My whole life people have labeled me. In fact, at times I have even labeled myself. Starting at a very young age, I would find it very entertaining to call myself Accident Amber. This would make my mother crazy! What I had figured out was that I was not a planned pregnancy. She had me at the age of sixteen and was pregnant before they were married so I thought it was funny to call myself Accident Amber. She would get so worked up and say,” you were not an accident we wanted you!” Of course, I found this highly entertaining because it would always get under her skin. The truth is when I worked my life backwards I realized that there were no accidents in my life. I had labeled myself wrong.
When I was about 8 years old I was a cheerleader. The high school girls told me that I was going to be a heart breaker one day. Again, they labeled me. I did not like this at all because I knew that I wanted to help people. I would never want to hurt someone much less break their heart.
I was often labeled as spoiled. My parents never spoiled me. They believed that you should not be handed things and taught me at a young age that you had to work for what you have. In fact, I bought my first car.
When I was in real estate and my career was at its peak I went out and bought my first Mercedes. At that point people would often say that I was high maintenance. Actually, I was working like crazy and I bought the car as a reward to myself for working so hard and accomplishing so much in the time that I did. It was not about being high maintenance it was about working my tail off!
Labeling became a real problem for me after my divorce. I became very depressed. There were many days that I felt like I was just going to die. I felt that I no longer had a purpose. The pain was unbearable. I was no longer a wife. I was no longer Amber Brown. I was lost. I did not even know who I was.
I began working for a hospice company and during that time I was able to help people deal with the loss of a loved one. What I saw were people in complete distress due to the traumatic change and the loss that they knew they were about to experience. They could no longer make simple decisions much less life changing decisions. I would often go into the room and ask them to tell me their top three wishes for their loved one and their family. When I could break it down for them they would immediately feel a sense of relief. I would tell them to let me help take care of their needs so that they could focus on their loved one. I would tell them that we could worry about the small things later. These families would often call me an angel. I knew that I was not an angel, but I also knew that I had a gift for helping them. I had compassion for them. I could put myself in their shoes because I knew what it was like to be faced with so many decisions at the same time. I too would have a hard time making simple decisions because so much was changing so fast that I did not know what direction to go. I knew this because I knew what divorce was like.
I would say over and over in my mind that divorce was like death. This is not true for everyone but my divorce changed me in ways that I never knew were possible. People would often tell me to focus during this time. They would say focus on your kids, focus on your job. The fact of the matter was that if I was standing in front of them breathing I had focused that day! There were many days that I did not even do that I would just lay in bed. I did feel like I was dyeing!
Hospice taught me a lot about life and death. Watching people die gives you a new respect for life. It also taught me a lot about how God works in our lives. He has the plan and although we cannot always make sense of it, we have to live the plan. We are never ready for someone we love to go, but we all know that death is a part of life. Change can happen in an instant yet transition and acceptance take time.
I always knew that God listened to me, but there were times that I thought that he may have been on vacation when I needed him the most. Where was he? Was he on a Cruise? Did he go to the Virgin Islands for a month? Yes, sometimes he can be a bit frustrating!
However, on the night that I prayed to him and asked him not to let my divorce kill me he answered my prayers. I heard you are going to go through the worst of the worst but when you get better you will be better than ever. You will be a DIVA again. He had answered my prayers. I immediately jumped out of bed and wrote DIVORCING INDEPENDENT VERY ABLE SURVIVORS. That was it this was my calling and I knew it! I was going to help people going through a divorce. I wanted them to know that they were not alone! I would help provide them with the resources and support that they needed to help them make good decisions. I would help them take care of their selves again. I would often be jealous when I heard people in church say that they had received a message from God. I felt so blessed that I finally had received my message. I now say, sometimes knowing is harder than thinking. When you think something you can often explain why. When you know something no matter what you cannot let it go. Sometimes the people around us do not understand why we are so adamant about doing what we know we have to do.
In the message he did say that I would go through the worst of the worst and I do remember thinking well good. I have been there. I am ready for the best of the best now! One thing God does not do, he does not lie. I had no idea what he meant by the worst of the worst but he meant it. Believe me I must have asked him a hundred times are we there yet? Have we been through the worst of the worst yet? I was ready for the best of the best. Another funny thing about God, He does not work on our time table. He has his own and we cannot force that one. Trust me I have tried. I have begged I have pleaded, but no he knows when. He knows when you are ready and he knows how to make it fall into place. We try to force things into place and that is often where we make the mistakes.
Here I was ready to go! I had my message and I was ready to put it into action! I was obsessed with D.I.V.A.S. I knew the people needed this and they needed it fast after all I was watching people every day suffering the pain and agony of divorce. They needed D.I.V.A.S and I was going to get it to them if it killed me. I would work days without sleep. I was manic that was the correct label for me. I was also determined more determined than ever because I knew that I was doing the right thing. However, what I found that doing the right thing does not always mean that you give all of yourself. The fact is that you must take care of yourself before you can help others. I was not taking care of myself. The rest of the world became very confused and did not understand what had come over me.
This is where the labels really hurt. In July my family became concerned about me and they checked me into a mental hospital. After all, I was having a true manic episode. One thing that I can say about being manic is that it is a bit fun. It is like you are the star the writer and the director of the most beautiful movie ever. Everything seems to be falling into place for you. The grass is greener, everything looks and smells beautiful, your senses are so heightened that you do not miss a thing. Manic is Heaven on earth. There is nothing that you feel that you cannot accomplish. It is as if nothing could possibly go wrong! Well, here is where it does go wrong. You lose touch with reality and let me tell you sometimes reality is just not as fun as being manic.
