About this thing called mental illness...

I usually don’t blog about this stuff... it’s so fucking passé to go online and do this “confessional” style of blogging where you just splurt the secrets of your life out onto the web. I’m not that kind of blogger... what I want to say needs to have a purpose, rather than just exist.   However, I do need, want, DESIRE to talk about this even if no-one reads it, it needs to be out there for me.   I also have some thoughts about the subject in general.

 

I  have a mental illness... Bipolar Disorder... Manic  Depression as it was once known.  Most of the time  if I talk about it it’s usually in the same tone of voice as “I have hazel eyes” or  “yeah i’m a bit overweight right now”  or “I’m five ft 2”  But it wasn’t always the case.   I kept it hidden for a very very long time, hell I didn’t even know I was ill until three years ago.  My story is pretty much your typical manic depressive narrative... Many of us are misdiagnosed with unipolar depression – i.e no mania, just depression. That is because many people  with this disease report being depressed more than manic. I also didn’t get the euphoria and really fantastic delusions until much later...   I’ve always been energetic.  As a kid I never slept much,  as a young person I hardly slept at all and never needed to.   When I was about  14 I went into seeing a psychiatrist for severe depression ... Although I saw this psychiatrist until I was 23 she never even thought to address the severe imbalances in energy I had... At one moment I seemingly had no energy at all and the next I was finding it hard to keep still.  So I went along with it. I did what I thought was the right thing took the anti depressants. They made me sicker. They made me have this reaction that was like I never could completely slow down.  I’d get up in the early hours of the morning and pace and pace the floor of my bedroom, my mind ticking over.  Keep in mind that I was also terribly traumatised, so the lines from psychiatry’s point of view were blurred.  Was what I was experiencing a reaction to trauma or organic mental illness?  I always knew something was wrong.  School was hell, home was hell, everything was just wrong, even with the abuse, and yet I couldn’t get anyone to take me seriously well into my twenties.

 

I started to actively, every day, just want to die.  I had multiple emergency room admissions, either for being really high and picked up by the police, or for attempting suicide.   It wasn’t until 2006 that I started to have delusions when manic.  I started to hear and see and believe things that weren’t really there.. People were out to get me.  Life was one big blur of voices and bright colours. Also,  when I was manic I was also the life of the party.  This fun party girl who was always the first one out the car and into the pub and the last one to leave.  I drank, had COPIOUS amounts of casual sex and felt FANTASTIC... I also believe mania contributed  a lot to the creative energy I had.  I could write.. I mean, really write, not just a few lines here and there. You  wanted me to trot out a first story draft in one night – I could do it.   But I knew it was  ruining me.  On the down days, I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t work, I couldn’t contribute at all.

 

I started seeing a new psychiatrist in 2008.. We get along relatively well, but  ultimately he is what formed my views on medication and psychiatry...  I believe mental health patients are being lied to about the nature of their treatment.  When I say that, I don’t mean that hospital, medication, traditional therapies   aren’t the way to go for some people – but the things that work for me are not meds, therapy  but more holistic things like changing my diet (cutting out caffeine and not drinking helped dramatically)  and exercising a lot also helped when I made the change last year...  My psychiatrist knows  how I feel about medication and continues to prescribe it for me, but I tell him that this works, and it does..  I have my rythm, my creativity, my energy all returned to me in balance which was something I never had before – medication or not.

I’m not saying if you go off your meds it will work for you, chances are it won’t but it’s just that we need to be informing people of their right to other treatments, or no treatment  particularly when the long term effect of psychotropic drugs on the brain is still unknown. 

I also think that the right to refuse or accept treatment is complements  the way society sees the mentally ill in general.. we’ve got this category of  people in society, mostly high functioning people who are quite capable of contributing to society some of whom need significant support to do so, but we seem to have a societal prejudice against them.  I believe wholeheartedly that the most significant barrier to those living with mental illness isn’t our illness  on its own, but the attitudes of society.  We live in a society that would rather see us as sick, write us off as crazy, and have us imprisoned in institutions rather than reach our full potential.   I remember once, seeing a little boy stare wide eyed at a man quite psychotic, but harmless, mumbling to himself in the middle of Rundle Mall.  The kid clearly meant nothing by it, but the mother pulled him away ,  quite frightened the man would some how morph into a psycho killer and rob her of her child.   For one minute, think, if he was aware of the situation, how that man must have felt.   This is what I’m talking about.  If we continue to isolate and marginalize our most vulnerable – what hope have we really got?

 

p.s... just so you know... my life is awesome now.. thanks for asking. J
 


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