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I Can’t Have Bipolar – I’m High-Functioning, I Have a Job

→ April 1, 2014 - 44 Comments

I Can’t Have Bipolar – I’m High-Functioning, I Have a Job

I started thinking about alcoholism the other day because of some stuff going on with a friend and I started to think about how high-functioning people often don’t consider themselves alcoholics because they’re high-functioning. How can I be an alcoholic; I have a job? A family. A wife. Friends. Money. A house. And so on…

And the same is true for people with bipolar disorder. People think to themselves, “I can’t have a mental illness – I have a job.” Or, “I can’t have a mental illness – I’m a good mother.” Or, “I can’t have a mental illness – I have a degree from a top-tier school.”

But as I have told audiences over and over – mental illness happens, and it can happen to anyone.

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Why Natasha Tracy? Why a Nom de Plume?

→ March 17, 2012 - 72 Comments

Last week on HealthyPlace’s Breaking Bipolar I mentioned that I use a nom de plume. Yes, that’s right, Natasha Tracy is not my legal name. I don’t think this should come as a gigantic shock to anyone given as writers have been writing under pen names since the beginning of the written word.

But apparently it did come as a shock. And apparently people felt betrayed by this piece of information. And apparently some people felt like being rather nasty about it. And apparently some people felt like becoming ex-readers over it.

Well, OK, fine, that’s your prerogative. But I have my reasons for not using my real name. Here are a few.

I don’t want people knowing where I live. I don’t want stalkers.

Allow me to relay a short tale to you.

Writing and Death Threats

I have a good friend who is a writer. He writes on sensitive, emotionally-charged subjects similar to mental illness. And is the case with us online personalities, he got death threats. Horrible, but not something that isn’t expected in the world of the internet.

My friend was the kind of person who did share real details about his life and family and he did use his real name. So when it came time that a stalker really hated him, the stalker found out where his kids went to school and made threats against them.

Yes, that’s right, threats against his kids. Deplorable. Unthinkable. And illegal.

And if you think I’m going to facilitate that type of behavior where I’m involved you’re downright batty.

No, I’m not in the Book

The reason that I don’t use my real name and I don’t tell people exactly where I live is because I don’t want a real-life stalker. It’s because I don’t want someone to make death threats and easily have the capacity to follow them through. It’s because my privacy is important to me. It doesn’t mean I’m not open, or honest, or even make public appearances and videos, but it does mean that you don’t get to be able to easily find me. That is not your right.

I want to be hirable in fields other than mental health.

Again, a short story.

A Nom de Plume for Mental Illness WritingHealth Problems and Stigma

I was working for a very fancy software company. One that makes the software you’ve probably got on your computer right now. I worked among some of the smartest people you can imagine. Their big brains were barely contained in our building.

And while I was working there I had a vagul nerve stimulator implanted. The details aren’t important but suffice it to say that when it activates it cuts off my throat and makes it difficult to speak. So if I was in the middle of a conversation with a co-worker I would wave a magnet in front of the computer implanted in my chest to turn it off so I could continue speaking. I never told people what it was or why I did that, trying to make it as inconspicuous as possible.

However, my co-workers decided on their own that the device must have to do with my heart and that every time I waved something over that area of my body it must be because I was so stressed in the conversation that something was going wrong with my heart. My co-workers assumed that I couldn’t take the stress of the job due to something that had nothing to do with stress.

They just made a judgement without facts.

(I didn’t know this for a long time. Eventually one of my co-workers told me.)

And once I found this out I realized that’s why people had started treating me differently – not because there was anything wrong with me but simply because they perceived that something was.

Employees Judge You

And you can bet the judgements would have been worse if, heaven forbid, they thought I had a mental illness. People suggest that others don’t judge you for your differences when this blatantly isn’t true. I had a slight difference that produced no change in my behavior and yet it changed the way other people treated me. People can be biased and bigoted and small-minded. If nothing else, it’s a subconscious thing.

Employers Judge You

And even worse, in the same environment one of the employees was assumed to be bipolar. And he had to leave the country (and finally the company) to get a fresh start because of how it affected how people treated him.

These are not things I made up. These are things that I have witnessed, things that I have lived. If your experience has been different that is great, but I wouldn’t risk having that kind of experience again. I just wouldn’t.

(Keep in mind that I’ve work in very-corporate America where backstabbing and politics run extremely amok.)

Employers Google You

And let’s not forget that before any techie geek is hired the employer Googles the heck out of them and if they were to find my writings, judgements would run rampant.

Why I Use a Nom de Plume

So, quite frankly, death threats, stalkers, prejudice, hirability and other reasons are why I use a nom de plume.

And I will not apologize for that. You can judge me and feel it discredits me if you like, but I believe my work speaks for itself and your judgement speaks considerably more about you than it does about me.

It’s Scary to Show People Bipolar, and Not Just Tell Them

→ June 28, 2010 - 6 Comments

Show People Bipolar DisorderThere are two types of writing I do about bipolar. The first type talks about being bipolar, what it’s like, information around it and so on. It’s generally not overly emotional. The second type is written from the point of view of my bipolar, period. It’s not therapied or controlled or softened.

And that second type really bothers people.

Showing People Bipolar Disorder

It has happened many times over the years that people have come onto my blog and gotten upset at my very “real” writing. Often bipolars tell me it expresses exactly how they were feeling and they are grateful. Others though, complain that I’m illogical, need help, and am just generally crazy. They want to yell at me, for expressing the sickness. Yell at me for showing bipolar disorder as it is.

So today on HealthyPlace I write some more about showing someone the bipolar versus just telling them about it.

Bipolar Natasha Tracy’s Interview with HealthyPlace

→ June 9, 2010 - Comments off

Breaking Bipolar at HealthyPlaceHere is today’s interview with me, Natasha Tracy, complete with call-in questions. I think it went well. We discussed some of the negative impact bipolar has had on my life.

I talked about bipolar disorder, depression, suicide, coping and how my writings at HealthyPlace have been controversial.

 

Watch live streaming video from healthyplace at livestream.com

 

See more video and audio at Breaking Bipolar at HealthyPlace.com.

Can’t Not Talk About Shock Therapy (Electroconvulsive Therapy, ECT)

→ March 10, 2010 - 6 Comments

I hadn’t planned on discussing my electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) experience with many people. I found it terrible, scarring, not to mention futile and immensely embarrassing; those aren’t generally feelings I like to talk about. I still find the idea of shock therapy, well, shocking. Incomprehensible. Absolutely impossible.

[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.]

Write About What You Know — I Know ECT

The problem with being a writer is that you write what you know, and you’re driven to write what plagues you most. At least I am. I can’t write about fluffy bunnies and sparkling rainbows, because these aren’t the things that occupy my conscious mind. But ECT. Ironically it erased pieces of my brain only to seemingly permanently occupy others. I’m acutely aware of its happening and yet find it completely unbelievable.

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