The Time Is Now To Talk About Mental Health

I live with bipolar disorder. Some seem shocked or are in disbelief when they find out that I actually live with this condition. I don’t “act” or seem bipolar to them because I don’t portray how society views this illness, nor do I appear any different from them. That is because I’m not that different from them. I’m still a human being, but I just happen to struggle with my moods and emotions at times. We all have things that we struggle with. It sometimes amazes me how some think bipolar disorder is so scary though. I mean, it definitely can be.. It’s no walk in the park, that’s for sure. A6SL1QaCYAEMZhxDuring times of depression, there are days where I feel as though I cannot even get out of bed and face the day. I struggle to achieve seemingly simple and everyday tasks such as taking care of myself, going to work, to class, or to doctor’s appointments. I sometimes find myself lying in bed for hours with a pillow full of tears telling myself to just hold on. “Hold on just a little longer. Things will get better soon.” It’s one of the most intense feelings I’ve ever experienced. That loss of hope, the self-hate, and the despair. Sometimes I feel numb to what I once desired; A college degree, a rewarding career, and marriage. It almost feels unachievable or not worth it anymore. It’s as if those things and the people I love no longer matter at that point. The depression has taken over and I no longer know exactly what it is I want or need. I feel confused, frightened, and alone. I push my fiance away as I struggle to cope. I don’t feel good enough for him. I don’t feel good enough period. Nothing feels right anymore when experiencing depression.

This disorder can really feel like a night and day experience at times. For a while I feel fine, sometimes overly excited and confident, perhaps even “normal,” and other times I feel so down to where I contemplate ending my life. Bipolar disorder can feel absolutely debilitating at times. So, it can be scary, but not in a horror film sort of way as some may view it. For many, like myself, bipolar disorder is an internal war with oneself which alters how a person feels and functions. It’s a fight against and within myself, not towards anybody else even though it can affect those around me at times too. Bipolar disorder doesn’t define me, nor does it mean that I’m dangerous just because I have this condition.

Back in the day, children and teens who acted out or misbehaved were once considered “rotten.” They had know idea or concept of any mental illness existing back then. I grew up with terrible anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. At certain points, I could no longer go to school and it wasn’t that I didn’t want to go. I honestly couldn’t handle it as it seemed to worsen my condition and state of mind. I became overwhelmed rather easily and could hardly even finish high school. I was accused of purposely being defiant and many other things during those times. It was absurd and quite devastating. I seriously thought I would never even witness my 18th birthday due to how troubled I was feeling.

My goal is not to gain sympathy from others by sharing my stories, but to spread awareness and gain understanding and compassion for those who live with a mental illness. I admit, I am quite embarrassed to even speak up about my condition to certain people for the fear of being judged or viewed differently. I don’t want to be treated any differently than anyone else. I have seen the looks people give and I have heard some awful remarks. It hurts… especially when it comes from family, friends, or people who you think would understand the most.

Why do some seem so apathetic and fearful towards mental illness? Why isn’t there a better understanding and support system? Why must some suffer in silence or hide behind feelings of shame and guilt?

I get it. I mean, the topic of mental health isn’t light or fun to talk about. It doesn’t make for great small talk like sports or entertainment does, but you know what? You might just help save a life by bringing it up and talking about it at home, with friends, with family, and even at work or school. Our society really needs to get better at this. Avoiding and dismissing the topic of mental health only makes it more difficult for those who suffer. It also hinders those who need help from seeking treatment.

I feel like mental health and this illness is part of who I am in a way and when the topic is dismissed or treated in such a poor manner, I feel inadequate and ashamed for having a condition that I simply didn’t choose. I’m sure many others who live with a mental illness can agree with me on that as well.

The time is now to talk about mental health.

It’s time to start the conversation!

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47 Comments

  1. Thank you for speaking out about something so tough to talk about. It so much easier to ignore someone that has a mental illness or that is going through a break down. If more people would step out and speak up like you the world be a friendler place. Thank you!

