My name is Adam. I am a 26-year-old writer and I live in central New Jersey. I live with four cats and my lovely girlfriend and, for the first time in years, I feel like I might have my shit together.
I’ve never been professionally diagnosed with anything, maybe because I’ve deliberately avoided professionals until very recently. I think I was probably a prime candidate for medication at an early age, but I made good grades and did well in sports, so nobody ever looked at me that hard. All I can say with certainty is that I’ve suffered from a high level of anxiety and sudden mood swings for as long as I can remember.
The mood swings were the first thing I noticed. Even as a child, I would become irritable, angry, and sad all at once, seemingly out of nowhere. The worst part about it was that I knew I had no reason to feel this way, but I felt it anyway. When I was experiencing these moments, I would often lash out at the people closest to me.
My mother is a wonderful person, but I remember especially being hurt by her regularly telling other adults, “Oh, don’t mind him. He’s just in one of his moods.” I hated feeling that way, and I hated it being written off like that because I knew something was going wrong inside me.
Nicolette Wescott, 22-year-old graduate student from Medford, New Jersey, has lived with anxiety-induced juvenile myoclonic epilepsy since she was 17-years-old. Read on to hear more about her journey with the illness, and be sure to check out her YouTube channel on epilepsy.
Explain one of your worst, most severe experiences with your illness.
I was so nervous for my first day of freshman year of high school that I didn’t eat or sleep for three days. I’m not sure what was making that anxious, but it was extreme torture.
The morning of my first day, everyone said I was out of it. But I remember absolutely nothing. I woke up in the hospital at 6 p.m. to several nurses around me. They told me that I had had a seizure in the middle of the hallway of Shawnee High School on the way to first period.
They kept me in the hospital for three days because that’s how long it took to fully regain my consciousness. I remember feeling confused and frustrated. The worst part was going back to school and everyone asking me if I was “the girl who had a seizure.”
Do you ever joke about being “bipolar” when you shift from excited to stressed in a short period of time? Do you refer to the weather in the same manner for its warmth one day, and chilly winds the next? Many of us are guilty of doing this, but it’s crucial we become more aware: bipolar disorder is a real illness, and it causes heavy turmoil for those affected – more so than a simple mood swing or a drop in temperature.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2.8 percent of U.S. adults have bipolar disorder, which is considered to be very common. I got the chance to speak with one of the people behind those statistics: Mike, a 26-year-old video editor who has been battling the disorder since he was 16 years old, later diagnosed when he was 20. His experiences shed some light on the complexity of this mental illness. Read on to hear his story.
Last week, I boarded a plane to Charleston for a bachelorette weekend. I’d been dreading the flight for months. Airplanes are not on my short list of comfort zones, so I try to avoid them at all costs.
Why can’t we just drive? I thought to myself, fancying the idea of a 12-hour car ride over a one-hour plane trip. But I had no choice. Either I went on the airplane, or I didn’t go at all.
So, without allowing myself to overthink, I made a promise to myself: I’d feel the fear of flying and do it anyway.
It seemed simple enough. And maybe it would be for most people. But I’m not most people, and I’m a bit more tormented by fear and obsessive thinking than the average person.
This is something I’ve wanted to write for a while now, but I didn’t know how. If you know me — which you do, more than most people — then you know that I’m rarely at a loss for words. But I guess that isn’t the issue here. The truth is, I have too much to say, so much that I’m afraid I won’t get it out the right way, or do you guys justice.
Just as there’s nothing like your childhood or high school friends, there’s also nothing like your college friends. It’s a different relationship with a different dynamic. You might not know everything about my life before college, but you know who I am now. You know the real me, not the girl molded by teenage standards, but the one who decided to be herself. I finally feel like I belong, and that’s because of you.
I’ve always lived my life in shades of gray, leaning neither toward black nor white. Life is too complicated to subject yourself to a one-track way of thinking.
But this isn’t always easy. From a very young age, I’ve felt a tremendous amount of pain for simply being human. And I always thought that I was wrong. I always thought that, somehow, I was actually a bad person for feeling things so deeply.
People told me I wanted attention. That I craved sympathy. That I needed to be everyone’s best friend. That I was nosy and dramatic. Soon, these became things I told myself, too.
Many people assume they know what obsessive-compulsive disorder is: Making your bed a certain way every morning. Always being early to class or work. Organizing your toiletries so they’re color-coded in the bathroom closet.
But society doesn’t understand the things they cannot see – the things that people with OCD feel, the obsessive thoughts we cycle over, the guilt and shame we sleep with.
It started when I was in preschool, after a particularly traumatic experience with a boy who was three years older than me. He locked my bedroom door, tugged me into my own closet, and pulled my pants down.
He threatened me not to tell my parents what he made me do, and what he did to me. From that point forward, I felt I needed to tell them everything – every thought I had, even the crazy fleeting ones, the judgmental ones, the panicked ones.
“I just had a thought of putting a knife in your back,” I cried to my mom one evening. I was six.
What does your health mean to you? Maybe it’s your body allowing you to be active so you can travel the world. It might be looking thin in your trendy clothes or having toned legs and a flat stomach. Perhaps it’s waking up without a sniffle or body aches, getting enough sleep for work, or having the energy to go bar hopping with friends. For my brother, it means getting the chance to propose to his girlfriend of over eight years, despite his medical bills and recovery time. The ability to eat a sustainable diet without weighing protein and avoiding potassium like it’s poison, trying not to lose over 35 pounds in the process. The opportunity to walk the beach without getting winded on family vacations, to drink more than one beer without nearly collapsing. All of these things were normal for him just months ago, before he found out he was in kidney failure from IgA nephropathy, an autoimmune disease that attacks the kidneys. Now, they’re privileges that he can barely recall.
These past few weeks have been tough. Scratch that. My entire life has been tough. But whose isn’t?
In July, I went to a concert to see Panic! At The Disco and Weezer, and after eating and drinking all night, I didn’t feel too well. My stomach was in so much pain that as soon as I got home, I collapsed onto the floor in the hallway upstairs, sprawled out on my laundry I was supposed to put away earlier. I couldn’t move without a dizzy spell and felt like I was somehow months pregnant from the bloating in my stomach. Suddenly, my heart dropped.
I hate throwing up more than most things in this world. It’s remained one of my phobias since the first grade, right before I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Now, 15 years later, I still cringe at the thought.
So when I felt that intense nausea and pain while lying on my floor, I panicked. I really, truly panicked. I ran up and down the stairs, pacing and crying and pulling at my hair, yelling at my parents that I felt sick, gagging over the toilet, dry-heaving for fifteen minutes before finally throwing up my entire night in the bathroom sink downstairs.
That was all it took to send me into a downward spiral.