Depression on the other hand is quite the opposite. It is like being in a horrible movie, one where nothing is going your way. You feel as if your life is going nowhere. Depression makes you not care if you are dead or alive. Depression is not something that you can just snap out of. Depression is Hell on earth feeling like you are trapped in an empty world that has nothing to offer and that death maybe the better option.
I have lived both. I now say that I know how it feels to live because I know how it feels to die.
When I was in the mental hospital the first time it was awful. They completely stripped me of the little identity that I had left. I was away from what mattered to me the most. I was away from my kids. I would sleep with their pictures under my pillow. I cried for them every night. I was unable to talk to them on the phone because the need to have them was so overwhelming that hearing their beautiful little voices and not being able to have them ripped my heart out. My life was no longer in my hands and it was now in the hands of the state. It was in the hands of a doctor who really knew nothing about me, but did not like me. She did not like the fact that I questioned my diagnosis. She said that I was Bipolar. The only Bipolar person that I knew was my grandmother who was very depressed and who had done little with her life besides dwell on the past. I knew I was not that person. It was like someone calling me a boy when I knew that I was a girl. Sure I had been a bit depressed but who would not be I had just been through a divorce for crying out loud! This was the hardest three weeks of my life and for me caused more harm than it did well. The system wants to feed you full of meds, accept everything they are telling you, they expect you to be happy with their label even if that label does not make sense to you. They do not really treat you. How can they? After all, they do not really know you as an individual. They did not explain to me how to understand the trigger signs that could keep me from having another episode and they did not listen to me.
The day I got out all I wanted was to see my kids. The first thing that I did was I went straight to my ex husband’s office to get my kids. They were all I could think about. They were the reason that I fought so hard. Yet because the legal system labeled me as an unfit parent due to my illness my children were taken away from me. I was completely blindsided. How could a judge that never even saw me or my kids make this type of decision on me? I was not a piece of paper. I knew I was a good mother and I knew that no matter what I would fight to have my children back. I always wanted to be a mother and there was not a second that I ever regretted having my kids and there was never a second that I did not love them. I carried them for nine months. I went through 18 hours of labor to get them here. Yet, some judge in Denton decided that they should be taken from me. Did I have an illness yes and one that I had been treated for. I had been on medication for. I had never put my kids in harm’s way. It made me wonder just how many other mothers were out there fighting for their children. This was a HUGE blow to me and not one that I ever want to relive. Not only was it detrimental to me it was also detrimental to my kids. Try leaving your kids as they are holding on to your legs begging you to stay because they love you so much. I guess that is the part that the judge did not see. He did not see my friends literally having to rip my daughter away from me as she was going into complete hysterics because she wanted her mother. Katelyn knew I was a good mom. Katelyn knew that I loved her and Kaden more than anything in the world. She also knew that I would never stop fighting for her because I told her that.
The one way that I felt I could get my kids back was to work and work hard to make D.I.V.A.S a success. Nothing was going to stand in the way of me and my kids. I had even a bigger mission now. I had to get my kids back. Now I was labeled as an unfit parent and I knew that there could be nothing further from the truth.
I did continue to search for answers. I knew that I was different however I also knew that the label Bipolar was not the best fit either. What saved my life was that my friend Tracy helped find the right doctor. The first day I met him he told me, “I am not your life your life coach.” It made me feel special, I had a life coach.
After years of labels and misdiagnosis Dr. Brennen finally got it right. I have borderline, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, ADD and Bipolar. Now that is a lot of labels. Dr. Brennan told me not to get all wrapped up with the labels. Finally, I had a doctor telling me not to focus on the labels. Thank God!
This was still a very tough pill to swallow. For several days, I wallowed in my sorry. Yet I knew my traits were much more like the traits of someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder. I began to understand something, I did not ask for this but now that I had the proper diagnosis I could work with it.
One of the hardest parts was accepting that the rape that had occurred when I was fourteen had affected every aspect of my life. I had to accept the fact that because my illness I had hurt the people that I loved the most. What really bothered me was that I knew that had I had the proper diagnosis my marriage could have been saved. This leads me to believe, that mental illness is much more likely to be the cause of divorce than anyone could have ever imagined.
There is unfortunately so much negative associated with mental illness that I think people are afraid to seek treatment. People are also scared to talk about it. We also lose sight of this; People are people and mental illness can affect them in different ways. We all have our own story.
Sure people who have these illnesses may have some of the same characteristics, but we do not fit perfectly in one label or another. We are individuals. How we choose to handle these labels has a great deal to do with how successful we can be in recovery.
I have chosen to focus on the good traits about me. I try to learn as much as I can about my illness. I own the fact that I do have these illnesses. Now, I can not only help myself, but by sharing my story I hope to help others. We do not choose mental illness it chooses us.
Does that make me crazy? Yes, I am crazy! I am crazy about making sure that no one has to go through what I went through. The best label for me is Amber Rodgers. I was born Amber Rodgers and I will die Amber Rodgers what I choose to do with that is my choice!
You can find more blogs like this at www.divastogether.com and if you feel that you or someone you love may suffer from mental illness you can go to www.nami.org.