Tag Archives: bipolar disorder

Stereotyped

stereotype

Sometimes, you have to look twice.

Have you ever been stereotyped? Anyone ever stop treating you the same, because they learned something about you? I go through this on a fairly regular basis. I have had people pull their child away from me. I have had people literally ward me off with crossed fingers. I have had people tell me in no uncertain terms that I should be sterilized so that I don’t have children. No, I don’t have a hideous deformity. No, I’m not a felon. No, I am simply Bi-polar, and not afraid to talk about it.

Sometimes, it just comes up. Someone will start ranting about how mentally ill people should all be locked up, for the safety of everyone else. I will then ask something akin to “How do you propose we support ¼ of our population?”  When they stare at me blankly, I inform them: “Mental illness affects over 1.7 billion people. One in four of us is likely mentally ill.” Sometimes they stupidly insist that I name “Who’s the psycho in this room, then?”  Then I simply say “Me,” and let it go at that. Sometimes I get horror stories of hallucinations and manic behaviors, other times I get to watch my friend pull away from me, sometimes forever. I try to explain that not all people with mental illness have the same kinds of mental illness, or the same severity of symptoms. Not to mention, some people handle their symptoms better than others do.

I don’t win all these arguments. I have lost, and will lose more, of my friends.  It’s all part of culling my circle of friends down to those that will truly accept me no matter what. Some of the people I have dated for example, thought that everything was tea and biscuits until I told them that I had bipolar disorder. Then the world came crashing down, and I was “using them” or “lying to them” by not telling them sooner. This is actually good though. I left those people in my dust, missing out on the horror that would have been dating that person long term. Sadly, I’ve had to let some friends go. Even more sadly, I will have to do it again. But I will never let this get me “down” because I know it will make my circle of friends that much tighter.

So, I encourage you to know a few things about mental illness. Namely, that it can affect anyone it affects a LOT of people, and that you can’t tell by looking. Know about YOUR mental illness in particular. Know how it normally affects people, and how you are(n’t) the same. Know the prescribed methods of treatment, and be able to discuss them frankly. It can help to speak clinically about how the disorder is normally treated, so you don’t have to talk about your own treatments all the time.

Let’s all work on ending the stereotypes, and the stigma of mental illness. We should all be here for each other, and for ourselves.

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Thinking Your Way Out of a Paper Bag

Some times you just need to pull yourself out.

Some times you just need to pull yourself out. Photo copyright Rory Stark.

You know that point you reach, when you’ve thought yourself into a corner, and you can’t get out? Anxiety, re-play, flashbacks, paranoia; they all make us do it sometimes. I call this “thinking your way into a paper bag.” Yesterday, two of my friends thought themselves into tears, via flashbacks and anxiety. It left me with the distinct feeling that sometimes, our collective ability to be creative, our drive, our very intelligence is our downfall. When you can imagine the very, very worst, who can convince you that it’s not a possibility? And when your brain is at an extraordinary level of intelligence, what better tool does mental illness have than the very brain it is occupying?

Case in point: My ex used to just hide in the bedroom until all the problems went away. Just sleep, medication, and ignoring problems. This will never help any individual address their own needs, or help them confront their inner demons. It will just lower their self-esteem, reinforce whatever ammunition said inner demons may possess, and leave that person less able to cope. But there are some people, who, just through sheer will, make it through to the other side.

Yesterday, a very good friend of mine could not leave her house because of flashbacks. This is a common, mostly healthy response, given her situation. However, she took it a step further. She grabbed the situation with both hands, and wrote it all down. Very clinically, very directly, with little emphasis on why she reacted the way she did, or what her exact feelings were, and she shared with her friends exactly why her life had been interrupted so abruptly. I cannot tell you how proud I am of her for putting herself out there like that. She gave herself some closure, and took steps towards reducing a fear that could potentially be emotionally crippling. She also did the most important thing of all: She opened herself to the encouragement and understanding of those that love her. I am so glad I was able to be one of those people, because she knows that I have been where she is standing, and that we were, for just a brief moment, able to commune in a new way as friends.

So, I want you to take her example. If you have thought yourself into a paper bag: Accept the challenge, and find your way out. Talk to someone, put yourself in a safe place, or just write it down, and tuck it away, even if you can’t share it with others. It just might give you some closure for yourself.

If you need some guidance, check out some books on self-coaching.