  2. Well said. Your reasons for blogging are the same as mine… Global education…. One reader at a tim…

  3. You are doing the right thing. The more people who are suffering but have loved ones who understand and talk about mental health problems, sharing the help that can be given, the better. My husband has bi-polar disorder and I’ve been trying to tell his family that for years;` they now seem to be listening, but in India there is still a LOT to be done. Many people here don’t want to hear about the topic. There is an almost ancient frame of mind. People are stuck tight in their frames of mind. Part of this has to do with arranged marriages and the shame mental problems are thought to bring to the family, making the arrangement of a marriage difficult or impossible. There is a lot to worked on here; but hopefully in time at least some difficulties will be overcome.

  4. It feels good not to be alone. And you’re right about people not always knowing what you suffer from. Most of the time we have to put on a brave face, but it’s a hard secret to hide.

  5. Hi there. Wanted to give a tip of the hat to the very first person to show any interest in my blog. That first week or so of having my blog was really akward and you sort of helped break the ice on mine. I was strongly tempted to scrap the idea and run but I thankfully decided to feel it out a bit longer. Anyway, I enjoy your writing a great deal and think what you’re doing is really cool. So much of this to me is about not only spreading awareness or understanding but in fact conquering your own fear. It’s about saying “Hell yes, I DO exist and I have a point to make!”. If in the process I can give others hope, encouragement and perhaps motivation then all the better.

    Anyhow, just wanted to express my gratitude. Be well 🙂

  6. “Some seem shocked or are in disbelief when they find out that I actually live with this condition. I don’t “act” or seem bipolar to them because I don’t portray how society views this illness, nor do I appear any different from them.”

    I get that ALL THE TIME. When I’m really depressed, or if I know I’m manic, I tend to hide. Even when I am ‘off’ and I have to deal with people, I’ve a background in sales, so I know how to put on a face. People seem to expect that if I am dealing with this condition they’d see me falling to pieces or acting crazy all the time.When I tell them about it, I get the same shock and disbelief… I think the disbelief is the worse reaction for me, like I have to qualify what I’m telling them.

    I like the title here- Weathering the Storm. It’s just something that happens to us that we prepare for and deal with. Life goes on after the storm has passed. We’re still here.

    I look forward to reading more, Kait 🙂

  7. Thnx for visiting my blog Kate! You r an inspiration…I come from a long lineage of mental health issues and have seen it personally rip my family apart. Keep writing and sharing,
    Diana Ray

    • You’re very welcome. I like your blog a great deal. I thank you for visiting mine and for your kindness. Best wishes and best of luck to you! 🙂

  8. It’s comforting just knowing that someone else understand whats we deal with. I was just saying the other day that when people hear you have a mental disorder it doesn’t mean they have to come over and hold our hand, just being around and doing normal fun stuff just like everyone else. We are not broken people, we just have a different set of damage from other people.

  9. Great post. There really does need to be more awareness about bipolar.

  10. Kait, your good words have described … with startling accuracy … some of what I have experienced on my own journey. Part of what I am hearing is the theme of isolation, which connects with stigma. I also hear you saying “I will not be dismissed, because of my bipolar. If you dismiss me, that’s on you, not on me.” Last thing: I think I have asked this before on a reply, but I’m not sure. Have you ever seen the movie “Mr. Jones” (Richard Gere, the protagonist)? There are mixed views about the movie. But I thought Gere’s portrayal of a guy with bipolar was good enough to show a glimpse of what it is about or … what it can be about. Keep up the good work. T

    • Thank you! And yes, I personally have felt the isolation and see it happen as well. Also, I have not seen the movie Mr. Jones, but now I’m curious and I’d love to see it. I’m hoping maybe Netflix has it, but if not, I’ll go and buy it 🙂

  11. Thank you for following my blog, Your blog on Bipolar Disorder is invaluable and very easy to understand. Would I have your permission to add you to my “Blogs I Like” section on my blog? Thanks, Deb

  12. I am awarding you the Blog of the Year Award 2013 as an expression of my gratitude for following “The Journal of Wall Grimm” blog. You can see the post here: http://wp.me/p41c99-hx If you don’t accept awards, that’s no problem at all. Awarding you is my way to thank you and it is of no insult to me if you decline.

