Poetry and mental illness

I read the most devastating poem yesterday about a man who has OCD and fell in love. His love left him and he tells the story of the relationship. It’s an amazing work. I am bipolar with anxiety (with OCD tendencies). The meds work for me thankfully.  My OCD shows up in having to run numbers. I count and do math obsessively. It’s tendencies because, unlike someone with full-blown OCD, mine doesn’t profoundly interfere with my life. Someone with OCD can get to the point where they can’t function because they are so overwhelmed by their routines. Me, I get obsessed and have to do the numbers, but I can still hold a job and have a family. The bipolar is also not the worst of the worst kind. I have bipolar II, which is like, bipolar lite. It is depressive episodes interspersed with hypomanic episodes. That means that my highs are not as high and my lows are generally not as low as someone with bipolar I.


I began treatment about 5 years ago. One day I was crying on the floor in the kitchen (like you do), and my then 5 year old Older Boy came in and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s OK, Mommy, I’ll make it better.” That was that. I realized that my illness (I thought it was just depression) was affecting the whole family. I didn’t want my sons to ever feel like it was their job to make me better. I made the doctor’s appointment that day and was in treatment within a week.


My illness was hard to see because I am a rapid-cycling bipolar. My cycles would come about every month or 6 weeks. Since I was 11, we have all thought it was at least mostly PMS. Bipolar is defined as, I believe, three or more cycles a year. I was having 10 to 12. My husband is a very patient man.


This is really difficult for me to put out there. Not because I am embarrassed about my condition; I am the poster child for what the right meds can do to normalize one’s life. No, it’s because after this, anyone who searches my name will find this post (among others). Future bosses, the Moms of my kids’ friends, anyone. There is still a lot of stigma attached to mental illness. Depression and anxiety are getting less so, but things like bipolar and schizophrenia and OCD are still stigmatized immensely. I have changed my mind a half a dozen times while writing this, and will do so a half dozen more before I publish this, if I ever do. But, this is part of me and it’s a part that I can’t help. I get treatment and will have to take medication for the rest of my life. I am mentally ill. I am also a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, sometimes a student, a job-seeker, a reader, a writer, and a dozen other things.


I’m not sure that it even matters that I’m nuts, but after reading that poem, I felt I had to put it out there. We all struggle with things, this just happens to be one of mine.

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1 Response to Poetry and mental illness

  1. Mom says:

    It takes a lot of courage to accept that you have an issue that needs to be addressed, and then the monumental initiative and energy and willingness to actually do something to fix it or make it better. I am very proud of you and always have been.

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