Five bad reasons and one good reason to reject a mentally ill woman

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The crazy girlfriend.  We’ve all had one, been one, or know one. But when it comes to assessing whether a person with a self-disclosed mental illness would be a good partner there are five really dumb reasons to reject them, and one really good reason to do so.

Dumb Reason #1: You automatically assume that she will be unstable 24/7 because she has depression/bipolar/anxiety, etc. Many women with mental illnesses are stable for months or even years at a time. So if a woman actually self-discloses to you that she has a mental illness, and is seeking treatment for it, that’s a pretty good sign that she’s actually more self-aware and stable than a woman who is undiagnosed or, you know, just a jerk.

Dumb Reason #2: You think your future, imaginary, unborn children will be doomed to become mentally ill. Bzzt. Nope. The susceptibility, or risk, of developing a mental illness is inherited, the disease itself is not. Even genetic counselors are divided on the exact factors that lead to a person developing a mental illness, and they go through an extensive process to determine what the odds would be. Not to mention that *you*, Captain Perfect, could be carrying genes you don’t even know about that might make your special snowflake offspring the second coming of R. P. McMurphy.

Dumb Reason #3: You and your potential crazypants partner will get together, make babies, and then she will jump off a bridge leaving you to raise the poor orphans alone. Look. I’m not saying it *couldn’t* happen. And yes, the risk is higher. But having a partner pass away is a risk we all take when we decide to partner up. By the preceding logic, you should also select out anyone who drives to effing work. In fact, you Mr. Man, are three times more likely than your ladyfriend to take that dive.

Dumb Reason #4: You want to be a partner, not a “caretaker.” If you think being a caretaker isn’t part of being a partner, I wouldn’t want to date you either. This goes back to the assumption that mentally ill people are constantly in need of…something. If you need an example of the fact that they’re not, ask my friends and family. Yes, there are times when I’m more needy than others. But there are also times when I, myself, am the caretaker for my husband, our child, my friends, my parents, you get the drift.

Dumb Reason #5: You’re afraid of being stigmatized yourself. If you’re not strong enough to absorb the side-eye from your buddies about your “crazy girlfriend” she doesn’t need you. Feel free to move along to the next woman. Who, by the way, may or may not *tell you* that she has a mental illness or may not *know*. It’s crazy roulette my friend. Place your bets. If it was me, I’d far rather date a person who approached her challenges with honesty and candor, but I’m silly like that.

The Good Reason: You don’t want to. And you know what, that’s OK. If you’ve really thought about it, done a little research, talked to the potential partner who has self-disclosed to you, and you just don’t feel capable of going there that is totally and in all ways FINE. You should not feel guilty about that at all. Not everyone is cut out to be in a relationship with a mentally ill woman. Just understand that you need to make that decision based on who *you* are and who she really is, not on stereotypes of who you believe her to be.

peace…

p.s. Did you know that women are more likely to seek help and self-disclose mental illness than men, often leading to better treatment outcomes?

Weekly Five – Mental Health News Roundup – September 25, 2014

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Here are some headlines from the world of mental health, with commentary from me.

Let’s stop assuming people know what mental health is. (Huffington Post): Great article pointing out that the dialogue about mental health needs to go far beyond discussing specific illnesses or treatments for them. Mental health is something everyone needs to take care of, just like we take care of our bodies.

Fruit and veg consumption tied to mental health. (Medical News Today): I think it’s so cute how the Brits call vegetables “veg.” Anyway, this is one of those studies that makes me scratch my head and go, “They pay people to study these things?” It seems like a no-brainer to me that the better you take care of your physical body, the better your mental well-being will be. That’s just Maslow’s heirarchy.

As run-ins rise, police train to deal with those who have mental illnesses.(NPR): The critical sentence in this article is at the very bottom, in my opinion. The need for this type of training is greatest is underserved, rural areas. I know this first hand, from my own experience as well as that of friends and acquaintances. “Getting help” for a mental illness in this region is damned near impossible. So I’m quite sure that our police force runs into untreated, self-medicating people constantly and has nothing to offer them.

Clothes store Joy angers mental health campaigners with Twitter exchange on bipolar disorders. (The Independent): This British clothing store can go straight to hell.

