Posted in Mental Health

Bipolar and other mental illnesses are not one size fits all disorders

Now, I am NO expert in psychiatry…at all!  But lately I have read up on some literature; I have read several books on the subject and spoken to some friends who have been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder.  What I found most helpful…profoundly enlightening…were stories shared by persons who suffer with bipolar.

The first book I read was that of DrKay Redfield Jamison…born June 22, same day as my mom, no wonder she is an amazing woman!   {Okay, useless information but I just had to add that tidbit.}  She is professor of psychiatry at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.   I  read, An Unquiet Mind, which accounts severe mania and depression.  This is the book that made me want to know more…it allowed me to see through her eyes.  I just noticed in researching the exact title of this book since I read it many years ago and discovered she has written many others on the subject of depression, suicide and another on her relationship with her husband.  I urge you to look her up to read more about her work.

I only have the utmost admiration for her because she has come forward a long time ago and spoken about her illness. She is a professional and by speaking openly, she is helping people who have this condition, their family and friends and anyone who may be diagnosed one day of any type of mood disorder.

Part of removing the “stigma” is talking about something as if it is NOT a “hot potato” or like it is an STI!! Remember when we hardly talked about any type of sexually transmitted infection?  Well, some of you readers perhaps do not remember but in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s it was not talked about too much.  I happen to remember in the early 80’s people thinking you could not shake hands with someone who was HIV positive.  Heck, I even remember in 1996, a social worker coming to the girls’ private school where I was a Family Life Educator.  He was lecturing parents on STI’s and more specifically HIV and how to practise “safer sex”.  His assistant or co-speaker,  was a young man in his early twenties who was diagnosed with HIV 2 years ago.  At the end of the lecture, I and very few parents went up to the speakers to thank them and shake their hands.  Hardly anyone wanted to shake hands with that amazing young man who opened up and shared a bit of himself to help teens be better informed and prevent the spread of any type of STI.  Talk about stigma there…it was ridiculous…it was ignorance that perpetuated fear and not understanding many sexually transmitted infections and how they could be transmitted.

Sometimes I wonder how much we have actually evolved as a society in understanding mental health, sexually transmitted infection, sexual orientation, diversity and culture.  Are some of us embracing this new knowledge and the uniqueness of each other or are we still back in the woods with the shotgun in the back of the truck ignorant as bliss?  I am not intending to insult anyone  having a shotgun or truck or living in the country.  This too, I suppose  is another label I …so I apologize if that hit a nerve.  I do believe most will get the analogy…hopefully.

I have just started volunteering with groups  of  men and women who suffer various forms of mental illness as well as family and friends of people who have a mental health condition.  I am learning so much.  Why?  Because these wonderful people are sharing a bit of their life within the group.  Again, just like Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison personal disclosures, it is from these experiences I learn so much more.

It is not any different from trying to get to know more about a culture. You can’t assume or generalize that everyone.  For example, in my province, working in a French environment, I was once remarked by a colleague…this was 20 years ago, mind you, “Hey you sure don’t act like most English people”.  To which I responded, “Oh, because I am not rich and live in Westmount (very ritzy area in Montreal).”  He smiled sheepishly but that IS what he meant.

So if a person has a mental illness, we cannot assume that everyone will be hallucinating, having psychotic episodes at the drop of a hat and that they could be suicidal.  Oh! And by the way it is NOT contagious either!  What IS contagious is the ignorance and the reaction some may have on mental health disorders.

((((((((((Fast forward and back to July 2013)))))))))).  It breaks my heart when I hear a youth call to tell me that she has struggled with emotional symptoms very difficult to manage and control.  That she has tried for months and months to get support and that her family tell her it is “Part of  being a teenager.”  And that finally after too many months of agony  and being hospitalized, she is finally being treated.  Lots of parents do not want to admit their child may be suffering. I get that!  Some parents are in denial but let’s face it, some adults do not want to recognize that mental health and physical health are equally important.  Mental health is not things people are imaging they are feeling…it is not a weakness and they need to just “tough it out” better.  It is a valid condition that affects 1 in 5 people at least once in their lifetime. But G d forbid that 20% of the population gets help…no, most will not for the fear of the stigma OR for the misunderstanding that it is a valid illness that can get treated!

I urge you to read more about mental health, listen to those talk shows if it helps to better educate you on mental health issues and open your minds…someday you may be the colleague, employer, teacher,  friend, sister, brother, father, mother, grandparent, in law, cousin, uncle or aunt of a person who needs your understanding and helping ear.  Maybe then, you can be the person who makes a difference and does not say, “It’s just a stage we all go through”…and encourage that person to get professional help.

Thanks for listening…

In closing I am recommending  this interesting article on How Often moods cycle in Bipolar Disorder.  What I learned in this article is how unique and different each person is affected on him/her. http://ow.ly/mJJbu

Another read that I found amazing and enlightening is  Get me out of here, (My recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder) by Rachel Reiland by Lori Schiller

And my favourite place of all time where I attend yearly conferences and lectures at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute.  Here is the link of the video taped lectures I have attended. Imagine that! everything at your fingertips…there is NO excuse to not know…right?  http://ow.ly/mJM4y

© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, July 7, 2013

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Author:

A little bit about moi: I am a mom, a nana, a sister, a woman, a friend, a human being…a youth counsellor, Family Life Educator. I have been working in the helping profession for over 25 years and volunteered in various capacities from youths to seniors. Tournesol is my nom de plume for haiku and other Japanese form poetry here at Tournesoldansunjardin http://cheryllynnroberts.wordpress.com I hope you enjoy reading through my daily waka. I also have another blog "Stop the Stigma" where I may stand on my soapbox now and then and hope it will become a place to drop in and share or comment on issues important to you. In that vein this could be a great way to learn from each other. http://stigmahursteveryone.wordpress.com Namaste!

6 thoughts on “Bipolar and other mental illnesses are not one size fits all disorders

    1. Thank you!! I did not realize I had a comment to approve…they should have bells ringing sometimes on these contraptions…you know like instant messaging, texts…with a sound like “dinner is served” if it’s a nice comment:) Cheryl-Lynn

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  1. Good to read you on that. Even though you’re not a psychiatrist/psychologist, you’ve got so much experience with those issues. Will check out that book, ”An Unquiet Mind”. Reading ”Transitions” by William Bridges now!

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    1. The only experience I am getting is from talking with real experts…those living with a mental health condition…that by far, teaches me, humbles me.

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  2. Thanks Steven, Actually Bell Canada has invested over 50million $ on Mental Health in Canada. A huge part is to sensitize the public and the schools. I did a presentation in February with Bell’s Quebec spokesperson (French comedian) in a high school. Our youthline is part of a one year pilot project to prepare programmes to sensitize 12 to 14 year olds…it’s a great age to inform them as their ongoing years they may well be faced with mental health issues. Bell has really done a lot to help remove the “Stigma”. thanks again for your comments. I always appreciate your feedback. Hope you are doing okay, Steven. Cheryl-Lynn

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  3. Brilliant post CL.

    I think you brought up a very important point regarding how this is an illness that is not imagined. Society can be guilty of judging people on their outward appearance, if an illness or disability can’t be seen or touched its not there. Education is the key and that is where so many, including myself, can be lazy.

    I wonder if mental illnesses are given the same attention as physical ones at schools. This is when to educate, to change the mindset. I remember studying many different physical disabilities and illnesses when I was at school. I don’t think conditions like depression were ever mentioned.

    Hopefully times have changed since then. Again, brilliant post. Thank you

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