Trying to deal with mental health stigma

People are all the same is one aspect:  We fear what we do not understand.  Mental illness is no exception.  Some of us never give it a thought until it hits home.  It could be that we ourselves are diagnosed with some time of mental disorder or someone we know.  But, for most of us, if we are honest, don’t give it a second thought until we come face to face with it or hear of someone we know who is dealing with it.

A little knowledge can go a long way.  In the next few posts I will be sharing some false and true facts about bipolar and depression.  The information is taken from a pamphlet from Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: http://www.DBSAlliance.org.

1. Myth: Depression and bipolar disorder are just states of mind.  A person just needs “think positive” and they will will go away.

Fact: Depression and bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) are real, treatable illnesses that affect the brain.  They can’t be overcome by “snapping out of it.”  Asking someone to “think positive” is like asking someone with diabetes to change his or her blood sugar level by thinking about it.  People with mood disorders can feel better with the right treatment.

I find this fact to be very true for me.  I have been told to think positive or that I can talk myself out of feeling a certain way.  Before being diagnosed with bipolar, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and was told I needed to be put on anti-depressants.  I fought against it for a long time until the therapist gave me the following analogy: taking medication for depression is like a diabetic taking insulin for his/her sugar.  She explained to me that I had a chemical imbalance in my brain and that the medication would help stabilize me.  She went on to say that the brain shoots out neurotransmitters from one side of the brain to the other.  That controls our emotions as well as how we respond to situations.  When we have a shortage of those chemicals in our brain it means that they are being shot to the other side but some are being sucked back in to the side they originated from or they are shot across but don’t make it all the way, thus causing a shortage on the other side.  This causes us to react to a situation instead of responding.  That made a lot of sense to me, so I started taking the medication.

neurotransmitter picture neurotransmitter

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on a persons’ viewpoint, I went off the meds a few years later and got worse.   My behavior got worse.  Not just depressed but then I would just get euphoric for no reason, to the extreme.  I would stay up half the night writing out business plans.  I was like the energizer bunny.  I kept going and going and going at whatever I was doing.  If I shopped, I just kept shopping.  If I drank, I kept drinking until I passed out or the booze was gone, whichever came first.  I did a lot of things I am not proud of, but I share with you, hoping it will help you or a loved one understand our bipolar behavior a little better.  Without treatment our behavior can and will at times get out of control, sometimes to a dangerous level.

What I did not realize is that I had always been up and down to the extreme end of the pole since I was a teenager.  Once I was diagnosed with bipolar and began to look into it more, I saw a pattern over the years and I knew it was true: that and the same diagnosis with 6 different assessments at 3 different places.

So, the next time someone says, “Just snap out of it” or “you just need to think positive” (like you choose to walk around thinking negative all the time or choose to be depressed all the time), explain to them, you have a chemical imbalance in your brain and give them the analogy about diabetics.

Hope this helps.  BTW, if you have any questions feel free to drop me an e-mail at mybipolarworld52@gmail.com.  Love to hear from you.

love to all as always,

pb aka peanut butter

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Author: Fighter

I finally accepted what people have been telling me. I am full of knowledge and wisdom and I am unforgettable. My word of encouragement since 2015 has been to let others know, despite the waves and ripples in our lives, Life is totally awesome, even with a mental illness. I believe my purpose is to encourage others, advocate for those around me who have not yet found their voice to advocate for themselves and educate those without a mental illness. If for one for minute someone laughs or smiles because of something I said, that is one moment they did not think about mental illness.

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