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Leaving behind the Identity of the sick person

Il·lustració © Sergi Balfegó

Hi, my name is Estefanía and I’m thirty years old. Nine years ago, my life broke. I froze in an immense pain to which I have been addicted to, until very recently. My diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder. After being hospitalized for more than two months in a psychiatric hospital due to major depression and having received more than one diagnosis, finally, upon leaving the hospital, a psychiatrist was able to identify that the “rush” that I suffered months before the great depression was a hypomanic stage. So finally they found the correct diagnosis and, above all, the medication that really saved my life: lithium.

Before lithium, I went through an infinity of medication: hypnotics, benzodiazepines, stabilizers, antidepressants, etc., but these did not result in the expected effect. My suicidal thoughts continued to linger day and night (despite being immensely sedated).

I felt a pain that has no words to describe it. When you fall down the street because you can no longer continue with your legs, with your soul, when you can not stop crying, when you can not breathe, when you beg for enduring so much suffering, when you wish not to wake up in the morning and this begins with terrible anguish in the chest and disabling tachycardias that cut your breath, when your only desire is to return the night to not feel or sleep all day … When you live like this, you do not want to continue living.

But as I said, lithium quelled so much despair. My state was no longer extremely vulnerable and desolate and I did not become overwhelmed by living. Little by little I was able to make a life without wanting to die and, with psychological help, the pharmacological treatment, my family and my cats, I was able to advance in a process that still lasts today.

The process of self-acceptance, the process of leaving behind the identity of the patient, the process of ceasing victimization and taking responsibility for yourself, of being aware that you are more self-limiting than the mental disorder itself. The process of being brave and living life as you deserve it, with all your qualities and all your faults, but allowing yourself to expand all your wonderful potentialities, is something that I am still in. It is a work of much self-awareness and much perseverance.

First there is a phase of self-destruction. I gained 40kg, partly because of over medication, although there was a clear desire to punish me and provoke social rejection to isolate me (I only related to cats, my social life disappeared). Then comes the phase of integration, that phase in which little by little you come out of your inner world; First relating to a single friend, to be part of even groups that make you see that you can be part of society. And finally, there comes the phase of self-acceptance, that your story stops weighing you down and serving you as a pretext for inaction because you believe and feel that you are not at all capable of being who you are, because you settle, because being a victim of your disorder makes you not responsible. Leave your comfort zone, “I can not because I have this, that has limited me so many years, and that will be the rest of my life” (defenselessness learned), is important. You have to take the reins and leave behind your identity as a sick woman to be Stephanie, a capable and strenuous person who will never stop being her. Because having a diagnosis of bipolar disorder does not have to limit me, I am learning to value those gifts and abilities that I have and not to be afraid to expand. It is not easy, but it is possible.

To conclude, I want to say that this process is never linear, there can always be setbacks and these are necessary, as necessary as knowing how to read them and extracting from them the strength to advance in your path that is to live. I am a person, not a disorder.

Estefania Trenchs


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