mental illness issues

Mental Illness and Crazy Block Goals

→ February 28, 2011 - 21 Comments

You can be anything you want to be. Dream it and you can be it. Do it now.

We have all heard these things. These are the things we tell our children. These are the some of the lies we tell our children.

Tell the Crazy They Can Do Anything they Want, I Dare You

[push]We’re trying to encourage our children to be who they want to be. We want them to get what they want.[/push]

And as far as lies go these ones aren’t bad. We are trying to encourage kids to be presidents, astronauts, fire engines (seriously, kids love fire engines), CEOs, police officers (they don’t want to be police cruisers for some reason), doctors, lawyers and so on. We want them to obtain their dreams. It’s so terribly noble of us, to lie to our children like that.

No, You Can’t Do Anything You Want

Of course doors for a person are closed the second they take their first breath. What is their race? What is their sex? Where are they born? Who are their parents? How much money do they have? Into what time are they born? What is the political climate? Are they born with a birth defect? Do they have a disability? Do they have an illness? And so on, and so on, and so on. And with every circle around the sun, more and more limitations are placed on them.

Life with Limited Opportunities is Still Limitless

This, of course, is OK. Life is still basically limitless. You can keep closing doors and still have an entire world of possibilities. Can’t be a heart surgeon? Be a veterinarian. Can’t be president? Become a member of congress. Can’t pee standing up? Learn to write your name in the snow with a stick. There are alternatives to everything. Whatever your goals today, they can be modified as time passes to allow for a fulfilled existence. Humans are good that way. We adapt.

Before I was Crazy, I Had Goals

And this is as true of me as anyone else. When I was a child I wanted to be a ballerina. Why? Because I wanted to wear a pink tutu. Then I realized I could wear a pink tutu anytime I wanted, and decided I didn’t want to unwrap my point shoes to find blood.

Then I wanted to take over my mother’s position as the head administrator at a dental office. Why? Because I thought she was the epitome of success (I was ten). Then I realized that her position led to a chronic stress-related condition and decided I didn’t like dentists anyway.[pull]And so on, and so on. Dreams come, and go, and are replaced with other things.[/pull]

I look at my life, and wonder what my new goals should be. I have goals, I really do. I have things I would like to get done. There are accomplishments I want to have in my obituary. I don’t want to just be, whatever this is, forever.

Crazy is Blocking My Goals

But there’s a problem, of course there is. I’ve tried on some goals. I’ve laid them on top, wiggled around, and seen if they fit. Some do, some don’t, like everyone, there are options.

Bipolar in the way of goalsThe problem is, I look at the goal, out bobbing up and down ahead of me, and there is a huge obstacle in my way. There is the crazy, and the crazy is a force with which to reckon.[push]Crazy has a great real estate agent, and its carpenter is no slouch either.[/push]

There is a space in my brain, a space that used to hold memories of white pet bunnies, polynomial equations, and how to knit one purl two, that is now overtaken by bipolar. The crazy has set up house there. In fact it isn’t a house, it is a mansion of crazy. It has wings, and maids, servant’s quarters, and crazy butler’s pantries.

And there is the crazy, carved in stone, under lacquered wood, and in stained glass, before me. It sprawls over the neighbors and dwarfs those that approach it, and I think if you look closely, you’ll see there is a moat and a portcullis to be dealt with, if ever you were actually to get that close to crazy.

Sometimes Goals Are Taken Away, Even from the Non-Crazy

Sometimes when your goal is taken away, you don’t know what to do. Sometimes you counted on one experience so much that when it disappears, you’re lost and have nothing solid to hang on to. People then usually go through some kind of crisis. You see it when women who really want kids can’t have them, or when a spouse dies, or when a person becomes disabled. Their lives shift so suddenly they didn’t know what to do. But with few exceptions, these people do get back up, dust themselves off, and work towards something new. They are injured, but they have survived.

No Matter What I Do, Crazy Stands Between Me and Most Everything Else

But for me, no matter what I pick, there is always the same roadblock ahead. Everything I want to do is delayed, destroyed, decimated, by the crazy. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to climb it, go around it, get over it, get under it, get through it, destroy it. It’s just always there. It’s the indomitable foe. It’s that which cannot be conquered.

I feel like whatever I have not accomplished now, I will never do. I feel like it’s over. There’s no where to go. There’s nothing to do. I’m done. We all have a limited amount of time on the planet and it feels like my useful working hours have come to a close. Now I’m just treading water. Or surviving waterboarding. It’s tough to tell.

