GA – Just a brief note that I appreciate each of you who will hopefully change your view about persons with a mental illness. I hope you will get to know more about persons diagnosed with a Brain Disorder such as Bipolar and Depression. This is the purpose of my blogs so that you can help/minister to/deliver persons in your ministry, family, community with more compassion and/or understanding.
Mental illness is not a disease. It can be treated and mental wellness recovery can be achieved. The main obstacle before diagnosis and treatment is fear. Nobody wants confirmation that ‘something is wrong’ with me. After treatment, obstacles are STIGMA and STEREOTYPES. Before I had a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with Bipolar in 1993, I dreamed of owning a small publishing company because I loved to read. I wanted to publish my own books. Well, after I was diagnosed, the dream was still there. Smile.
My first book, “Cooling Well Water: A Collection of Work By An African American Bipolar Woman” is currently out of print. It is a collection of information about mental illnesses, poetry, and short stories including my testimony on how I came to be diagnosed with a mental illness. I have a goal to re-release it in e-book format in 2014.
My second book: “I Saw You In His Eyes” will be released first as an e-book format in 2014. Expect to be forever increased and edified for how God has called me to minister.
In the spiritual realm, Bipolar is a chemical imbalance and for me it causes a heightened sensory state. You are very sensitive to the environment you are in, but you learn coping strategies, take supportive medications as necessary/prescribed, and need therapy, too. Everybody is different as with all other illnesses, disorders in our communities so treatment will be different for each person. Like any health condition, exercise and diet are crucial to staying well, too. Brain Disorders are not curable, but they are TREATABLE and recovery is possible!
Unfortunately, family and society look down on persons with a mental illness. Did you know that persons with a mental illness can lead a very successful, quality life? They can make positive contributions to our society. We can work in every profession! The labels we have to live with: crazy, beserk, violent, stinky, lazy, etc. are iron ball and chains that can make a difference between getting off the sofa and slipping into a deep, dark pit.
Bipolar Disorder is a chemical imbalance which can be treated with medication. Exercise and diet help chemicals stay balanced, too. (Talk) Therapy helps the person diagnosed with a mental illness because we have someone who understands and will listen without judging and recommend alternative ways to see a situation. What creates shame and embarrassment that causes people to avoid seeking help are stigma and stereotypes. Stigma began years, decades ago with the historical mental institutions. In those days the paddywagon showed up and the ‘crazy’ person was carried away kicking and screaming to the nearest mental institution. Meanwhile the mentally ill underwent all sorts of treatment both good and bad. They became a forgotten segment of society. Families reacted by not talking about it (shame). They eventually did not visit the mental institution if they ever did. It became a societal taboo because family, community, church leaders did not fully understand. The doctors of that era operated under a very different standard.
Today, mental illness systems have improved tremendously, but we are not there yet. Getting there will require raising awareness about mental illness recovery continuously. The National Alliance on Mental Illnesses (NAMI) is the largest advocate organization to stand on behalf of persons and families faced with mental illness and lobbying for change in laws and practices by promoting acceptance. There is a chapter in your area offering programs for persons and families affected by mental illness (Bipolar, Schizoprenia, Chronic Depression, Depression, etc.). NAMI uses volunteers and partners to support the campaign of raising awareness about achieving mental wellness recovery. There are annual events such as the NAMI-Walk and State Conference, too. Through their advocacy efforts, we also have mental healthcare parity connected to the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. This allows an end to the denial of mental health services due to pre-existing conditions and makes treatment and prescriptions more affordable.
I believe the best way to walk a journey to mental wellness recovery along with treatment is participating with a NAMI affiliate chapter. If there is no affiliate chapter near you, visit NAMI’s website and subscribe to their newsletters, etc. and maybe even start a chapter in your area. If not, there are great online resources available and I will certainly share resources I come across with you, too.
Now, back to labels. We live in a world where we learn to be mean without giving it a second thought. We see adults fuss and call persons “Lazy!, No good-for-nothing!, etc.” We actually see people laying in bed all day or on the sofa just moping. We jump right to deciding he/she is lazy because we rise and shine every day and keep it moving. Rarely does it occur to us that if after a few weeks the person is still laying down, he/she may be suffering from Depression.
When the symptoms of Depression go untreated for more than two weeks, mental illness is probably taking hold. The energy level is dropping more and more. The anger that has turned inward is wrapping around the soul and anchoring in the spirit. It hurts! Whatever the source of the anger is, is not being addressed and this could be accomplished through medication and therapy. However, what we do is fuss and engage in name-calling and pressuring the person, etc. which only causes defensiveness, denial, and adds to the problem. A person who has untreated Depressed may develop symptoms such as feeling lonely, alone in the world, hopelessness, faithlessness, losing energy, having racing thoughts, beginning to make reckless decisions such as drinking excessively, using recreational drugs, grieving as if he just lost a loved one, driving recklessly, eating excessively/not eating at all, becoming argumentative, stealing/lying, engaging in risky sexual behaviors, or even talking or planning suicide. These typically apply to persons who have been depressed for a while and have received no treatment.
When Depression lasts for 2 weeks or more, a visit to the doctor is necessary. Only a doctor can diagnose the various stages of Depression. Depression can be seasonal (death of a loved one, holidays, daylight savings, etc.) or it could be Chronic Depression which lasts over a long duration of time (i.e., months). The point is that with a proper medical diagnosis, a person can begin treatment and that journey can enable him (general) to live successfully. This is because there are many medications that can help a person manage either stage of Depression. NAMI teaches coping skills for mental illnesses and did you know Depression is one of many mental illnesses?
Now that affordable healthcare is available to all persons, access to treatment is easier and possible! In hindsight, I did not recognize that I suffered with Depression. There were many things going on in my life that caused me to internalize anger and I did not know how to talk about it. I wore a mask. When you internalize anger, it is causing the brain to work overtime. You keep replaying situations in your mind on how you wish your life could change better known to me as the ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda said/did,’ scenarios. Because I felt powerless and hopeless, it made me angry, but not violent (I will discuss this hot topic later in the series).
I saw my personal situation as one huge mountain that forever blocked that dream I had growing up. It just kept getting worse an worse. The more I tried to change it on my own, the more it became unchangeable, but the dream was forever present laughing at me it seemed. I could not shake it off, because I began believing more and more I was a failure. This was validated by the fact that negative descriptions always found me. No one seemed to care or understand all that I actually faced in my life that was overwhelming for me and I could not make it over the mountain.
MY plan was that if I could finish college, I could work in a profession that would allow me to earn enough money to support my family because my husband could not alone. Then right when I finished college, my youngest son was hospitalized with an infection and needed a trache. My husband was sick from substance abuse, and I lost my job. The last things I remembered was carrying my brown box to the car wondering how am I going to find a daycare provider who will clean my son’s trache all day? How am I going to find another job and be home caring for him? My severance pay was not going to last long! I could not believe how my supervisor explained letting me go!
Well, those seeds of anger piled on top of all the other seeds of anger and sent me over the top mentally. The racing thoughts would not stop and it did not help that I had not slept in few days trying to figure out daycare, final schools assignments due, final exams, etc. The brain chemicals were horribly imbalanced: anger, resentment, fatigue, disappointment, worry, fear. Then, to me, my life and dreams just became one big joke and I could not stop laughing literally. I tipped right over the edge into mania (Bipolar Disorder). I had gone crazy. What I remember last, is that I was in the emergency room (thanks to my family although I hated them at the time) signing hospital treatment papers as, “Mrs. Coretta Scott King.”