I Hate Stigma, It’s Everywhere

I Hate Stigma, It’s Everywhere

I hate stigma. It makes me feel as if I’m nothing or dangerous. I’ll explain. My husband and I record a lot of TV shows. For one of the TV shows, we hadn’t yet watched any of the episodes, so some days we watch multiple episodes back to back. It’s this  show that started last year, Secrets and Lies (heads up, spoiler alerts). I was all good with it, until close to the end of the first season. They find psychiatric medications in the woman’s house, Risperdone and Lithium. Then the guy that found the meds looks them up and of course it shows only the negative information about bipolar disorder. It shows information about psychosis and how individuals can go into violent rages when their meds are not level or when they’re off medication.

Maybe there are some people who do go into violent rages when struggling with medication, but that’s not how it goes for everyone. Every person is different and I don’t like it when TV or movies show individuals with bipolar with the most extreme effects. There are probably a lot of people out there that don’t realize that they are only showing the most extreme circumstances. There are people out there that know nothing about bipolar disorder until they see it shown on TV and in movies. It’s stuff like this that gives bipolar disorder and other mental health disorders a bad name.

I looked up the word stigma to see what it says and I found that it says, ‘a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.’ When bipolar disorder is shown on TV or in movies, it is usually shown in a disgraceful manner. I wonder if this will ever change.

Sick and Tired of Treating My Mental Illness

Sick and Tired of Treating My Mental Illness

I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 disorder at a young age. I was 14 the first time I started treatment for mental health issues. It was my first visit to an inpatient behavioral health hospital. I have taken medication every day ever since that time in January of 1999 at the age of 14. I know that I will be on medication for the rest of my life; I don’t time mind as much when the medication is working. Bipolar is a treatable disorder, but it’s easier to treat for some than it is for others. My diagnosis includes treatment-resistant bipolar 1 disorder with psychosis. I give it all I’ve got, to treat my bipolar disorder.

No matter what, I do the best I can to feel okay with my current status, as long as I’m always working towards a healthy state. For me, that means taking my meds as my psychiatrist prescribes, going to support groups, communicating with friends and family, going to talk therapy appointments, and following all suggestions by doctors. I always do what I’m supposed to do, and I am sick and tired of doing it. Especially when what I’m doing isn’t effective or helping me in the way it’s supposed to.

I work hard every day and it feels as if my efforts go unnoticed by my bipolar disorder. I wish I could just stop my meds and I would somehow slip into a healthy state of mind, but I don’t have luck like that. Instead, I’m the kind of person whose mind and body would lose any mental status they had. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. Of course it’s going to be exhausting from time to time, and of course I’m going to want to give up now and then, but every time, I will remind myself that I am far better off than I am without the treatments. One day, the treatments and everything will work. I will finally get the break that I need.

Wellness Recovery Action Plans

Wellness Recovery Action Plans

I decided to complete the WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) paperwork. I did one years ago when I lived with my mother, and it was very helpful. It could probably help out my husband as well. WRAP helps people figure out and integrate wellness tools and healthy strategies into their lives. It helps both those with mental health illnesses and their caregivers. It asks open-ended questions and statements such as how are you when you feel well, what do you do to stay well, what are your triggers, what do you do when your triggers emerge, what are your early warning signs, and what are signs that you’re about to break down. These questions are just the beginning of the documents. It will take a while to complete. I will probably ask my husband and mother to help me complete my WRAP.

I think it can be a vital part to the maintenance and recovery of those with mental illnesses to have this type of information documented. The thing I like the most about the WRAP is that it helps us create a crisis plan; informing our loved ones and caregivers exactly what we do and don’t want, such as meds we do and don’t want to take, what hospitals we do and don’t want to go to, and who we are willing to let take control in a crisis situation. Completing the WRAP documents gives those of us with mental health illnesses a voice; we get to make decisions when we are well about how we want to be treated when we are sick.

The WRAP that I chose is from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in Austin, TX. It can be found using the link below. By Googling ‘Wellness Recovery Action Plan’, you can find many different options, and if you choose to do one, simply choose the one that’s right for you. It’s not easy to complete; it takes time in order to be thorough. It has helped me and my mother before, I’m sure it will be helpful again.

