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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“Feeling bipolar today” – Stop it.

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You are not being bipolar. You are not a little bipolar at times. It is not funny, so stop saying it.

Bipolar is not mood swings, no not everyone is “a little bipolar”.

Bipolar disorder is characterized by having experienced two polarities: depression, and mania. There are degrees of severity, but no one who experiences the two extremes think it is something to take lightly.

As someone who has been hospitalized for both a manic episode and a depression episode, watch a father go in and out of the hospital throughout the year, it is hell.

Now I’m all for the fluidity of language. It changes, and with how people use it words mean different things. I still say ” that’s gay” at times, and and still can’t seem to shake saying “Jesus fucking Christ”. But this feels different. Maybe it’s because it is personal.

But this is a disease that people fight. I don’t know why anyone would want yo joke about it, or belittle it into being equivalent with life’s natural swings between happy and sad.

Newsflash: happy is not mania, sad is not depression.

I digress.

Reader: What are your thoughts?

Girl with Golden Eyes

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I don’t really know her, but I met her. I can’t remember her name, so she is my girl with golden eyes. Only because the only similarity we had was that we both listened to, cried over, and meditated over Sixx A.M.’s “Heroin Diaries.”

I don’t use, she does/has. I could see in her eyes that she didn’t feel understood, but yet there was a light of not giving a fuck and fighting onward. There was a light that told a story begging to be told. As I talked to her, I brought up “Heroin Diaries” to her and the light in her eyes opened to me, and stories and emotions came pouring out. We were the same, her and I. Our battles were against different fiends, but the struggle was the same.

I’ve met so many people in these past few weeks. All with different struggles. Yet all the same. Living, breathing, fighting against unseen enemies within their minds. Unhappiness, anger, alcoholism, schizophrenia even…. all the same human beings. Struggling to make a life worth living, battling against past demons in order to rise as the person they want to be instead of the one they were beaten down into becoming.

It creates a certain humbleness. A certain love for people and their ability to walk in wisdom and serenity.

Thoughts and emotions?

Mind: Illness and Illumination

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John Nash, known best for his depiction in the film “A Beautiful Mind,” suffered from debilitating schizophrenia. He won the Nobel Peace prize for his work in Mathematics and the Game Theory.

Sylvia Plath, known for her dark poetry and many other works, suffered from depression until it pushed her to take her own life.

Vinvent Van Gogh, French painter and artist, although created many great works under the influence of absinthe, a careful review of his letters indicates he may have suffered from manic and depressive episodes. He committed suicide at the age of 37.

I write this post under the cloud of my own disorder. It is debilitating, confusing, and a constant battle that far too many understand all too well. Despite the fact that so many undergo such conditions, and so many end up leading brilliantly creative lives, the stigma towards mental disorders keep us hiding under a rug, afraid to talk to any about what we struggle through.

The words that we bear as the name describing what we daily fight through, find themselves as the punch line of jokes or the careless belittling of someone we do not like.

Over the past few days, I heard and even used the term “bipolar” to describe the behavior of individuals at my job who were not everyone’s favorite to work with. Upon careful inspection, it may become clear to any caring individual that, maybe – just maybe, they did struggle from bipolar disorder. The tragedy is that many go untreated because of the stigma, the name calling, and the poor treatment.

“A Beautiful Mind,” albeit not entirely accurate to John Nash’s struggle, portrayed the story of a mathematical genius inflicted with schizophrenia. It wasn’t until half-way through the movie that viewers uncover, along with Nash, that his adventurous escapades were not at all what he thought but were elaborate hallucinations composed out of the misconstructions of his own mind. It can be difficult to put what an individual with such a condition goes through without artistic methods, as too many who have this condition end up on the streets as “that rambling homeless man talking to himself on the subway.” The movie eloquently depicted a side of the condition that few ever see: the struggle.

Too few of us care to see that side, even among those of us who undergo it. The mind is a beautiful and terrifying thing, capable of pressing us to create marvels, and wreak havocs. With our minds we can create vaccines, invent airplanes, and paint pieces of art that inspire anyone who views it. With our minds we can also drown our new born infants, leap in front of trains, or lead a nation into believing another race is a blight on human kind and insight them all to commit atrocities against them.

Each individual is capable of creating and destroying. Each person we work with, see on mass transit, or making our coffee is capable of ending their infant’s life, or finding the cure for cancer.

Which will it be? Which will our words move another to accomplish? Will our haphazzard label of “crazy,” “bipolar,” or “depressed” push our fellow man over the edge to self harm? Or, perhaps, will we choose the higher road of listening and asking “How are you today?” while truly listening… and carry our fellow man through the storms?

A Penny for your Thoughts, or a penny for your fellow man?