  13. Hi Kait,
    I’m really enjoying your blog, I find I can really relate to a lot of what you say here, and I’m looking forward to reading more.
    Everybody’s experiences are unique, but a lot of what you say here really reminds me of what I’ve gone through.

    I have schizoaffective disorder (with elements of bipolar disorder) and although I’ve been stable for a while, I find
    I struggle still because I say the wrong thing, do the wrong thing, and feel worthless as a result. It’s a grind.
    Thanks for stopping by my low-to-no traffic blog, towards resiliency, it’s great to have found your site!

    Coralie

    • Thank you. I am happy you are finding my blog helpful. I find comfort when I meet others who can relate and who feel similar. I feel many of the same things as you’ve listed. It’s a fight sometimes. Thanks again, I appreciate it. I wish you all the best 🙂

  14. Your statement here, reminds me of how it feels to talk to the psychiatrist who asks me the same thing over and over again and trying to make him understand I will not take that medication anymore because it is affecting me badly. He kept trying to reroute and make me think it was something else, but I’m extraordinarily analytical and I did not dismiss his medication out of hand, I simply tested the theory and faced the facts. AN HOUR I had to keep telling him “no” till I finally said “I WILL NOT BE TAKING THAT MEDICATION AGAIN, here’s the bottle, find something else.”

    “I honestly couldn’t handle it as it seemed to worsen my condition and state of mind.”

    The idea of talking to him in three weeks is exhausting.

    Anyway….keep talking…I know I do, people will get used to it. They better, it’s all over the media and on the rise.

    <3

  15. Thank you. I suffer from bouts of severe debilitating depression. I perfectly resonated with your description of the days with tear-soaked pillows and not giving a sh*% about anything anymore. I totally understand. I ride it out when it pulls me under like an under-tow…I feel like I will drown and may never come back up it can get so bad at times. So I get that loud and clear. I am glad that it is getting more ‘airtime’ than it used to. It is slowly losing the stigma, but it does have a long way to go before the mythology is gone, for sure.

  16. Thank you for broaching this topic. I definitely agree with the need to discuss mental illness and the need for erasing the stigma associated with it! Like you, I’m hoping to do something similar in my own blog, by discussing my own experiences through my journey.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  17. Couldn’t agree more….it is definitely the time to talk about mental illness and start breaking down the barriers of stigma and misunderstanding.
    Great work you’re doing!!

  18. Great blog! You are intelligent, concise, insightful, and enjoyable to read. Keep up the good work!

  19. I write often about my struggles with mental illness (Bipolar, Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD) and always find it such a relief when someone else is writing their truth. Thank you for putting yourself out there 🙂

  20. You’ve been nominated for the Liebster award at http://aghostdancer.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/liebster-award/ thanks and keep writing.

  21. Kait: The good news is that living a good life is possible in spite of mental illness. I am 80, have struggled for years and in spite of the ups, downs, sideways and other ways my long suffering wife of 56 years and I are leading a good life. There were times when I hung on by a thread, but it did get better. There was a time when I sat with a pistol in my lap just one thought away from ending it all. There were times when I couldn’t stand how stupid people were because they couldn’t see the neon signs that were lighting the way for me. You have challenges and rewards yet ahead of you, but you will deal with it all because you really want to. Just remember that living well is the best revenge.

  22. Thank you for speaking up. It is not easy. I am trying to find my voice as well. I am battling depression, anxiety and schizoaffective disorder. Some days are easier than others but I find that it is always easier when I *know* people out there that are fighting the good fight, too. Keep it up. I have been battling depression for at least 16 years. I have been suicidal many times but I also have a graduate degree, three kids and a lovely marriage. If I can do it, so can you.

  23. For a moment I felt like I was reading my own life on your page. I’m at a pint where everyday is a struggle. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Keep up the good work Kait! We need more people willing to talk about their bipolar in a casual, everyday way – without a sense of shame – to those around them.

  25. Thank you for this post. I feel you’ve explained bipolar disorder and the moods that go with it very clearly. I’ve been able to identify with your personal experience. Thank you again.