The Goal Always Seems to be Not Dying From the Crazy

[push]All my life is devoted to dealing with crazy, trying to stop it from expanding the east wing, blocking more of the sunlight and further raising property taxes.[/push]

I feel like this is no life at all. It’s a war of attrition. Parts of me die, parts of it are destroyed, but in the end nobody wins. It’s too strong to defeat, but it hasn’t won. So we stand, staring at it each, over the line in the sand. Fighting for inches. Winning then loosing. Loosing then winning. Forever more, it is always the same. Crazy and I are at an impasse.

Is Not Dying a Goal Worth Living For?

So what about that is worth continuing? Fight the good fight? Fight the fucked fight. A life destined by the stars. No tutus, or engines, or pianos, or dentists to be found. Just fighting, blood, and death. And yet suicide is supposed to be wrong. Giving up is supposed to be wrong. One day someone will have to explain that to me. I can hit them in the head with a two-by-four every two minutes and tell them it will never end, and then they can tell me why they should live another 40 years. That would required some seriously fervent and advanced logic and desire. Any takers?

Psych Meds, Psychiatry and Psychology Are Evil

→ February 8, 2011 - 55 Comments

I hear from quite a few people, generally part of special interest groups, who think psych meds are evil, psychiatrists are evil or psychologists are evil. Usually these statements of hatred come from negative personal experiences with psych meds or psychiatry/psychology. Usually these people are lashing out emotionally because they didn’t like how the medicine or other form of treatment went.

I Understand Why People Think Psychiatry and Psychiatric Treatments Are Evil

Psychologist Are Not Evil

Pardon the image of smiling doctors; I couldn't find one where they were all twirling handlebar mustaches.

I get this. I really do. When you tie yourself in knots and live through painful psych treatments and do things you never thought you would do to get better, and then you don’t get better, you get a little bitter. I’d say that’s pretty normal and understandable.

(I am jaded and perhaps bitter but far too even-minded to form such a fanatical stance.)

But here’s the thing, psychiatry is no more evil than any other branch of medicine; psychiatrists are just doing the best they can with what they have. (And yes, I wish they had better options.)

Negatives about Psychiatry and Psych Meds

If we take me as an example, I have had many nasty interactions with the field of mental health:

  • I had a psychiatrist not listen to me, or my symptoms, which led to a misdiagnosis
  • I’ve had doctors not care about painful side effects
  • Psychiatrists have typically not tracked blood pressure and weight even when it is standard practice as defined by the prescribing information on antipsychotics
  • I wasn’t made aware of the tardive dyskinesia and diabetes risks with antipsychotics
  • Psychiatrists refused to treat me because (essentially) I was a lost cause

Granted, that sounds pretty bad. I get that. Totally. But keep in mind some of these things could have been averted by me, and we’re talking about more than 12 years of data. Stuff happens in 12 years.

Positives about Psychiatry and Psych Meds

  • I’m not dead

I could list others like quality of life and quality of skydive, but when it comes down to it, not being dead is really the key.

Special Interest Groups (Like Scientology) Skew Psychiatry Beyond Recognition

I don’t usually call people or groups out on my blog. That’s because I don’t want to engage in some sort of ridiculous war. I like to live and let live. But honestly, Scientologists and antipsychiatry groups like them, harm the mentally ill so gravely that they cannot be ignored.

Lies and Misinformation from a Scientology Group

A major Scientology site has articles like:

State Hospitals are Still Snakepits¹ of Patient Abuse, Betrayal of the Public

“The state hospital purpose appears to be one of keeping people institutionalized at the state’s expense with no concept or intention of improvement or rehabilitation.”

Psychiatric Drugs Cause Violence

“Psychiatrists continue to “sell” the wrong causes—from mental illness and poverty to broken families and genetic makeup (none of which they can cure)—yet the psychiatric drugs can themselves cause violence.”²

Psychiatry’s Pills That Kill

“Human suffering is NOT “mental illness””[push]”People suffer.  But when this suffering is labeled “mental illness,” it is a guarantee that the patient will never experience a recovery.”[/push]

“People do get depressed.  They can become overwhelmed by their emotions and start to feel that their minds or bodies are out of control.  There is always a reason for this, whether it be an emotional upset, a loss or a situation with the body that is best addressed by a medical doctor or allied practitioner, such as a nutritionist or chiropractor.””

