So some real talk about Mental Health and Bipolar Disorder

CW: Suicide attempts and ideation

So some real talk about Mental Health and Bipolar Disorder:

I get more suicidal ideation while manic or in mixed states than when I am depressed. Don’t get me wrong suicidal ideation visits me while depressed but I am more likely to act on it while in a manic rage.

My last suicide attempt happened thus. I was in a mixed state, but the main emotion I was feeling when I got in the car in a closed garage and turned on the ignition was anger.

I have been suffering my most severe manic swing in years for the past couple weeks, and I went there again today. I was enraged and making a plan. It involved either stopping taking my medication which is keeping my immune system from up and killing me, or taking all my medication at once (It probably counts in the hundreds of pills and probably would have taken an hour to ingest them all).

Moved by the Force or His Gods a dear friend checked in on me right after my plan gelled in my head. I did not tell him I was suicidal when he contacted me, but his love for me walked me back from the edge. At the end of the conversation, I did tell him and told him he probably saved my life.

Living with chronic illness has me despondent quite often, there is a very good chance that it will kill me sooner than later, but it won’t kill me today. And neither will my mental illness. Not today. Here that, God of Death? Not today.

The state of my condition

I am something like 30 months stable. This has never happened since my mental illness first started to manifest in earnest in adolescence. My usual pattern of severe episodes is usually 18 months apart on the outside, either something life-wrecking, life-endangering, or needing hospitalizations.
 
I joked last night with a friend that maybe my brain has taken a break from trying to kill me because my immune system is doing such a good job at it (I am currently battling interstitial lung disease likely due to an autoimmune disorder). But I am grateful for the stability. Can you imagine me being in an episode and not being able to breathe right?
 
For a long time, I have felt like I was sitting under the Sword of Damocles just waiting for the next episode to happen, and when it became overdue, the anxiety increased. But I no longer feel that way. I think for the first time in 32 years my illness is well managed and I am not at risk.
 
But it is times like this that I need to be careful not to fall into Bipolar Pitfall #1 which is “Oh I am doing so well, I guess I don’t need my meds.”
One of the symptoms of an imminent episode, however, has begun to manifest, I am crying easily.  Crying at media I am watching or reading.  I just cried reading Quora answers.  Usually, this meant that my emotional control was slipping a bit.  But I have to wonder if I am not just now more emotionally open and aware and that my propensity to cry is more being in touch with deep emotional awareness rather than some lapse of emotional regulation.
For the most part, I am hopeful.  But I can’t be complacent in the management of my illness especially since I am doing so well.

An unsuccessful approach to ableism

While internet interactions may seem the most benign, they can also be the most public.  When  an online community has a policy against discrimination, yet gives ableism a pass, I think that policy is either flawed, or the moderation is.   Especially when the person stating that they are the object of discrimination is the one that is disciplined for “persistence”.   That is, the continued defense against fallacious, discriminatory assertions of instead of accepting the futility of changing a bigot’s mind.

The group in question is called Jedi church (the original)  the thread in question has already been altered, though by the participants or the moderators I do not know.

In my introduction in this blog  I relate the story of two decades past about an individual who said that they wish they were bipolar so that they “would not have to work.”  An interaction in this group was eerily similar.   A man by the name of Dave Jenson said the following:

As long as people can have an excuse for their behavior, as long as people can make a living by simply being mentally ill, as long as a living can be made helping the mentally ill. And as I had noticed that when mental illness drop in numbers, new illnesses are invented and old illnesses take longer than before to gain a handle on. As long as this persists their will always be mental illness, real or imagined.

 

Thinking that I might be perhaps misreading the situation, I asked that if the three points I was inferring from this statement was true, the three points being:

 

  • People wrongly use mental illness as an excuse for what Dave Jenson considers bad behavior.
  • People use claims of mental illness in order to receive income.
  • The Mental Health Profession is takes advantage of the first two points to justify a wage for those that work in the profession.

Instead of clarifying or correcting, Dave Jenson used further fallacious arguments and untrue statements of fact to support these initial claims, about how much money that Disability insurance is paid fraudulently so that fakers can “earn a living” and I used congressional testimony that his claimed number was over 51% or DI payments, which in turn makes it seem to me that Dave Jenson was inferring that if someone receives DI one is more likely than not to be a fraud.

Other assertions in this thread alone were:

From Talon Trevor MacDonald:

Emotion is natural, and necessary for most. Some get lost in Emotion, and cannot contain or control it. This is generally due to Mental Illness, but also in a few cases, It is on purpose.

This infers to me an assertion that lack of emotional control is generally only represented by 4.1 percent of the population in the United States (the percentage of Adults in the USA with Serious Mental Illness according to NIMH)

and Bae Ryder, a moderator had this gem:

There are only two reasons why a professional will use the DSM: 1- insurance purposes and 2: for personal information. The DSM is defective in more ways than one. I would not use that creditable source because no professional would. Just a suggestion.

