I found this entry of New York Times‘s “The Ethicist” interesting: should you tell your boss about your mental illness. (copy-pasted below for your convenience.)
anyway, it’s to help with a book about mental illnesses. which is great and all. but it’s even better because it’s for MARYA HORNBACHER‘S NEW BOOK!!!
I own (and have actually read) all five of her books. The Center of Winter is a nonfiction piece. Madness and Wasted are respectively about her bipolar and eating disorders. Sane is about working the 12 Step Program with a mental illness; Waiting is about working the program without having to endure all the God-talk (or for “non-believers”, as she says).
anyway. Marya is one of the women I was supposed to become: a crazy, fucked up writer with tales of adventures and misadventures, who eventually got her life together and even got published.
I remembered after I finished reading Madness and Wasted, I emailed her about connections I noticed between the two and how she and I shared similar behavioural patterns. she actually responded to the email fairly promptly (and it seemed legitimately like her, and not a lackey). anyway, it was rad.
so I looked further into the aforementioned survey, only to learn it was open:
Author Marya Hornbacher is working on a book about mental illness. Her book will profile the lives of people who have a mental illness or who work in the field, and she’s trying to develop a deeper understanding of how the public views mental illness.
Please answer the questions below to help Marya with her reporting. There aren’t any right or wrong answers, and she appreciates all responses. If you know very little about mental illness, she’d love to hear from you. Or, if you are personally connected with mental illness, she would love to hear from you as well.
Marya won’t publish any of your responses without your permission. Marya or a journalist from the Public Insight Network may follow up with you for help with reporting.
and I decided, “what the fuck, let’s fill it out.” and I’d really appreciate it if you filled it out too. ❤
my answers are below.
as with most things, I’m somewhat late to celebrate. yesterday was World Bipolar Day (WBD). they self-describe the event’s intent as “bring[ing] world awareness to bipolar disorders and to eliminat[ing] social stigma”. I wanted to do some of the events and stuff they promoted (like added words that describe something about you other than your disorder on a photo of yourself, then share it on your social networks with the appropriate hashtags), but I never managed it. bleh.
instead, I’ll drop off some links about WPD, and do a quick questionnaire.
“Why a World Bipolar Day?” from Huffington Post: “Mental illnesses have historically been misunderstood, feared and therefore stigmatized. The stigma is due to a lack of education, mis-education, false information, ignorance, or a need to feel superior. […] Like most groups who are stigmatized against, there are many myths surrounding mental illness. Enter WBD.”
“World Bipolar Day 2015” from Being Beautifully Bipolar: “Bipolar disorder has ruined a lot of good things in my life and I guess I should be resentful. But it has also taught me about real love and forgiveness and for that I am grateful.”
“Bipolar Disorder: World Bipolar Day Sets Out to Inform, Break Barriers and Stigmas Attached to Mental Illness, Organizers Say” via HNGN: ” ‘As Martin Luther King once said, I have a dream that one day our nations will rise up and create all men equal,’ wrote Muffy Walker, [founder and president of International Bipolar Foundation]. ‘And I have a dream that my son, who has lived most of his life with bipolar disorder, will one day live in a nation where he will not be judged by his illness, but rather by the content of his character. I believe that World Bipolar Day will help bring my dream to fruition.’ ”
“World Bipolar Day, March 30, 2015” from bpnurse: “For my part, I’m proud that people with this disorder are finally talking about it instead of hiding in a closet. Much of what our society believes about bipolar is wrong, and those of us with lived experience are the best source of information; but putting ourselves out there can still be risky for us due to discrimination in employment, loss of friendships and changes in our social status.”
and now, I’m snagging yet something else from the lovely blahpolar diaries: a bipolar questionnaire.
World Bipolar Day Questionnaire
1. What does “bipolar disorder” mean to you?
it’s an explanation for my inabiality to find and maintain balance or consistency. I’ve always been an extremist in most everything. knowing that this is not just my having less self-control or will-power, but is instead a result of mis-wiring in my brain — I can hate myself a little less. that doesn’t get me off the hook; that doesn’t mean I don’t have to continue struggling to live appropriately. rather, it means I better know how to find assistance in and how to approach management of this problem.
2. What was your life like before you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder?
like most who are eventually noted as bipolar, I was initially diagnosed with major (or unipolar) depression. so I was prescribed mainly anti-depressants. however, that only controlled one end of extremes. I was pretty competent at hiding my more reckless behaviors from the parental units; however, I know the things I did and the risks I took, and I thought I was just fearless. instead, it was because I was legitimately mental unstable and, in some cases, actually insane at the time.
3. How old were you when you were diagnosed?
sometime in June 2010, I think. at least, that’s what my “Medical History” document tells me; and it has a better memory for details than I do, lol.
4. How do you manage your symptoms?
medication is my first go-to. but I know therapy also worked in the past. having my partner or close friends assist in monitoring me is an excellent way for me to have an external and somewhat objective interpretation of my behaviour, too.