“Psychiatry is NOT medicine”

“Based on the DSM, psychiatrists declare that their drugs and other treatments work to improve mental illness, even though psychiatrists admit that they do not know how or why these drugs “work.””³

Psychiatry: Synonymous with Fraud

[pull]”If they don’t know the cause, then asserting that it is physical, chemical, biological or brain-based is fraud.””[/pull]

“Psychiatrists and the mental health industry claim that mental disorders, such as “ADHD,” “obsessive-compulsive,” and “bipolar” are medical conditions that are brain-based, due to a chemical imbalance or other physiological medical cause.¹¹  This claim is used to justify the use of electroshock, psychosurgery and psychotropic drugs to treat the so-called medical condition.  This claim — that psychiatric disorders are no different than medical diseases — is fraudulent…”[push]”Psychiatry has no objective tests that prove the existence, cause or physical basis of a single psychiatric disorder.  Psychiatrists merely observe a behavior or set of behaviors and give it a name.  It looks like medicine and it sounds like medicine and that is where the similarities end…”[/push]

“Psychiatrists frequently cite “chemical imbalance” as the cause.  This is nothing more than another psychiatric theory that has never been proven.  This popular misconception is due to nothing more than heavy public marketing; we’ve just been hearing it for so long that many take for granted that it is true.  It is not true and has in fact been thoroughly discredited by researchers.”

Psychiatrists & Psychologists: Professional Rapists, Perverts and Pedophiles

“But psychiatrists and psychologists rarely consider that raping a patient is rape. Instead, it is euphemistically called “sexual contact,” a “sexual relationship” or “crossing the boundaries” when one of its members sexually forces themself on a patient, often with the help of drugs or electroshock treatment.”

Misdiagnosis is Malpractice. Psychiatry is Misdiagnosis.

“Psychiatrists admit that there is no science to psychiatry and that they cannot cure their patients.  But they prescribe heavy mind-altering drugs with a reckless abandon that has become a growing concern to the FDA and similar agencies abroad.  The foregoing cases and thousands of others like them bear testament to the fact that psychiatry is a profession of willful negligence, refusing at nearly every turn to search out and treat the actual conditions that manifest as “mental illness.””²²

Note these people feel they have evidence for these statements (sort of). I really don’t have time to refute all their “evidence” but it certainly can be done. (I’ve added a few footnotes to the bottom of the page about the above quotes.)

If you would like to know more, simply Google one of the article titles and I’m sure you’ll find it. I’m not linking to these people as I consider them to be extremely harmful.

OK, so I have given this antipsychiatry group a lot of space and I have quoted only very brief parts of their biased crap. Some thoughts on antipsychiatry:

Some Doctors Do Bad Things

Orbitol frontal cortex different in depressed

Represents difference between brain activity levels of healthy and depressed subjects. Shows healthy subjects had more activity in lateral portion of orbitofrontal cortex which plays a major role in regulating emotions.

I would never suggest that there aren’t bad, abusive, fraudulent, money-focused, uncaring doctors, psychiatrists or psychologists out there. They are like every other segment of the population: some of them are paragons of their profession and some of them definitely aren’t. And those who break the law should surely be prosecuted, just like anyone else.

But really, basing the opinion of an entire field of medicine on the minority who hurt others is like getting food poisoning at a restaurant and then never going out to eat again because “all restaurants are out to make you sick.”

Psychiatry and Psychology Have Saved Thousands of Lives

I could write an article every day for a month on how many people psychiatry has saved. I know nasty special interest groups deny it, but every day people are helped by mental health care professionals.

Mental Illness Exists

One of the more hurtful lies these people tell is that mental illness doesn’t exist. Again, I could fill an entire book proving the physical nature of mental illness, but for now I’ll just link to PsychEducation.org’s explanation to the biological nature of depression.

Psychiatry and Psychology Have Saved My Life

I wasn’t kidding about that. For all their flaws, of which there are many, I wouldn’t have survived this long without psychiatry, psych meds and psychology. Moreover, I wouldn’t have experienced the quality of life I have had for the past decade+. [pull]It’s quite possible to rid someone of cancer only to have it reappear years later. This isn’t because the doctor did anything wrong per se, it’s just that we’re working with the best medicines we have, and they’re far from perfect.[/pull]

Now isn’t the best time for me. Now psychiatry is having a really hard time with me. Now things are looking extremely bleak. But current failure does not destroy past success.

If you hate psych meds, psychiatrists and psychologists you are quite free to do so. I’m not going to drag you to an appointment. But to make claims that essentially assert psychiatry and psychology are evil and that mental illness doesn’t exist is to be uninformed, disingenuous, ignorant and ultimately extremely harmful to the people around you.

Make a choice for yourself and stop spreading this vitriolic hatred that stops mentally ill people who truly need help from getting it.

(Feel free to agree or disagree but know up front there will be no personal attacks permitted.)

