How do you know that you actually have mental illness? It is a question that many of us in the mental health community seek to answer. It is one that we often question. More often than not, it is those of us new to a diagnosis. Another difficult question to answer is this. Was there was ever a time before when your diagnosis where you had symptoms that you can look back at?
It is these questions that White Fox, a young woman from Latvia, Northern, Europe, seeks to answer on a daily basis.
“I guess, I never had a time before my mental illness. I am still questioning if it is the illness I am diagnosed with is real. I can’t draw the line when it all started,” White Fox laments.
What White Fox can remember was when her mental state first began to worsen. It was around the age of twenty-one when she first moved to live in another country. It was the first time that White Fox faced what the term “Polar Nights” meant.
“It was a combination of feeling homesick, depressed, and lonely.” She remembers. “I started to have mixed episodes. When I returned home, there was a period of feeling okay.”
It wasn’t long before these feelings came back in her life, and White fox began to self-harm. It was time for her to seek professional help. For a long period, her diagnosis was unipolar depression. After a hospitalization for a mixed episode, she finally got the right diagnosis from her doctors. White Fox’s official diagnosis is Bipolar One with mixed episodes. It was the first time that White Fox believes she got the right treatment.
When dealing with a mental illness within the daily struggles of everyday life she looks at it in this way.
“I don’t know what its like to not have one. The diagnosis makes it easier for other people to know what is going on with me. How to act when I am at my worst. I have always been myself. I feel like its only the outside world that is trying to convince me I am not right. I am ill because we can never be sure what is right”
White Fox asked an interesting question in her interview. How do we know that the majority is right and normal? She looks at living with a diagnosis as another part of life. If we lived in a world with no eyes, “a human being that could see would be the disabled and not normal. For me, being Bipolar is my normal state of mind,” according to White Fox.
The philosophy that White Fox uses in her own life is simple and effective. In this moment she knows no other way to exist. She has never been another person. In the end, White Fox is true to who she is and not to her diagnosis.
The daily struggles of being Bipolar doesn’t bother White Fox. She chooses to keep on living. She would rather do things in her life, and moving on. Her reasons? If she let being Bipolar run her life, White Fox would always find herself in a place she doesn’t like.
“I would be standing in a puddle feeling bad about being there. It would be as if there is no other way out of it than making a step or jump out. I would stay numb, there would be no chance to improve my situation.”
The area that being Bipolar affects White Fox’s life is in her personal relationships. She admits that when she is down she can be very cruel with her words. It affects those around her. To her people get tired of her drama.
In her life, it is the little things that make life worth living that oppose the negatives of a diagnosis. White Fox chooses to focus on the happiness of her daughter and the people she cares most about in this world.
“Life is short. I think how much I have to manage my daughter, give her everything, and make changes in the world. So that, when I die, I would have left a footprint, and my life would not be in vain.”
White Fox considers her blog as not a mental health blog exactly. It is more an LGBTQ blog that focuses on her own daily struggles and thoughts. White fox likes to read the blogs of others so that she feels less alone when she is seeking comfort in her own life. When her mind goes to the bad places that depression takes a person, and when she feels like she has to self-harm, she can read the stories of others to bring herself back to center.
At times its hard for White Fox to think logically, something we can all relate to in our own lives. White Fox has high expectations of herself. In her need for nothing less than excellence, it often leads to self-judging. This can lead to negative thoughts. These feelings often make her feel like a failure.
“I know that suicide doesn’t end suffering,” she explains. “It passes it to someone else. But at these moments, even trying my best, I can’t always find the right frame of mind. So, sometimes looking ar the writings of others with a similar state of mind can help my mind move back to logical thinking.”
There is something each of us would like to share with the mental health community. White Fox reminds people to not focus so much on their illness, and to not let it become a label in their life.
“I noticed that people tend to concentrate on their illness so often that they forget about life. They start to limit themselves or use their illness as an excuse.”
White Fox wants the mental illness community to know that sometimes you need to take a break. It is important in her mind to go and do other things outside your diagnosis. It can’t be the most important thing in your life.
Writing the story of White Fox journey was a great pleasure. She allows me to show my readers a different side of Bipolar Disorder. How the right state of mind can be helpful in your mental health. It is important that we understand every story and see the wisdom of what each of us bring to the table. White Fox offers real wisdom to those that need it.
There is one last thing that White Fox wanted to add to this piece, and it is better in her own words:
“I would like to touch a little bit to the topic called “postpartum depression” because I have had it as well. I know that young mother that is being judged terribly. And they are not lazy, spoiled and thinking only about themselves. They are actually doing their best and trying to be the best they can! It is so wrong that this judging starts from the hospital with this all breastfeeding hype. If something happens and this girl and she can not breastfeed because of having a history of sexual abuse in past. Or the milk is not there no matter how hard she tries, all she hears is how bad mother she is and how egotistical. How formula harms the health of newborn etc. Without even paying attention to the psychological theories that say that in the first year of life the most important thing for the baby is to feel comfortable, in harmony and safe. And when the mother is going through depression, she can not give it to him or her. And this is more important than nutrients and immunity that breastfeeding gives. Breastfeeding is good, but it shouldn’t be forced.”
“And this constant judging continues home, at the general practitioner, from friends, relatives etc.”
You can find White Fox on her blog, https://madhatterer.wordpress.com
Interviewee: White Fox
Author: James Edgar Skye
Photo Credit: Some pictures from White Fox’s blog site. The rest from Unsplash.com