5. What is life like for you now?
heh. well, back when I was on medication, it was … better. I was less manic and less depressed; my lows weren’t as low nor my highs as high, but they were still there.
currently, not being on meds — it’s getting bad. I’m in a mixed state (watered-down details here and here). as I’ve stated in a previous entry, this is one of the most dangerous places for a bipolar bloke or lass to be in — we’re still miserable and hopeless and depressed, but we’ve got the energy to do something about it; and because we’ve got that mania still in us, whatever we do is gonna be fucking drastic as hell.
6. Has having bipolar disorder affected your friendships, personal life, or professional life?
omg, yes. when I’m hypomanic and not medicated, I do all kinds of sort I regret. and I’m not even really aware of it at the time. I, uh, I’m not really gonna share the details, because I have IRL people who read this shit. but just know, it gets pretty fucking bad.
but even when medicated, it’s still difficult. I make all kinds of promises and plans. then in a few weeks or months when my depression kicks back in, I’m royally fucked — I don’t have the energy to fulfill these commitments; so I’m either disappointing someone, failing at something, or otherwise having to abandon something else more important to honor a previously made though less important agreement.
7. How do you think society treats people with a mental illness, especially bipolar disorder?
I’m honestly incredibly blessed. when people learn that I’ve got mental disorder X (OCD, anxiety, bipolar, whatever), they often don’t believe me. I guess that’s because I’m so damn good at pretending I’ve got all my shit together.
however, that means when I’m suffering or struggling really terribly, it’s difficult to reach out. I’ve never really let on how bad it gets, so I scare people when I finally actually open up to them. it’s happened several times during my life; so I now just avoid opening up at all. (that’s why this blog is so great — you don’t like what I’m saying?, then stop fucking reading. easy as that!)
8. Have you ever felt discriminated against or looked poorly on because of bipolar disorder?
thankfully, no. but again, I believe that’s because I can hide my Crazies so that it seems like I “have bipolar” just as how an anal-retentive person will say he “has OCD”.
9. Do you have any words of advice for people in the world suffering with bipolar disorder or other mental illness?
you’re only as fucked as you let yourself be. someone or something, somewhere, is willing to help. sometimes it’s ass-hard to find that person or place. but if you really do wanna get better or at least make it out okay, you just gotta look. ::shrugs::
beautiful piece on why sometimes we stay Ill.
my two favourite bits are quotes below:
Darkness is, in my attempt to explain, not the lack of light. It is not the lack of love or the lack of compassion but rather the lack of hope. Darkness in my mind is a simple place without much adornment that allows me to feel not just sad, not just depressed, but allows me to fall deep into my own internal soul and put the world far away. It is a place that gives me permission to not have all the answers and it is a place that gives me permission to not have to be what all those I love hope for me to be.
My darkness which makes bottle of pills very attractive also blocks out much of the world. There is no expectations in this darkness but rather the need to be nothing.
I will let you in on a secret. I will tell you a secret about myself that I don’t talk about, that I don’t think about, but live with. I am sorry to say it isn’t a dirty little secret nor will anyone be that astonished. It may not be understood by anyone, but it is my reality. And the secret is…I like the darkness.
Let me back up a couple of steps so that you can understand. There are important steps to know when coming not only to terms with your own mental illness but when you have teach others about the diseases. Trying to entertain while still teaching about a subject I know like the back of my brain without scaring my family (and husband) out of their wits is difficult. There are certain truths that you have to lightly touch on and others that you simply have…
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so over at Blahpolar Diaries, the author does what she calls “linkdumps”, wherein she topic vomits in no particular fashion links, articles, reviews, and other information about bipolar disorder. it’s a real trove if you want to be more updated or informed than just about what I prattle regarding bipolar. however, this round, she posted some that I too wanted to share.
first is a piece from The Guardian entitled “Let’s get this straight: bipolar is not a useful tool for productivity“. here’s a great excerpt:
Not everyone experiences dizzying highs; the lows may not be as pronounced for some. It is a condition that varies dramatically. My bipolar presents with long, angry, solitary manic periods, in which I can churn out thousands of pages to the exclusion of all else.
Does that sound good to you? It’s not.
Think of the angriest you’ve ever been. Did it hurt – physically and emotionally leave you raw? Think of the way you feel after a long writing spurt – exhausted, physically drained, numb perhaps. Now think of those feelings drawn out over a period of months, with no end in sight. Relief comes in the form of deep depression. Some relief! To be told I should be grateful for this was stunning.
it goes on to talk about how even the generic medical and academia world, people don’t understand what the fuck bipolar is.
during my last hypomanic phase, I was easily going 115 mph down the interstate, I was sleeping with whichever friend I could, I was making all these bold promises and plans about my future, and I really truly believed I was invincible and thus did incredibly stupid things (as in, more stupid than the aforementioned). (hypo)manias are not necessarily awesome.
moreover, it’s during the very early or very late season of a (hypo)mania that a person with bipolar is most likely to kill himself — there’s just enough sadness and despair to feel hopeless, but he has the energy to “do” something about it.
