Today, we start off our Tough Stuff Month Guest Posts with a really powerful post. Written by Mental Illness Health Activist and writer, Stephanie Schroeder – this post offers a glimpse into her advocacy and includes an excerpt from her memoir. The book, Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide delves into incredibly intense, personal topics – many of which exist curtained by silence. Through her book and her advocacy, Stephanie brings these issues to light, demystifying them through her honesty. As she shares on her site, Stephanie is no stranger to the difficulties that many patients face as they experience symptoms, diagnosis, and the never-easy journey toward self-care and empowerment.
By opening up her life to the community – and now, us – Stephanie raises awareness in such a real way. I’m honored she’s sharing her work with us. I hope that her story and the bravery it took to live it, process it, write it, and share it – will inspire you as much as it has inspired us. Enjoy the chapter excerpt – it’s captivating! Thanks for sharing, Stephanie. –Amanda
On “Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide”
by Stephanie Schroeder
Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide is ultimately a tale of triumph: over intimate partner violence, suicidal depression, bad relationships, worse decisions, uncontrollable mania, and a generally unhealthy life. The book is a memoir about my struggle with bipolar disorder — at first undiagnosed, and then trying to make sense of life after my diagnosis, make peace within myself and piece my life back together after it became seriously unhinged. The book spans only about 15 years of my life. From approximately age 28 to 42, I was “not me” and, in the beginning, I didn’t know why. It all became much clearer the day I was diagnosed with Bipolar I. However, my life only became more complicated by that diagnosis.
The following passage, early in Beautiful Wreck, details events from 1997. It’s a span of time I’d rather forget because it began my serial suicide attempting that ended only in 2005. This part of my book will give you a flavor of my extremely severe depression and how trapped I was in a dysfunctional, violent relationship, the first of many, because of my mental illness.
I’m obviously alive to have published the book, but it was a long road from being abused by my partner and deciding to commit suicide to where I am today: healthy, happy, writing and publishing.
Excerpt from Beautiful Wreck
As Lauren and I grew further apart, I started sleeping on the couch, leaving the radio on all night (breaking another of her rules). By then I had changed careers, moving to a corporate communications job on Madison Avenue with an even higher salary and an even more impressive title. Although I had no knowledge of PR when I was hired, the president told me I’d have plenty of time to find my sea legs. I dived in, working journalists just the way PR flacks had worked me when I was a reporter and editor.
I was a functioning depressive. A master at masking my illness, I managed to get to work and perform well during the day. But, when I got home I was in such pain, both mentally and physically, that all I wanted to do was lie down and blot out all other people as well as my own thoughts. Even taking the time I needed to deal with my own depression seemed impossibly hard.
Depressive illness robs its sufferers of enormous amounts of time and energy. As a disease it’s both active and parasitic, draining both mind and body. Depression is psychically painful, with thoughts of death and dying, and often leads to sufferers contemplating suicide just to end their pain…
[Continue reading chapter →]