When my mother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it was a big secret. Not to me, of course, but to the insurance companies. I remember how she had to hide her treatments, her hospitalizations and her actual diagnosis from going “on record” so as to avoid being labeled as “A Crazy.”
I’m not sure anyone outside of our immediate family knew about her illness.
By the time I was in high school, depression wasn’t something that people expected you to be locked in a padded room for. Hats of to Prozac!
I’ve dealt with generic, boring-ass depression on and off for years; sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse, and I’ve spoken out repeatedly about how I suffered terrible antenatal depression (depression while pregnant).
Antenatal depression is not quite as well-known as postpartum depression – probably because it’s even less glamorous. I mean, who can be depressed while creating a new life INSIDE you? A new life that’s using your liver as a punching bag, giving you insomnia and causing you to pee your pants when you waddle? Not a GOOD mother.
(that was sarcasm)
When my last child, Amelia, was born in a decidedly non-picturesque freakshow carnival that ended with someone drilling into her brain, removing part of it, and then implanting a prosthetic piece of skull into her delicious wee newborn head, that things went from manageable to so beyond anything I could handle.
But she was fine! I berated myself, night after night, as I relived those horrible awful first days in a series of flashbacks.
I was forever delivering that sick baby, having her ripped from my arms and sent off for neurosurgery. I was forever offering her up like Abraham sacrificing Issac, stuck between two horrifying alternatives. In what few dreams I had, I roamed the halls of the hospital, everything stuck in freeze-frame.
Why, I chastised myself, if she had survived, was I in such a state? I couldn’t answer that.
For months following her birth and surgery, I couldn’t leave the house. My beloved roses wilted from lack of care that summer because I simply couldn’t handle even that – a task which had brought me so much joy. I couldn’t do anything. I was mired in one place. Numb. Alone.
Those were the worst days of my life.
It wasn’t for many months that it smacked me upside the head: I had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I wrestled with the realization.
Well, I said to myself, Aunt Becky, that sounds dumb. Fucking man-up here. Get your bitch ass off the couch and fucking do something about it. You’re not a soldier. And sweet baby Jesus, your kid survived! How dare you be so fucking whiny-pants about it?
It took a long time for me to accept that I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Acceptance, they say, is always the hardest part. But I finally did.
And here’s what I have to say to you, in honor of National Mental Health Month:
Having PTSD is not my fault. It’s not something I need to be ashamed of. It’s not a character flaw. It’s not a plea for sympathy. It’s not something I’m all, “would you like any cheese with that whine?” about. It’s something that is.
I am NOT ashamed to have a mental illness.
My name is Becky Sherrick Harks and I am the face of PTSD.
On Band Back Together, we spend countless hours working to reduce stigmas by bringing the world stories – real stories written by real people – about mental illness, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse and all of the other dark places in our lives.
That is what we proudly do.
We’re celebrating National Mental Health Month by doing a stigma-busting blog carnival. We’re telling the world exactly who we are. We’re breaking down stigmas and kicking ass. Mental illness isn’t a death sentence.
Mental illness is a part of who we are. There’s no shame in being who we are. We should celebrate our flaws, embrace our differences and accept them.
It’s time to put a face to as many mental illnesses as we can.
Because stigmas? Stigmas are bullshit.
Please, I beg you Pranksters, help me kick stigmas squarely in the balls (or taco).
You can join us by posting on your own blog and linking up to Band Back Together (that’s the master link-up post) or you can write about it on Band Back Together. (Or both) Time to break down stigmas.
I am proud to be the face of PTSD.