043: Difference is a Strength

Content warning:  This post contains information about mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, which may be triggering to some survivors

"Difference is a Strength," Anonymous

Note: All survivors who reach out to The Art of Survival are given the option to remain anonymous in sharing their story. Any specific details about the survivor are shared at their discretion, and not the creators of the page.

I don't really know where my story begins. I guess I would have to say I started to see changes in myself in high school. I would get these incredible shifts in mood and behavior, that were usually followed by long periods of depression. I never knew what that meant. I continuously felt so abnormal and felt that I had to be isolated, because the only words that people around me could use to describe me was "bipolar bitch.” 

I was finally diagnosed with bipolar-depression and that’s when I thought my life was never meant to be a happy one. I had all these people around me who continuously called me a "bitch" or a "cunt,” because "I couldn't handle my PMSing" even thought having bipolar-depression was nothing like that. The comments about my disorder made everything worse. I felt like I had no support and no one who understood me.

My own family told me to "just be happy." With the continuous comments I got to a point where the depression took over and I stopped being able to feel. I began to resent myself for not being able to be "normal.” I convinced myself that for everyday I wasn't "normal" I deserved to be punished, so I began self harming and was struggling with suicide ideation. 

I spent two years in a program being told to "find my safety skills", but no one ever offered to help. There came a point where they felt like it was just easier to put me inpatient. This is probably the most terrifying moment in my life. I was stuck in a place where we couldn't go outside because "we couldn't be trusted,” and medication changes were regular. I honestly couldn't even keep track of how many different combinations I tried.

By the first month, my family didn't even know what medications I was on. I was finally able to leave because I was "safe" but in reality I was so numb from medications I couldn't feel. 

It's hard for me to really remember what happened next. I know that my breaking point hit six months later when my mom began crying because "I wasn't her daughter anymore.”

I didn't smile. I didn't laugh.

I barely ate, and when I did go out, I wasn't interactive with what was around me. I sought alternative methods and focused on art therapy for my release. I ended up being connected with wonderful instructors and counselor who worked with me to find my outlets and coping skills. 

Today, I still struggle; but it's one that I've learned to accept and balance. I think a huge part of my growing with this difference in my life is not allowing it to define me. I've learned that I may have to approach of process differently than others when it comes to emotions but that difference is not a weakness, this difference is a strength.

I have learned to become stronger and to accept and love all parts of myself.


About the art:

The one suggestion I was given from the author of this piece was to include a semicolon, based on the Semicolon Project that influenced their experience with embracing their mental health struggles. 

After trying about 10 different ideas, I decided to focus the color on the background, and use line work to create a more dynamic semicolon with a message of, "I can survive," within. Through my research, I stumbled upon some really cool watercolor space designs that influenced the piece.

I was really nervous having minimal to go on with the piece, but I was delighted to hear that the author loved it. "I love this. It's very me," they said. I'm glad I got to play with a bunch of styles, and I'm really happy the author will be able to see themselves and their survival within it.

- Katy