I’m on Twitter. Not a surprise there. And I have a pretty active following there. Most of the people are fans, but a few aren’t. A few quite disagree with me and what I have to say. Which is fine. People can have their views.
And recently, I was tweeting along, minding my own business when someone said this to me:
and have you been on antidepressant, mind altering drugs all these years. Making choices while under the influence
My first reflex was to reply,
and have you been making choices all this time while being an ignorant, sanctimonious ass?
But I’ve heard through the grapevine that wouldn’t be professional. So I said nothing. If Mr. Twitter wants to judge me for taking medically prescribed medication, that’s his right. Even if it is a small-minded, uncompassionate, hateful thing to do.
And really, I have snarky answers for many of the asinine comments people make to me. However, I don’t tend to share them as it makes people all pissy. That being said, this particular comment hit a sore spot – being under the influence of brain-bending medications.
If you feel that you may hurt yourself or someone else please get help now. People want to help you. You are not alone.
Often people with bipolar disorder, depression and other mental illnesses feel suicidal. And people often feel suicidal knowing that they aren’t, actually, going to commit suicide. And while the knowledge that you likely aren’t going to commit suicide might be comforting to some, it sure doesn’t make feeling suicidal any more fun.
Starting to Feel Suicidal
And starting to feel suicidal can begin with little things like feeling crushing depression, unstoppable loneliness or indeed feeling nothing at all. People have different cycles that lead to feeling suicidal. Regardless though, when you start to feel like you want off the planet, there are some things you can do.
Rarely, if ever, do people accuse me of having a lack of compassion for people with a mental illness. This is probably because I am a person with a mental illness so I kind of know where other mentally ill people are coming from.
Nevertheless, this is exactly what one commenter recently did:
This is a tragic post because the writer is incapable of honoring the struggle of a human being who is in pain. Rather than muster empathy, compassion and problem-solving, she shuts out the people who need her most. There is something wrong with America when families send their loved ones to prison or institutions when what they need most is the love and support of their community.
The commenter is referring to a post wherein I suggested that sometimes the right thing to do is to say goodbye to a person with a mental illness. Particularly in cases where a person is abusive and refuses to get help, sometimes walking away is the only thing left to do in order to protect your own life. I stand by this sentiment.
Or, am I a bad person?
Some people believe that if you do “bad” things then “bad” things will happen to you. If you don’t help the little old lady across the street, then a car splashes a puddle over your brand new shoes. That sort of thing. Conversely, if you do help the lady across the street, doing “good,” then something good will happen to you like getting your favorite table at a restaurant. It’s the basic concept of karma (religious underpinnings notwithstanding).
“Good” and “Bad” People are Convenient
This is a very convenient view of the world suggesting that things will “even out” somehow. That bad people will “get what’s coming to them” and that good people will be rewarded in the end. And on some level we’re all taught this and believe it to some extent. Why do people do the “right” thing when no one’s looking? In the back of their mind, part of the reason is selfishly because they want good things to happen to them too.
And that’s all well and good until you realize this: bad things have happened to you. Bipolar is the worst thing that ever happened to me. Does that mean I’m a bad person?
I wrote a rather popular piece a while back called A Damaged Brain and a Mind Trying to Deal with It. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen this before as it’s part of my bio. If not, then it might be the first time you’ve heard that turn of phrase.
And recently a commenter replied:
I do not believe in this mind/body duality. I believe that you are your body.
OK, no problem. I don’t expect everyone to agree on such things. I have nothing invested in making the world agree with me.
But the thing is, I know there is a brain-mind separation. And how do I know this? Perspective. It’s your free gift with a purchase of 10 or more years of bipolar disorder.
Continued from part one of How to Tell Someone They Have a Mental Illness.
Thirdly, I recommend printing out information about the disorder for the person. There are plenty of resources online that will tell you the basics about a disorder and if you have this information ready, the person with the illness doesn’t have to go searching for it. Books are another good option. But know the person with the mental illness may use this information in dribs and drabs as information overload is a real possibility and will help no one.
Fourthly, look up places and ways the person can get help. There’s no point in pointing out a problem if you can’t offer a solution. In this case the solution is help. The easiest place to get help is your family doctor so maybe you could make an appointment for the person. You family doctor can do an initial assessment and refer the person to the appropriate person (probably a psychiatrist) for a full evaluation.
Additionally, there are all sorts of mental health and addiction related resources available and they are listed by location here.
When someone has a mental illness it can be very difficult for them to see it. The very nature of a brain illness is such that the brain itself has a hard time recognizing it. We are often so wrapped up in the symptoms that we can’t see that what we’re really suffering from is an illness and not just a bad day, bad week or bad month. This is to say nothing of anosognosia, the clinical condition wherein people don’t possess the insight necessary to understand that they are sick.
Sometimes Others Can See We Have a Mental Illness
So sometimes the people around us are the ones that realize we’re sick before we do. Sometimes it’s our loved ones that can clearly see a pattern of behavior that goes beyond unusual into pathological.