Dems say global warming could cause mental health problems. (The Blaze): AHAHAHAHAHA! It certainly tweaks *my* anxiety on a regular basis. Do yourselves a favor and don’t read the comments on this one. Just. Don’t. And don’t ever tell me I only get my news from liberal sources. *cough*

Be good to yourselves this weekend.

Peace…

Magic Wands are for Sissies

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Yesterday, my mom told me she wished she could wave a magic wand and make my bipolar go away. She’s said this before and usually my answer is some variation of, “Yeah, that would be nice.”

But yesterday I got to thinking. Who would I be without type two bipolar? What lessons have I learned that I’d never have learned without it?

So, in no particular order, here is some stuff that I think I’d have missed out on if I were “normal.” (I might have learned these lessons in other ways, but somehow I bet not.)

  • Persistence. Historically, I am a giver-upper. If something doesn’t come easily, or if I’m not good at it immediately, it goes in the rubbish heap. I can’t do that with bipolar because giving up equals death. Not even kidding. The persistence I’ve learned that comes from just getting the hell out of bed every day, controlling my emotions, dealing with people who don’t understand, changing meds, etc. tends to leak over into other areas of my life. Now, when I’m confronted with an obstacle, I look under it, around it, above it, and sometimes just smash right through it if I have to.
  • Compassion. Dealing with a “hidden” disease has made me miles more compassionate towards other people. I know beyond a doubt that everyone has stuff they don’t talk about that informs the decisions they make, the things they do, and the way they interact with people. I tend to do more things for others that I want, myself. I take meals to people. I listen to them. I try (mostly) not to judge them. I’ve always been compassionate and empathetic (forget Hallmark…think crying at beer commercials. It’s that bad.), but this has made me exponentially more so. Sometimes too much.
  • Resilience and Strength. When you don’t know what “you” is going to show up on any given day, you learn to roll with that. You become one of those sandbag-bottomed punching clowns (am I dating myself? Are those still allowed?). Bipolar knocks you down, you get back up again. And again. And again. I’ve developed a tough-chick, FU, chip on my shoulder attitude towards bipolar. Because this disease will break you if you let it.
  • Creativity. There’s the creativity that comes during the “up” times. Those are the marathon cooking days, the short-story days, the thoughts that will save the world days. But there is also a lower-level constant need to solve problems that makes me necessarily more creative all the time. When your whole life is a damned challenge, you learn to get creative or you don’t make it.

It reminds me of the story of Jacob in the bible.

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled an angel with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaks. And he said, I will not let you go, except you bless me.

Pretty often, you’ll hear the trope of mentally ill people “battling their demons” and ultimately losing. And I’m not going to lie, there are days when I do look at it that way because the demons are always there wanting to fight me. But I’m a pacifist and if I’m going to fight, it’s going to be for something positive, not against something negative. I figure we all have to do a little angel-wrestling. I just have to do more than most people to get those blessings.

peace…

p.s. I wonder if first-time readers will think this is a Christian blog? I don’t want to mislead anyone…remember, I’m a “Christ-centered agnostic with pagan leanings.” Just so we’re all on the same page…

p.s.s. I love you, Mom. I don’t say that often enough.

Labels are for pickle jars

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I’ve been thinking a lot about labels lately and today, I got news that crystallized my thoughts. My favorite band, Enter the Haggis, is changing their name to Jubilee Riots. Leaving aside whether or not I *like* the new name (I’m digesting it), I had a variety of reactions starting with shock and winding up with wholehearted approval.

Here’s why.

Bottom line, we grow up. And as we grow up, we try on a lot of identities. Some we keep, some we discard, depending on how they work for us. Some of these identities are imposed by other people and are nothing we’d ever choose for ourselves. Some we hang on to for way too long, because it’s easy or because we’re afraid to change. But eventually, we shed what doesn’t work, keeping those bits and pieces of self-knowledge that we gained along the way.

The name Enter the Haggis hasn’t worked for the guys for a long time. It’s a bit silly, hard to market, and they outgrew it long ago. I’ve known that and, apparently, they’ve also known that. But it takes a great deal of courage to shed an identity you’ve carried for nearly 20 years (20 years? Ack.) and in some of the guys’ cases the majority of their lives. From a simple marketing perspective, abandoning your brand after building it for that long has got to be terrifying. I’m sure they’re going to get some blowback from people who want them to be what they always were, not understanding that change is as inevitable as it is required for growth.

