Mental Health: No Stigma

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Today is World Mental Health Day, with the 2017 designated theme of “Mental Health in the Workplace.”

There are two huge and simple things we can do as employees and employers in our jobs: help to end stigma, and human kindness.

I live and thrive with bipolar disorder. It wasn’t always that way. I was (mis)diagnosed with depression at 14, and due to a negative stigma around treatment thanks to religion I went untreated for many years. Sure I tried therapy here and there, but fought it until I stopped going. I tried meds until I stopped that too, believing God healed me. Religion tending to feed into stigmas around mental health aside, although that is huge story that could be told, going untreated for so long culminated in a suicide attempt in 2010.

After that, I got onto this antidepressant and that one, struggling through the uninsured system of having a pre-existing condition before ObamaCare was a thing, until I got onto the antidepressant that would trigger my manic episode, 4-days with no sleep, and eventual involuntary hospitalization under a 5150 hold. Not uncommon for someone with bipolar who is misdiagnosed as depressed to be diagnosed this way, but unfortunate.

During all of these instances and hospitalizations, I had jobs. Myself, or my caretaker, usually boyfriend, would have to go to my manager and explain what had happened and where I was. We always went with compete honesty. They always gave complete kindness and confidentiality.

Many years and struggles later, and I’m on a regimen that works. I can report that I am currently more manic than otherwise, and that be ok because I know what it means for me. I know it’s who I am, that I have two main emotional states and where my boundaries lie. I know how to ride the waves, and how to take it easy on myself. Some days I don’t, and some days I need to take a mental health day from everything. Some days I can’t be around people, and some days I’m tackling projects left and right better than anyone around me.

I function. I thrive. I live and I love. I’m a person with a mind, and a heart, and a career. I just happen to also have a disease for which there is no cure – but there is help for.

What we can all do is make it so that speaking about my disease is no more strange and uncomfortable than someone telling  you they cannot have that cookie because they’re diabetic.  My friend who sees things that aren’t there is no more different or strange than my friend with Celiac disease. End the stigma.

And be kind. Be kind to everyone. Always assume the best. It’s so much better for everyone when we are kind to each other. When we don’t say mean things, or assume the worst. When so-and-so calls out for being sick – again – don’t feed the negativity by talking shit about her. You don’t know her story. Be kind, be empathetic and compassionate.

Read more great things you can do with this great article including 5 way to show support this year for mental health.

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