Footnotes:

¹ Term used in the early 1900s to describe insane asylums. Probably warranted at the time.
² This is not exactly true. While there are risks of rage associated with antidepressants, let us not forget that the population who is taking these  drugs are mentally unwell to begin with. Also note that alcohol use is more strongly associated with violence then any other drug.
³ It is not the case that no one with a mental illness recovers. People recover every day, some continuing medication and some going off of medication. Moreover, while it is the case that our understanding of psychopharmacology is limited, the exact mechanism of action of Tylenol is unknown too, but I don’t see people lighting their hair on fire over that. The medical community uses the scientific method to determine what works. Sometimes we know exactly why and sometimes we don’t. But in the case of psychopharmaceuticals our knowledge grows by leaps and bounds every year.
¹¹ Yes, doctors say there is a physical cause because there is one. And tests too. We don’t know it all, but we’re learning.
²² Honestly I’ve never seen a doctor willfully not look for another cause. I’ve had blood tests up to my neck looking for other causes. Believe me, I wish there were one.

“Mood Disorder” Doesn’t Describe Bipolar, Pain or Crazy

→ February 7, 2011 - 23 Comments

“Mood Disorder” Doesn’t Describe Bipolar, Pain or Crazy

(timeless thoughts from a psych patient)

It is a stupid, cyclical life that I lead. I just keep going round and round the insanity-go-round, the mood-go-round, the crazy-go-round. It’s said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Welcome to my life.

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Suicide – Is This Depression The Last Depression?

→ February 4, 2011 - 5 Comments

One of the truly horrible things about a lifetime of bipolar, hypomania, depression and mental illness is that you’re always left wondering, is this depression the last depression? Is this my brain and my mind’s breaking point? Is this the depression I end with suicide?

Others Wonder if This is the Time You End Depression with Suicide

And worse, people around you, in idle moments, might wonder if this the last time they’ll have to hear you sobbing on the phone. Is this the last time they see your depression? Is this the last time they have to be scared for you?

Ah yes, a mental illness reality that is a treat for everyone.

this is the last depressionI Wonder About the Last Depression that Leads to Suicide

I do wonder about the depression that leads to suicide. I don’t tell anyone I wonder about this, and if they ask, I tell them not to worry (and they shouldn’t, there’s no point) and deftly assuage their concerns. I can do assuage fears; it’s one of my powers. If I did, in fact, kill myself tomorrow their worry today would have done nothing other than ruin their dinner. No need to do that.

The Idea of a Last Depression Troubles Me

And still, I find the idea of the last depression and the suicide troubling.[push]There is still some vague hope that refuses to die that I might actually do something useful with my existence. OK, I admit, it’s unlikely, like I said, it’s a vague hope. (Yes, I am aware that I’m useful here and there, but somehow between the crazy and the crazy meds, nothing feels meaningful.)[/push]

There really is no logical reason to stay alive, other than to say, perhaps, there will be plenty of time to be dead later, so there’s no point in speed up the process any.

There is a biological trait that all humans have, the desire to stay alive. Self-preservation, and then of course procreation, is the drive of all life. This is a biological necessity, obviously. Suicide is like a 12-car pile-up during the drive.

I mean if I plunked a bunch of life forms on a planet, I would make sure they had a vested interest in staying there too. After all, I did go to all the bother of putting them there in the first place.[pull]Yes, I’m aware people are built to prolong life, not to end life. It’s instinctual.[/pull]

Suicide is the opposite of this driving force, of our instincts.

(Of course, murder is pretty opposite too, and people do that all over the place.)

My Instincts Don’t Want Me To Die

This explains my illogical hesitation.

But people defy biological urges all the time. In fact, it’s pretty much what a society is designed to do. So even though surviving might be the most ingrained biological imperative, it certainly can be ignored. And no one ignores a biological imperative like me. I left my humanity in my other lifetime.

If you’re feeling like you might hurt yourself get help now. You are not alone. It gets better.

Author’s note: This is a piece of writing. Not to worry.

Depression, Bipolar – Feeling Alone with a Mental Illness

→ January 23, 2011 - 54 Comments

People with a mental illness feel alone.

Depression makes you feel alone. Depression makes you feel like you’re the only person in the world that feels the pain and sadness that you do. Depression brings about negative spirals of thinking that convinces you that there is only darkness, nothingness and that you are utterly alone in the world. This loneliness is a symptom of depression.

Bipolar makes you feel alone too. Bipolar makes you think you are alone because no one else experiences the highs of mania and the lows of depression. Then there’s loneliness with schizophrenia thanks to the rest of the world unfairly thinking you are violent and dangerous. And there’s dissociative identity disorder convincing you that you are alone and that no one on the planet is as “crazy” as you.

In short, mental illness makes you feel alone and like there is no one else like you in the world.

