My name is Jillian, and I am an anomaly.
Bio: I love the Beatles & the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I'm a nerd at heart. I love photography & writing & adventures. Kayaking & biking are my physical activities of choice. I like zombies (who doesn't nowadays!) & the rain & the ocean & Vancouver. I really love my cat THHMMQ & my family. I love lots of things, especially love. I am happily planning my wedding with my amazing fiance.
I am currently working my booty off at a medical clinic, while also finishing up my degree in Education. I am a Community Correspondent for Partners for Mental Health. I like to pretend I'm a real-life mental health advocate. Check out my blog, Choose Good, at choosegoodproject.com
Blog: My name is Jillian, and I am an anomaly.
I’ve never quite fit in with the so-called “norm”. A nerd at heart, I love things like existential psychology and the Antiques Roadshow. Have I mentioned I’m only twenty-two? I’m covered in tattoos, yet I teach Sunday school and am completing my education degree. Seems I’ve made a habit out of shattering stereotypes.
But perhaps my biggest “contradiction” comes with my mental health versus my personality. My inner-self compared to my outer.
People have always described me with words like bubbly, energetic, enthusiastic, happy. I don’t dig confrontation, and I really am a bleeding heart (you know, the whole ‘oh why can’t we all just get along?’). I am a, shall we say, enthusiastic person, I admit it. I like people. I like smiling, and making others smile. Oh, I know that’s cheesy, but I believe so dearly in optimism. I hold the concepts of positivity and kindness close. So when I would go through phases of deep, harrowing depression, my feelings became a direct conflict of my beliefs and behaviours.
For the last decade of my life, my emotions have been on that commonly mentioned metaphorical rollercoaster. When something would happen, I would experience the associated emotions with my full self. Really, it seemed like my emotions were taking speed. When I was sad, I wasn’t just sad, I was harrowingly depressed, deeply lost, perpetually miserable.
I didn’t like showing others that I was depressed because I didn’t want to make anyone, well, feel sad. Lucky for me, I’m a pretty decent actor (why yes, I am stroking my ego. Just a little.), so most people didn’t suspect anything was going on.
And then on the polar opposite end, when I was happy I was more than that; I was ecstatic, euphoric, jubilant. There were days where I would literally be buzzing with excitement. Racing and hopping and leaping around my house, if nothing other than for the sheer joy of just being alive.
I didn’t think much of this for most of my life. I just thought I was an extremely emotional person.
But then I got older, and things started getting weird.
Over the years, I began developing an awful temper. And when I say awful, I mean awful - think Hulk. The most insignificant thing could send me into an aggressive rage where I would break, hit, flail at and generally be awful to whatever happened to be in the way.
I hated this part of me. I didn’t know who this Jillian was. I’m a peacelover, a self-proclaimed pacifist who still has stuffed animals at the ripe age of twenty-two. I didn’t understand how I could act this way when it disagreed with everything I believed in.
This temper grew worse as the years went by.
There were times when I began to become more spontaneous. Okay, spontaneity is not a bad thing - in fact, I embrace it. However, this spontaneity became an obsession, a need. I started small; skipping classes led to skipping (almost) entire semesters. I started spending more, maxing out my credit card more and more.
I got engaged multiple times, despite how young I was. My excitement and over-enthusiasm of the relationship led to the proposals. The depression and anger led to the breakups.
At the height of my experiences, I sometimes would experience hallucinations. I became convinced that my house was haunted - to the point where I fled the house midday in my pajamas, taking my cat with me in order to “protect” him. I’d see my piano playing itself. A few times when I was driving, I’d look in the mirror and see a corpse staring back at me.
It got scary. But I couldn’t bring myself to say something was wrong. So I didn’t. I refused to break the illusion of a happy, healthy girl.
Slowly my world starting to get darker, I began to lose myself - which led to me those which mattered most. My grades, which has always been a point of pride, began slipping far lower than they ever had been. I was constantly in debt. My relationships began to self-destruct - I could be your best friend one day, and then drop off the face of the earth the next. The last straw was losing my relationship with my fiance.
Chuck Palahniuk, the writer of such incredible dark-satires such as Fight Club, once said “it is only after we have lost everything that we are free to do anything”.
Losing everything was my first step to recovery. I was not going to let this madness defeat me, I refused to succumb any lower than I had. As far as I saw it, I had two options. I could lose myself with my (at the time unknown) illness, or I could fight to regain control over my life.The day my fiance broke up with me, I called to schedule an emergency appointment with my doctor. She immediately referred me to a psychiatrist, whom I was able to see within a couple days. So, on the day of my twenty-second birthday, I saw a psychiatrist for the very first time.
The psychiatrist was immediately able to see that something was not as it should be. He was quick to inform me that there was nothing to be ashamed of, that having something abnormal in your mind is no different than having something abnormal with your body. Just as a diabetic needs insulin, I too would need medication to get by. With further visits and testing among various professionals, I was soon diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
What an absolute relief that diagnosis was. Finally, there was reason to my madness. I wasn’t crazy, I was just bipolar. So many people see the diagnosis as the end, but I believe it is just the beginning. Having a diagnosis opens the door to recovery, and it has been an absolute blessing to me. I now have structure, support and balance to my life. I know what I can and cannot do, my vices and my strengths are clear. I am proud to say that since diagnosis I have worked hard to regain my academic standing. I work full-time at a medical clinic and my debt has been obliterated. I’ve become actively involved in mental health activism. My relationships restored. My mind is clear and happy, and my fiance and I have reunited and are happily planning our wedding.
I will never be able to change the fact that I have bipolar. The only thing that I can change is how I choose to manage it. I have chosen to deal with my disorder with happiness, positivity and optimism.
I have been open with others about my diagnosis from the start. I don’t believe in hiding who you are, and (like it or not) bipolar is a part of me.
Needless to say, when I began to disclose my diagnosis with others, there were those who refuted my claims. Why? On the basis that I just acted so dang giddy all the time. If I had a nickel for every time someone responded with “but you’re always so happy!” - well, I’d probably have at least 95 cents by now. ;)
The thing about mental illness is we really have no way who is being touched by it. Society seems to have this vision of the “mentally ill”. We believe they are the convicts, not the firefighters. They are the homeless ranting and raving on the street corner, not the teacher happily teaching her class. They are the scraggly, poorly dressed women, not the doctor or the lawyer or the businessperson. Mental illness does not discriminate, and anyone can be affected or afflicted by it.
I am just one of those people. I am not dangerous, I am not crazy. I am just me.