Invisible Illness and Stigma

5.12.19 blog entry

So, as we know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve been thinking about stigma. How to eradicate it. The answer must be imparting knowledge; teaching.

The area where I’ve seen the most ignorance across the board, and have personally experienced, is to do with medication. I hear that psych meds are poison and unnecessary. I have heard the following.

Just go outside.

Just lighten up.

Meditate.

Get in shape.

Granted, all of that helps, but Bipolar Disorder is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is a direct result from something wrong in your brain. If you have something wrong with an organ in your body, you treat it.

My own family has called me a pill-popper and told me I’m weak. Please. You do this for 20 years, and then talk to me about what is weakness and what is strength.

Invisible illnesses can sometimes be the most difficult to understand or grasp, I suppose. A person has an appendectomy and people bring them food for a week. A person goes through a depressive cycle and people might say stop moping, and they certainly don’t bring meals.

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So, I will just wrap up by saying people with Bipolar, with mental illnesses, with invisible chronic illnesses, are incredibly strong and brave. We’re also empathetic because we know suffering. I assure you, if I could exercise my way right on out of this, if it was that easy, well…I wouldn’t even have a blog because I would be cured.

We are fighters.

We are creative.

We are dreamers.

We are helpers.

We are intelligent.

The emotional reactions – good and bad – that we have are multiplied by ten.

Through it all, we have careers, raise children, help others, and have the foresight to know to give our husbands our medications during a particularly bad week, so that we don’t swallow them all. That’s not weakness. That kind of strength requires a raw vulnerability. It’s not easy.

If you have someone in your life dealing with MI or any other invisible disease, just reach out and speak to them. Ask how they are, and tell them you want to understand more. I bet when they are able, they will help educate you.✌🙏🎗

 

(📸: kgun9)

And Still I Feel Weak

So, if I was advising any other friend/person dealing with Bipolar Disorder (and any mental health issues) who was suffering and feeling alone, I would advise them to seek out their support system.

What is My Support System: (most I’ve read are similar & I’ve worked this out with a few medical professionals)

  1. Use coping techniques that I know have worked uniquely for me in the past. (arts and crafts, music, reading, exercise, writing, gardening)
  2. Have fun with a friend. Just get out for a quick lunch and fun chat for 1/2 – 1 hour.
  3. Talk with friends I’ve met who, like me, manage mental health illnesses and issues. (They have a specific set of experiences that can help me when I can’t see clearly.)
  4. Talk with my therapist. (Therapist knows my strengths and weaknesses and how to kick me in the butt, lovingly of course.)
  5. Get an appointment to see my psychiatrist sooner than I already have scheduled, and discuss possible medication issues. (This is key. As many medical professionals that can be involved to help me walk through these times, the better. Medication might be doing me harm, or a med that is working might offer even more benefit if the dosage is increased.)
  6. When all else fails, in this day and time of technology and social media — I just start yelling out wherever and whenever I can that I need help!

With all of that being said, I’ve been dipping really low lately. Dangerously low at some points due to physical illness and pain, and there have been family issues arise that I will address at the appropriate time. Steps 1-6, that I listed up there, for and about me, seem quite reasonable and sound.

So, why did I struggle to reach out to my therapist a couple of weeks back?

Because it still makes me angry that I get so low I have to seek out the help.

~ Me Today ~

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I feel weak.

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And if I feel weak, even after having dealt with this (including education) for decades, then someone new to this madness could most definitely be terrified to seek help, and have no idea where to begin as far as how to cope.

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So, my bottom line. No matter where you are in this process, seek help. Yell it out! Type it out! Go to a doctor, clinic or psychiatrist. See a therapist or try a support group. Or hey, all of the above!

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