I have a mental illness.
I rarely say that out loud. When you say “I have a mental illness” there are many societal stereotypes that surrounds those words.
We portray people with mental illness as unstable, dangerous, need to be locked away. They see people with mental illnesses as those that shoot up places and/or kill people. Then we also downplay those that have mental illness as “just has the blues, need more vitamins, should relax more and take more time for yourself.
I’m reluctant to tell people I have bipolar II disorder. In the back of my mind I wonder how they will react to me once they know. Will they be afraid of me? Will they dismiss me? Will they amplify the inadequacies that already haunt me?
There are so many things that those around me and everyone in general should understand about people with mental illnesses. I have decided to write about. These are things that I feel can affect those with mental illness the most.
· Mental illness affects people in many different ways.
If there were three people and they all suffered from schizophrenia, neither of them would experience the illness the same way. The same can be said for any other mental or physical illness. Of course there are similarities and staples of the illness that allow health care professionals to diagnose patients but no two people have the same experiences with a particular mental illness.
· Having a mental illness is not just a state of mind.
There are days when my depression takes over. I can’t get out of bed, I can’t shower, I don’t want to meet up with anyone. I barely want to eat. It does not help when I try to confide in someone and they tell me to cheer up and everyone gets the blues. If they tried just a little to understand that I have no control over my depression and that includes the ability to just snap out of it. I have a blessed life, three beautiful children, a loving husband and I get to do what I love to do everyday…write. What could I be depressed about?
I HAVE NO CONTROL OVER MY DEPRESSION. My depression, my anxiety disorder and my bipolar II hypomania is not based on my income, how close I am with my family and rather or not I am doing my dream job. It comes and goes when it pleases and the only thing I can do is try to survive. My medication prescribed to me by a doctor helps me to survive and have a better quality of life.
· Dismissing someone’s mental illness is detrimental to them.
When I was finally diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, I was terrified. What does that mean for me and my family? I spoke with my husband and doctors and decided that the best course of treatment for me was medication and therapy. With that being said…it rubs me the wrong way when I get people telling me that I should not take my medication and should focus on home remedies. Telling us to just drink herbal teas, take more vitamins, get more Vitamin C or read this self help book does not help. It only makes us feel more inadequate, insecure and dismissed. Trust me; we have tried everything under the sun to feel better. When someone you love is given a treatment plan it is best to let that plan play out. The worst thing you can do is tell someone to stop taking their medication.
Now, here is what you can do to help someone you love that has a mental illness.
· Attend some doctor’s appointments.
· Give all the support you have.
· Show compassion.
· Do your research and better understand their particular mental illness.
· Do your part to educate others and erase the stigma.