10 February 2007

More on that

Since blogger ate my responses to the comments in my last post, I thought I'd address a few here, since the more I think about it, the more there is to say.

A common theme was that I was 'brave' for posting it, and that it couldn't have been easy. Well, that's true. I have wondered ever since I started blogging whether to write about it or not.

After I was diagnosed, I pretty much told everyone. Of course, it got around my group of friends pretty quickly that I was in hospital. But I spoke far more widely about it than that. I told people who really didn't need to know.

I always thought that the fear and stigma of mental illness is one of the biggest crosses to bear, and I wanted to lighten the load. And I found it lightened the load for others too. I would tell people at parties (where it's often not done to talk about these things). And then one or two people would confess that they had a mental illness, and a few more would say their partner/mother/friend/boss has one. And then a discussion would ensue about things people had kept hidden away through fear of what others would think.

I get a real kick out of helping people with their problems. Not only have I told people with bipolar things they never knew - I've also helped so many relatives and friends understand why the person they loves is acting the way they do. Being able to spread understanding and therefore compassion is a true gift. And I give it because when I was sick, someone with bipolar helped me come to terms with what had happened, and someone else with bipolar explained a lot of stuff to my dad which helped him understand me.

But for some reason, a couple of years ago I got sick of telling people. I got sick of wading through the judgements and ignorance. I got sick of being an ambassador for people with my illness. I just wanted to be normal (whatever that is). And people do think differently about you when you have a mental illness.

Here's a small example. While travelling a few years ago, I wound up in Nimbin. For those of you who don't know, Nimbin is famous for its marijuana culture. I was sitting at a long table with about 20 people smoking grass. I had told one person about my illness. When I started looking a bit glassy-eyed and nodding off, he asked me "Did you take too much medication today?" Now, bear in mind we were in Nimbin, for God's sake. We were all smoking - a lot. If anyone else had nodded off, people would have assumed they had smoked too much pot (which is, actually, what others thought had happened to me - and what had, in fact, happened). Assuming under those circumstances that I had an issue with my medication was a judgement, and evidence that he saw me differently from those other people. He was trying to show that he had at least a nominal understanding of the issues I face, but ultimately just proved that he saw me through the filter of my illness.

That situation was not a big deal. But imagine what happens when you go for a job interview and on the form it asks you if you have any illnesses. Imagine that you have gone to the Housing Trust to apply for a house, only to be told that you will have to provide references from your previous neighbours to prove that you won't be a disturbance in the street (this actually happened to me). Eventually you get mighty sick of it.

To be honest, the main reason I hadn't posted about it was because it would be an obvious marker if anyone I knew ever found the blog. What I'd already written would probably be enough to identify me, but reading about that would clinch it. But now I'm not quite so worried about anyone finding it.

The real reason I finally posted it is because of what other people had written. Just as I had given courage to others to be open, so other gave me courage. Confused Husband has been incredibly honest about his journey of self-discovery. Artful Dodger wrote about a terrible event in his childhood which he has drawn something positive out of. People like this have made me ready to tell my story - which again, helps others to tell theirs.

I feel that now I've mentioned it, I've opened the floodgates. There is so much more that I have to say. But as this post is already long, I'll save it for later.

But if you have anything to say about your own experiences with mental illness, or those of people you know, I'd love to hear it. And if you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer them.


Stinkypaw said...

I've always thought that people's ignorance was hard to deal with. I don't know how many times I've been asked if I took "my happy pill" when I was simply having a bad day. It gets to a point where you (I!) just want to tell them to fuck off! Same thing when you're enjoying yourself I've heard "Took one too many".

Courage comes from within, from our own acceptance and dealing with it. Sharing also helps to put things in perspective. Too many taboos in our society, sadly enough. I've never been one to hide things, but as I'm getting older I realise that not everyone is ready for my "openess"... oh well!

Keep on sharing, I'll keep on reading! :-)

ArtfulDodger said...

Maybe telling everyone isn't such a good idea. I know in my case I've only ever shared what happened to me with three people in my life, and of course everyone on Blogger! :) But seriously, a little discernment is a good and positive thing. Not everyone deserves to know, or would use that knowledge in a positive way.

You honor me by mentioning that I may have helped you to tell your story, and I appreciate that, but you are your own courage, as stinky said above. And no one that cares for you will ever think differently about you knowing what they know, and that is one lesson that I am only now coming to understand myself.

Keep the courage.

Summer Rose said...

{{{Hasarder}}}, I have to agree you are your own encourager. Being CH's loving, caring wife. This current situation that he's been in, has opened up so many good times, he is still that same loving caring person, that I met 12 1/2 years ago.

Having him on meds since last summer, and him seeking help, that he needed was a bitter sweet blessing. I have gone to two of his counsling appointmens. I'm planning on making it to many more, or until he feels he doesn't need to continue on with counseling.

CH's tempers have subsided, I'm no longer being put down I'm no longer feeling I can't do any thing right. I'm now feeling that we both have made progress in every thing we are doing together. He does attend church with me, and sometimes he doesn't go with us.

Yesterday was an acception since my operation I have been stuck on bed rest and he's been taking care of the house, shopping, and our two boys. He took one week off of work, to help me.

He has come along ways since he's gotten the help he needs, he continue to grow and works hard on his behavior issues.

If you would like a private email

Take Care I'm praying for you

Chaotic Cat said...

Just to let you know that I too have something wrong with my brain ... admitting this still makes me cringe and I REFUSE to go to a doctor to get diagnosed.

As a teenager I got Encephalitis and I have recently worked out that the fainting fits that I get fairly regularly are actually seizures. Not sure if this is related to the seizures but I also suffer severely from depression just a few days before I get my period ... I am fine if my hubby doesn't bate me but if he does it just simply pushes me over the edge and I loose it.