I Can See Clearly Now

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is the story of my own diagnosis of bipolar disorder and the understanding that I believe mental illness deserves.

Submitted: September 02, 2010

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Submitted: September 02, 2010

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Has anyone else noticed what a large stigma has been attached to people having mental health problems?  It has always bothered me that people aren't able to talk openly about their health.  People are often judged or insulted because of health problems that they can not control.  Mental health really isn't all that different from physical health yet it is treated with a very different attitude.

If a person were to say, "We had to take Uncle Bruce to the hospital last night, turns out he has diabetes", the response would probably be one of sympathy.  "Oh, that's too bad, he'll have to give up some of his favorite foods", or of helpfulness "I found these great cookies at the store the other day, they were low sugar, he could probably eat them".  Similar responses are given when telling someone that a friend or a family member has celiac disease, sympathy and an offer to help find gluten free recipes.

Why is it that the attitude changes so much when discussing mental illness.  The whole tone generally changes to one of shame, like the patient should have something to hide.  A conversation about mental illness is more likely to look something like this,  "Don't tell anyone this, I wouldn't want it to get out, but, my sister told me she has (whispers) 'depression', she started taking (whispers) 'prozac'.  I just know she's going to get addicted".  Or it could take more of a gossip tone like this, "Katie had to go to the hospital yesterday, the doctors said she's bipolar"  "Really, I knew she was having a hard time but I thought she was stronger than that".

Most mental health problems aren't a lot different from diabetes in the sense that they are caused by a chemical imbalance.  The person living with the illness didn't cause the problem and they can't "snap out of it" and make themselves feel better.  Treatment is also, usually, similar to diabetes, medication that helps balance out the chemicals and some simple lifestyle changes to keep the person healthy, really the same lifestyle changes that we should all be aiming towards, healthy diet, regular exercise and consistant sleep.

I've always had a problem with the way mental health patients are looked upon but it got a lot more personal very recently.  About a month ago I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.  I've probably been living with it for years without knowing it.  I've always been moody but it took a long time before I realized that my mood swings were out of proportion to the events that caused them and were more intense than what the people around me experienced.  When I first realized that something wasn't right there were very few people I would discuss it with, I didn't want people thinking I was crazy.  Some very good friends encouraged me to see a doctor and eventually I took their advice.  Now that I've been on medication and have been working on changing some bad habits I feel a lot better than I have in a while and can think clearly now.  I don't feel as though I'm a victim to uncontrollable emotions anymore.

I am lucky because I have very supportive friends and family.  Their are a lot of people that I can talk openly with whether it is to discuss medication side effects, days when it doesn't feel like they are helping as much or frustration with the changes I'm trying to make.  I know that I have people who will always be there to support me through it all.  Unfortunately, not everyone has this same support base and part of the reason for that is that a lot of people don't really know what it means to have a mental illness.  It is a chemical imbalance, it is usually treatable, it is beyond the control of the people suffering and it is not a sign of weakness.

My final thoughts on the issue are to be sure to research specific illnesses before talking about them with someone.  Their are probably as many different mental illnesses as their are physical illnesses, they each have their own signs and different treatment options.  It is important that your advice be geared toward the specific illness being discussed.


© Copyright 2019 Shellie Burg. All rights reserved.

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