You know, instead of using a diagnostic manual to CORRECTLY DIAGNOSE AN ILLNESS.

What makes it rich was from a post immediately following the above again from Bae Ryder:

With a topic like Mental Health, unless you are a professional sitting inside your office, don’t try to give someone advice on Facebook about it. It is dangerous and unethical not to mention, it can kill. Do everyone a favor and just don’t go there. The government is not a good source of information and neither is someone that does not have at least a masters in mental health or websites that have agendas.

This seems to imply that a person LIVING with mental illness is unqualified to speak on the matter due to a lack of formal schooling.  Which is rich coming from a person that just said that the DSM which is written by such is not fit to be used by the same professionals  to diagnose.

 


 

The silencing of those that advocate against the stigmatization of the mentally ill,  including those that self-advocate like myself, is itself a further stigmatization.   In the above groups  it was explained to me by two moderators (one of which I consider a friend) (again after I made no move to or expressed an interest in rejoining) in extended conversations about my banning, that the owner of the group “Paladin Carl” values harmony, and it was me voicing my objection to discrimination in a manner he finds unbecoming more onerous than the discrimination itself.  My friend Alethea Jolene Thompson, also a moderator  there, explained to me that it was my tenacity of trying to “win” that was unwelcome.

Rather than explain in detail my objections to these views, I recommend the following reading http://www.derailingfordummies.com/

 

Those named in this post are more than welcome to make their case in the comments, I give you my word, that I will not censor or silence, as I have been in the named facebook post.

For further reading on my thoughts of applied Jedi Philosophy see:  http://jedipath.org or my associated facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JediPath

 

 

The plan going forward

I have been writing about my life, my struggles, and triumphs for quite some time.  First on Livejournal, and for the past few years Facebook.  I had a recent event in my life (stay tuned, true-believers!) that I began documenting on Facebook, only to find that many of the people that I wanted to relate my story to, did not use Facebook for a variety of reasons, and even though the posts were “public”  they are hidden from anyone who does not have a Facebook account.

So, I made the choice to have a public-facing blog where I talked about the mental health aspects of my life. I am sure other areas will creep in, (bisexual! atheist! pet-owner! Jedi Knerd!) but my mental illness will be the main thrust of this blog for the forseeable future.

I will begin with some older work, saved here and there,  then I plan to write about a recent crisis where I was hospitalized, and the issues that brings up.  Once that is done, then I will probably begin to post less-frequently about events and thoughts as they occur to me.

Thank you for reading this, it is my sincere hope that I will illuminate, inform, and at times incense in a way that is entertaining and engaging.

Out of the Padded Closet

Lets get first things first. I am mentally ill, and I am not ashamed of being so.

 

Some would find the above statement surprising, and I feel that is a problem.  Mental illness has a stigma attached to it, and like most stigmas it is based on misinformation, or at times the lack of accurate information.  I hope this blog will address that, in it’s small way.

 

At the age of 15 I was diagnosed as what at the time was called Manic-Depression.  Today, my diagnosis is Bipolar I.   Because of the the severity of my illness, it has always been very difficult for me to remain gainfully employed in any kind of job with a strict schedule.  After many years of honest effort and being consistently fired due to missing work due to depression, sometimes as long as after a couple years, sometimes in as little as a couple weeks. my psychiatrist suggested that I apply for Social Security Disability, which was successful.

Shortly after that, I was outside the San Joaquin County Courthouse (also the site of a job I was fired from after a couple weeks) with my girlfriend, and was introduced to a friend of hers.   As is customary in American culture, as a way of getting to know me, this person asked me, “So, what do you do?” meaning what my profession was.  I told him that I was actually on disability.  Then, the following exchange took place.

“Why are you on disability? you look fine!”

“I have bipolar disorder.”

“Gosh, I wish I had bipolar, so I did not have to work!”

I was caught flat-footed that something so ignorant would be said in my presence.   This was almost 20 years ago, and it still stings in the retelling.   But that was the moment that crystallized it for me.  Later that night, I decided I would never treat my illness as something shameful, something that had to be hidden.  That this would be my way of combating the stigma, and that I would be articulate in describing what living with mental illness is like.

Not everyone has made the same choice I have.  Some people feel that they cannot be open about having a mental illness, they are in what I call “the padded closet”.  While my illness does not define me, or even makes up the entirety of who I am, it does color everything that I do.  I cannot escape being ill, but I should not have to hide my illness due to those around me, mostly strangers are uncomfortable with this aspect of who I am.

I am out.  I am mentally ill.  I am not ashamed.  I want you to join me.