Mental Health Awareness Week was earlier this month, and thereÂ have been several suicides lately in the media from celebrities who sufferedÂ from mental illness. So I wanted this to be my first secret. I live with BipolarÂ Disorder. It affects my life greatly, from my interactions with others to myÂ overall security in myself. A general flow of mental illness runs in my family,Â as is the most common case with others who deal with mental disorders daily.Â They range from bipolar, to depression, to autism, and more. I think I haveÂ successfully described about 75% of the country right there. And that rightÂ there is what bothers me so much about it. The fact that so many live with
mental illness, but we still have this stigma attached to it.
Before medicine and treatments, people were just assumed to beÂ crazy if they presented any abnormal behaviors in their daily life. Now it isÂ commonly handled with medication. It has, in our recent history, been treatedÂ with electroshock therapy and commitment though. All for just not understandingÂ that not everyone is created with the exact same brain. What a dull life itÂ would be if we did all have a carbon copy of the brain of the person sittingÂ next to us. But, if it branches off from the norm, it becomes an issue for some.Â Lack of understanding has always been treated with shunning and separating theÂ different from what we consider normal. This creates stigma and scares peopleÂ from talking about it and seeking help if they need it.
IÂ treat my mental disorder like I treat my alcoholism, I am completely open aboutÂ it. When you talk about it, you take away a piece of the stigma associated withÂ mental illness. When you talk about it, you help others see that they are notÂ alone and that they too can talk about it, whether it be to a professional inÂ confidence or in an open way like I do.
I think the recent influx of suicides related to mental illnessÂ has really brought much needed attention to mental illness and those living withÂ it. We have lost two actors recently from suicide related to mental illness,
Robin Williams andÂ Misty Upham. Both were said to be battling with bipolar disorder and bothÂ were reported to be off their medication, and in Robin’s case, alcohol and drugÂ use was involved as well. This is very common among people who live with mentalÂ illness, me included, who try to either supplement their prescribedÂ medications/treatment with drugs or alcohol, or to replace their prescribedÂ medication/treatment with drugs or alcohol to try and cope with what isÂ happening to them.
In my case I resorted to alcohol to try and cope with myÂ manic-depressive states so that I could either forget or make it a littleÂ easier. It only made it worse, asÂ I attempted suicideÂ more than once because it just exacerbated the manic-depressive states. My highsÂ and lows were that much worse when I was drinking. I drank because, depending onÂ which point in my life I was, I didn’t have insurance to cover the costs ofÂ treatment or because I just didn’t give a damn.
I was first diagnosed as having bipolar when I was 21. At firstÂ I didn’t believe it, but then after talking to my psychiatrist and doing a lotÂ of reading about it, it made sense. I was happy and eating one day, thenÂ depressed and not having an appetite the next. I was in a study on medicationsÂ to treat bipolar disorder. I did not know if I had the placebo or the actualÂ medication, although I believe I had the actual medication because I turned intoÂ a robot. Instead of having a middle ground of being able to react normally toÂ things, I had no emotions at all. I was a robot during that study. Because ofÂ that, and some other reasons, I have lived without medication since then. I amÂ certain that I probably would benefit from being on a correct prescription, butÂ it is what it is right now.
As is the most typical case amongst people who have thisÂ disorder, I deal with extreme highs and lows. When I have my lows it takes a lotÂ more work to stay sober and keep some sense of security. This is why there areÂ times when I am overly needy or looking for constant reassurance when none isÂ needed. This has cost me friendships and jobs at times because I’m not the sameÂ person I am when I have my highs. That being said, I’m not the same person whenÂ I am on one of my highs either. I am overly aggressive with my assertions andÂ demeanor.
The way I deal with it in my current relationships is to beÂ upfront about it when I start to feel like I’m rapidly going up or down. I tellÂ people I have bipolar disorder in the hopes that it will make my actions makeÂ more sense to them so that they don’t think I’m “crazy.” More often times thanÂ not it does help, but there are still people who don’t understand it andÂ sometimes it makes it worse in the longrun. But I see that as a problem theyÂ have to overcome themselves. Their understanding or openness about mentalÂ illness is not my fault. And, although I would like to think it doesn’t botherÂ me, it does when someone doesn’t understand or thinks that because I haveÂ bipolar disorder that I’m crazy. But, that’s all a part of my emotions going upÂ and down and being uber sensitive to certain things.
Now, that may have all just seemed like a rambling mess ofÂ words, but it’s the best way I could describe it. I have bipolar disorder and doÂ my best to cope with things like some would, but it’s just not possible, but IÂ handle it in my own way. I also talk about it to try and break that stigma. TooÂ many people live with mental illness and there are to many options for treatmentÂ for it to still be so stigmatized.
Hopefully this gives you a little more insight into why I workÂ the way I do. I’m not crazy, I just have a different way I have to approachÂ things at certain times.