mental illness issues
Or How Antipsychiatry Groups are Wrong
If you’ve been reading my writings here at the Bipolar Burble for a while, you’ve probably gathered that I don’t like antipsychiatry groups. These groups are often under the “mad pride” flag or “psychiatric survivors” or people for “human rights” or people fighting psychiatric abuses. Often the language they use is solely designed to convince you that psychiatry is evil, psychiatry should be stopped, no one should take psychiatric medication and in many cases, psychology is also evil. Many antipsychiatry groups are sneaky. Antipsychiatry groups sounds reasonable on first glance but it’s only once you dig into them that you see how insidious they are.
I’ve tried to look into antipsychiatry groups to see if there’s something worth understanding but they have no evidence. Just ardent supporters that make wild claims without proof. And their tactics of cruel, personal, abusive attacks are not worth my time. It assures that their groups have no credibility whatsoever.
I Fight Antipsychiatry Groups
And sometimes I spend entire days fighting antipsychiatry people. Antipsychiatry shows up on the Bipolar Burble, antipsychiatry finds me on Twitter, antipsychiatry follows me to Facebook, antipsychiatry shows up on Breaking Bipolar. And these charming antipsychiatry folks, for whatever reason, read all about me and then use those personal details to ensure their personal attacked will be as nasty as possible.
Yes, antipsychiatry groups are ridiculous.
Who has Time to Scientifically Refute Every Cockamamie Antipsychiatry Argument?
I don’t have time to research every one of their outragous claims and make cogent counter-arguments. Because it’s endless. It can always be done but it’s more work than I have time for.
Myths About Psychiatry by Nada Logan Stotland M. D. – Huffington Post
Luckily for me and for you, Dr. Nada Logan Stotland M. D. has written the most amazing anti-antipsychiatry article I’ve ever read. (She doesn’t say she’s anti-antipsychiatry, but this piece is certainly a shot across the bow of antipsychiatry.)
Psychiatry Myths Dispelled by a Doctor
Aren’t mental health diagnoses randomly added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) and applied to individuals?
When deciding what to include in the DSM, “. . . specialists have to look at the evidence and then make judgments about the criteria for medical diagnoses. The difference between a benign tumor and a cancer is a matter of how many sick cells appear under the microscope. “
“Differentiating them [psychiatric disorders] from normal is no different than deciding what level of blood pressure is ‘hypertension,’ how many pounds add up to ‘obesity,’. . . A condition rises to the level of disease when it handicaps a person, is associated with bad outcomes, and/or can be treated — in psychiatry just as in the rest of medicine.”
We don’t understand mental illness the way we understand other illnesses.
“We all know that diabetes is caused by the failure of the pancreas to secrete normal amounts of insulin. But what causes that? We say it’s an autoimmune condition — the body attacks its own insulin-secreting cells. Why does that happen? We don’t know.”
And, of course, we treat diabetes in spite of this lack of knowledge just like we treat mental illness.
Psychiatry illnesses aren’t real, don’t exist, because there are no diagnostic tests for mental illness.
“The substrate, the physical location, of thought, mood, and behavior, is the brain. That’s not a part of the body we like to biopsy without an extremely good reason . . . Using brain scans, however, we now can distinguish between the brain of a person with depression and a person who is not depressed — and make many, many other such observations.”
This is something antipsychiatry groups bring up all the time. But as Dr. Stotland points out, we can distinguish depressed brains from non-depressed brains in a brain scan. In fact, there are many illnesses that show on brain scans (and sometimes blood tests) but it is early days and brain scans aren’t the kind of thing people can afford (or necessarily even get access to).
Don’t psychiatrists have a vested interest in making everyone “sick” so they can make more money?
“There is a shortage of psychiatrists. I don’t know any psychiatrists with time on their hands. Our incomes are at the lower end of the medical totem pole, along with family medicine and pediatrics . . .”
No one is saying they don’t make oodles of money, they do. But the notion they are not trying to help people and they are trying to create more patients is ludicrous. It takes months to see my psychiatrist because he’s so busy. He doesn’t need any more sick people. Not to mention the fact that in Canada, many profit motivation arguments just don’t hold a lot of water.
There is no science behind psychiatry.
