George Washington and Baby Steps

If you’re reading this right now, you’re alive.

Well, unless literate ghosts are real. What if someone really famous is reading this over my shoulder right now, like George Washington or Tupac?! I hope it’s George. He knows a lot about revolutions. We need a revolution in the way society treats mental health. We’re headed there, we’re baby-stepping, but it’s time for that baby to learn how to run.

As I was saying, if you’re reading this then you’re (probably) alive. For some people, that’s the biggest accomplishment they’ll make today. Staying alive is a lot harder for some people than it is for others. For those of you staying alive today, I salute you (no offense, George).

I recently had a talk about mental illness with my sister (she’s a junior in college majoring in neuroscience). She mentioned that every time she gets to choose a research project, she tries to do something dealing with bipolar disorder. Unfortunately, she said, cutting edge research in mental illness is overwhelmingly on anxiety and depression, and diseases such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia get put on the back burner.

She’s thinking about going to grad school to do research on less common mental illnesses. She also wants to help break stigma when it comes to those. “Everyone wants to break stigma for anxiety and depression,” she said, “because it’s so common now. But you’re bipolar? Well, you’re not just crazy. You’re super crazy. People are still going to be freaked out about you.”

Ah, the things she says. Thanks a lot, baby sister.

Behind the somewhat offensive explanation, she has a point. It’s great that people want to break stigmas for mental illness so that more people will go get the help they need, but how often to we hear testimonies normalizing schizophrenia? Multiple personality disorder? Bipolar disorder? They feel few and far between compared to the ocean of people posting to social media about “This is what it’s like to live with my anxiety disorder.”

It’s true that our diseases are rarer (more rare? rarer?), but I want to be invited to the party! I want my illness to be seen as acceptable too! I want people to research wtf is going on in my brain so that they can fix it!

I’m not sure how to make that happen.

I don’t want people to make jokes about bipolar disorder. I don’t want people to be freaked out by me when they learn I have it. I want to feel like I’m okay as a person even though I have this illness (because if you’re under the delusion that all illnesses are socially acceptable, you’re wrong). We need a revolution (George! Are you reading?! Go haunt some people about this).

I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen in the normalization of certain mental health issues, but we still have a long way to go. You, reader, are in this blog community because you need support and/or because you’re supporting the rest of us. Thanks for that – it’s one step in the right direction.

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10 thoughts on “George Washington and Baby Steps

  1. One of my favorite Youtubers, Ellie (EllkoNYC), has borderline personality disorder and it’s been heartbreaking over the last few months watching her totally break down. Her marriage went kaput, her job went kaput because her marriage went kaput and she was having a hard time finding a therapist who would help her because according to her, they’re all “BPD? NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE!”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Urg! That’s awful. I’m (unfortunately) not surprised. When I was diagnosed with bp, my therapist immediately wanted to transfer me out of her practice. And I was all, “Ahh! Wait! You’ve been seeing me for months…I still need your help!” Luckily she kept me on, but yeah – it freaked her out.

      Liked by 1 person

      • See..this is why I avoid therapists like the plague. I don’t want to go, get attached and then have them tell me, “Uh yeah. You’re too fucking broken for me to fix. GTFO now.”

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  2. You’re right. Mental illnesses other than anxiety and depression are often overlooked when it comes to reducing stigma. I only have anxiety and depression, but I’m aware of this gap. I think talking openly helps.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love that you wrote this post. Ever since I had my psychiatrist switch(I think?) my diagnosis (or maybe add to it?) to mixed state of bipolar I just have a hard time acknowledging it to other people because I worry about potential reactions. I’ve had no problem in the past saying I suffer from major depression but the words “I have (maybe?) bipolar” gets stuck in my throat. We do need a revolution!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: When A Post Just Hits You | Life of a Journaler

  5. This post reminds me of the post where you mentioned the couple you were not eaves dropping on in the cafe. The woman had recently left her fiance because he was Bi Polar and we were all “what the eff?” But, I think you hit on something right here above.

