mental illness issues
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about 18 years ago and I can honestly say, that being diagnosed with bipolar disorder feels like a death. It may not feel like it immediately, but, over time, mourning a death is what being diagnosed with bipolar disorder feels like.
People ask me about the research on bipolar disorder and pregnancy quite a bit. Now, I am not a doctor and nor do I claim to be one; moreover, this is a subject that I haven’t studied exhaustively so I tell these women to talk to their doctors. Unfortunately, that’s the best advice I have been able to give about bipolar disorder and pregnancy.
That said, I read a new paper on bipolar disorder in pregnancy and I thought I would take the time to summarize some of its recommendations regarding pregnancy and bipolar disorder. I’ll add my two cents here and there (clearly noted as just my opinion), but for the most part, this advice comes from the references following the article and not from me. If any of the below concerns or interests you, please check the references and discuss it with your doctor.
I used to be a person who was very mad about psychiatry and psychiatric medication (psych meds). I had that vehement anger we often hear from antipsychiatrists although I was not antipsychatiry, per se. My biggest fantasy, at the time, was to take the horrible medications I was prescribed and shove them down the throat of the prescribing doctor. If only they had to take the medications, they would be more empathetic, more compassionate, more human. But I learned that being mad about psychiatric medication and psychiatry is a losing game and it really got me nowhere.
There is this growing movement of people who think that peer support is critical in the treatment of people with mental illness – but I would contend that, in spite of this movement, peer support does not treat mental illness. And, in fact, by funding these peer support-based initiatives and peer-delivered services we take away dollars that should actually be spent on the evidence-based treatment of serious mental illness.
I have heard that being bipolar is “fashionable.” I have heard that “all the kids are doing it.” I have heard that it’s a fashionable, fad diagnosis. I have heard that some even want to be called bipolar because of its association with creativity. But, seriously, is this a real thing? Is it fashionable to be bipolar?
Katie Perttunen is a bipolar mom and writer and she writes today’s piece. Considering how people have been crucifying me over my decision to not get pregnant, in large part, because of bipolar disorder, I thought this would be a good time to share some tips on how to parent with bipolar disorder; because, while I don’t plan on doing it, others certainly do.
Parenting with bipolar disorder is not an easy thing. What do you do when you are a mom with bipolar type one with psychotic features? What do you tell your children, and how do you cope? These tips for how to parent with bipolar disorder might help.
On the topic of pregnancy and bipolar disorder, I have said before, I would choose not to have children because of bipolar disorder. I’m not saying this is what every woman with bipolar disorder would choose, I’m saying that with my particular brand of bipolar, with my particular situation, with my inability to live off of medications, I would choose not to get pregnant because of bipolar (Medical Research on Bipolar Disorder and Pregnancy). I believe that, ultimately, it would be unfair to bring a life into my mess. It would be selfish. It would be me “wanting” a child above me considering the welfare of the child. And that’s not something I would ever do.
And while I know the choice is mine entirely, it doesn’t feel that way to me at all. While I know I could get pregnant (or, at least, I assume so), and it’s me that’s choosing not to get pregnant because of bipolar, I feel like my back is against the wall on this thing and that not having children is the only thing I can do. I feel like the bipolar has taken away my choice. All the other women out there get to decide if children are right for them based on, mostly, lifestyle choices (although, of course, some other women carry genetic risks as well) and I don’t get to decide because bipolar has forced my hand. Bipolar has taken away my choice around bipolar and pregnancy.
I believe that being suicidal is not the same thing as simply wanting to die. Of course, if you’re suicidal, you do want to die (or, more specifically, to end your pain through death) but, if you simply want to die, you may not be actively suicidal. Please understand that wanting to die and being suicidal are both serious and dangerous, but I would suggest they are not the same.
Some of us are lucky enough to have really supportive loved ones and, sometimes, a friend or family member might come to our doctors’ appointments. If this is the case for you, consider yourself lucky because it can be very helpful. I’m not suggesting that you drag someone to your psychiatrist’s appointment by his or her hair or that you invite people with whom you are not comfortable, but if a friend or family member coming to a doctor’s appointment is an option for you, I say, take it.
So I’m on Twitter today and someone says that Natasha Tracy stigmatizes the mentally ill (paraphrasing). Specifically, Bipolar Burble is “one of the most stigmatizing things I’ve ever seen.”
Now, in case you haven’t kept up with completely uncurrent events – Natasha Tracy also has a mental illness called bipolar disorder. And while I’m sure that some people don’t like the way I express that or my opinions on it, to say I’m stigmatizing to those with a mental illness is, well, redonkulous.
I am not a religious person nor a prayer person and I believe that prayer does not cure mental illness and those that tell you to “pray more” because “it works” are invalidating the experience that is having a mental illness. Generally, I’m not in the business of telling people what doesn’t work because everyone is different, but this is one area that drives me nutty. Prayer doesn’t cure mental illness.
I get quite a few messages from people who say I have saved their lives. (Of course, I get messages from people saying I’m killing people, too, but let’s not discuss those.) People say that if it weren’t for me, they would be dead. People say that, because of my work, I saved their lives. And, of course, in a few cases I’ve taken a somewhat more active role than that.
But today I want to tell everyone something: I didn’t save those lives, you did.