Updated: Jun 2
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I mean… that’s what Beyonce did, right?
But, how can you process juicing lemons when getting out of bed in the morning seems harder than putting on shoes, or meeting someone new leaves you stressed and questioning your own personality as “likeable” or “interesting” or just a plain bother? Or even when focusing on accomplishing basic needs feels like the impossible? As each lemon is handed to you, the weight becomes heavier and heavier. How do you bring yourself to start juicing these hardships and situations so that you don’t become overwhelmed as things begin to weigh you down? Very often than not, mental health tends to take a backseat in these situations, so when it is time to process these lemons, we begin to develop unhealthy habits and coping. You look to your friends and family for help, but you get dismissed and cast aside, and the loneliness, sadness and disappointment begin to linger in. Things get heavier and heavier and all you can feel is a void. Basic tasks stop being done, relationships begin to fall apart and no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to get it right. So, is it worth it anymore?
It seems like we live in a society where we promote the importance of mental health, but we don’t promote more outlets for it. We run into the common theme of “You can be depressed or anxious and I accept that, but when you need me, it’s too much”, “I can’t handle you, get over it” or my favorite one from every church community that’s ever existed in my life, the famous “Just pray about it! (insert toxic positivity smiley face here)”. Mental Health is kind of like that Life Alert commercial, except your saying “I can’t get up because of the crippling depression weighing me down brought on by trauma(s) and neurological issues, and I don’t know how to ask for help because my anxiety makes me feel like asking for basic needs is a nuisance to those around me. Oh, and sometimes I see FBI agents in my bedroom too.” Bet you won’t find that in a horoscope reading. In all honesty, mental health comes in many different forms and everyone deals with them differently. This can lead to many tricky and difficult situations that we find ourselves in that can affect our work, our families and especially ourselves.
On October of 2020, I decided that I did not want to live anymore. After years and years of struggling with many hard periods of depression, anxiety and trauma, I chose to drive away in hopes that I could successfully commit suicide. For years, I always knew that I had been struggling. The way I would react to situations or how things would make me feel, I knew that I didn’t seem to think and process the way my peers do. But being a young Hispanic, from a small town, we never really talked about these things nor brought awareness in our community. Mental health isn’t something we just discuss. “What?! You want to kill yourself because your sad? No, you just need to go to church. Your fine.” Or “It’s because your bored so you should work more,” and “Man up, and don’t be selfish.” I had spent a long time putting bandages and bandages over each mental wound, just trying to get to the next day. It became harder as I began to become angrier and frustrated. I was mean, and hurtful. I began to talk down constantly to my wife and yelled at my daughter almost every day. I blamed them for me being out of my own control. I watched as I began to destroy marriage and grew sad as my daughter became more scared of me each day. I tried to cope by paying for expensive things I couldn’t really afford. $500 Xbox, $400 TV, a $1000 trip. I needed help but I didn’t know how, so I did what I knew. I worked harder and took on more, each lemon weighing me down more and more until I just couldn’t do it anymore.
Sometimes, we need that final lemon to add just enough weight to knock us down, but not break us completely. I had been drinking a little and was working 60-hour weeks because of my blind ambition to make more money even if it meant sacrificing everything else in my life. My wife and I began to fight more and that night, we got into a fight that felt like that last lemon. I drove off, with a packed bag, texted my wife that I wanted to die, turned off my phone and was ready to drive into ongoing traffic. This was the lowest moment of my life. When these things would happen, it was like this out of body experience. I would sit next to myself, watching me fulfill these actions when I would get furious and driven with anger. That night, I was able to get back in control somewhat. When I brought myself home, it was like I was gone inside. I couldn’t speak to my wife. She had called the police and I couldn’t even look at them as they continued to ask me questions that I couldn’t answer. Why was I stuck? I was put on a 72-hour Psych Hold. Yes, this was one of the worst experiences I have ever had. Just a sidenote, that none of the doctors in a Psych hospital are there because they care. They have nurses talking to you like you’re a toddler, doctors that do whatever they can to put you on medication with no diagnosis, staff that degrades you, and yes, the beds are absolutely terrible. 1 out of 10, don’t recommend. And although this was a terrible experience, it was the wake up call I needed.
Once I was able to see a psychiatrist, I was able to determine with his help that I have been living with Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar 2 to be exact. This along with the ADHD I ignored for many years because I allowed my church communities and certain parental influences around me, to make me feel like if I “Just pray for it, God will fix it.” I became ignorant to my own issues. With treatment, I’ve learned how to process the moment before reacting and allow myself to organize my thoughts and feelings in a way that lets me change the overall outcome of my reaction and decisions.
The fact of the matter is, God does not make mistakes. He equips you with gifts to help others. I am going through my journey because someone else needs to hear my story to help their story. We are better as a community and stronger together then alone. We all need to do our part to take care of our mental health. We must learn how to reorder our disorders to make them work for us and not against us. That means taking accountability. Yes, did I know I was struggling with this disorder when I was having hypomanic episodes that almost destroyed my marriage and relationship with my daughter? Of course not, but I am still the person who caused those hardships and whether I knew or not, I need to accept that, sincerely apologize for my actions and not shift the blame and act like it was someone else. Build a community. I recently joined a Bipolar Disorder Group on Facebook and its really great place for me to voice my disorder without feeling judgement. We need a support system where we can be heard and encouraged and who better than someone who is walking in your shoes? Treatment, treatment, treatment. I know there is this stigma on seeking treatment, but guess what? It is your journey. You do not need the approval of your parents, loved ones or pastors. Educate yourself on all forms of treatment. There are self-coping tactics, natural vitamins, therapy animals and medication to help you process this journey. How you do your treatment is nothing to be ashamed about and the people who discourage you from doing your own research on how you decide to handle that, do not have your best interests at heart. A good rule of thumb is if they aren’t walking with you when its dark, they don’t get to help you decide how to turn the lights on. So add as much sugar as you need into your pitcher to sweeten that sour.
Remember to remind yourself that you are mighty, strong and valued. You are force to be reckoned with and a conqueror. It’s time to take back control of your life. Let’s go out, seek help and talk to someone. Normalize your disorders because they are a part of you. Embrace that power to speak life into someone who is going through what you are going through. You are loved and needed in this world. There are things you have to offer that people desperately need. Be proud of your disorder and show the world who you are. You never know who could be watching and needing someone like you in their life. Don’t be afraid to make your lemonade how you want.
Disclaimer: Please note that this is strictly advice and opinions and is not to replace any form of treatment or medical care. The purpose of this article is to build awareness. If you need immediate attention and are struggling, please call your doctor or call your local emergency line.
You're not Alone
Help is available
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
You can join me for discussions and conversations on my Facebook Group “Bipolar Disorder Community” to build relationships and community with other individuals going through similar experiences.