When I got my diagnosis of Type 2 Bipolar in 2009, I had some stark choices to make about identity. Was I still going to be me? What did this label mean? Was I going to reject it? Was I going to embrace it and tell people? Would they treat me differently if I did? Did I feel different than I did when my label was simply “weird and moody?” It was all unknown. I willfully chose to accept the new label, tell everyone, and own that shit. The label was imposed externally, but the decision to seek a diagnosis was mine. I decided to change my brand, so to speak.

Adopting the new label allowed me to grow into myself. It gave me words for things I’d always known inside, but which were not necessarily visible to others. It gave me access to resources that had been closed to me before. It gave me a way to explain myself. “Hey. You know those things I’ve always done? Well, guess what? There’s a name for that and it’s way better and more informative than the one I had before.”

It’s the same with ETH. They’ve abandoned a label they acquired more or less by default and willfully chosen who they want to be going forward. That’s a phenomenally gutsy, self-aware move and I applaud them for it.

Because I know how hard it is.

peace…

p.s. Go listen to their music. You won’t regret it, I promise.

What are all these violent images doing to us?

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Leah Backus:

And oddly, just a couple hours after my last post, I came across this incredibly thoughtful, detailed post about how even the people reporting the news are affected by the imagery they see. This is one social experiment that I’m opting out of for a while…

Originally posted on Dart-Throwing Chimp:

Early this morning, I got up, made some coffee, sat down at my desk, and opened Twitter to read the news and pass some time before I had to leave for a conference. One of the first things I saw in my timeline was a still from a video of what was described in the tweet as an ISIS fighter executing a group of Syrian soldiers. The soldiers lay on their stomachs in the dirt, mostly undressed, hands on their heads. They were arranged in a tightly packed row, arms and legs sometimes overlapping. The apparent killer stood midway down the row, his gun pointed down, smoke coming from its barrel.

That experience led me to this pair of tweets:

tweet 1

tweet 2

If you don’t use Twitter, you probably don’t know that, starting in 2013, Twitter tweaked its software so that photos and other images embedded in tweets would automatically appear in users’ timelines. Before that change, you had to…

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Garbage in, anxiety out

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I’ve really been struggling lately with all the bad news in the world. Ebola, racial unrest here in the US, Russia acting like an asshole, ISIS (what is *wrong* with those people?? Who *does* shit like that??), climate change. Last week, I spent a lot of time curled up in a ball, crying and shaking with fear of the imminent apocalypse. Normal people worry about spiders and scary clowns. I go big or go home. The bad news just goes on and on and on.

Except…it doesn’t.

You might think so, if you watch 24/7 cable news. Or read the newspaper regularly. Or spend a lot of time on the Internet (depending on how careful you are about where you go). And that’s because there are a lot of people who get paid to scare the crap out of you. Good news, for whatever reason, doesn’t sell. It never has and it never will. I’m quite sure that when the ancient Sumerians chipped out their cuneiform tablets, there was a fatal house fire on page six.

But the good news is out there. People just don’t focus on it. I’m not a psychologist, so I don’t know why people pay more attention to bad news. What I do know, though, is that there are some serious, ironic shenanigans going on. Because here’s the question: why do people focus so much on how we feed our bodies and so little on what we feed our brains?

There’s an epidemic in this country, but let me tell you, it’s not obesity. It’s stress. And it’s partially caused by people consuming a media diet that keeps them in a constant state of fight or flight. And since stress causes all kinds of physical effects (some strikingly similar to those caused by obesity) why is there not a national fight against the “stress epidemic?” I don’t know. But if I was First Lady, there would be some serious questions asked, in addition to the toned arms and the organic vegetable garden.

So what can you do? Well, I think it’s pretty obvious.

Turn that shit off.

