Stigmatization of People with Mental Disorders


"Stigmatization of people with mental disorders is manifested by bias, distrust, stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger, and/or avoidance. Stigma leads the (public) to avoid people with mental disorders. It reduces access to resources and leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters
the public from seeking, and wanting to pay for care. Stigma results in outright discrimination and abuse. More tragically, it deprives people of their dignity and interferes with their full participation in society."

--U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher (ret.)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

How to Build a Watch...Take Your Meds!!!!

It's been more than 12 years since I was diagnosed as a rapid cycling bipolar 1. In retrospect, it was an illness that had been misdiagnosed for most of my life. As a young child, I lived in terror of man who was determined to snuff out my creative energy and joy. I survived, and no one ever knew about the horrors of my days spent in a dark basement, held captive by the man I thought was my daddy. " No good, worthless, sick!" He died when I was 13, and I can so clearly remember the first time depression paralyzed me. The bright and shiny child was gone...I only remembered his words, " No good, worthless.." Junior high and high school were hell for me...The pain was so intense that I began to hurt myself...I took over the abuse he had dealt out to me for all those years.

Although bipolar is a genetic disorder, it's impact can be accelerated by childhood trauma, and undiagnosed, it exacerbates as you age. When I was 22, I had tried to kill myself one too many times and I was hospitalized for two months with the diagnosis of clinical depression. I left that clinical prison determined to find a way to overcome the self-hatred that haunted me for so many years. I went back to school, graduated with honors, and got a job with a Fortune 500 company making very good money for a 26-year old. Taking antidepressants became as routine as brushing my teeth. For years, I somehow hid the abject sorrow that often pulled me down into a blackness that threatened my ability to function. I was later told by doctors that I had developed  the ability to overcompensate for the demons that threatened me. For more than two decades, I rose through the ranks of non-profit communications and management. Somewhere after the love of my life died in my arms, I began to lose the battle with that unnamed demon.

I had no idea what was wrong with me...I couldn't control the violent rages that contorted me. I began to drink heavily, grateful for the numbness it gave me. I began to lose my ability to function on a sustained basis, and my successful career slowly slipped out of my hands. I quit drinking and went to AA meetings two or three times a day. Despite my efforts, I wasn't getting any better, and I was referred to a new doctor. After talking with me for less than 10 minutes he asked me if I had ever been tested for bipolar, known by most at that time, as manic-depression. I thought it strange when he, almost gleefully, said, "You're not an alcoholic; you're bipolar."

I was suddenly at a new starting line, still it took another five years to find the right combination of drugs that would finally allow me to start living fully again. Those years were not very pretty, and the friends began to fall by the wayside. I do not blame them. My life hung by a tenuous thread...I almost didn't make it...but then I did. I learned the medications that became a part of my life, actually protected my life.

This is a long story that is finally meandering to the point. Many individuals with bipolar disorder quit taking their meds when they start feeling better. As I often was, in those early days, they are seduced by the incredible euphoria that initiates the first few days of mania. They succumb to the meteoric moments that will always end in sorrow and devastating pain. It's not worth it, I assure you.

I'm not crazy about being on an array of powerful drugs. They subdue me, dull me down, and slow my metabolism to a crawl, but they have also allowed me to rejoin the world of the living...Some days, I even forget I am bipolar. Sometimes, I still feel the pull of depression...Sometimes, I don't want to sleep, so tempted to fly across the skies...I have to resist, and I HAVE to take those meds.

I know you only asked what time it is, and I have belabored how to build a watch. Bottom line is, take your meds. If they aren't helping you, keep working with your doctor until you find the perfect "cocktail" for your disorder. Educate yourself about what you are taking and why. Be sure to know the side-effects. I almost died from the side-effects of one drug. Mostly, don't give up. It's not unusual for it to take years to find the right combination of meds. Hang TOUGH...It's worth it when you reach the other side!

(It's 10:49 p.m.)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Living with Bipolar Disorder: Brain Disorder Blame-True Crime

Living with Bipolar Disorder: Brain Disorder Blame-True Crime: Anyone that knows me, knows I am interested in true crime. I used to consider myself an ID addict, but not so much anymore. More and more, b...

Brain Disorder Blame-True Crime

Anyone that knows me, knows I am interested in true crime. I used to consider myself an ID addict, but not so much anymore. More and more, bipolar is blamed for all kinds of criminal activity. I got NO breaks, compassion, no forgiveness for any of the shameful things I did before I was diagnosed as a rapid cycling, bipolar 1. Of course, I never did anything illegal, and the only person that truly suffered at my hands, was me. Yes, friends ran like rats when the basement light goes on, when my undiagnosed brain disorder got ugly...AND it DID get ugly. It didn't take long for most of my friends to retreat back into their sane worlds. And though I often begged, no one felt comfortable offering me shelter from the storm. That hurt.