But if you know someone who you suspect has a mental illness, how do you tell them?
A pet peeve of mine is when people say, “normal is just a dryer setting.”
Um. No, it isn’t. Normal is a word that means “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.”
Normal is not just a freaking dryer setting and pardon me for stating the obvious, but I am bipolar and I am not normal.
Every six weeks or so I like to do a quick round-up of writings I’ve done elsewhere, just in case you’ve missed them. This session’s round-up include subjects like assisted outpatient treatment, self-harm and mental health stigma. Here are some of the notable articles:
- Assisted Outpatient Treatment Thoughts – I’ve previously written here about assisted outpatient treatment (AOT; also known as Laura’s Law) and I’ve written two additional pieces on Human Rights and Assisted Outpatient Treatment and Does Assisted Outpatient Treatment Work?
- Self-Harm Thoughts – I’ve been on a bit of a self-harm jag recently and I’ve written about Stress Leading to Self-Harm, created a video on Stress, Anxiety and Self-Harm and whether or not to Hide Self-Harm Scars. I’ve received some amazing and touching comments on these pieces.
- Credibility and Mental Illness – ironically, by admitting I write under a nom de plume I seem to have lost credibility with some people on a very post talking about Losing Credibility Due to a Mental Illness.
- Acceptance and Mental Health – as I wrote about Acceptance of Bipolar Disorder Being a Process, acceptance of mental illness treatment is a process also, including the idea that Taking Medication Makes you Weak. This includes information on accepting the limitations placed on us by bipolar disorder.
- “Soft” Bipolar – information on what Bipolar Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) is. Indications you might be bipolar even if not traditionally so: Soft Signs of Bipolar Disorder.
- Drug-Free Treatments – Alternative Treatments for Bipolar disorder, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Bipolar disorder and Drug-Free Products to Help you Sleep better.
- Understanding How Lithium Treats Bipolar Disorder – mice are helping us understand bipolar disorder and lithium.
The Bipolar Burble welcomes guest author Daniel Bader, Ph.D of Bipolar Today for today’s post on dealing with bipolar disorder in university. Bader proves again that you can do anything you want to do with bipolar disorder, you may just need a bit of help.
I was a student for a very long time, having just finished up my doctorate after nine years of study, not counting my two years of parental and medical leaves. It was quite a challenge, and most of those challenges came not from the program, but from my bipolar disorder.
However, having gone through it, I wanted to discuss some of the challenges of being a student with bipolar disorder and some of the tricks that I picked up along the way. Hopefully, it can help others who might be presently in university or considering going there.
Challenges as a Bipolar University Student
There were a lot of challenges with being bipolar as a university student, but there were definitely three issues that dogged me through most of my program:
- Isolation: Studying is an isolating experience. There’s endless research, reading and writing that is done entirely by myself. I found being alone with my moods was rarely a pleasant experience.
- Fluctuating Self-Esteem: It’s hard at the best of times to evaluate the quality of our writing. With bipolar disorder, my work would often seem incredible or terrible, making it hard to do revisions.
- Depression: Depression is awful, and it just crushed my ability to work efficiently. As a result, I often found myself falling behind.
My Strategies as a Bipolar University Student
Over time, however, I was better and better able to deal with these problems, ultimately finding my experience a satisfying one.
- Finding Ways To Be Social: For my entire university experience, I never once lived alone. I lived in residences with shared meals, with a good friend, with my parents and ultimately with my wife and children. This kept me from slipping into the infinite regress of self-reflecting moods that isolation brings.
- Finding Someone Whose Opinion I Trusted: I was able to develop a good rapport with my dissertation supervisor, who would help me see what was working and not working in what I was doing, when I wasn’t able to get the proper perspective. Before my dissertation, I would often show papers to friends to get their opinions.
- Getting Help: It took me a while to get proper help as a student, in part because I kept being put on the wrong medications (long story). However, once I had a proper regime of medication and therapy, I found that my depression improved significantly, and I was able to zip through the last few years of my doctorate, even while teaching half-time and starting a family.
Being a student with bipolar disorder, especially a graduate student, provides a lot of challenges. The isolation and fluctuating moods can wreak havoc. However, by figuring out what those challenges were and finding strategies to deal with them, I found I was able to complete and even often enjoy my experience.
Daniel Bader, Ph.D., is a recent graduate and works as a university instructor. He now runs his own website on bipolar disorder called Bipolar Today.
In the book I’m writing on electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) I’ve had to address the question as to how ECT works. However, in spite of the fact that ECT has been in use since the 1930s we really don’t know how ECT works.
But recently we may have gotten a bit closer to figuring it out.
[Note: I am running a survey on real patients’ experiences with, and perspectives on, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). If you’ve had ECT and want your voice heard, please take the survey here. More detailed information on the ECT survey can be found here.]