As many of you know, my younger sister has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. I’ve featured Tiffany five times on this blog, and recently invited her to be a regular contributor. At this point, our plan is to have her write a guest post once a month, although there may be occasional months we skip. In her guest posts, Tiffany will document a single day in her life. For the most part, Tiffany has been stable for the past 4 1/2 years thanks to medications and hearty support from our parents, a psychiatrist, psychologist, and other professionals. My hope is that these posts will raise awareness of what it’s like to live with a mental illness. But I’m also hoping these posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. Without further ado, I’m pleased to introduce you to my sister, Tiffany.
When you have mental health issues, every special occasion has one thing in common. WARNING!
I just had my 35th birthday. This year, I wanted to reclaim my identity, my unique fingerprint that makes me an individual. If there is a day any of us should be happy, it’s our birthday. This year, I did not want to be happy all day. I wanted to be purely me.
The prelude to my birthday became a combination of emergencies and celebrations.
The night before my birthday, my kids were getting sick. I rushed my one-year-old, Xander, to urgent care. The doctor diagnosed him with a lung disease called RSV. The doctor said it could be months before the problem cleared itself. My four-year-old daughter, Raegan, was complaining about her ear, but refused to go to the hospital. The morning of my birthday, blood and puss were coming out of her ear. We went into the ER and found out she had a broken eardrum. A significant sized hole was in her ear. They recommended that we come back in ten days for an ENT visit. We followed the recommendations and the hole has healed.
The day of my birthday, I was preoccupied with problem after problem, but felt calm overall.
I watched Facebook pretty closely. I wanted to see who stopped in to say hi. I started to overthink the birthday wishes that were coming in, as I do in a number of situations. Do I push “like” now or later? Do I comment? So in the morning, I started to comment on the birthday wishes. All of the sudden, my phone went dark. A couple hours later, I gave the phone to Raegan and she figured out the malfunction. Then I was able to read and appropriately respond to the Facebook messages again.
The day must go on and hopefully get better! After all, it’s my birthday.
Mid-afternoon, I went to a sports bar with my dad. One of my favorite activities has always been going on “dates” with my dad, so the day was definitely getting better. We communicated our views on life as we often do when we go out together. I started drinking Red Bulls and proceeded to do so the rest of the day, which led to an all-night Red Bull high.
Finally the main event, with my parents babysitting my sick kiddos. I went to a traveling art pub event. The events feature different artists who guide you through making a masterpiece. I arrived early and picked a great seat up front. I had extra room to paint since nobody sat next to me. I painted and painted, and felt as though I was painting out emotions from the day. My painting was used as an example for the class about halfway through. The finished product hangs in a prominent place in my apartment, the bathroom. What a way to end a hectic day. I felt good about getting care for my kids and accomplishing something great at the same time.
The day didn’t go as planned, but I adjusted to the various circumstances that were thrown my way. My birthday felt complete with the cards I received, one from my sister and one from Raegan. My sister’s card said “You’re original, unique, and loved for everything that makes you, you.” Raegan made her card with the mental health professionals that work with her at school and at home. It said “I love mom because she gives good hugs, takes me to dance and piano, and cooks good food.”
This is a glimpse of a day in my life. I’ll be highlighting other days in the future. Thanks for reading!