  • Take all the social media apps off your phone. Take Facebook messenger off your phone. If you’re really far gone (like I am) take the browser off your phone. Because you see that square box in your hand? It’s a phone. If something important happens, someone will call you on it. Promise. You don’t need to be connected all the time.
  • Limit your news consumption to an hour a day of high-quality, reasonably unbiased reporting. I like NPR. But I’m a liberal. Sue me.
  • And while you’re at it, stop feeding your brain with crap TV all the time. It’s one thing to watch “The Walking Dead” once a week. If post-apocalyptic horror is your thing, who am I to argue? But if all you watch are crime dramas, shows about meth dealers, prison, and serial killers, trust me, that stuff is going to change your frame of mind. You might think it isn’t, but it is and you don’t get to control that, your stress hormones do. Before you say it, I know watching TV doesn’t turn people into serial killers or criminals or what have you. But I defy you to tell me that what you watch doesn’t control your mood and actions. There are billions of advertising dollars that say I’m right about this.

I did it. I turned it mostly off about five days ago. I read Slate magazine once a day. I check Facebook briefly in the evenings. Well, sometimes not so briefly, but I’ve curated my list to the point where the majority of doom-and-gloomers are quarantined. I removed all social media, messaging, and browser from my phone (although I may or may not have been up past my bedtime the other night reading about US-Russia relations on my Wikipedia app. I admit nothing. Hey…it’s a work in progress.)

It was pretty hard the first couple days. I did a lot of video game playing (those ones where you swap the candies or whatever the shape du jour is). I kept reading The Three Musketeers. I started redecorating my house with French country accents. I watched Doctor Who and So You Think You Can Dance. I talked to friends on the actual phone. My work requires that I be on the computer quite a bit, so the temptation to visit certain sites and Google scary things is strong, but cutting the tether to that information while I’m out and about has helped immensely.

Next time you start feeling anxious about the state of the world, I want you to question that feeling. Question what you are being fed. Question what you are allowing into your brain. Because there’s a whole lot of light out there waiting to get in, if you make room for it.

peace…

Cowboy up cupcake…

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As I alluded to in my previous post, there has been a lot of sleeping, lying around, procrastinating, and general malaise going on around Diva Headquarters lately. For about the last week and a half, I just haven’t wanted to do very much of anything at all. Nothing seems to really rouse me from my semi-permanent stupor. Except The Musketeers. God I love that show. I digress…

Unsurprisingly, this coincides with an increase in the dosage of my Depakote, back to 1250mg per day. This is the dosage I was at a year and half ago when I was basically so depressed I could barely climb a flight of stairs because it seemed like too much effort. I went back on Depakote because nothing I’ve taken has ever controlled my mania (which presents as anxiety) quite so well. But I knew when I chose to do that, that becoming depressed was a possibility.

This is the hell of psychiatric drugs. There is no question in my mind, nor in the minds of anyone who knows me, that I need these medications. I would not be alive without them. Read that again. I would not be here.

But…ah, but…such a carnival ride. What’s going to work? Anti-depressants (hell, no)? Anti-psychotics (aw, HELL NO)? Mood stabilizers (OK, maybe…). Now, choose between side-effect profiles. Blind (no, thanks)? Panicky (rather not)? Dead (um…)? Fat, tired, and bald (well, if that’s the best that can be expected). Dosage? Somewhere in the sweet spot between Tigger and Eyeore, please, even if it takes six months of tinkering to find.

I tell you, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But I do it. And oddly, I only kind of do it for me. I do it mostly for the people who love me and have to be around me. If it were just me, by myself, I’d be tempted to go live with my dog under a bridge somewhere. I do it for them, because they are the people who moor me to this earth on the worst days. Like today, when I am so burned out and hopeless and tired and my hair is falling out and I’m getting fat because that’s what these meds do.

But I persevere. I take my medicine. I go to my therapy. I visit my shrink. I use my phototherapy lamp. I promise (and fail, mostly) to get up every morning, not sleep all day, do stuff around the house, eat right, exercise. There’s only so much I can do, really and when I can’t do it for myself, I can do it for the sake of those who love me.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows here. Not every post is going to contain perky advice or wise social commentary. Some days it’s just going to be this. Me. Raw and unfiltered and imperfect.

Some days, the mantra is just, “Cowboy up, Cupcake.”

And that’s good enough for now.

peace…