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A VIEW OF THE “I am broken” By Fermina Ponce

Viewed through the perspective of a Christmas card, a biography scan or an introductory social

discussion, my life can appear beautiful and compelling.


The surface view isn’t the reality.


For years, I cared too much about maintaining the illusions of those who know me least. At the

end, believe it or not, I am very private with my intimate life and I only show what I want people

to see, no matter the price, no matter the judgement or how connect or disconnect may look from

the outside. I think we, humans, do some of that. Don’t we?


Meanwhile, the price of my internal torment continues to be paid by those who love me most,

those who see me rise every morning, sleep for days, absent for years and still love me anyway.


I can’t carry this burden any more. I realize now that maintaining the illusion is adding to my

struggles. I hope that speaking out will provide a measure of relief to others who share elements

of my struggle, as well.


ONE


After the birth of my second child, I fell into postpartum depression. Over time, the depression

deepened despite treatment and even disciplined prescription adherence. I remember like

yesterday falling into this unknown downward spiral of pain: how could I, should I, would I? A

guilt that was killing me, just for thinking that I could hurt my own kids.


TWO


As time passed, the symptoms swirled. Lack of sleep. Extreme mood swings. Spending splurges.

Moments of creativity and intense activity. A deep urge to write through nights in a row. A

pendulum between incessant thought and vacuum-like intellectual emptiness. Racing to the next

crash. I was diagnosed with bipolar depression disorder.


 THREE


 What does bipolar depression disorder look like? In my case, the good moments include extreme

productivity and creativity. When I’m flying high, I think fast and make quick decisions. Great

performance, work-focused, very result driven. But these moments of achievement come at a

high price. Irritability. Sleep deprivation. Excessive, unfiltered talking. Financial missteps.

Ultimately, an inability to function at even a basic level.


The hypomania, the part of the disorder when I seem to function, lasts a few days or a week. The

subsequent depression always endures far longer.


Those depressive days last longest. I feel cold, damp and dark even when surrounded by what

others might see as sunny warmth. I lose interest in everything and everyone I love. Life passes

without any notice. I stare at the leaves hanging in our front yard tree from my bed, the pace of

their movement in a soft wind being as much I can absorb.


My body demands to shut down, to sleep, to unplug from reality, the painful reality that crushes

my soul until I simply feel empty. Eating becomes daunting. Talking is draining. The “black

dog” as Winston Churchill used to call his own depression, puts all of his weight on my heart,

restricting its ability to pump life through me.


WHY ME?


In many ways and trying to make sense of something that many times makes no sense, I am

thankful for everything I have endured in my life. “The good, bad and ugly”, like in the classic

western movie, in which Clint Eastwood’s gun was as fast as the change of my days. The

extraordinary, painful and confusing. Even those times when my demons seem to have

conquered any angels inside.


It took me a long time to realize that I am not alone in my struggle.


Some years ago, during one of my missionary trips to Honduras, I could see while working with

a wonderful doctor that many of her patients suffered from depression. However, when asked if

there was anything else they wanted to tell the doctor, they remained quiet. I knew something

else was inside, the same heaviness I had carried for years.


Hispanics carry this “tabú” about mental illnesses, more than other cultures. At least in the

United States of America, things seem to be more open, not always, let me be clear, judgment

and lack of knowledge stills big. But for us, Hispanics, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and

mental illnesses in general are still considered: 1. Too much time in people’s hands, 2. Stuff

people make up in their heads to become the center of attention, 2. Little downs they can fix with

positive thinking and being thankful. 3. Lack of faith 4. A reason to be “ashamed”.


I have been told all the above in many ways.


THE STRENGTH IN BEING VULNERABLE


It has never been my intention to be perfect. The more I grow, the more I love my imperfections,

my scars, my bruises and the stories that each of them talk about me. It’s not easy to embrace

them.


When I stand in front of people to talk, present or give a workshop, I open my self, I share about

my imperfections, sometimes if appropriate, I will share a little about my bipolar depression

journey. You, see? I wouldn’t be who I am or I wouldn’t be able to give or think in this way, if it

wasn’t because of my scars and the way I have decided to tell my story.


IT’S ABOUT BRAVERY AND COURAGE


“Vulnerability makes us stronger” and sharing that vulnerability with the only purpose to become

the voice for others, requires bravery and courage.


Every day I am feeling a little better. As I write these lines, I have been stable for the last year

and half, thank to therapy and medications. Also to the unconditional support from my husband,

Daniel, and my two children.


Judgement is a serious and a flaky thing human have created to masked fear for lack of

understanding. When we see things that make no sense, we judge. When we read things that do

not compute in our “this is the way it should be” way, we judge. When someone does something

or stops doing it, we judge. This is my invitation to judge or not, but before we make that choice,

let’s ask questions, let’s try to walk in the other person’s shoes and then, decide.


Mental illness is one of the most beautiful gifts I have receive. I have learned to get to know the

two in me much better, I have learned so much about others and their thinking, and it has enabled

and empower me in my journey of mending my own breaking points and guide those who decide

to join me.

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