By Mads Gonzales

Sickness can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Some might see it as a cough or vomit in a bowl, or some would venture to describe it as broken bones or a wisdom tooth surgery gone wrong. Whether a human being is having to sleep on the cold and tiled bathroom floor from stomach pains or if they want to die, they should both be counted as being sick. 

Now, do not get me wrong here. I agree that a temperature and a bad sinus infection can still be debilitating, but there are people who do not consider mental health as being on the same scale as tuberculosis or pneumonia when, but it could be eating them more alive on the inside than what those two do. All of the doctors’ visits, white pills in that horrendous orange bottle, or and times I forget who I am should give me the full right to call it an illness. I say all of this because of conservative kids and privileged family members who cross their legs at glass dinner tables mocking those that they know nothing about. I want to raise my voice and explain why this should be on the same level, but they can’t hear me if they don’t care to listen. They have decided how they feel and how they think, but I all I want to do is explain it to them with my passion and my voice (which often gets tuned out anyway because it is monotone most of the time), but maybe someday they will hear me over their privilege and self-righteous butts they sit on. 

I suffer from Vertigo, and trust me, it is one of the most miserable things in the entire world. It means having more than double-visions, making your legs cross as you walk, making you trip or fall. It means clutching to the cars parked on the street so you can make it back to your dorm, where you cannot seem to focus your eyes enough to swipe into it, relying on Siri to call your roommates, shaking and desperate, to put their arms around you so that you can make it to your room on the second-floor near the railing that you often think about jumping off of instead. Or missing the only game of your fall season where over eight people are coming just to see you play, almost all never seeing you in any sporting event, some even people who could have seen you in over twenty teams in fifteen years, but because you were throwing up so intensely you missed the bus because the room was spinning so badly that it was almost as if you actually wanted to set your face on the toilet seat, that same face that had expensive mascara and foundation on it. You could not seem to calm the vigorous and vibrating enough to go back home for the first time in weeks, either. 

Vertigo is a horrible dick, but it is nothing compared to mental illness. 

I grew up hearing “Major Depression and PTSD,” as every doctor said. I was cutting and trying to commit suicide, but the medicine all eventually started making me hear and see things that were not there. The medicine made me someone I was not, and dare I say that it made things worse than thought possible. Honestly, I was so medicated that I was nicknamed and named “Medicated Schizophrenic.” that I do not even remember most of my junior year of high school. I remember bits and pieces of 2013-2014, but very little after somewhere around December. I remember the smell of the psychiatrist’s office, an overwhelming smell of apple cinnamon, which immediately reminded me of that PTSD problem she diagnosed me with. She had this weirdly stiff pearl-colored hair that when she would turn her head, no matter how quickly, it never moved. I was surprised that with that much hairspray, that disgusting candle hadn’t fried her hair by then. However, between the nauseating smell of her fall candle and most likely a head actually digesting hairspray, that may be why that old lady never saw what she was doing to me. She was doing the worst thing possible: This lady was giving an anti-depressant to a Bipolar teenager.

This happens so often, sadly, giving a Bipolar person anti-depressants. Bipolar Disorder has manic and depressive episodes, and anti-depressants get rid of the depressive episodes. Some might think, “That’s great! You never get sad!” However, by getting rid of depressive episodes and trying to make that person happier, you put them in a manic episode that may never stop. They destroy their lives, all in different ways depending on how they experience manic episodes. It is not always obvious that a person has Bipolar Disorder because the person probably does not put together that they have episodes instead of just being overwhelmingly different at times, thinking that they can just be moody. 

There have been times that my manic episodes have taken over my life, which is what they do for most people. I talk about him so often, but I had a horrendous ex-boyfriend that could have easily been served a restraining order. After a break-up that ended by him facetiming me while having sex with another girl, after already cheating on me twice, it is safe to say it caused a lot of trauma. The abusive, gas-lighting, cheating, and self-hatred definitely caused it, too. Sometimes, I can still hear his feet on creaky, wooden floorboards. Anyone that has a working brain could assume that he caused someontributed to the PTSD in me, just adding another layer with it to what I already had. That experience, I think, is what truly sparked my first major manic episode. It lasted for around 2-3 months, as most of them after usually did. When most hear of manic episodes and know what that is, they think of happy, destructive, gambling, sex, and destroying their one’s life. Some manics, like mine, are actually called psymanics, which means it is mean, rude, illegal acts, drugs, alcohol, and tearing their your own life apart. 