    Think about the way people with bipolar disorder are portrayed in the media or on television or books. They are out of their damn minds. They are super over the top hyper, painting the entire inside of their house bright red and swinging from the light fixtures. Then they crash or kill themselves or try to take down someone they love or whatever. What is made for our entertainment and dramatized for television characters is not a pretty picture. It’s also not entirely inaccurate in some cases. But here is the thing, Not every person with cancer is bald or dying. Not every diabetic has episodes of high or low sugar that lead to emergency situations or need to give themselves shots. Not every alcoholic is stumbling around the work place, tie loosened, shirt un -tucked with a bottle of booze in a paper bag in his hand. It happens, but it’s not the norm because those people are not out in society and among the people living their day to day lives. The really sick cancer patients that are actively being treated are home, recovering or at the doctor, being treated or trying to avoid germs. They are not at a party generally speaking or going to work every day. The alcoholic would get about 10 minutes of that behaviour before he was fired, kicked out, disowned etc. The diabetic that hasn’t got control of her sugar is the exception. How many times do you see random people pass out from low blood sugar in public? Like I say, it happens, but not often. Aren’t we often surprised when we learn someone we know and have known and maybe work beside has some sort of illness? Lyme disease or something else that they are managing with medication and treatment and therapy and are living their lives.

    I think the huge stigma still exists because of a couple reasons. First, everyone has experienced anxiety or depression in a situational form at some point in life. So they can more easily empathize with those of us that have a chronic condition or disorder. Not everyone can relate to the manic/ depressive mood swing cycle. Not even close. If anyone we know has a loved one that is bipolar either that person is being successfully treated with medication and therapy or that person is in an institution or that person is dead. So likely, the bipolar people out in the world and work force are handling the condition with diligence just as a diabetic would. People that know others that are bipolar probably don’t even realize that their friend/ family member/ co worker is. So the vast majority of the world is left with the made for TV movie version of what being bipolar is and watching someone take medication and function and lead an otherwise normal life is not must see TV.

    Second, because doctors just plain don’t know. They also hesitate to diagnose people as bipolar or schizophrenia or to label them. My doctor flat out said as much. I don’t know why, I don’t know if it is an issue with insurance for the patient later on but I was given the impression that the doctor has to be VERY sure of this diagnosis before he will actually commit to it. Even if he is prescribing medication for the symptoms of it. Perhaps it’s the stigma they are trying to avoid for the sake of their patient but on the other hand, they are contributing to that stigma and also not providing accurate data for statistics.

    In addition Bipolar and Schizophrenia are just flat out tough to diagnose. Similar to Autism. There is a spectrum and they often exist with other conditions so it makes it hard to know what is a symptom of the mental illness and what is a symptom of the cerebral palsy or the brain injury – as people with CP and brain injury are more prone to have these mental illnesses. The lines for an actual diagnosis are blurry.

    With depression they can now actually SEE 4 different sub types of depression with an MRI and by being able to isolate those types they know which type will respond to what treatment. That is as of around 2008 or so I think, but it is still SO new that my doctor and my daughter’s doctor were both unaware until I printed the article out for them. They are too busy treating us crazies. I have the time and insomnia to read and research this sort of thing. It used to be, and largely still is, just trial and error for treatment for depression. The tests are pretty expensive and not necessarily covered with insurance, but at least they are there and exist and are accessible and approved. So far no one has figured one out for bipolar and if they don’t have an objective test they are hesitant to diagnose and then you have a problem.

    So that’s my 35 cents worth (far more than 2 cents, I think you will agree.) and good for your sister! If nothing else, you know your illness has inspired her and who knows how many she will inspire and where that will lead. That’s pretty awesome, huh?

    Plus, if you are gonna be crazy you may as well be really crazy. Who want’s to be ordinary? Even among the crazy people we still want to be original.

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