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    Posted by: Ember Blue Posted date: 11:09 AM / comment : 0

     
     
     
     If you read one thing today.  Have it be this.

    All through growing up, I remember being more emotional that other people, especially my sister.  We were exact opposites in a lot of ways.  She had nerves of steel and was almost emotionless, and I would cry and worry all the time.  Due to this, not only some of my peers, but my family even started to tease me.  They would call me the ‘drama queen’ or the ‘cry baby’.  So once I reached high school I avidly had to control my emotions and mood swings all the time.  It was a constant fight to avoid those names and stigma.  At the time, I just thought that I was broken, or this is what everyone had to do.  I thought everyone had to fight that hard to be okay, and I was just lazy, stupid, or worthless.  I took it on as a flaw and moral fault.  And when I messed up and lost the control I had just once?  Those labels I feared were slapped on me as quick as ever.  No one asked if I needed help, encouraged me to see a doctor, or find out if there was something medically wrong, because to them it wasn’t medical it was just ‘me’.

    Upon graduating high school I was TERRIFIED to leave for college.  I desperately wanted to go to college out of state and get out of my small town and Midwestern state.  But out of fear that I was too ‘worthless’ and ‘incapable’, I stayed home.  I went to school here and despite that I lived in the dorms, I still holed up by myself and got a single dorm room.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved having friends and romantic relationships, but I was in constant fear that they would ‘find out who I really was’ and I would ‘break in front of them’.  It was world-ending for me, because people in the past had actually left because of it.  The sad thing is, the people who left in the past left before they even tried to help me figure out what was wrong.  Looking back, that would be like leaving a friend when they started throwing up and having massive headaches all the time.  But for some reason mental health symptoms are different.  But when you think about it, are they any more exhausting?  Not really.

    I had several relationships in college, but was never able to completely open up to someone.  I kept my distance and even feared starting any type of sexual relationship.  I would cringe away from them.  My self-hatred for who I was because of my emotions sunk so deep that I didn’t even want someone to touch me in fear that they would feel the worthlessness on me.  During college, I finally had a friend who didn’t leave.  She found me a counselor and got me help.  She was a true, beautiful soul.  With her help, I lived a relatively normal life and got through college, but I still refused to get on medication.  So, even though I was able to talk through my emotions – it was still just as exhausting to deal with them.

    Once I graduated, I lived on my own.  Having my BA in Psych, I soon realized that I actually wanted to be a nurse.  While looking for nursing schools, I met a guy who I actually connected with romantically and sexually.  He waited almost two years, even when we were living together, to finally have sex.  Sadly, after I finally let him in completely, he started to use all he learned of me against me.  At first he was just emotionally abusive, saying that “no one else would love me like I am” that I was “lucky that he stayed” and that I “owed him for dealing with your shit”.  He called me names that hurt me like crazy, over-emotional, and dramatic.  He would even use words that he knew triggered me – fat, ugly, disgusting.

    Next, he became sexually abusive.  He never ‘forced’ me persay, but he used my fear of intimacy and self-hate against me.  He said that I ‘owed’ sex to him because he stayed with me and didn’t cheat on me despite the fact that he could.  He told me that it wasn’t his fault that I had issues and I still needed to take care of him. So he made me promise to at least to the minimal I had to every night to make sure he ‘got off’.  It became like routine.  Where sexual acts were not even exciting anymore, they were a duty.  They weren’t about me at all.

    By the end of our relationship, he became physical as well.  It never got too serious, because he knew he somehow only saw abuse as abuse if it left a mark on me.  He hit me across the face twice, but mainly he tried to scare me by punching doors, tearing the doors off my armoire, and getting up in my face.  In the end, with the help of someone very dear to me, I was able to end the relationship and leave him after six years.  It wasn’t until after that I realize that each form of abuse I suffered was him taking advantage of my symptoms of Bipolar in some way.  Personally, even since then I have had people I care about that I know truly cares about me do the same thing, but my ex was like an exaggerated example.

    After the breakup, my life continued to fall apart.  I tried to use one of those dating sites, but I actually found guys on there that put in their advertisements, “Don’t message me if you are Bipolar”.  What?  Like we all are the same person.  Soon, I started a new relationship with someone who helped me in an extraordinary way, but the stress from my Bipolar wore him down.  Four months after the breakup, my mother, who I am very close to, passed away.  It was sudden and I found out in a traumatic way.  My sister had left a message on my phone that was just her screaming nonsense words that couldn’t be heard until finally I heard “Mom’s dead” before the click.