anyway. the second is just a collection of celebrities’ quotes about mental illnesses. the quote that really stood out to me was from one of those “YouTubers”, and it goes as follows:
Now, the stigma surrounding mental health isn’t surprising — at all. A mental illness generally suggests that something is wrong with the brain. Our brain is our control center. It’s responsible for everything we do, and the idea of something being wrong with the brain generally suggests that we’re out of control. And as humans we hate that idea. We hate it so much that we just don’t talk about it. We sweep it under the rug and pretend that it’s not there. But it is. Mental illnesses are a thing. They’re real, and they’re very present. And we need to talk about them.
so yeah. Blahpolar Diaries is a great blog, and she shares awesome shit. and these were ones I wanted to share too.
so I’m part of a sexually kinky community. many of you know it — good for you. because my family and current/potential employers may possibly see this blog (god forbid!!), I’m not going to explicitly state it.
however, a member made a post that was very moving and powerful. I’m sure it will have less meaning here, as part of the beauty was that he made this post on a site about sex, not mental disorders. nevertheless, I really enjoyed it.
with permission of the creator, who wishes to be credited as Adam Garner Johnson, I’ve copy-pasted it below.
You can’t call in crazy.
by Adam Garner Johnson on Wed, Feb 18, 2015
Mental illness is a motherfucker.
I wrote this tonight not feeling well. I’m not running a fever, don’t have a stomach bug, but I’m definitely ill. I’m depressed, been slightly irrational and lost my shit last evening, where I cried uncontrollably and could barely breathe. I’m not saying any of this because I’m looking for sympathy or people messaging me to see if they can help. Because while I love my friends on here and people who I can turn to locally, I know what I’m suffering from is not going to be solved by chatting over the Internet. I’m taking and will continue to take the right steps to help with my current state of mind.
The reason I’m writing in the midst of my suffering and depression is because I’m not ashamed, I’m not proud of it either, it’s definitely, nothing to be proud of, but the stigma that gets associated with depression and mental health issues is crazy. The people are not crazy, how we treat them and the issues as a society is crazy.
The times people need other people the most is the same time, that one) they don’t want to be by anyone and second) the people they are reaching out to usually get burnt out on trying to help time and time again. It just escalates this cycle of shame that when you are feeling less than stellar, you have to just sulk in silence afraid of being judged. It’s inhumane and rather sickening the way people who are suffering from certain mental illness issues get treated. There are no easy answers or solutions for the problems I’ve mentioned, but creating this, “Oh, you’re acting irrational and you’re depressed, well that means you’re a fucked up person,” attitude that is systemic in our society, is fucking pathetic. You can call into work for various health issues, you can’t call in crazy and just say you need to go to a therapist and take a day to try to compose yourself. That shit isn’t going to fly at the workplace, not because it’s unreasonable or not rooted in science and medicine, but rather, we look at people who suffer from depression as less than, when in actually, they have as much control over what they are inflicted with as much as someone with the flu, we just don’t see it that way.
People who suffer are not broken, damaged or any other adjective you want to slap on their forehead, it’s a condition. We don’t feel comfortable making fun of a cancer patient, but we’ll laugh at the expense of bi polar homeless person that’s suffering from a psychotic break. I’ve seen it happen and people don’t get called out on it, because it’s okay in this world to shun the mentally ill.
Even the most well adjusted adult who has never been diagnosed with any mental condition, will still suffer at the wrath of their irrationality at some point in their life. Maybe not to the extent of forming an addictive habit, an ocd compulsion or a depressive episode, but to some degree or another, they will be overcome with emotions, thoughts of despair and someone would say to them that they are not acting like “themselves.”
So the reason I wrote this tonight was not to make some elegant statement, not to give any inspiration or insight on how to fight through being depressed. It was simply to say, I’m depressed and I’m not ashamed. I still may not be able to call in crazy, but I’m not going to act like I’m fine when I’m not and it’s okay to feel uncomfortable talking to someone who is suffering, it’s not okay to make them feel uncomfortable because they’re suffering, there is a big difference there.
Be good to each other, always.
“Because mental illness is impossible to actually see, there is little sympathy or understanding from those around us. Just because our suffering is not tangible to people does not make it any less real to us. Our ability to perform the simplest of tasks is affected.
There is no blindfold that we can put over people’s eyes to allow them to experience life in our shoes for an hour, like they can experience loss of vision. There is no way to describe to them what if feels like to have disabling anxiety. Since there is nothing for them to see or touch, the reality of mental illness is not really perceivable to them.”
It is difficult for other people to understand what we go through, when we have severe anxiety or PTSD. It is not something that they can relate to or experience in any way. It is very sad and extremely frustrating that the people in our lives have no idea how truly difficult our day to day lives can be.
Because psychological disorders are invisible to others, they are not as real to them as physical disabilities are. People can understand that someone is in a wheelchair and that they cannot do the same things other people can do. People can understand that a person is blind and that the person has difficulty doing the day to day things that they can easily do.
Even though they can understand that a person is blind and is disabled to do many things, they still cannot understand what a blind person really goes…
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