Depressed AloneAlone with “High-Functioning” Bipolar

Last week I wrote an article on Breaking Bipolar at HealthyPlace on what it’s like to be considered a “high-functioning” bipolar. On how somehow this convinces people I’m not really sick. On how lonely and exhausting it is to fake normalcy at work, to fake normalcy socially, to fake normalcy out in the world. This behavior allows me to fake a life, and work, and communicate, and to live in spite of the fact that I am shattered the moment I walk through my apartment door. “High-function” should be renamed to “High-Acting-Function”. (The Academy can simply mail the Oscar to my house.)

And in response to this article I’ve received many comments about feeling alone that are just like this blog comment:

“thank you thank you thank you. You put into words what I have been trying to think out loud for decades.”

And then there is this blog comment:

“[snip]It’s comforting to hear that I’m not alone in this. I’ve been feeling like a freak for years. Thank you.”

Writings about Mental Illness Remind People They Aren’t Alone

The comments above are actually ones I get from people all the time. I take great pride that my writing is able to affect people in this way. If all my writing ever does is help people realize that they are not alone, that they are like so many, that there are thousands of us out there, that they are not “freaks,” then my writing is worth it.

Human beings feel like freaks. Human beings feel alone.

Every teenager in the world, right now, feels like a freak. Every one of them feels alone. Every one of them feels like they are unique and no one understands their pain. (Teenagers are just like that; remember?) There is something about the human condition that convinces us we are alone, at least, when we’re teenagers. I have found that even those who talk about mental illness have a hard time truly expressing what it is to have their mental illness. It isn’t their fault. Their brain is sick. And they need their brain to express themselves. It’s a catch-22.

But when we grow up we come to learn that there are many people like us. Hoards of them. We learn we are not alone. There are people like us everywhere. Unfortunately people with a mental illness often do not have this experience. People with a mental illness often do not know another person with a mental illness as no one wants to talk about having a mental illness. No one wants to talk about being alone with depression or bipolar.

People with Mental Illness are not Alone

It doesn’t matter if you’re depressed, bipolar, schizophrenic, or anything else – I can guarantee to you with all the certainty that tomorrow the sun will rise, that you are not alone. All the scary feelings of mental illness are the same feelings that someone else with a mental illness has too.

  • People think they are alone because they self-harm – many people self-harm. I have the scars to prove it.
  • People think they are alone because they are suicidal – many people feel suicidal at one time and get through it. I have the scars to prove that too.
  • People think they are alone because of psychotic, delusional or irrational thoughts – pretty much everyone with a mental illness has these thoughts to some degree.

Whatever you’re scared of, whatever your secret, whatever keeps you up at night, whatever is harming your life, you are not alone.

Not Alone ImageNot Hearing Your Depressed, Bipolar, Mental Illness Story Doesn’t Mean it Doesn’t Exist

The one thing to remember is this: as much as you are hiding from the mental illness monster in the dark, so is everyone else. People don’t want to talk about their pain and suffering. The mentally ill often can’t even find the words to talk about their illness. But just because you haven’t heard the story doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. That idea that you’re alone? That is a lie. That is a lie your mental illness is feeding to you. Don’t believe this lie.

I, Natasha Tracy, professional crazy person, tell you this: you are not alone. Period.

Suicide Self-Assessment Scale – How Suicidal Are You?

→ January 16, 2011 - 535 Comments

Suicide Self-Assessment Scale – How Suicidal Are You?

Just how suicidal are you? OK, admittedly, it’s probably not the best idea to fixate on this question, especially if you are depression or suicidal, but in point of fact “being suicidal” doesn’t mean just one thing. Being suicidal exists on a scale. But how does one quantify how suicidal you are?

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Bipolar, Hypomania, Depression and Looking Crazy

→ January 10, 2011 - 13 Comments

I can feel the post-depression-bounce-back hypomania beginning in my brain; not in my body, only in my brain. Hypomanic symptoms started yesterday evening. Things started seeming clear, perhaps just a little too clear, and certainly a little too fast. Bipolar fast. Gospel music (yes, oddly) played in my head intermittently while I guided an old tourist couple to the park, I drafted my upcoming novel, planned a conversation, and I investigated the fallen tree branch in the middle of the baseball field. Rapid fire thoughts, hypomanic thoughts, took over.

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Hope and Resolutions – New Year, Same Bipolar

→ January 6, 2011 - Comments off

So here it is, 2011. Yes, a new year. People are full of hope, resolutions and motivation for change.

It should come as no surprise that I, the bipolar, the depressive, the philosopher, the writer, am not.

