depression has affected your life. Thank you for bravely sharing your experience; I know so many people misunderstand mental illness in general. Looking back, I probably lived with a low level anxiety/depression for much of my life. Giving birth put my body over the edge, so after post-partum depression, I've been on meds ever since. I think sometimes it's hard for people to understand that you just can't 'get over' brain chemistry. Your lens is one that will hopefully open more eyes, minds and hearts to how they can understand and support friends and love ones who have any form of mental illness. Bravo!
  • Feb 24, 2014 @ 7:27 pm
    This is a very important lens. Something people should definitely read and bookmark. Congratulations on getting LotD!
  • Palmerl Feb 24, 2014 @ 7:19 pm
    I give you lots of credit for coming out and discussing your illness. There are a lot of people out there with depression. Having read your lens, I can now sympathize with them much more. God Bless you!
  • LRichardson Feb 24, 2014 @ 6:53 pm
    It's so important for people like you to speak out about their own experiences, having written a short lens about my own experiences so far I like to think I'm helping out a little bit. The stigma and the misunderstanding that people have for mental illness is such a problem, but people like you will hopefully inspire action.
  • KandH Feb 24, 2014 @ 6:34 pm
    You're a brave and inspiring woman. I wish you peace, happiness and love! Congrats on the LOTD!
  • tbonestakes Feb 24, 2014 @ 3:00 pm
    You exhibit great strength and passion, thank you for sharing your story and may God bless you and keep you. All the best and congrats on the lotd!
  • grannysage Feb 24, 2014 @ 2:34 pm
    Wouldn't it be wonderful if more people could speak up as you have. But then, it is the nature of the stigma that keeps people from admitting it. Thank you for your courage. I worked in the mental health field for many years and have always found the mentally ill to be beautiful souls. That's not to say that their behavior is always beautiful. As you say, it depends on how effective the treatment is. When I say you/we have beautiful souls, I mean that I admire the courage it takes to have a disability that is not easily seen. I have depression and anxiety too, and for many years suffered from PMDD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I can't tell you how many times people have said, you could get over it if you wanted to. Now I am basically a recluse because of high anxiety. We all need to support one another, because as you say, most people don't get it. Thank you again for speaking out.
  • Embeegee Feb 24, 2014 @ 2:30 pm
    Thank you for writing this down. You are very brave to do so. Hugs, Maureen
  • nancycarol Feb 24, 2014 @ 2:26 pm
    My admiration for your courage in telling your story is boundless. I know that many people have antiquated ideas about mental illness and I hope your story will help to change that. You are not alone, there are many more than you realize who have these problems. But, like you did, they manage to hide them well. I have someone like that in my family. Wishing you the best and hoping you find the answer for yourself.
  • ClassyGals Feb 24, 2014 @ 2:17 pm
    It is a shame that society so easily labels people that have mental illness. Like you, I believe they simply just don't understand that this isn't a condition that is chosen and need to be more informed. You sound like a wonderfully strong woman that will make it through life ok. Thanks for sharing your personal journey.
  • WeeCatCreations Feb 24, 2014 @ 1:26 pm
    Thank you for having a strong heart and a willingness to share your story.
  • MarcellaCarlton Feb 24, 2014 @ 1:26 pm
    Thank you for sharing. It takes guts to admit you have a problem and then take care of it. Then add to that speaking about it. Your stand to end the stigma associated with mental illness is so courageous! I love your art work.
  • mountainmist Feb 24, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
    You are an amazingly brave and strong woman! You are not alone. I have had severe anxiety disorder with OCD and PTSD since I was a kid. Like you, I have been on and off a variety of meds, all benzodiazipines. I was very lucky to be properly diagnosed about 6 years ago. I only need one med, Zoloft. I didn't know how much I had suffered unnecessarily. I have found that classical music, specifically Baroque (Bach and Handel) engage that part of my brain and help me focus. Hang in there! Of course, an astounding lens.
  • AnuradhaM Feb 24, 2014 @ 12:57 pm
    I had depression, a deep one. I too suffered a lot, but not as much you did. My depression improved dramatically after I started doing a particular yoga. May be you should start doing it. Salute to your courage and tolerance for all what happened to you. People who don't have depression do not understand us. All the very best for future life. May you too recover completely.
  • joycetmann Feb 24, 2014 @ 12:29 pm
    I can't count in how many ways I can relate to your story. Thank you for writing this.
  • IntelligentEmotion Feb 24, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

    I come from dysfunction as well, and can't imagine the things that rooted themselves as your triggers.