Still once I was correctly diagnosed, I was determined to regain control over my life. That was much harder than one might think. I was diagnosed by one of the leading bipolar specialists in the country as one of the worst cases of bipolar one, compounded by treatment resistance, PTSD, severe panic disorder, and agoraphobia. Lithium, the heralded cure for bipolar, poisoned me. I almost drove my car into a brick wall while on lithium.

More than a decade has passed, and my doctors have developed a treatment plan that allows me to manage my brain disorder...Not completely, there are still dark lows and frenetic highs...not so often and when they occur I know how to react.

But I swear to GOD, if I hear one more thief, cheat, sex offender, or murderer blame their acts on being bipolar, I might actually go POSTAL!!!! (and blame it on my severe disorder.) No wonder the crowd disperses when you bring up bipolar...It's a stigma that will always be challenging for those of us who have taken responsibility for managing depression and mania, and have gone on to give something back to this world regardless of what it may have taken from us.

I feel like a lone warrior.

Monday, March 14, 2016

AGAIN


Do they sense when you are no longer safe…

when you’re holding it together with staples and tape.

A smile on your face must erase any evidence of your insanity.

 
You try so hard to conform to the person they think you should be.

The clock is tick-ticking away.

Short are the hours left in this day.

And in your heart filled with sorrow,

you have little hope to see tomorrow.

Still the sun bleeds into a morning sky,

another chance to once again fly.

So you’ll do it again and try to get it right,

hoping to find a shore for one more holy night.

The truth ricochets around your brain,

Not over yet, you can do it again.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Perspective

I think I have made it clear how bipolar disorder is too often cited as a reason for criminal behavior. I heard this in an interview the other day and thought it was funny...sad...but funny. The media always says, "She was bipolar and she killed her husband." You don't ever hear, " She was a diabetic and she killed her husband." I think that puts it into perspective.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Dr. Oz: Charlie Sheen Interview/Bipolar Disorder

While eating my lunch the other day, I flipped on the TV. Before I could change the channel, I heard Dr. Oz talking with Charlie Sheen about mania and depression. It was sheer coincidence...I have never watched that program before, but the mention of bipolar traits stopped me in my tracks. I put the remote down.  After battling the demons of depression and mania for most of my life, I was finally correctly diagnosed with bipolar disorder in my late forties. For decades I had hidden the extremes of this illness, at times even relishing some of the deceptive euphoria and creative energy infused into my brain and body at the onset of manic periods. But untreated, bipolar disorder exacerbates with age and each period of depression and mania becomes more and more destructive. I had watched the foundation of my life crumble away.

As I listened to the conversation between Dr. Oz and Sheen, I was reminded that there still exists a vast lack of knowledge about this disorder, as well as other mental illnesses. Sadly, I also had to acknowledge that there is still a great amount of stigma associated with mental illness. Many good and creative people are avoided, ostracized, and isolated. Much worse, many never receive treatment that could allow them to manage the illness and go on to live happy and productive lives. Tragically, many suffering from this disorder do not survive, succumbing to a death of their own design.

Even after diagnosis, it takes time—sometimes years to find the right combinations of medication to bridle the extremes of bipolarity. It took more than five years before doctors finally found a combination of drugs that worked for me. I almost did not survive to reach that point. In addition to proper medication, I had to make many changes in my life. I had to accept that my life would never be the same; that I would probably never again burn with the same brilliance I had once known. Cognitively, I would be changed. I would never again fly as high or as far. Casualties of this illness included a successful career, many long-term relationships, my ability to focus, and the way many people, including members of my family, perceived me.

As I listened to the discussion between Dr. Oz and Charlie Sheen, I watched Charlie’s eyes grow wide as Oz listed aspects of mania. I could see Charlie begin to recognize some of the patterns in his own life. He sat silent with a furrowed brow and intense eyes, taking in the information. I saw a slow realization begin to register as he listened.  Knowing what you are up against is the first step of a long journey.

Charlie and I, along with more than 10 million Americans, will always be bipolar. In addition to adhering to our meds, we must play an active role in reaching a more level ground. Also, we all must raise our voices to take back our lives. We must face the stigma with courage and strive to educate others. A broader awareness and understanding is absolutely vital to opening doors and creating access to help for those at war with this disorder.

I remain hopeful.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Found this among the writings shaped by the disorder that no one knew.  It was painfully true.



For more than five years I was savagely tossed between the extremes of mania and depression. The bridge of normalcy was terrifyingly short. As a rapid cycler, I spent most of my days living with one of the extremes of my illness. I craved the first days of mania…euphoria and magnificent possibilities…If only there was a freeze-frame to those initial moments of lift-off. Too soon my thoughts began to race beyond my control. No one could understand what I was talking about because I shifted gears from first to fourth with no pause for second or third. Talk, talk, talk…I must have driven those in my life crazy, those trying to chart my course were lost at sea, and often returned to a safe harbor rather than ride out the storm of my insanity. I hope there is forgiveness for my tortured soul in the hearts of those who once cared for me, but were driven away after witnessing the black waves of my self-destruction.