“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”
There are pretty much 6 people who read this blog. Once you realize how long this post is, that may start to make sense.
When I started it, I just needed a place to write. I really needed a space, but I didn’t really need an audience. I get a little jump when someone comments, or I get an email saying that someone follows this, but this was primarily a little place for me, and I had no fancy paper notebooks to work with, and my handwriting sucks. Really, it does.
I wanted to write this post, as part of the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project, because I think that while it is great that all sort of celebrities are announcing their mental health status, I don’t know that that really helps people on a day to day, oh god how am I going to get all the way to the kitchen, I’m so tired my teeth hurt, basis. In my experience, the only thing that really does that, is knowing people who have lived through that, made it to the kitchen and lived to tell about it. Today, I made it to the kitchen. You can do this.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar II in 1992, after a not very successful trial of anti-depressants made it fairly obvious that I did not have unipolar depression. I spent 8 weeks in hospital getting used to lithium and also getting used to the fact that there was a name for the thing that caused me to lose my marbles on a fairly regular basis, and that that name was not just “tired” or “energetic”.
I spent my 20 year “crazy” anniversary in the hospital too. I’ve been hospitalized seven times in 20 years, which is pretty freaking low, given how things have gone. I have had good treatment, mediocre treatment, and downright horrible treatment. I had the best possible psychiatrist, but then she retired last year. I have taken at least one of almost every class of medication that has ever been even hinted at for BP, including one that is supposed to be for Parkinson’s Disease (that one, for the time being, is working).
I fought an uphill battle with self-harm. Mostly, I won. There are occasional skirmishes. I don’t beat myself over the head with them anymore.
I have significant kidney damage from medication, and it probably won’t get any better than this. I know where every public washroom in the entire city is located, and if I don’t know, I can find one. It is my superpower.
I wrote cranky blog posts about things I found completely unfair about living with mental illness, days when I really wished I could shuffle off this mortal coil without disturbing anyone, and things that are awesome (like peer support and friends).
In and between all of that, I did the following:
- Got bachelors degree in physical anthropology and human evolution
- Got college diploma in Early Childhood Education
- Got bachelor of Education degree
- Taught elementary school for 8 years
- Got master of Educational Technology degree
- Got married
- Worked for an educational company designing online courses
- Gave lectures to mental health professionals about lived experience
- Got unemployed
- Made really good friends in the physical world and online
- Learned cross stitch
- Knit a whole bunch of socks
(Resume available on request. I really need a job, just in case you were wondering. I’m not really trying to advertise.)
Being bipolar is not all of what I am, but it is a huge part of how I became this person. This has been with me my whole life, and it has shaped every decision I have made, and influenced all of my choices. I learned (slowly, and with great reluctance) how to be self-reflective. I learned compassion. That was supposed to apply to me too, but I have not quite got the hang of that yet. Further updates as events warrant. I learned that not only do I have a voice, but I really want to use it. I learned how to be kind. Again, not so much to myself, but I have to leave some startling growth spurts for my 40’s, right?
I also learned how incredibly cruel ignorance is, and how ignorant people really are. I learned what it is like to be marginalized and humiliated for something that is beyond your control. I learned how privileged I am to be a white, well-educated woman, from the right kind of family, when I interact with the mental health system. I learned how dangerous it is to be part of a minority against whom it is still socially acceptable to discriminate. I learned that stigma is a Human Resources issue, and discrimination is a Legal Department issue. I learned that fighting stigma is probably a good thing, but that fighting discrimination and harassment is more important. I learned that people change their behaviour when they have to, and not because you have a good argument.
Other Things I learned:
- The whole “baby steps” thing is infuriating, but sometimes it actually works.
- If you can’t get out of bed, put one foot on the floor. Then, if you drag it back under the covers, at least you can say you accomplished something.
- Practice forgiveness, not in a religious way, but in a “I can let go of this thing I am beating myself over the head with today” way. It is liberating
- Accept help. No one is so awful that they don’t deserve help. There is no way you are that undeserving, no one is. Humans are worthy, just because.
- One of my favourite quotes is from Jenny Lawson (the Bloggess, read it. No, really read this blog, and also read Hyperbole and a Half). She says depression lies, and she is right.
Things I like:
- online virtual worlds
- Science fiction
- DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy)
- coffee (not the best thing for someone with an anxiety disorder, but there’s decaf, and that doesn’t suck as much as you would think)
- My cats
Things I know now:
- I’m a pretty decent person
- I can be useful
- Panic can only last so long
- I am 100% successful at not dying so far
If you made it this far in the post, I am truly impressed, and a little bit grateful (ok, a lot grateful). This is not something that people can do alone, and having someone read what you write is both scary and empowering. The Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project is incredibly important in that respect, and I hope that you go and read a whole bunch of stuff that people have written, and scare and empower them.