“The New England Journal of Medicine some years ago published a paper demonstrating that far fewer than half the treatments used for cardiovascular diseases are supported by good scientific evidence. Psychiatric treatments work about as well as other medical treatments.”
I’m kind of shocked about cardiovascular disease, but if you think about it, they are in the same position. They are trying to save people’s lives, just like psychiatry is, in the best way they know how.
Please read Dr. Stotland’s full article.
The Motives of Doctors, Psychiatrists and Psychologists
And as many problems as I have with psychiatry, psychiatrists, doctors and psychiatric medication, I believe that psychiatrists are trying to help. They’re not always successful, but their motive is not evil and it’s not money – it’s making people better.
As most of you know, in addition to the Bipolar Burble I also author Breaking Bipolar on HealthyPlace.com. I write a column there twice a week as well as produce one bipolar-themed video and two audio files per month. It’s a fairly well-received bipolar blog often with much discussion, feedback and sharing.
Recent Breaking Bipolar Blog Highlights
If you haven’t had a chance to check out Breaking Bipolar lately, here are a few of the highlights:
- How to Help Someone with a Mental Illness – A new piece yesterday in response to someone’s query about helping their newly-diagnosed loved one with bipolar disorder. Helping someone with a mental illness is a huge challenge but these tips seem to be striking a chord with people.
- Mental Illness Treatment and Risk Tolerance – I like this writing a lot. The article talks about how some people are willing to accept greater risk in their chosen treatment of mental illness. It’s about respect and choice.
- Bipolar Disorder and Treatment Stigma – Yes, I was talking about electroconvulsive therapy here but don’t reference ECT directly. I don’t like to bring the hugely contentious issues or opinions onto Breaking Bipolar due to the wide audience and huge amount of (likely negative) reaction it will receive. I do, however, think it’s important to discuss the issues around bipolar/depression/mental illness treatment whether specific or not.
- Mental Illness is Only a Problem when Mental Illness is a Problem – This is essentially in response to people saying every behavior is being labelled a “disorder.” My point is that people only get help when their issues rise to the level of a problem.
- Why Don’t we Shower When we’re Sick – A popular article on the question of forgoing showers when extremely ill. I present four reasons.
- Zealotry and Rules for Debating Mental Illness – I wrote this article in response to the people who insist on making mental illness discussion into nasty, name-calling, unscientific, overly-emotional fighting. Really drives me bonkers.
- Shame and Electroconvulsive Therapy – When I got electroconvulsive therapy I experienced a lot of shame. This really is unnecessary and illogical but has to do with the massive stigma on receiving ECT treatments. (Excellent comment about stigma and ECT treatment here.)
- Minimizing Mental Illness – The Worst Things to Say – Most popular overall article with over 20,000 reads. I added a bonus worst thing to say so someone with a mental illness here on the Bipolar Burble as well.
Upcoming Bipolar Burble Articles
I’m sure that’s more than enough for now. Upcoming pieces on the Bipolar Burble will likely be about hypomania and delusions and possibly regarding the black box warning on antidepressants actually increasing suicides (you can yell at me about that after I write it). There will probably be a piece about my own ECT experience as well as that’s not really covered here (I wrote quite a bit about it on another blog.)
If you’d like to see a topic covered on the Bipolar Burble or Breaking Bipolar or have a question you can always contact Natasha Tracy. I can’t promise I’ll respond but I’ll do my best.
New Mental Health Resources Added
The bipolar and mental health resources page has also been updated. These are good resources you should know about.
Also known as: I’m Mad at the Jungle
People don’t like it when I get angry. They don’t like it when I rant. On my very own blog. On the internet. Sheesh people, I am human you know.
And I’m not an angry kind of person. I have a theory about why you shouldn’t be angry and I try to use the idea that there is no reason to be angry, and allow anger to roll off my back. It usually works. [push]One might suggest it would be absolutely nutty not to rant. Pixels, it seems, breed ire.[/push]
But I think all sick people have a right to be angry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a good idea to live in that anger. It’s not a good idea to spread that anger. But for fuck’s sake, you’ve been given a life-long mental illness that requires too many doctors and debilitating psychiatric medication. You have the right to be a little angry about that.
