We all have labels. Man. Woman. Married. Divorced. Perfectionist. Hard worker. Some labels people cannot talk about. Some labels have stereotypes tied to them that make them impossible to share. If you know someone else who struggles with her unspoken labels, share this with her and let her know she’s not alone.
I live with some of these labels. Although I can't tell you the specifics, due to my current and future employment, I'm going to take some time to share what most don't know.
I have a special brain. I have since birth. It can do truly amazing things. For example, when I was growing up, you only had to show me something once. I would remember it forever. I could perform dance routines that I’d only observed others perform ten years later to the tee.
In school, if someone asked where information on a particular subject was located at in a book, I could tell you on what page and in which paragraph. In college, I never had to study really. When it came to my sign language classes, I was a SPONGE!
I am also very creative. I love to write, draw, cross stitch, paint, and more. Amazing right?! Unfortunately, it all came with a price. I had no control over my emotions or thoughts. My brain frequently raced ninety to nothing, costing me several nights sleep. If there were angry people around me, I automatically became angry because I was feeding off of their emotions. This became a daily struggle.
I knew I was "different", but I didn't know why. I just dealt with it the best I could. As I grew older, I learned to carry snacks to deal with a blood sugar imbalance. I might not be hungry, but if I didn't eat within 20 minutes of my body cueing me that something was off, I became a real nightmare. Kids caught on by high school. I was a walking vending machine. Kids would come to me for handouts because they knew my backpack was stashed with goodies. After being at school all day and dancing all night, I would come home to exhausted parents and reenact my entire day. They tried to be patient with my nonstop energy, but eventually they would tell me they were going to bed because they had to work the next day. I was left with racing thoughts and energy overload that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning. Although I was sent to bed, sleep was definitely not an option. So I would take a flashlight and secretly read. I would read an entire novel in one night before putting everything away at the sounds of my mother's footsteps. Thankfully it didn't happen every night, but it happened enough to make it difficult to function sometimes. This was just life to me. There seemed to be nothing I could do about it.
When I went to SMSU in 1998 for my freshman year in college, I no longer could sleep at all. For six months I struggled. Half of the theatre department scrambled to help. Some suggested running on the treadmill. I did until I couldn't walk anymore. Others wanted me to try to relax and unwind, so they rotated to give me massages as I laid in the dark and listened to the sound of babbling brooks.
Nothing worked. I could feel my body physically shutting down. Eventually, the inevitable happened. I crashed. Everything shut down. My brain was in a fog. Although I was moving and vaguely responding to those who spoke to me, the "real me" was sitting in a recliner, eating popcorn, and watching life go by as if it were a movie. I got up, went to work, went to school, and went home. Nothing more; nothing less than what was required.
For a year I continued down this road that I had come to know all too well. However, this time I didn’t have the ability to pull myself back to life. Not unlike most students taking their first psychology class, I read case studies of individuals with symptoms like my own and determined I had found the answer to my years of torment. Finally, the answer, I thought.
I went to everyone with my self-appointed label and said, "This is me!" Everyone just rolled their eyes and said I was fine and that there was nothing wrong with me. I knew better.
In 2002, I graduated and moved to Vegas. I found myself living in a house with constant arguing, in a blood red room with bars on the windows and no light for relief, and I started going down that dark road of no return. I refused to go back there again. I took myself to the family doctor who referred me to a psychiatrist and therapist. It took some time, but I learned what was required to deal with my labels. And yes, my self-diagnosis was spot on. The doctor encouraged me to make the following changes that dramatically improved my quality of life. I know now that I have to stick to a schedule. If I don't, I can’t sleep. I now routinely take medicine to help slow my brain. I don't retain information as well now, but it is worlds better than the alternative. I also have to be careful what I do right before I go to bed. For example, I can't drink a lot of caffeine, or sleep is completely out of the question.
I learned that my condition is not terribly unusual, and with proper treatment and routines, I can lead a balanced life. Many people have hidden labels. Can you relate? If you hear nothing else, I hope you hear this….You are not alone. We are all a little broken, but we don’t have to stay that way.
A lot of the medications I take have side effects that can make daily life a little more difficult. Currently, some make me shake like a human vibrator. Another early medication caused me to start randomly lactating three days before my first wedding. This was really disturbing since I was still a virgin and pregnancy wasn’t even remotely a possibility. However, the medicine made my body think it was. On another medication I went from a size 2 to almost a size 20, and left me on the verge of diabetes. I've also temporarily lost my eye sight, had seizures, slept for 12+ hours, and had dry mouth like no other! So why keep trying? Especially when the brain chemically changes on a regular basis? Well, I prefer to be the "real me" and what would be considered "normal". I like holding down a job and holding my own in this crazy world of ours.