    Her death sent me on a tailspin.  My mood swings became so terrible, the person I was in a relationship with had to basically beg me to get help.  For me, my symptoms were mostly depressive - I felt hopeless, so depressed I couldn't move, worthless like my family and friends would truly be better off without me, felt like damaged people and was toxic, and I wouldn't be able to do anything for hours and hours because my mind would be racing with hate for myself.  I was not manic often, and when I was, it was absolutely not like they show in the television shows.  Really the only show that shows a realistic view is Homeland with Claire Danes.  She is fully functional on her meds.  But, my manic symptoms were mostly anxiety, racing thoughts, speaking quickly, and unable to stop moving.  Even when sitting, I would have to tap my feet.  I would also feel the need to clean all the time.  Managing these symptoms and keeping them out of the public view - even my family and friends, was emotionally exhausting to the point where it felt like even my soul was fading away. 

    Honestly, one of the things that led me to get help was that I saw that I was not only hurting me, but I was killing him.  So, FINALLY.  I went to a doctor.  I was started on a mood stabilizer, non-addictive anxiety med, and a depression medication.  With all three, over time I became stable.  Adjustments had to be made with my meds so it wasn’t instant, but I would say in about 5-6 months I was a brand new person.

    It was like I was a brand new person.  Someone I hadn’t even met yet.  I didn’t even realize that life was like this.  I realized that my whole life I thought you were supposed to be that exhausted – that by the time you got home you wanted no one to be in the room or even touch you because your mind and heart were so tired from trying to appear ‘normal’ all day.  I realized I didn’t have to hide who I was.  My mood swings stabilized to a point where I found so many coping skills that helped me avoid them.  They used to happen almost daily, but now?  I can’t remember the last time I had one.  Even typing that sentence makes me proud.  Not because I’m ‘finally normal’ or up to the world’s standards, but because I worked that hard.  That I found myself.  I finally found that you could get to the other side.

    Now?  I live a completely normal life.  There are times I still struggle with depression, but it is with things that I am still working through due to what I have went through in the past, mainly self-esteem or my ‘self-stigma’.  I also still have to fight, even those nearest and dearest to me, the stigma that my illness carries.  Even though I am medicated and completely ‘normal’, even a small ounce of emotion, anger, or fear makes them tell me I am overreacting or dramatizing.  In the next moment or the next day, they become even more emotional that I do.  It is hypocritical, and I feel like many people, who I still love so very much, use my illness without realizing it.  They see me as “Bipolar” not as a person.  Every person has emotions, anger, fear… It is completely normal to have them.  So if I have them ‘normally’ and ‘appropriately’, why am I STILL wrong?  I struggle to have them see the new, real me.  With Bipolar, I won’t lie… It’s hard to have the people in your life let the past go and see you for who you are now.  It’s sad though, that no matter how much you forgive them for and forget, what you did because of an illness is still unforgettable and what you still are.  This is something I hope will change.  Don’t love me in spite of my Bipolar, love me for me.  Just me.

     

     

     

    A small part of this post was to share more about myself, but it holds a much deeper meaning.  Fight mental health stigma.  I suffered from mental health stigma, and it caused me to not get help for quite some time.  It was me who labelled people with mental health in a certain way that clumped them all in one group of ‘crazy’, so I feared becoming part of that group.  There has been so many other ‘stigma’s’ or stereotypes we have had to fight in our society including – homosexuality, race, and religion.  What people don’t realize is, mental health is RIGHT there in that group.

     

     

     

    What exactly is stigma?

    Stigma is mark or indicator of disgrace.  I often think of the book The Scarlet Letter, where Hester had to where the ‘A’.  A social stigma is when someone faces extreme disapproval from others.  Most often, this stigma is fueled by ignorance – lack of education.  As many as 75% of people with mental health issues experience negative effects of stigma.  I’m not even surprised by this number.

    Sadly, societal stigma can create and fuel ‘self-stigma’.  This is where the individual believes that they are weak, damaged, broken, disgusting, or wrong because of their illness.  This can be very, very difficult to fight – especially when the individual receives no support from others.  This causes the person to isolate and even give up.

     

     

    What is Bipolar Disorder?

    While the information about mental health stigma found in this post can pertain to any mental health problem, I am going to focus on Bipolar.  The first thing that you need to do to fight this stigma – that you hold in yourself no matter if you admit it or not – is to EDUCATE yourself.

    There is more than one type of Bipolar.  Here are the different types:

    ·         Bipolar Type I – Manic or mixed episodes that can last at least seven days.  Depressive episodes happen as well, usually lasting about two weeks.  To summarize, this type of Bipolar includes Manic and Depressive episodes in a somewhat equal measure.