Resolutions & Hope for the New Year

Most people, mostly wrong people, think that they can seize this moment to change their life. People think that this arbitrary moment of existence somehow means that they can make their lives better.

Silly, sill them.

Resolutions & Disappointment for the New Year

The new year really means silly promises that people don’t keep and then are disappointed about by February 1st, if they’re lucky enough to last that long. Anyone still losing weight, going to the gym, reading more, quitting smoking, reducing debt or volunteering like they promised last year?

Resolutions & Hope: New Year, Same Bipolar

So my problem, the thing that really sticks in my craw, is this: if your average person can’t be expected to keep a New Year’s resolution, what chance does a crazy person have?

I’d say, very little.

And it’s not so much that I don’t understand the odds against me, or bipolars in general, because I do, but I think in the case of a person with bipolar or a person with depression, the whole idea of a New Year’s resolution is really just an invitation to disaster.

New Year's Resolutions and BipolarBipolar and New Year’s Resolutions Lead to Depression

As I’ve mentioned, people generally feel bad when they fail at their New Year’s resolution. I don’t really think they should as it was an unreasonable thing in the first place, but they do. And I know myself, I know my bipolar, I know my depression and I know that my mental illness will take the failure of a resolution, which I’m destined to face, and make it seem like the end of the world, the end of my worthiness, the end of my life.

Because depression looks for any excuse to make me feel bad about myself. Depression looks for an excuse to cause pain. And depression doesn’t need a reason at all, so give it one, and just see how aggressive it can be.

Don’t Let the New Year Goad You Into Creating a Depression

So the moral of my little writing is this: don’t create an opportunity for depression to beat you up. Give yourself a break, give yourself a hug and don’t bother with silly promises that are flights of fancy anyway.

Because as I see it, just fighting my bipolar is like quitting smoking every day. And that’s more than enough of a resolution for me.

(If you want to see some New Year’s resolutions I think are decent for a person with a mental illness, check out my writing: New Year’s Resolution for the Bipolar at HealthyPlace.)

Patient Corps Focuses on Patient’s Strengths, Not Weaknesses

→ December 5, 2010 - Comments off

I get contacted now and then by people who want me to link to them or advertise here. Well, that’s just not what I do. I’m pretty fussy about linking to external sites. I have certain expectations for my own content and most people don’t meet them. It’s nothing personal; I’m just snobby that way.

Patient Corps Wants Your Strengths

That said, today I was contacted by the site Patient Corps. This site is dedicated to bringing forward the talents and skills of patients to help each other. The site is advertising-free (kudos for that) and run by Erica Shane Hamilton who holds a Ph.D. in psychology and wrote a dissertation on coping efforts of women with chronic pelvic pain. She is driven to offer patients a way to give back. There is even research supporting the health benefits of volunteering.

In her own words:

You’re sick and maybe you barely have the energy to get out of bed. Why should you volunteer your time to help others?

You have something to give, even when you are flat on your back, even when you are feeling great despair. You always have something to give the world.

You do have skills and talents. You have passion and compassion. You understand what it is like to suffer and your experiences with suffering can help others in the world to suffer less.

By volunteering, you reach outside of the world of being sick. You may be tired of being ill or in pain. You may want relief from the stress of thinking about your illness/pain and trying to find a cure. Patient Corps offers you a way to connect with other patients and other people. You are not alone.

Causes You Can Support

Erica provides information on her site about a variety of causes and the ways you can help. Even if you only have two minutes, she has ways you can help. Patient Corps causes include:

  • Helping other patients
  • Reducing poverty
  • Improving human rights
  • Protecting animals and the environment
  • Reducing discrimination against people with disabilities

It’s inspiring that she’s dedicated this site to recognizing the strengths of those with illness instead of their weaknesses. And I have to echo her sentiment; we can all do something to help others. So, go visit her site, check out its dedication, select a cause you’re passionate about and volunteer a few minutes of your time. Try it. You might like it.

I Know How to Cure Bipolar Disorder

→ December 4, 2010 - 52 Comments

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it. – Andre Gide

I have heard about every possible cure or treatment for bipolar disorder; being a public figure, people contact me frequently to tell me what I should be doing to treat my bipolar. In no particular order, this involves:

  • Herbs
  • Supplements
  • Magic pills
  • New age treatments
  • Religion
  • Books containing the secret to happiness

(Not to mention all the people who contact me simply to complain about what I write and how I feel. Lovely people those.)

And what I have to say to every one of these people is this: you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.

knowledge of bipolarGenuinely Trying to Help Treat Bipolar Disorder

Oh yes, I know. Some of these people are well-meaning. They still have no idea what they’re talking about. People over and over mistake anecdotes for evidence. Even worse, people mistake third-hand stories for evidence. Oh yes, the sister of your friend’s piano teacher got better after seeing Mr. Joe? Sign me up for that nonsense.

