“You’re quite the puzzle,” my doctor said as I sat quietly on the exam table in her office. She scanned my extensive lab results, which I’d stapled together according to date. I swallowed hard, my throat burning, knowing I would leave yet another specialist with no answers. “Everything looks normal to me. Nothing is wrong.”
Last night, I stood in my small kitchen, back against the white wall, eyes squinting in the fluorescent lighting, hunched over and crying. I didn’t feel anything; but at the same time, I felt everything.
“You don’t know me,” I told my boyfriend, and I could see the pain on his face as he registered my words. “No one does. Not you. Not my family. Not my best friends. They don’t know what goes on in my mind. And if they did, they wouldn’t love me.”
He wrapped his arms around me, but I was numb. My body was limp, my mind elsewhere.
It’s been months since I’ve written about my OCD. Often, painting a picture through words helps me cope. But I thought that if I picked up my pen this time, all I’d see — all anyone would see — was darkness.
Depression. It’s a common term that many use to describe sadness. To express the tears streaming down their face at night, or the crippling stress from piling bills, or the gutting heartache from a devastating breakup.
So, really, I wasn’t sure I even had it. Because, well, I didn’t feel that. I felt nothing, mostly. And when I did feel, it wasn’t sadness. It was terror. Fear — not of death, but of living. I couldn’t imagine waking up just one more day.
After being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and depression at age 20, Samantha Ramos, now 25, earned her degree in Film and Television at SCAD, packed up her life, and moved to New York City. While she struggled with this comorbidity during major life changes, she also developed a better understanding of her mental health, allowing her to practice acceptance along with other healthy coping mechanisms. Check out her journey battling such conflicting issues.
What first made you believe something was wrong, or “off” with the way you were feeling?
I always felt like something was “off” with me since at least middle school. I would get what I thought at the time was just really nervous for the simplest things. My grades suffered a lot in school because my anxiety didn’t allow me ask questions or let teachers know when I didn’t understand things. I also missed so much school because of how depressed I was. I didn’t know it then, but I could barely get out of bed every morning, let alone deal with the challenges of high school.
It wasn’t until I got to art school and the assignments and workload became unbearable for me to deal with. I had my first panic attack in my dorm room; I couldn’t breathe or see straight. It was then that I knew something was more wrong with me than just normal stress.
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.