Click to access Developing-a-WRAP-Plan.pdf

 

Facing My Fears

Facing My Fears

Facing fears is extremely difficult. I already have anxiety and/or panic attacks every day. Facing my fears just increases my anxiety, which I didn’t know was possible. I struggle to do anything new. I like what I am comfortable with; I shop at the same stores, I talk to the same people, I live a life of routine to help reduce my anxiety. Today has been a day filled with facing my fears. To begin, we changed our internet provider, so that meant a strange person had to come into my home to hook everything up. Of course, this happened while my husband was at work. The guy ended up being very nice and polite. I did the best I could to manage my fears and prepare myself for a stranger in my home. I made it through that; my dog, an 88 pound pit mix, helped me feel safe, but I still jumped every time I heard any door open or movement in my home.

Next, I went to a local tailor to get a pair of pants hemmed. I bought a new pair of pants at a discount store, which fit perfectly except for the length. This happened a week ago; I’ve been trying to get myself to go to the tailor for the past week, but I’ve been too afraid because it’s something new. I ended up going today; my body was shaking as I walked up to and into the store. Once I talked to the woman who worked there, I started to relax a bit. I was able to stand still as she pinned the pants at the proper length. That was a huge accomplishment.

Now, I’m supposed to go to a new support group. I was going to go with a friend, but life happens and she cannot make it tonight, which I understand. However, I still want to go. Even if I drive there but don’t require myself to go in, it would be a big step forward for me and it will make it easier to go in the future. The closer it gets to the time to leave, the more I start shaking and freaking out. I don’t know if I can do this; my heart is beating so fast I can hear it. I’ve already faced so much today, maybe I should give myself a break. However, I have been talking about going to this group for several months; it’s about time that I actually follow through. I know I need to go to a support group; it would be very beneficial for my overall mental health.

I have already faced my fears twice today, and everything worked out okay. Maybe that should tell me that this next fear to face will also work out okay. Or maybe that’s trying to tell me that I’ve done enough for one day and I shouldn’t force it. I don’t know. I need to stop shaking in order to drive there. I hope my Valium works; this is why I take it. I hope I actually get there. I suppose I’m about to find out what’s going to happen. Hopefully, this terrified feeling inside of me will dissipate.

An update about how it went going to the new support group:
I made it to the support group meeting, but I was overwhelmed when I walked in. There were more people than I expected. This group had 28 people there this evening, which is wonderful, but for me, it was scary. I pulled up a chair in the back thinking that no one would pull up a chair behind me, but I was wrong. Once someone sat down behind me, my fear kicked in even more causing an anxiety attack. My right leg started shaking uncontrollably, I started to rock back and forth, and my breathing began to struggle. I received a text from my husband, who kindly offered to come join me at the group as support once he got out of work, but I told him that I was going to be leaving shortly. I stayed for 1 hour, managing my anxiety attack through it all, and then I left at the break. The group itself was great and I did appreciate how organized the group was, but it was just too much for me. Maybe I will try it again one day with someone. For now, I am proud of myself for driving down there and staying for the first hour of the group.

 

Bipolar is NOT an Adjective

I’ve been hearing it more and more often lately, people using the word bipolar improperly. In fact, it’s not just improper; it’s disrespectful and ignorant. One of the worst examples I personally heard was when someone said to me in a conversation, ‘I was so angry yesterday, I went bipolar on him.’ All I could do was think, how could someone even say that, especially when they know that I am bipolar. I didn’t even respond. I was so offended that I couldn’t react. There was another person, not diagnosed with bipolar disorder, that I was talking to, and I asked her how she was feeling. Her response also shocked me, she said, ‘I feel bipolar. I’ve been somewhat moody lately.’ These are just two of the many examples that I’ve heard. I can’t believe that people could say these things. I was so completely offended, insulted, and angry.

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health illness. Bipolar disorder affects many millions of people worldwide. It has caused a lot of these people to go on disability due to their symptoms; I am one of those individuals. Sadly, many people diagnosed with bipolar disorder or other mental health disorders end up taking their own lives.  Bipolar disorder, along with every other mental health disorder, is not something to joke about. I would have thought that it’s common sense not to use the word bipolar to describe anything, but apparently most people don’t have common sense. I strongly feel that people need to be properly educated on the seriousness of mental health disorders. People also need to learn to respect others.