    Mental illness is intelligent and evolving... A lot like staph and the flu. I see it as a sort of auto-immune dis.ease that will keep us playing on the forefront rather than sitting the bench in the game of life. (many see it the opposite, but I believe life, itself, is a fractal of repeating patterns.... and sometimes we get stuck in them by not reaping(ripping) one out and sowing(sewing) something with it.)

    Whatever game we are playing will change with the seasons. Mental will, too. In almost a decade I've noticed several cycles and the triggers that manifest in the same times... only by writing a journal for myself and, for a short period, for doctors that I lost faith in, but who loved to give me CT Scans and MRIs.

    Your approach is so positive and inspiring. And super informative. And I bet you're the biggest nurturer and protector anyone has ever known.
  • Colin323 Feb 24, 2014 @ 11:30 am
    It was very courageous of you to write this. Thank you. Congratulations on LotD, and good luck for the future. Look forward to reading more articles by you.
  • grammieo Feb 24, 2014 @ 11:29 am
    Oh my, what you have written, I'm sure is echoed by hundreds of people, if not more. Depression and mental illness is not a "One Size Fits All Problem". Thank you for your courage and honesty. It is refreshing and not at all easy to do! My wish for you is a healing for every day that you need it, and many more days of true joy, where the brain co-operates with the rest of you! Congratulations of LoTD, it was hard earned and truly deserved!
  • ItayasDesigns Feb 24, 2014 @ 11:27 am
    Thank you for sharing your story. You are right. We all have something that we are faced with and some can hide it more so than others.
  • smine27 Feb 24, 2014 @ 11:13 am
    When I saw the title I knew I had to read this. I've had panic disorder for many years during my younger years, I attempted suicide a couple of times. I fortunately wasn't so good at that:)

    There were a few times in my life where I went through major bouts of depression but like you, I never give up and cherish the good times in life.

    Thank you for being so brave to share your story with the world. it truly does make a difference especially those that experience some form of mental illness.
  • glockr Feb 24, 2014 @ 10:33 am
    My son was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2004. One resource we found very helpful is NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).
  • bercton Feb 24, 2014 @ 10:29 am
    An Amazing story and a great lens!
  • d-artist Feb 24, 2014 @ 10:21 am
    Congratulations on LOTD! Wow what a well written and powerful story, I hung on to every word...I wish I could put my arms around you..all I can do is pray for your well being! You are not only Beautiful inside and out, you have an awesome talent with your paintings (far from doodling) and your children shown, are beautiful, including a loving supportive have been Blessed in many ways.
    A friend of mine was schizophrenic and the end result was to end her suffering...we must accept mental illness as a brain disease and be accepting and understanding, not judgmental....God Bless you!
  • tonyleather Feb 24, 2014 @ 9:29 am
    What a powerful and moving lens this is. You have obviously had an uphill struggle all of your life, and are to be commended on having coped so well with what must be a living nightmare.
  • Susan52 Feb 24, 2014 @ 9:24 am
    Back to congratulate you on your well-deserved Lens of the Day!
  • Westvancouverhomes Feb 24, 2014 @ 9:23 am
    It is great to get awareness for mental illness...
  • Radgrl Feb 24, 2014 @ 9:19 am
    I can totally relate. I have a nice cocktail of mental illness: 2 parts bipolar type II, 1 part anxiety with a splash of OCD. I was diagnosed at age 35, but I had symptoms since I was 20.

    I understand how hard it is to find the right medication recipe. I'm on 3 types meds now.

