My Journey from Darkness to Light
By: Patricia Potts
Patricia, mother of 5, writer, speaker and singer shares her story of hope and recovery. In her 20’s she lived through major dysfunctional depression then later learned she was bipolar.
Mother used to say that as a young girl I was either all the way up or all the way down! Little did she know that even at an early age I was displaying symptoms of bipolar illness. I was about 4 months pregnant with our fourth daughter when I was in my 20’s. My husband, Dan, came home from work one day to find no dinner and me sitting in the kitchen with our 2 daughters running around in a messy house. One had a dirty diaper, the other had hardly any clothes on.
A boy in my preschool had been out of control when the parents came to pick up their children and I was embarrassed and depressed about it. When Dan asked me why everything was such a mess I replied “You’re right, I’m a horrible mother and a terrible wife, I just can’t do anything right!” Grimacing, he went downstairs with the girls to watch T.V. so I could calm down, but I didn’t calm down this time.
Something snapped inside of me as I realized that no matter how hard I tried I could never make everyone happy. I could never be the “Patty Perfect” I so desperately wanted to be. All things considered, I also believed that my husband and children would be better off without me. I put on an old coat and left the house not knowing where I was going and not expecting to come back. The first night I spent on a cot in the basement of a stranger’s house. I realized that leaving my home meant loosing my preschool, my daycare, the trust of my husband and all semblance of self-esteem. When I returned three days later I wash shaky, fearful, confused and withdrawn. I then spent the next 3 months wading through dysfunctional depression. Much of my time was spent staring at the ceiling and wishing God would take me home while my mother-in-law took over with the house and kids. There was no internet searches or support groups that I knew of but I was blessed to have a good therapist who taught me many helpful ideas. Among the most significant lessons, however, came when I attended a workshop where I learned the four stages of overcoming loss. I applied those steps (denial, acceptance, rebuilding, sharing) and was finally able to begin to functioning again. About a year after my baby was born I began teaching classes at the library and community education about HOW TO UNDERSTAND AND OVERCOME DEPRESSION.
My next relapse came when I became overly involved in trying to help others going through depression. Along with some other women I started a magazine and a network for women suffering from depression. I spent most of one night typing bylaws for our new organization. The next morning I crashed. Depression rearing its ugly head again and I got sucked in.
That morning after the older kids when to school and I got someone to watch our preschooler I wiggled into a sleeping bag, and crawled beneath the kitchen then called a suicide hotline.
I was livid when I got an answering machine! Fortunately, when I tried a different number and I was able to talk to a woman who listened to my plight and suggested that I get to a psychiatrist. Her encouragement together with that of a friend led me to make an appointment.
The day before I went to see the psychiatrist I asked a dozen friends to pray for me at 11 while I was meeting with him. I didn’t want to be one of those people who had to try multiple meds to find something that worked. That day I was put on a medication that has worked for me for over 20 years (that is when I take it and use other tools of recovery.) I went through a few more relapses while I learned that, although exercise, cognitive therapy, herbs and the other ideas, I truly did need to stay on my meds.
My life today is far different than it was during my relapse days. Although I have my bad days, I have learned that with the help of medication, recovery tools and the example of others who are successfully living with mental illness I am able to stay in recovery and help others do the same.
My husband and I now have 5 children and 7 grandchildren. In moderation I also enjoy writing (I’ve written 2 book to help people with bipolar), speaking, teaching guitar and singing. I find life both challenging and fulfilling. It has been said “Trouble makes us one with every human being in the world.” As we face our troubles together as individuals blessed with bipolar may we find the positives in our illness and learn to harness it so we can be better people. If I can be of help to you please let me know. – Patricia