Category Archives: stigma of mental illness

What are We?

    I’m sure you’ve heard me say, or seen me write, that I’m Bipolar. Well today I want to tell you that I’m not Bipolar — I simply HAVE Bipolar II Disorder.

    Please join me in stopping defining yourself as your illness. I am Juliana, a writer, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, and friend…and oh, by the way, I happen to have a mood disorder; just as you are Jim, Suzy , or Brittany, who besides many abilities and relationships, also struggles with a mood, anxiety, or thought disorder.

    You see, it matters what we say to ourselves, and consequently, to the world. If I only define myself as my illness, I narrow my world immensely. I might buy in to many persons’ stereotypes as to what someone with my disorder is able or not able to do.

    For example, from the time I was diagnosed, I have not lost even one IQ point. Strange, huh? I’m just as intellectually “intact” as I’ve always been, but from the reactions of some people when they hear of my diagnosis, you might think I’ve become dimwitted, childish, or even hard-of-hearing.

    My point today is that, while fully owning the fact that you have a mental illness, and are receiving treatment for said illness, YOU ARE NOT YOUR ILLNESS. You are “fearfully & wonderfully made.”

    We are so much more than that one aspect of our being. Let us celebrate all aspects, as we would delight in the multiple facets of a beautiful diamond– because, indeed, we are all priceless jewels. Don’t ever forget that.

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Filed under Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Disorders, healthy self esteem, Literary pieces, Mental disorder, Mental Health, Mental Health Reference, mental illness, Mood, social anxiety disorder, stigma of mental illness

Is Depression Overhyped?

I saw a feature story on CBS Sunday Morning titled “The Broad Reach of Depression,” and I’ve been pondering its implications ever since. Read the transcript here: Examining the Broad Reach of Deptession

While I admit that it does irk me a little when someone says they’re feeling “depressed” when they’re really just disappointed over being passed over for promotion, or they just had a spat with their spouse or child, I sometimes think that saying that depression is over diagnosed may keep someone who is truly clinically depressed from seeking help.

And yes, more and more now in America at least, both primary care physicians and psychiatrists follow the pharmaceutical model for treatment, which may result in giving psychotropic drugs to people who only have situational depression, or a brief bout of sadness. It is my belief that such people would be better served with “talking therapy” or “behavioral therapy. “

Still, for those with moderate to severe depression, as outlined by DSM IV: What is Depession? , medication can mean the difference between feeling trapped in a deep, dark hole, and living a functional life. Indeed, it can mean the difference between life and death.

Bipolar Disorder and true unipolar depression, along with other serious mental illnesses, are chronic Illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease. They are not curable, but their symptoms can be managed by medication and psychotherapy.

So, if you’re sad every once in a while, relax, you’re human! If you are feeling deep sadness for over two weeks, have sleep disturbances, (too much or not enough sleep) significant weight loss or weight gain, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, and all of these symptoms affects your functioning ability, it is time to make an appointment with a psychotherapist and/or a psychiatrist.

There is no shame in getting help for clinical depression. The real shame would be if you did not get help and had to keep living in pain because of your fear of the stigma of mental illness.

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Filed under Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Major depressive disorder, Mental disorder, Mental Health, Mental Health Reference, mental illness, stigma of mental illness

Got Support?

We all have a natural need to belong, to have a group of friends that support and nuture us, and give an objective perspective to the circumstances in our lives.

For those struggling with mental health issues, this need is even more paramount, and sadly, in some cases, much more difficult to meet. The stigma of mental illness can scare away those who do not understand it. Even family members can get burned out in dealing with the identified patient. There are places to go to find the support that you need.

NAMI is an organization that provides support and education to the mentally ill and their families. There is probably a chapter in your area.

If you have a dual diagnosis, there are 12-step programs that can help you, and you can make connections there with persons who have struggled with some of the same issues with which you are dealing. Check your phone book for local AA, NA,OA, or Al-Anon chapters.

If you are currently seeing a therapist, ask them if they can refer you to any group meetings that may be a good fit for you. You may find a lot of support there.

For high-functioning persons with a history of mental illness, it is just as important that you have a support network. Become more active in your religious community, if that is important to you. Join a book or gardening club. Whatever your hobbies and interests are, there is probably a group of some kind that shares your passions. Finally, look into volunteering, even if you can only do it for a few hours a month. When we help to meet the needs of others, often it takes us out of ourselves, and helps to put our circumstances into perspective. At the very least, it helps to keep us from ruminating on negative thought patterns.

We all need to have at least one or two confidantes whom we trust, to whom we can reveal our true selves. Most of us also need to be needed. When we can be a friend to another, it brings us joy. Joy and despair cannot inhabit us simultaneously. The more connected we are to a network of friends, the stronger we will be, and the more tools we will have at hand should our illness recur.

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Filed under Literary pieces, Mental disorder, Mental Health, mental illness, stigma of mental illness

Mental Illness Myths

Today being Sunday, I’ll make this short and sweet.

One of the ways by which we can attempt to lessen the stigma of mental disorders is to demystify them. If we learn the true nature of these disorders, perhaps we will be less apt to judge harshly those struggling.

Read this list of common myths about certain disorders, and the truth about them from ListVerse.

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Filed under agoraphobia, Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Mental Health Reference, mental illness, social anxiety disorder, stigma of mental illness