    Both my parents suffer from mental illness as well. Dad is big time OCD and narcissistic. Mom has major depression.

    I'm so sorry about your childhood. I was more fortunate and lived with my parents until I was 20. Of course, they were untreated and in denial so my home life was an emotional roller coaster.

    I love your artwork! It's very unique.
    Take care and I hope things get better for you
  • KathyT Feb 24, 2014 @ 9:00 am
    You are an amazing, courageous woman - not to mention extremely brave to speak out and tell your story. You have been able to take your pain and story and turn it into a teacing tool that is sure to give hope to many others who may think they are alone in their struggles. Thank you.
  • ElleWritesStuff Feb 24, 2014 @ 8:53 am
    I clicked on this because this reminds me of my little sister and I thought maybe (though everyone has a different experience) maybe I could just relate this to her a bit. It's moving to hear someone grow up from my sisters age and turn into a well rounded adult. Brought tears to my eyes and hope at my heart looking at this blog , thank you so much. Wish you all the best.
  • TheCureForYouthMinistry Feb 24, 2014 @ 8:45 am
    Thank you for sharing your story. I have had my bouts with down days, but my family has been extremely supportive.
  • RenaissanceWoman2010 Feb 24, 2014 @ 7:56 am
    Welcome to our community. A personal story like this has the power to touch lives in ways that are healing. There was a time when no one would have felt safe sharing publicly about mental illness. I'm thankful platforms such as Squidoo provide individuals with a safe haven to do so and offer the opportunity to reach out to others who need to better understand the realities of living with major illnesses. I wish you many more good days. Thank you for writing your truth. We honor it here because you and your story matter.
  • RubyHRose Feb 27, 2014 @ 11:45 pm
    Agreed, it is still an uphill battle for many of us. Writing has been a lifesaver in many ways. Yes, welcome to this heartwarming community that we are able to thrive in because of their acceptance. We too know the battle of mental illness, depression does come in many shapes and sizes. So very glad you shared these truths with us!
  • StephenJParkin Feb 24, 2014 @ 7:38 am
    I was interested in your lens as both myself and my wife are often feeling depressed and it would appear clinically that we probably suffer too. The thing that I think is key is the abuse and neglect early in life. I was the second of four children and my wife the fifth of six. The key is parental neglect at a key life stage. In my case my Mother was really sick for years with anemia and probably was never fit enough to have five children (one died prematurely). The same was true for my wife.

    I think the lack of maternal nurturing is the key here. We have never been treated for depression, but handle it by talking about how we feel. On top of this the abuse from bullies (your step father) takes away your own self respect. I feel that you need to be able to tell yourself that it was not you but others that have the problems. After all you have raised beautiful children and have earned the love of a wonderful man. What I am saying is that maybe it is not you that is ill mentally or otherwise. Rather it is the people who have abused you over the years. Of course that takes its toll!

    One other thing I have discovered, as I have allergic asthma is that diet and prescription drugs often create many of the symptoms you have described too. Read about the side affects of all medications and refuse or at least get changed all of those that make you feel worse (I know that can be subjective), but this has worked for me. Sugar in food and salt both make us feel ill so we have changed to a mainly Vegan diet, try reading Eat To Live by Joel Fuhrman M.D.

    This may or may not work for you, but at least you will feel healthier and know that the issues are not related to eating today's poor Western diet.

    Good luck to you I appreciate your honesty and openness, just know you are not alone and that there are others with these issues and that we are praying for a better World that allows us to feel free and appreciated and loved for our inner selves. The ability to talk freely about the issues is one of the major steps to feeling better and whole again. We now know that the brain will get damaged by holding dark thoughts in especially if you are abused at an age where you feel helpless to defend yourself. This is what torturers are trying to do to prisoners and a child is defenseless if it is an adult that they depend upon that is their abuser. In my case my Mother once tried to kill me with a kitchen knife, fortunately I managed to fight her off and get the knife, but it haunts me to this day. She was heavily drugged for her Anaemia, but I still do not truly know what made her do it.