And keep in mind any web site expounding grand magical success stories isn’t necessarily accurate or honest. If these claims are not actually backed up by medical studies, stories of success are nothing more than simply that – cherry-picked stories.

Profiting from Bipolar Disorder and Mental Illness

Honestly, I’m tired of giving these people the benefit of the doubt. I’m just going to come right out with it: these people are trying to profit from pain and desperation. They know that desperate people will do anything to get better, no matter how wacky. They are trying to profit from you. They are trying to profit from your illness. I do not like these people. I do not like these people at all.

Promising Cures for Bipolar Kills People

I have said it before and I will say it again, random, unscientific treatments kill people. It’s not about taking mass amounts of vitamin C, it’s about that fact that someone is taking vitamin C instead of getting real treatment. I don’t really care if you want to think black is white, pray to a god, drink carrot juice daily or have your aura cleansed; what I care about is that you get actual treatment too.

But Wait, Aren’t You Trying to Profit from Bipolar Disorder?

Well that’s the sticky question now isn’t it? Yes, I’m a writer. Yes, I make money from what I write. Yes, I’m trying to get a book published. But the difference is this: I don’t make any wild promises of cures. What I promise is my writing, nothing more, nothing less. People are free to regard or disregard it as they choose.

Bipolar Disorder Means Questions

I don’t claim to know The Truth. I claim to ask questions. I try and assimilate what we currently know about bipolar disorder, the brain and what I know about myself and synthesize it into a coherent form. I don’t know why I’m bipolar. I don’t know how to fix bipolar. I consider the human brain and the human psyche to hold some of the greatest mysteries of our ages and I’m attracted to those mysteries. I’m a philosopher. Like all philosophers I’m driven by questions that can’t be answered. I’m OK with that.

(I’m also driven to write for a host of other reasons, but they are off topic at the moment.)

Don’t Believe The Truth About Bipolar Disorder

In short, if you believe nothing else, believe this: someone who claims to have the answer to bipolar disorder is either greatly mislead or is selling something.

There is nothing for bipolar disorder except hard work and treatment by reputable health care professionals. It’s not snappy, it’s not easy and it’s not a cure, it’s just the way it is.

Loved In Spite of Bipolar, Loved Because of Bipolar

→ December 2, 2010 - 26 Comments

I have explained to many people, many times, that bipolar is existence at the ends of a spectrum. It’s not that your average person doesn’t get sad, or happy, or devastated, or related, it’s simply that they do not experience these emotions so fully, so much of the time. My bipolar problem isn’t the existence of these emotions, simply their intensity, their duration and their frequency.

All this bipolar emotion makes people look at me strangely. I know. But oddly, someone it seems not only loves me in spite of bipolar but even finds reasons to love me in the bipolar, because of the bipolar. Love.

Music and Bipolar

Music can fillet me. Songs that mean nothing to me can draw tears because I find the melody tragic. I really feel, from the bottom of my soul, saddened, depressed by the order of random tones or impassioned lyrics. The song itself could actually be expressing something happy, but something in me perceives it as heartbreaking anyway. I have to be very careful about the sounds I expose myself to.

You’re Too Sensitive. (Yes, I’m Bipolar.)

People view bipolars as broken and to be loved in spite of their mental illness. Some can see the person and their bipolar together as something to love.I am. I know. I’m a sensor that needs recalibration. I pick up on stimuli so tiny and expound them so fully that it is unreasonable, unreal, incomprehensible. I know. It’s a problem.

When my heart breaks it shatters into a million pieces each aching and bleeding through my body. And to some extent it is always broken from the pain of my everyday life.

Drowning in Emotion

The thoughts and the descriptions and the ferocity of emotion makes it impossible to take a deep breath. I gulp tears instead of air. Brackish water enters my lungs and I feel myself drowning. I feel myself drowning in tears and blood and sobs and screams; each one daring me to let go and stop thrashing against them.

My Bipolar Life Lives In This Anguish

And it is no surprise at all that others can’t stand next to that. Couldn’t if they wanted to. It will drown them too. Or they will stop seeing the water and the pain and pretend I’m bobbing along like everyone else.

These emotions, these extremes, these jagged edges, these razor shards are not one of the best aspects of my personality. They are roadblocks to fitting in with the others. The people around me. Joining the world. Being human. I know I live in another place, in another time where people can’t go. I know. I try to hide it. I try to build a human shell around me for all those I pass by, and then I crumble when I walk through my door and sob and spin until the next time I have to interact, tiringly, gluing back the pieces of my outer shell. So tired. So exhausted from pretending to be some part of me that other people can understand.

