I got married young – in New York terms at least. I was a couple months shy of 24, marrying the girl of my dreams back in my home state of Idaho. The story most people know is Kristen and I immediately packed a suitcase and guitar each and moved to Hawaii. Partially to get away, partially to figure out what to do with our lives, partially just to do something awesome.
But what happened next is the story most people don’t know.
Kristen was diagnosed with a rather severe and permanent cocktail of mental illnesses: clinical depression, bipolar, and a condition called Borderline Personality Disorder. I knew she had struggled with depression in her teens, though drugs had solved most of that. BPD, on the other hand, is a mental illness that typically manifests in one’s 20s, one that has a 10% suicide rate. It’s like aliens are inside your brain, telling you to be afraid that everyone’s going to abandon you and causing you to panic at every imagined bump in your life.
Needless to say, our lives were turned upside down. This stuff often begins subtly, but just as often hits very fast. Hanging in there while Kristen grit her teeth and tried to blindly find her way through a maze of emotion and pain was incredibly difficult. It leaves you raw, lonely. Almost suicidal yourself.
Coming to grips with mental illness – your own or your loved one’s – is one of the hardest things a person can go through.
I’ll skip to the happy ending; the long story is for another time. Eventually, we dragged Kristen to a psychologist, a sweet, understanding PhD in NYC who deals with BPD patients all day long. Over the better part of our time here in New York, Kristen has gone to therapy twice a week.
And the change has been miraculous.
Yes, Kristen will struggle with these things the rest of her life. But she’s learned to deal with them deftly. Situations that caused panic and anxiety she now fields like a shortstop. No, life is not perfect, but I’m not walking on eggshells any longer. I don’t worry about coming home to broken plates or cut wrists. And I have confidence in Kristen’s – and our – future.
Kristen has been able to largely overcome Borderline Personality Disorder, bipolar, and depression for two main reasons: 1) Drugs/therapy; and 2) Getting help when she was young.
By the time you’re in your 30s or 40s, it’s much much harder to reverse habits and emotional damage, not to mention repair relationships. Kristen was lucky.
Estimates vary, but something between 8 and 20% of the population suffers from a diagnosable mental illness like depression. Some 2% of adults have BPD. Many of them don’t know it.
The most effective cure for these illnesses is getting help early.
Why am I sharing this incredibly personal thing with the world wide Internet?
Kristen and I have kept her story mostly to ourselves. But over the last 6 months, she’s been writing a book about her experience, with the hope that someone else might help a loved one get through these horrible afflictions. The book is called A Concrete Sky, and it’s essentially a memoir based on a compilation of her unfiltered journal entries as a teenager. You can actually see the progression of her mental illness in her private writings before she – or anyone around her – caught on to what was happening. I think it’s going to be a fascinating read for psychologists especially, but it’s also a very entertaining read in general, filled with backstories of friends, drama, high school, and Kristen’s general hilarity. (Side note: check out Kristen’s new blog for a peek at the inside of her mind).
Kristen’s selling pre-orders of A Concrete Sky (and the accompanying music album — did I mention I met her at a battle of the bands and fell in love with her while she played guitar on stage??) on Kickstarter. So she’s “out,” as it were. I would be humbled and grateful if you took the time to watch her video and spread the word. If you want the book, or just to support a worthy cause, please back the project.
If reading’s not your thing, first of all, I have no idea how you got this far in the post; and second of all, please tweet or Facebook the message of A Concrete Sky anyway!
I hope more than a few people can read this book and help themselves or someone they love cope with mental illness. It’s really nice to have someone to talk to when you’re going through something this tough.