    I do not know if any of this will help, but it has helped me release some of my tensions so I hope it helps you too. Well done on the LOTD. You deserve to be better!
  • pawpaw911 Feb 24, 2014 @ 7:36 am
    It took a lot of courage to share your story. Thank you.
  • Owen_Barry Feb 24, 2014 @ 6:15 am
    Thank you for this. As a psychologist, it was really interesting and powerful to hear your insights of your depression and your different ways of coping with it. It interested me how your episodes came and went. It seemed your family and being active was often a big factor in keeping you in your happy mode!

    All the best for the future and stay strong :)
  • kschimmel Feb 24, 2014 @ 5:46 am
    Depression can be hard to deal with in a church setting, too, because so many people see it as a spiritual failing rather than a biochemical problem. I am always very open about my struggle, because I don't want anyone else to be afraid to get help like I once was. Thanks for sharing!
  • eva_writes Feb 24, 2014 @ 4:27 am
    Beautiful lens, and I loved your drawings too. I wish you lot of happy days.
  • Nomadabstracted Feb 24, 2014 @ 1:57 am
    I've dealt with it my whole life, too. I know it's not easy. Thank you for sharing
  • april-s-lindsey Feb 23, 2014 @ 6:16 pm
    Absolutely beautiful Maureen. I also have this same disease so I relate with you on every level. You are very courageous! Keep it up.
  • maureenpass Mar 07, 2014 @ 3:03 am
    Thanks April :)
  • lynn-grover Feb 23, 2014 @ 2:30 pm
    What a way to be of service to your fellow man. You are such a smart and courageous woman. I miss you.
  • maureenpass Feb 23, 2014 @ 2:58 pm
    Awwww thank you Lynn. Miss you too. xoxo
  • Susan52 Feb 23, 2014 @ 2:22 pm
    You're brave to share your story. You've come such a long way and I'm so very glad you've landed, at least in this leg of your journey, on Squidoo!
  • maureenpass Feb 23, 2014 @ 2:59 pm
    Thank you! I appreciate such a kind comment. :)
  • RubyHRose Feb 27, 2014 @ 11:48 pm
    Me too!
  • ProjectResolute Feb 21, 2014 @ 11:53 am
    Your lens makes me remember a saying you hear quite often. "Don't judge a man until you walk in his own shoes." Great article and I respect you for writing it!
  • maureenpass Feb 23, 2014 @ 11:31 am
    Thank you so much :)
  • TapIn2U Feb 21, 2014 @ 7:00 am
    Thank you for sharing your story to help others. Inspiring! Sundae ;-)
  • maureenpass Feb 23, 2014 @ 11:34 am
    I really appreciate your positive feedback. Thank you.
  • flycatcher Feb 20, 2014 @ 10:51 am
    I applaud your courage in sharing your personal story, Maureen. No question, it's people like you who are willing to talk about their experiences of mental illness that is the way forward to lifting the stigma around it, and enabling others to get past the shame and ask for help. Yes, please, do "keep on trucking"! :)
  • maureenpass Feb 23, 2014 @ 11:35 am
    Awwww thanks for the kudos. :)
  • kenweiss66 Feb 20, 2014 @ 12:35 am
    Maureen, you really are a brave women to be so open and revealing about your life with mental illness. I must say your artwork is amazing. Have you ever thought of selling it, having a show, or creating a book?
  • maureenpass Feb 23, 2014 @ 11:48 am
    That is so nice of you to say. I appreciate your kind words. I have thought of going further with my artwork, in the future perhaps. It is one of my hopes to be able to spend more time and energy on art and creative pursuits.
  • KLGanny Feb 19, 2014 @ 2:49 pm
    Thanks for sharing your story. That took guts! :)
  • maureenpass Feb 23, 2014 @ 11:49 am
    Thank you so much! :)
  • Feb 19, 2014 @ 9:34 am
    A very personal lens which I admire you for sharing.
  • maureenpass Feb 19, 2014 @ 12:18 pm
    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.
  • ismeedee Feb 17, 2014 @ 12:13 pm
    Strong, brave woman!!! And I love your artwork, wow!!!
  • maureenpass Feb 19, 2014 @ 12:12 pm
    That is very kind of you to say those nice things! I am blushing.
  • trevorjb1406 Feb 17, 2014 @ 11:39 am
    Hi Maureen, I like your lens. I suffer from depression so I know all the symptoms only too well. It is an effort to make the effort every day, but like you I keep marching onwards albeit slowly!
  • maureenpass Feb 19, 2014 @ 12:07 pm
    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my lens. It is a difficult illness to deal with. It affects every area of your life as you well know. Keep on trucking. I'm trucking right a along with you.
  • nalini-singh-96387 Feb 16, 2014 @ 11:16 pm
    Thanks so much for sharing your story Maureen. It's very kind of you to be able to think of helping others while you have yourself been going through a difficult time. I wish you happiness and a peaceful life.
  • maureenpass Feb 19, 2014 @ 11:46 am
    Thank you for your kind words.
  • DaisyDixon Feb 16, 2014 @ 9:27 pm
    I really admire you for sharing such personal thoughts and feelings on a very important subject. I too grew up the hard way, and suffered a lot of traumatic events that have caused me to struggle inside as well. Luckily I had an aunt that kept my head above water when times got tough. I feel inspired by your story, and thank you did a great job telling it. I suffered from postpartum depression after I had my first son, and it was a daily struggle. I can relate to people telling you to just "get up and make yourself do it"...a lot easier said than done. I'm glad you have a supportive and understanding husband, I know in a sea of internal chaos it's nice to have someone who understands. Also, just wanted to say that your artwork is very nice, loved it.
  • maureenpass Feb 16, 2014 @ 10:07 pm
    Thank you DaisyDixon, your words mean so much because you can relate. I appreciate your kind and thoughtful words. :)
  • lyndamakaracreations Feb 16, 2014 @ 8:54 pm
    Thanks for sharing such a personal story, and I loved the artwork. Best of luck to you!
  • maureenpass Feb 16, 2014 @ 10:05 pm
    Thank you so much! I appreciate your input very much. :)
  • mel-kav Feb 16, 2014 @ 8:15 pm
    What an awesome lens. I give you so much credit for being brave enough to share your story. I pray that you continue to have the strength and support to continue your battle against this illness.