  26. Hi, Kait. I appreciate your candor in discussing your struggle and your desire to get the conversation rolling about mental illness. The world needs more voices like yours.

    I recently was diagnosed with an avoidant personality disorder, coupled with moderate-to-severe depression — but not before I lost my home, my family and pretty much everything else that mattered to me. I’m only now coming to terms with all the mistakes my illness led me to make throughout my lifetime — which has been a good deal longer than yours. I’m happy that you, at least, know what you’re dealing with and are strong enough to share your story, so that others might not fear the stigma of mental illness and, as I did, spend their entire lives in denial. Thank you.

    • You’re welcome. I truly appreciate you stopping by to tell me a little about yourself and for your kind words. I’m sorry to hear that it had been a long road for you to come to terms with your disorder, but I am happy to hear that you are now able to accept it and learn from it as well like I have. Best of luck to you and thanks again. 🙂

  27. Thank you so much for telling your story and helping to change the conversation. I truly believe this is the only way things will change.

  28. You have expressed this very well. In my experience over many years, less money is devoted this area of health than others. I believe the main reason for this is that in mental health successful outcomes are harder to achieve and to demonstrate. Pointing to a succesful hip replacement is much easier.

    • Thank you! I agree with you and have seen that more money is going towards illnesses that have quick fixes or are more likely to be cured. It’s understandable, but it isn’t the best arrangement. Thank you for stopping by my blog. 🙂

  29. Way to go Kait,

    the way you are processing and expressing things reveals your maturity and shows how healthy you really are. Healthiness isn’t measured in not having struggles or difficult days, but on how we cope and if we are growing!

    Matt

  30. You give such a down-to-earth view of such a serious and unjustly vilified illness. Thank you for your personal insight.

  31. Very well put, my friend and fellow sailor! I believe that having the guts to unashamedly talk about and explore the topic of mental well being can help redefine our lonely suffering and make it a sharing of strength. I know that it can be a challenge at times wearing such a bloody heart on your sleeve.. But I’d like to see the time when mental health disorders are like being gay lesbian or transgender.. In that because we had such outspoken and determined ambassadors who would not be overlooked or remain silent people are more accepting at most levels of society. The world needs to wake up.. But who wakes up without an alarm clock? We are the figurative roosters, crowing at the dawn, and this truly has been the dawn of a new age for many aspects of this life. The time has indeed come, and I am immensely proud of you for choosing to share your struggles and triumphs. Please remain open to those who care for you and I hope you get all those things in life you desire. Your fiancé is really blessed to have a strong and vibrant woman like you. As my partner said to me yesterday, ” you never realise when you are depressed, just how much you have accomplished when you are well.” There are ups and downs in every relationship, and sure, there may be uppier ups and downier downs for us, but there is a world crying out for empathy and compassion and here we are!

  32. I hear you. I personally don’t have too much problem putting the illness out there. For me, it’s a good check for potential people to have in my life, and more often than not they tend to “blow it off”. The fact that I have already told them I have bipolar, however, makes me feel like I can treat it like an illness.

    If I had the flu and was unable to be at a social function or something, I would not feel bad about telling them, so I try to extend that to having bipolar. “Why can’t you..?” “Need a mental health day, bipolar is acting up.” I doubt that will work for everyone or with everyone, but it helps me and seems to help those close to me.

    I also find that, for me, while the down days SUCK, the up days are almost equally vexing. It took me years to stop worrying every time I felt good-“Is this going to lead to a manic episode?” Also, when I am up, there’s generally a period where I AM energetic and creative and want to do/be/accomplish… whatever. Having to talk myself down from overreaching sucks almost as much as being down, and sometimes leads in that direction.

    I hope that, at some point, we will be able to have an honest conversation with the “powers that be” about psychiatry, mental illness, and what needs to be done to help people function.

    All of that said-what are your feelings on mental health care today? Do you think that the “deinstitutionalization”(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deinstitutionalisation) thing is good or bad? What do you think would help people the most-as in what level of care, what type of care, etc.

  33. Your clarity is wonderful. Thank you for speaking up about thisntouchy subject. 🙂

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