We need to work on the mental health stigma using education and experience. I admit that I need to work on it too. I believe that a lot of people are not purposefully disrespectful, they are simply uninformed of the truth. When someone says something that is disgraceful to me, instead of telling that person how I feel, I hold it all in. I’m not good at expressing how I feel without having time to think it through. I’m also afraid to upset anyone, but what about my feelings? Expressing myself is something I’m working on, and maybe one day I’ll get better at it. Hopefully, everyone will get better about it. I’m not sure if we will ever live in a world without stigma, but it can’t hurt to try.

What My Bipolar is Like

What My Bipolar is Like

I live with the mental health diagnoses of Bipolar 1 and PTSD. Neither of these are new, but that doesn’t make them easy to live with. At one point, I was also diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I was diagnosed Bipolar at 12 years old and PTSD many years later. Now, at 31 years old, I have learned some tricks to make life easier, but nothing I do will ever get rid of my disorders. Throughout the years, I have had my ups and downs, manic, mixed, or depressed; there has been very little time where any doctor would be considered me to be in remission.

There are a few things that have helped me over the years:

  1. I am always compliant with my medications and treatments. It’s not easy, and I do complain about it, but I know how important it is to stay on my medication as prescribed by my doctor.
  2. I have the support of my entire family. Everyone supports me and does their best to understand what I’m going through. I have never felt judged from any family member, and I know how lucky I am to have that.
  3. I always tell on myself to my family and doctors. When I start to experience manic symptoms, I like to keep them to myself. It’s a nice change of pace from the depression. However, I know how bad it can get and how quickly it can get there, so I tell my doctors and support team what’s happening.
  4. I follow the instructions from my doctors. When I’m told to change medications, I do so. I am aware that the doctors know more than I do. Sometimes I ask for time so I can do research (I LOVE research), I like to know what I’m getting myself  into.
  5. When doing research on medications and treatments, I look at all sources of information. I research online, I talk to my family, I ask my pharmacist, and I attempt to make an educated decision, if necessary.

These things are a huge part of what’s kept me alive. I know I’m not stable, and I haven’t been for quite a while, but I’ve had times in my life that were worse than they are now. Improvement is all I can hope for.

At this time, I’m on a lot of medication. I take seven medications daily, as well as two that I take as needed. These are just my psychiatric medication. For some reason, I have several physical health problems that have been either medicated or treated with surgery. I have also been doing ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) for just over a year, and I am working to decide on the next form of treatment. Every medication I take helps in some form. I know it’s a lot, it is way more than most people take, but it’s what works for me. I have never been a person who only takes one or two psychiatric medications. My case is complex, but my doctor is amazing and I trust him completely.

For months I’ve been dealing with depression and struggling with suicidal ideations. All I want is to have a few moments where the thoughts of suicide are not in my mind. Just because I think about it, doesn’t mean I’m going to do it. I have reasons not to, and for me they are my husband and my mother. About a week or two ago, my sleep started to decline. I don’t get more than 4 or 5 hours a night, if I’m lucky, but I wake up continuously. Now, I can see several signs of mania, and so can my psychiatrist. It feels more like a mixed state. I have some moments where my mind crashes. For example, having a simple conversation with my mother today was almost impossible, but that only lasted a few hours.

My anxiety and panic attacks are increasing. They have always happened daily for many years, but now they are happening multiple times a day. They even happen when I can’t find a reason (the reason is probably my mind that keeps running). I used to be able to talk myself down from my anxiety attacks, but not lately. I feel like I’m losing my mind (I know that sounds odd coming from someone who struggles with mental illness).

Right now, I’m simply trying to hang on. Life is overwhelming, and it doesn’t seem to be getting much better. I recognize changes in my mental health and I honestly report them to my doctors. I can’t think of any other people in my life that actually do that. I’m proactive; maybe there is some kind of chance that I’ll get better, but I don’t like getting my hopes up. For the moment, I am taking advantage of the energy I have from my new mixed state, and I’m getting a lot of things done that would normally be close to impossible.

I wonder if one day I will be able to live my life without purely trying to “hang on”. I’ve had times in my life before that were fabulous. I had a full-time job, I got promoted, and I had an active social life. Now, I jump at every noise I hear, and usually they aren’t even real. Will I get my life back? Or has Bipolar claimed it as its own? I’m not saying that my life is bad. It’s difficult and often more than I can handle, but I do know how lucky I am for someone in my position. I’m extremely grateful for my supportive family and my husband than encourages me see friends and do things for myself.

It’s time now to try to see if I can sleep. My mind is still racing. I hope I can shut it down.  Again, I don’t get my hopes up, but I do try. Off I go…