    I work in the mental health field and I wish people would understand that "mental illness" is actually a medical illness that affects the chemicals in the brain and how neurons are connected and transmit information. The brain is a very complex organ that has many, many jobs to do. And most of these affect thinking, processing, feelings, and reaction (in addition to being responsible for sending information to every part of the body). An imbalance of chemicals or malfunction of neurons can have devastating effects - which people misperceive as "crazy". However, the disease process, itself, is no different than when the electrical impulses are not effectively transmitted through the heart - this can be tragic and even fatal.
  • maureenpass Feb 16, 2014 @ 8:55 pm
    Thank you so much for commenting so eloquently. It means the world to me that you read it and liked it. It is such an important topic to put out there. It took me a lot of years to get to the point of being able to be so open about it. Hopefully it won't take others as long.
  • Merrci Feb 16, 2014 @ 6:59 pm
    What a great first lens. Thank you for sharing this. It's important to help others understand it, and hopefully for those suffering from it to see they aren't alone. Nicely done. Love your artwork too. God bless you!
  • maureenpass Feb 16, 2014 @ 7:19 pm
    Thank you Merrci. I appreciate that you took the time to check it out and give me feedback. :)
  • highlandfish Feb 16, 2014 @ 6:50 pm
    very nice maureen. lots and lots of effort has gone into making this.
  • maureenpass Feb 16, 2014 @ 7:18 pm
    Thank you so much, that means a lot to me. :)
  • maureenpass Feb 16, 2014 @ 1:50 pm
    Thank You!!!
  • opatoday Feb 16, 2014 @ 12:37 pm
    Welcome to Squidoo :)
  • maureenpass Feb 16, 2014 @ 10:18 pm
    Thank you:)

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