    ·         Bipolar Type II – Depressive or hypomanic episodes mainly.  Although occasional manic symptoms do occur, they are not ‘full-blown’.  In other words, this type of Bipolar is predominately depressive.\

    ·         Bipolar Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) – Symptoms of the illness exist but do not meet criteria for the two previously.

    ·         Cyclothymic Disorder – A mild form of Bipolar Disorder where individuals may have episodes of depression that can last for 2 years.

    ·         Rapid-Cycling Bipolar Disorder – Having four or more episodes of depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed states all within a year.

     

    What are the symptoms of Bipolar?

    First of all, let me make it clear that not all people suffering from Bipolar experience all of these symptoms, or experience them to an extreme degree.  Like any other illness (not just mental health), there are varying degrees from very mild to very severe.  Television and shows do the same thing with Bipolar that they do with Schizophrenia.  They make the people appear so ‘crazy’ that they can’t function in normal life, even with medication.  This, needless to say, pisses me off.  Even without medication I am not ‘crazy’.  I don’t hallucinate or have delusions, but even if I did – don’t lump me into a group where you think I would be untreatable or couldn’t lead a normal life. 

    Here are the depressive symptoms of Bipolar:

    ·         Long period of sadness or hopelessness.

    ·         Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed – even sex.

    ·         Feeling overly tired.

    ·         Having problems concentrating, remembering, or making decisions.

    ·         Being restless or irritable.

    ·         Changing eating, sleeping, or other habits.

    ·         Thinking of or attempt suicide.

    Here are the mania symptoms of Bipolar:

    ·         Euphoria or irritability.  Not everyone is happy-happy joy-joy during manic episodes.  That is a myth perpetuated by the media. Many just get irritable, paranoid, and overly anxious.

    ·         Increased energy and activity.

    ·         Excessive talk or talking fast.

    ·         Racing thoughts.

    ·         Inflated self-esteem.

    ·         Less need for sleep.

    ·         Impulsiveness.

    ·         Distractable

    Please note – none of these say that I am going to go bat-shit crazy, that medicines or coping skills can treat them, that I’m going to be dangerous, that I’m going to be difficult to live with or love, that I can’t be trusted, that I need to be taken care of, or that I’m going to suddenly run out into the middle of the street.  All of those things listed can happen to ANYONE. 

     

    How often do people with mental health problems face stigma?
     
     

    Some of these statistics may startle you, I know they did me.  Most of us don’t think that we are stigmatizing people.  That’s why education is so important.

    ·         1 in 4 people believe that people with mood disorders (Bipolar):

    o   Are not like everyone else (18%).

    o   Should not have children (19%).

    o   Are easy to identify in the workplace (26%).

    o   Do not live normal lives when treated (29%).

    ·         Surveys conducted from 1996-2006 showed that Americans started to understand mental illness as a biological condition more, but it also showed that people were now:

    o   Less likely to befriend or work with someone with a mental illness.

    o   More inclined to see people with mental illness as violent or dangerous.

    o   Less like to get involved in a relationship with someone with a mental illness or want a family member to get involved in a relationship with someone with a mental illness.

    ·         A study in 2012 showed that:

    o   Doctors are less likely to prescribe medications for heart disease and other illness to people with a mental illness.

    o   Doctors are less likely to recommend surgery after a heart attack to people with mental illness.

    o   Doctors are less likely to hospitalize a person with a mental illness after an emergency department visit for diabetes.

    ·         Stigma plays a huge part in the fact that:

    o   80% of people with a mental illness will not speak up or get help.

    o   40 million people in the United States suffer with depression, so that means 25 million people suffer in silence.  Furthermore, this leads to 40,000 suicide per year.

     
     

    How are people with Bipolar Stigmatized?
     
     
     

    The best way to explain this is to start with myths of Bipolar and give you the truth.  So know the truth, not these myths:

    1.     Myth #1 – Bipolar and other mental illnesses are just caused by the person.  If they would just choose to move on they would be fine.  Wake up people!  Bipolar and other mental illness are proven to be biological!  They are caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain, among other things.  This can be compared perfectly with an imbalance of insulin and sugar like in diabetes!

    2.    Myth #2 – Bipolar symptoms are just the person’s way of finding an excuse to be lazy, manipulative, over-emotional, or to get attention.  Actually, Bipolar is mostly genetic in origin, but can be triggered by times of extreme stress.  And I’m sorry, but you don’t have to be Bipolar to be lazy, manipulative, over-emotional, or attention seeking.  From my personal experience, most the time the Bipolar person’s goal is the exact opposite, but during periods of trouble they can’t figure out exactly how to accomplish that.

