Happy Hinds: “Happy’s Manic Depression at 21”
My name is Happy Hinds.
I am twenty-one. I am a bipolar visual artist. I believe everything is better with loud music playing. When I was thirteen, I became conscious of the fact that I needed help. In my opinion, when humans talk about suicide, there’s a big elephant in the room made out of those who perceive the result of depression as selfishness. I feel that sometimes a human can be so depressed that we forget there are any humans who care about us at all. Having amazing friends is what has kept my heart full through life’s ups and downs. What makes me feel like it’s going to be okay is that I am going to be myself no matter what happens. I am severely Bipolar but I am human first, just like you and all of us.
My 13th year on Earth was hard. I have the very best friends and I always have fun, but I felt this big cloud over my head that made me feel like there was no point to anything. I played Nina Simone on piano for my school’s ‘Winter Music Showcase’… in the ninth grade. I have a tough time sleeping because of crying spells, (or when one cries uncontrollably due to mental illness, for no particular reason, sometimes lasting six hours). Regardless of these symptoms, I believe in making the most of every day. Going to school meant having an amazing time and getting to see the humans I love so much and unexpectedly falling asleep on my friends’ laps at lunch. One Monday, the bell rings, signaling that lunchtime is over… I wake up abruptly from my friends shoulder with eyeliner smudged around my eyes, immediately making eye contact with one of my best friends passing in the hallway. I will never forget the way she looked at me. The look in her eyes seemed to tell that she really cared about my wellbeing, knew that something was wrong, and wished she knew how to help. She waved and blew a kiss. I hope she reads this and knows how important her presence in my life has been. If it wasn’t for the look in her eyes that Monday at 11:45, I wouldn’t have found a therapist that weekend. A big part of wanting to get better, for me, is the unwavering desire to be able to be 100% there for the humans I love.
I’ve lived with mental illness for eight years now. At fifteen, I was hospitalized due to a suicide attempt, and diagnosed with Anxiety and Bipolar I. I remember being diagnosed and feeling like my life was over. My family had always protested medication, but now I had no choice but to be medicated, daily, at the age of fifteen years old. The humans there with me, involuntarily, and in their teens as well, made me realize that I could be mentally ill and be myself. I was determined to believe that was the truth. They made sure I believed it was the truth. As time passed, days, and weeks, of being in a psychiatric hospital, involuntarily, I realized that not only was I not dying, but my life had just begun.
Suicide is one of the most stigmatized aspects of mental health.
According to clinical studies, 50% of humans with Bipolar disorder have a history of suicide attempt. I have a cousin that passed away due to suicide at a very young age. I have heard about her since the day I was born, but I’ve never seen a picture of her or heard anything about who she was as a human on this Earth. I have a vivid memory of flying ‘home,’ to Ohio, where my family is rooted, for Thanksgiving, and overhearing someone say, “I still can’t believe she’s gone. I can’t believe someone could be so selfish that they could purposely do that to people who love them.”
I am going to say this once, and probably multiple times throughout the rest of my beautiful life: Suicide is the result of mental illness. There’s an incredible human in my life, whom suffers from suicidal ideations. She persistently yells, “it’s a chemical imbalance!” She makes sure to fit this into any conversation. I love her madly for it. Forever. Because it’s the truth. I’ve been to a place where I felt there was nowhere to go. Sometimes the thought of continuing to feel pain out of your control and knowing that it will last for an unidentified amount of time can be overwhelming. Google’s definition for “suicide,” is “the act of killing oneself intentionally.” As a person who has been as close to this act as I have, this definition feels like an incredibly insensitive way to describe an action made by a human that is mentally ill enough to take their own life. The search engine’s definition for “selfishness” is synonymous with ‘egotism.’ In my experience with mental health, my illness has never caused me to be egotistical, but almost always manages to make me feel like I am alone. Mental illness can be isolating, but you are not alone.
There is a gigantic bubble of stigma that surrounds mental health. What has helped me, is knowing that it is purely based on lack of awareness. I completely check out when I hear, “be strong,” “mental illness is a sign of weakness,” “people with mental illness are violent,” “mental health problems are forever,” “suicide is a cry for help,” “I can’t do anything for a person that’s mentally ill,” “physical problems are worse than mental health problems,” “a person with a mental illness is violent and dangerous,” “it’s all in your head,” “snap out of it,” “mentally ill people can’t have relationships,” and “people with mental health issues are toxic.” Stigma: a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. The stigma attached to mental health is what makes the experience such a secluded battle. You are not alone.
Guaranteed to remind you of how loved you are: real friends. A part of being human is learning that genuine friendship is not something to be taken for granted. I always say I could never be thankful enough because I couldn’t. The friendships I have been lucky enough to experience in this life are indescribable. The extremely special humans I have met and loved throughout this battle will always have my heart. On a sunny Summer day, my two very best friends, Nala, and Harmony, texted me saying they were together and picking me up. I was extremely depressed, hungover from the night before, and in my bed, not wanting anyone to see me at my worst. I didn’t answer their calls or texts. I was smoking a J, watching Ferris Buehler’s Day Off. Five minutes go by, and I hear my front door slide open. In they both walked, fully dressed and wearing sunglasses. I immediately yelled, “What! How did you know I was home?” Nala replied, “you weren’t answering your phone. Hi Bitch!” I have known them both for most of my life. I said, “Hi Bitch! I can’t right now. I’m sick. I promise I’ll change and come over in 2 seconds.” Nala replied, “No. We’re staying here for 45 minutes,” and proceeded to look at the clock, so I knew she was serious. I shrilled and answered, “Nala.” She, confidently, lovingly, surely, as usual, said, “No Happy I don’t care. We’re staying.” I will not ever forget that day, or what she said, or the fact that they both stayed for much longer than 45 minutes. I couldn’t stop loving them both to pieces if I tried. Friendship is special in that way.
Having a chronic illness has a lot of effects. The very best effect is teaching one the importance of appreciating authenticity. Not everyone will understand what one is going through but that makes the humans that take the time to understand, shine so bright that it becomes much harder to be as affected by stigma as you’d be without those who care about you for you. One starts to see beauty in the battle because it has made things clearer and more radiant and bursting with infinite and genuine love.
I know that I’m going to be okay because I’ll be myself no matter what happens. In all honesty, I don’t know that everything’s going to be okay. I don’t know how long I am going to be lucky enough to survive this mental illness. I don’t know the future. But I do know that I love myself for who I am, regardless of my diagnosis. I know that I will be laughing and screaming and dancing with humans I love, in between all of the panic attacks and tears… Forever. I know that I have amazing friends and family that are going to be there no matter how many times I lie and say I want to be alone. If it’s the last thing I do, I will be a better human than before because of this journey. I will be as there for my friends and family as they are for me. I will always be grateful for love in every form. My third solo show, #AbstractInColorToAllMyOldHearts ArtShow: #PartTWO, based on mental illness and friendship, will be in London, summer of 2019. Can’t wait to see you soon. I promise to always remember that life is good. I hope you do too.