I have never really had a negative experience regarding people and my bipolar disorder.
When I first attempted suicide, the two people I told never told anyone (or if they did, word never got back to me). I was out of school for more than a week but no one approached me about why I had been gone and I never caught any flak at all.
When I first had to tell an employer that I was missing several days of work because I was depressed, I was met with comfort and reassurance that my job was not in danger. I had similar experiences in two jobs following that as well. My employers have always displayed patience and compassion with me.
And the two times I have been hospitalized as an adult, I was working for two different companies and both of them told me to take all the time I needed and get healthy before coming back. One of those companies did end up asking me to not come back, but I was away from the office for nine months, with the exclusion of a couple weeks right in the middle of it all. So I think they were more than generous.
My friends have never questioned or doubted me. They have never visibly changed how they treat me, either for better or worse. Everything always just stayed the same with everyone. I know that I can go to a lot of people and they would be willing to help me, but I don’t feel as if they look at me like I am ‘one of those people’.
I believe that most of my family is aware of my disease now. It was hidden from many people for a long time for whatever reason, but it is out there now and I haven’t heard anything about it. The family that has shared stories or well wishes or reads this blog has been very supportive and loving.
Since going public on Facebook and Twitter, since starting my blog, since sharing my story online, I have had nothing but positive response. I have even had a few people contact me with questions and a few conversations were had that were tremendous. Every month or so I find out that someone I did not know read this blog is reading and they post something on Facebook or text me and I am always filled with immense satisfaction.
My dad is probably the only person that gave me weird feelings early on about my disease, and I know it wasn’t intentional. He admitted to me recently that he was, and possibly still is, skeptical of the way I was diagnosed and treated. He has a hard time comprehending the difficult and unsure nature of treating such an illness. This is a common thing. A lot of people spit a lot of vitriol about mental illness and their justification resides on things like the low efficacy rate of medication or therapy, or how variegated treatment approaches can be, or the fact that no one knows why certain things work and others do not. But the reality is that we know very little. We are in the infant stages of understanding and therefore treating the disease. I share a lot of those concerns, over-medication, over-diagnosis, appeal to the new in terms of medication and therapy.
But with my father it is important to know that while his attitude regarding things was sometimes misguided and made me feel uncomfortable, he still did everything he could have done to get me treatment. I have mentioned before that I was in therapy as a young child. I was taken right to the hospital on my first suicide attempt and he agreed I should be hospitalized and medicated and seeing doctors and therapists. As an adult, when I had my ‘breakdown’, I called him. And he was at my house before I knew it and he took me to the hospital and made sure I got to where I needed to be every day and made sure I was never alone until I was stable again. And most recently, he drove me to all of my ECT appointments and took care of me on those days. He is genuinely concerned with how I am doing and shows active interest in my health.
So even my one bad personal interaction was really not bad at all. Just fuzzy because I was a kid and didn’t know I shouldn’t be ashamed of myself.
This is pretty unique to myself. One thing you learn in group therapy pretty quickly is that most people have a much worse life than you. Most people are poor, without a job, usually living with a parent or are homeless. They generally are expelled from the hospital before they feel they are ready because insurance is up, and it is just a terrible cycle that feeds on itself.
If they aren’t poor, then they were or still are being abused, have multiple addictions, terrible family lives if they even talk to their family, and things of that nature.
Very few people are like me: middle class, college educated, good family and history, suicidal. Isn’t that weird? Most people in the hospital that I have met are not suicidal at all. Every time I have gone through this process I am one of just a couple. I would never consider hospitalization unless my life was in danger. That is not the case with a lot of people, just an interesting tidbit, thought you might like to know.
I don’t really know what to make of it, but most of the people I have met with this disease have suffered a tremendous amount from opening up to people about having this disease. It is bad enough to feel as bad as this disease can make you feel, but to have someone shit on you for feeling that way is outrageous.
We need to end the stigma. Hopefully my life is an example of the greater societal movement away from the stigma of mental health issues. We aren’t monsters, we just need proper medical care.