    3.    Myth #3 – “Misbehaviors” of Bipolar are voluntary; meaning the person with Bipolar causes them to happen themselves.  This is so untrue.  The person suffering with Bipolar can try so hard to not get emotional or exhibit other symptoms, but these are involuntary.  Now, that doesn’t mean that we are just going to be involuntarily vomiting drama everywhere.  The trick is to learn yourself so you can acknowledge with symptoms, anxieties, or triggers are coming up so you can utilize a coping skill to overcome.

    4.    Myth #4 – People with Bipolar are just too lazy to deal with their shit.  This one… If you say this one to my face it will probably be the only time you see me very angry, because I’m just not an angry person.  I will not hold back from saying, “Shut the fuck up”.  People with Bipolar are the exact opposite.  Controlling our emotions and mood swings are a million times harder than it is for you, so for me to have a perfectly normal life just like you (WHICH NEWSFLASH – I CAN) I have to work a million times harder.  I have to learn, acknowledge, anticipate, battle, and build my coping skill muscles.  In the end, I KNOW I am actually more emotionally healthy without Bipolar because I know my emotions and how to cope with them.  I’m not saying I always am able to, because the mood swings are involuntary, but in actuality I feel like I cope with them a whole lot better than ‘normal’ people can.

    5.    Myth #5 – “Misbehaviors” of people with Bipolar are character flaws.  No, no, no, NO.  Bipolar is a part of us, but it is not who we are.  Mistakes can be made, but they are never on purpose.  The only mistake I made was to not get help sooner, but even that was perpetuated by society.

    6.    Myth #6 – The drugs are a crutch.  Just deal with it.  I have even had a family member say this to me – asking me why I can’t just figure out a way to deal with the mood swings myself.  That I was just trying to find a way out from dealing with it.  But in fact, it was the exact opposite.  The medication helped TREAT the imbalance in my brain so I COULD deal with it and live completely normally, if not better.  Just like a person with diabetes has to treat themselves with medications.

    7.    Myth #7 – Bipolar people are the most annoying people in the world.  They are always causing drama.  Seriously, this is like someone telling a cancer patient that they always cause people to be sad.  Don’t forget that it takes two to tango.  In an argument, fight, emotional moment, the other party is just as at fault.  This is lumping every person with Bipolar into one group and is basically saying we are damaged.  That we can’t live and interact normally.  And honestly, whenever I have heard people say this, it’s because THEY were using it as an excuse for their poor behavior.

    8.    Myth #8 – People with Bipolar are raving lunatics, selfish, spoiled brats, overly-sensitive, etc. – No, WE are not.  People or person(s) are – including people that are ‘normal’.  We are not a higher statistic.  And honestly, if there ever is a time that I act that way, all someone needs to do is point it out.  I acknowledge it and cope with it.  In fact, I am even more conscious and selfless with emotions.  Almost to a fault where people use my Bipolar and guilt associated with it against me.

    9.    Myth #9 – You are just over-reacting.  Well, yes.  I am.  Overreacting is a symptoms of Bipolar.  Harsh words or emotional situations are painful to everyone, but people with Bipolar may respond with increased anger or depression.  Don’t tell us to just ‘stop it’.  That’s like telling a person with Diabetes to just ‘stop and produce insulin!’  But, this does not mean that we are ALWAYS going to overact.  Get your facts straight.  Once someone successfully regulates the imbalance in their brain and uses coping skills, they can be even healthier and more ‘normal’ than you.

    10.  Myth #10 – Being manic would be awesome.  You would totally get more done.  Let me set you straight.  Being in a manic state is not fun.  It can feel like your skin is crawling, you can sit still, and nothing feels right.

    11.   Myth #11 – Someone with Bipolar can never live a normal life.  This is so untrue.  In fact, as I’ve said above, now that I am stable on meds and have my coping skills, I actually think that I am healthier that what society would call a ‘normal’ person.  Having Bipolar in no way means I can’t have a normal life, it just means that certain changes need to be made.  Such as – taking one fewer class than other students each semester, writing up a coping skills plan for stress.

     
     

     

    Just, please, never call me crazy, lunatic, over-emotional, dramatic, lazy, selfish, nuts, or any such similar word because of my bipolar.  It’s like calling a homosexual person a fag.  Which is just as repugnant. People with Bipolar are capable of having happy, successful lives and relationships.  We are not soul or fun-sucking, which I’ve been called before.  Yes, we need to get treatment and do what we need to do to be stable, but so does a person with any other illness.  Once we do that and are stable, you calling us any of those words are phrases are just you using our illness as a crutch for your mistakes.  Take a second and think.  Would you do that to someone who had another type of illness like diabetes?  Cancer?

     

     

     


     

     

     

     
     
     
     
     

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