After my break-up with that dark, tall, and evil creature, it sparked my first one of those wild things. I lost twenty pounds in that relationship, and I felt like I was able to flaunt it for once without his hovering over every object of clothing I put on or who I associated myself with. I kissed boys and wore bikinis, but my main fashion statement was a lot of ripped skinny jeans. I thought I was the hottest green-eyed girl the world had ever seen, and that I was a blessing to any around me. I expected nothing less than perfection, but I was always self-medicating somehow. Whether it was destroying a trashy boy’s ego or getting drunk by myself every night (actually, usually both in the same day), I felt good. Really good.

Then, it all fell down immediately and found myself in a depressive episode, alone, in an apartment, only surrounded by people who had basically had the personality of an angry rottweiler; I hate rottweilers. My whole life felt like it had come crashing down on me like a pile of bricks, which reminds me of all of those random ones Miley Cyrus knocked down with her “wrecking ball,” but it was just my manic that dropped. I moved home to be where I felt safety was, still paying for an expensive apartment two hours away. I and had paid for a full semester at school that I dropped out of, too late in the semester for a refund. I felt alone even though I was surrounded by others, still wishing I had the courage to jump off one of those huge buildings or jump in front of a semi driving down I-69, but I didn’t. The desire may not have been nearly to the level of following through on these thoughts, but it still built up in me all the same.             

It took me over four years to ever go back to a psychiatrist after that hair-sprayed cinnamon apple lady, and the only reason I even went is because my moody best friend told me to. I knew something was seriously wrong with me, but I had been too scared to go on medicine again. They made me scribble on some weird questioners that my old psychiatrist never did, and it took hours. They asked me to rank things or answer questions to a nurse where she would type my answer like I was being interrogated at a police station. I hated all of it and every time I would answer a question a certain way, they would say something like, “Hmm. I’m going to go get another one for that.” It made me want to lie, but then the whole thing would have been a waste of time. 

So, I took the stupid tests that made my hands hurt and answered all the questions Nurse Cindy had me answer asked like a good girl, which gave me a headache. Eventually the doctor came in. He was nationally recognized for Bipolar Disorder and even had his own PBS show for it. One of my best friends got so excited to tell me because she actually films it. He sat down in a relaxed manner, but his presence intimated me. When the nurse explained he was going to come in, it was at least a solid five minutes before he did and all I did was shake, and I’m pretty sure my feet were twitching for some reason.

“Hi, I’m Doctor Fawver. Madison, right?” He brought out his hand from his lap, and I swear it was at least twice the size of my baby hands (no, seriously, I wear a kid’s size large, not even an extra-large, just a large), but I shook it as much as I could muster, nothing but a weak “yep” slipping through my lips. This man asked me two or three questions just to confirm and then said strongly, “I am completely positive that you have Bipolar Type I, and that is why you self-medicate and drink as much as you do.” He started listing things, and I don’t remember the order and exact words with all that shaking and foot twitching, but it was PTSD, ADHD, Social and General Anxiety, and Insomnia. He was positive of it all and then told me the medicine I would start for a mood stabilizer and anxiety, but since my diagnosis I have never seen that man again. I still do not understand that all patients see are nurse practitioners in that office even though his name is the one on the doors. 

I still have manic episodes, even though they are not as bad. I am on the highest dose of my mood stabilizer possible and take 300 to 900 milligrams of anxiety meds a day, but I still struggle. My body is not like other people’s, like my boyfriend who only sees the world in black and white, never questioning if that small side glance actually meant that the person hated them, or they simply were just looking from the side. I struggle with depressive episodes more than anything. I take a special medicine for Bipolar Depression to avoid manic episodes, but sometimes I still cannot get out of bed and the only way I still can explain it, is my body feeling “heavy.” It feels like someone is dragging me with a rope to do even the most mundane thing like washing the glass of water that has been sitting there for two days now. 

That is why I should still be considered “sick.” Not because of my Vertigo, but because of my diseases that no X-Ray will ever see. It’s the ones that make certain body parts vibrate uncontrollably when I meet a new person, an episode that makes me ruin my life and is not at all in my control, or going three days without sleeping even though I want to. It is debilitating and nauseating in its own way and in ways I may never find the actual words for to help neurotypicals understand. No matter how much I want to, I can never help people understand and empathize something they don’t want to understand or empathize with. Maybe this essay helps, but only if they are willing to listen.