Mental Illness and Surviving the Memory Tides


I think it’s fair to say those of us with mental illness “suffer.” We often experience pain and loss that is incredibly intense and cannot be put into enough words to describe how it actually feels. The cruel thing is we not only suffer with an illness we also suffer when we move along the process in recovery. Additionally, we are usually expected to suffer in silence because no one else can see our illness in x-rays or test results. They just don’t understand what they cannot see.

It has taken me a long time to understand the trials and tribulations of my own struggles with bipolar disorder. Sometimes I feel like I have been sitting in the middle of the ocean and for some reason I survived the “memory tides.” The memory tides hit you with high tides and you nearly drown in snapshots of your mental health journey. Then, for some unknown reason low tide hits and you get bits and pieces of the past without getting knocked over.

There have been times in my own healing process where I have literally gone back to bed because I have been knocked over by such intense memories it wore me out. I would just lie there in bed and let my mind take me wherever it needed to go. In the moment, I recognized I was processing the past and for some reason it was a necessary evil that I had to experience.

I have read that hospitalizations can be traumatizing. Depending on what happened in my hospital stay I would have to agree with that, even though I believe if you need hospitalization it is a safe place to go. But I can say that in my memory tides I have viewed my hospital stays in photographic frames. Play by play I see the faces of the doctors and nurses who cared for me.

Sometimes the memories are so intense I can recall the not so nice things and good things a healthcare provider may have said to me.   But worse than what people said is what they did when I was experiencing a psychotic episode. I have seen the paint peeled walls of seclusion rooms and felt the tight leather restraints around my wrist and ankles. I have had to learn how to cope with the pain of those memories as well.

More than 15 years ago, I was in a small community hospital and  was left in restraints for 16 hours. I was asleep almost the entire time, only waking up to realize I was tied to a bed. They finally let me up when I needed to use the restroom. I felt mistreated in that situation and it took me a long time to heal from it.

So when people say the word “suffer” to me I really get what that means. These experiences drive me to advocate for mental illness, because I don’t want other people to suffer as much or more than I did. In the meantime when the memory tides come I just sit back and brace myself for what I am about to see. Everyday gets better and one day I hope to replace those pictures with something much more pleasant.


22 thoughts on “Mental Illness and Surviving the Memory Tides

  1. Wow, thanks for sharing. I was just diagnosed with bipolar disorder three weeks ago and left the hospital about two weeks ago (i stayed for a week). I haven’t experienced a period of psychosis, just hypomania, but the thought of you being restrained so inhumanely makes me super anxious about my future…I hope that the supports I reach out for won’t come back to bite me in the ass, and actually are helpful and happy. So sorry that happened to you.


    1. Cherrythunder,
      It actually happened many years ago, before people really paid attention to that kind of treatment. Getting help is a good idea…don’t be afraid of your future. There are a lot of great treatment options including newer medications that really help. Thanks for commenting.


  2. Very powerful picture and post. I have been dealing with bipolar disorder my whole life, as well. It sickens me how poorly our “caregivers” treat us sometimes. Keep sharing your light on the subject.


      1. As challenging recovery is, I rather be in recovery than be in the midst of the struggles of a mental illness. Yes, mental illness struggles still pop up in the middle of recovery but its how you deal with those struggles that determines recovery. I also think recovery is a life long process.


      2. Good point…recovery is a life long journey and we probably will go through lots of tunnels along the way. But I get really excited when I see the light shining through…at least I know I’ve made it part of the way.


  3. Shackled, that’s pretty shocking. You would think that in this day and age the need for such treatment would be a thing of the past.


  4. I have been waiting for someone to write that which I could not put words to myself! I have been calling them ghosts! My ghosts have the tendency to find me in the car whilst I’m driving! And most of the time the experience is so intense that I cannot concentrate on the road! Thank you so much for this piece! Now I know I am not alone!


    1. I am so glad this post was able to help you know “you are not alone!” I like your analogy of the “ghosts!” This is truly what those memories can be like…a little haunting at times. Thanks for commenting.


  5. “They just don’t understand what they cannot see.” So true. I sometimes wonder how I would perceive mental illness if I did not have bipolar disorder. Even after being diagnosed, it took a couple of years for me to understand that mental illness is real – I was a devout Christian and attributed mental illness to demons. Glad I found your blog!


    1. I’m so glad you stopped by my blog. I know what you is hard to recognize that mental illness is very real. I think it is part of the stigma and things we may have grown up learning. I hope you are doing okay now. Thanks so much for your comment.


  6. I’m back pedaling right now with the losses of so many of my friends that were a strong part of my support system. I don’t want to fall back in the tunnel. I love your encouragement and support. You are very helpful and I can relate to many things you say in your blog.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s