I Love You, In Spite Of, Because Of

Oddly in a tiny world in the dark with bleeding tears, broken shields and vulnerability I am loved, I am honored and I am cherished anyway. Cherished and bipolar. In this place I understand that it isn’t actually in spite of all unresonablness and extremeness but actually because of it. Because it is part of me. Because in amplification and anguish and terror and blades there is a messy, complicated, folded, person worth loving. Somehow these parts of me that bring endless pain and steal life are somehow beautiful. They glisten in their purity. There is nothing more human than pain. There is nothing more human that suffering. There is nothing more human than love.

Being Bipolar – Compensating for Perceived Incompetence

→ November 30, 2010 - 8 Comments

hiding bipolar

The bipolar burble welcomes guest author Stephanie of Mommy vs. Madness. Today Stephanie talks about something I can certainly relate to, the concept that stereotypically, those with bipolar disorder are nothing but crazy and so are to be disregarded. Stephanie talks about the cost of fighting this stigma.

Fitting in is hard. Fitting when you are bipolar is harder. Most people can fit in by adorning themselves in the latest shoes, bags or clothes. Others may compensate by engaging in witty conversations, bragging about their job accomplishments or their children. Being bipolar, I feel the need to compensate for my perceived incompetence. I feel that in order for me to fit in, I have to prove just how sane I am. For me to accomplish this I feel I must be smart, I must be funny and most importantly I must be calm and rational at all times.

Being Diagnosed with Bipolar Felt Distancing

When I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I, I felt wrapped in a stigma-stereotyped and secluded, suddenly different than the rest of the population. And, in some sense, people with mental illnesses are different; we experience life in a more vulnerable manner.

[push]Most people assume that someone with a mental illness can’t be a successful doctor, lawyer, accountant or a good parent. The mentally ill can only be “crazy” doing stereotypical “crazy things”. And usually those “crazy things” don’t involve a house, a kid, a relationship or a job.[/push]

I can recall times when I’ve told people I have bipolar disorder and received one of two looks. The first look is that of pure pity. Their head will tilt to the side, their brows will furrow and their lips will turn down ever so slightly, suggesting that they are entirely sympathetic, when in fact, they are just more or less shocked. The subsequent look is that of borderline horror. Their mouths will practically “O” as they prepare the following utterance, “Well, you don’t look crazy” as if their response is at all reassuring.

I’ve also found I am my watched more closely, especially around my children, as if people are trying to catch a glimpse of the madness lurking inside that has led to this diagnosis and discover if I too could be a baby killing monster.

So I Compensate for Perceived Incompetence

So it becomes easier to hide my illness to avoid the looks of pity, horror and the parenting stigmas. In doing so, I overcompensate with intellect and utilize whatever notion of normalcy I have.

compensate for bipolar with workI study hard; I make sure my grades are at the top of the class. On the job I’d take on the largest projects and work more hours than most, trying to be everything to everyone.

I try hard not to yell, even if I desperately want to. Instead, I reason with logic rejecting my need to speak from the heart. I never say I’m sad, or having a bad day, or raise my voice at my kids in public when I’m out with friends- even if they deserve it.

I figure if I appear smart and calm then no one can see the inner turmoil of my mania, depression, racing thoughts or my multiple hospitalizations. No one will judge; no one will suspect a thing.

I do all this because, honestly, I don’t really know what else to do to show I’m as competent as those who do not share my burden. It’s easier for me to lose myself than to have to explain to the rest of the world about my illness and how I am still the same “me”.

The Effect of Overcompensation

So I’m left to wonder; wonder if this trepidation of mine is what keeps so many from speaking out about their disease. I wonder if the fear of being looked upon as less competent sears the inside of their souls too.

I also wonder if there is an answer or at least one brave soul who has conquered their anxiety, overstepped the bounds of stereotypes and can readily offer insight to their “solution”-their “how to”, if you will.

Because if that person exists, then I could feel a semblance of hope that the world has the ability see that just because a doctor wrote code 296.89 on some paperwork and a prescription for Lithium, doesn’t mean I can’t be a good employee, student and mother. What it then shows is that I can be competent and bipolar.

And in the end, if I can find this balance, I am no longer compensating for who I want to appear to be–I will be living who I am.

Stephanie is a Bipolar living in Northern California with her husband and two boys, one of which has also been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. When she is not documenting the hilarity of parenting and the challenges of doing so with a mental illness she moonlights as a law student concentrating in the area of Mental Health law.

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