I’m Angry at My Brain
But there is a problem with being mad at bipolar – there’s really no one to yell at. It’s really hard to yell at your brain. It never seems to work. It morphs into yelling at yourself; which isn’t the point at all.
I’m Mad at the Jungle
A couple of weeks ago I was fairly catatonic with depression. And so, not moving, I watched many of the shows on my PVR; one of which is called Off the Map. There was the following scene:
A woman comes upon a girl angrily cutting her way through the jungle with a machete. The woman asks her if she’s angry. The girl says yes, she’s angry at the jungle.
The girl is sleeping with a beautiful man whose wife is in a coma. He feels ever-so-guilty about seeing anyone else even though his wife’s condition hasn’t changed in four years. He told the girl when they started seeing each other it would always be casual and he would never commit. But the girl, naturally, fell in love with him anyway.
So the girl, hacking away with the machete, says she can’t be mad at the man for being withholding, because he always said he would be, she can’t be mad at the wife, as she’s in a coma; so, she’s mad at the jungle.
See, I’m mad at the jungle.
I’m Angry at My Life with Crazy
There is no point in being mad at bipolar, depression, hypomania or crazy: they’re not going anywhere. There’s no point in being angry with medications and nasty side effects as they are what they are. There’s no point in being angry with “evil” doctors because they’re doing the best they can. And there’s no point at being mad at the effects crazy has on my life as that’s not going anywhere either.
So I’m mad at the jungle.
(Granted, there’s no jungle around these parts and I don’t own a machete, but I love the phrase.)
I’m Angry at Stones on the Beach
A typical therapy suggestion is to go to the beach, envision a stone as whatever you’re angry with, or your anger in general, and throw the stone into the water as far as you can.
Arg. Therapy annoyance.
I have tried this, and many similar things over the years but it doesn’t make anything change at all. Not a thing. Ever. I suspect that’s because there’s always new pain with bipolar disorder. Bipolar never passes. Mood disorders just kind of hang around fucking up your life.
I’m Mad at the Jungle
So, as I understand there is no real cause or cure for my anger, I try to just let it be. I feel strongly that the anger deserves acknowledgment. Then I let it go. I say “hi” now and then, and wave goodbye.
But I’m mad at the jungle will be my new catchphrase. Because fuck it if I don’t just feel that way sometimes. And I think that’s reasonable.
A commenter, Jessica, left a comment yesterday that so succinctly expresses what so many of us feel about depression, bipolar and mental illness, and continue to feel. The following is her comment and my response.
“when I just feel so sick and tired of fighting for what seems like nothing…what seems like a never ending battle…what seems like someone hitting me over the head with a two-by-four every two minutes, telling me it will never stop until the day I die, and then they explaining to me why I should continue to fight to live for another 40 years.”
Yes. I know.
Fighting the Pain of Depression
We fight to the death for millimeters when we really need a mile. I know.
I have asked myself this question a thousand times. Why should I continue to fight the pain of depression?
I have pondered it. I have written about it. I have talked about it it. Believe me, I understand this question. Depression, suicide and I go way back.
I have no answer, no answer at all, but I can tell you this:
- If, 12 years ago I had killed myself, I never would have experienced a skydive
- If, 8 years ago I had killed myself, I would have never discovered I could write
- If, 5 years ago I had killed myself, I never would have flown with the eagles in Venezuela
- If, 2 years ago I had killed myself, I would never have helped all the people I have today
While sometimes I refuse to admit it, my work, my words, my effort matters.
Fighting Depression Matters
See, life is funny that way. You eke out a millimeter when you really need a mile, but sometimes that millimeter matters. To you. To others.
I despise being hit over the head with a 2 X 4 while downing pills, sticking to ridiculously strict schedules, seeing doctors and fighting to the death. Oh yes. I hate it.
And don’t get me wrong, I frequently want to give up. I frequently want to surrender to depression. I frequently want to end this fucking fight.
But all I can say is: your fight matters. Your millimeter matters.
Your comment here matters. To me. To others. That millimeter that you fought against depression for, mattered.
I do not know how to win the fight, but I do know, that for no reason I understand, the fight matters. It just does.
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.
The 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?
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
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
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.)