I've lived with mental illness for as long as I can remember. My first encounter with stigma was when I was a little girl, my dad's two best friends came during the night to take him to the hospital "for a rest." Nobody would tell me what was really wrong with him. You see, he was a doctor, well-respected in the community. Can't have anyone thinking he was unstable, now can we?
I was either very depressed or real hyper all through life, but at that time manic-depressive disorder , or even depression for that matter was not really considered something that affected children or adolescents. It was just a phase. What an unthinkable stigma that would be to have a child that had a mental illness.
Then when I was a freshman in college it all went to hell in a handbasket. I graduated from high school with "high honors" as a straight-A student. I was accepted to university with "honors at entrance," but by my sophomore year I was on academic probation. I had just discovered the wonderful self-medication of drugs and alcohol and my education went out the window. That was the first time I tried to commit suicide and my roommate asked me to move out because she didn't want to live with a crazy person. I moved back home, but then after only being home for a short while my dad pointedly asked when I was moving out again.
I managed to get a good job, and maintain for almost twenty years. I may have mentioned this before in my blog, but I would spend my days holding it together, being very high functioning, and my nights in tears. During that time I married a very abusive man, and he used my mental illness against me constantly, calling me crazy or a lunatic whenever I had some kind of problem. Fortunately, when I finally had the courage to leave and divorce him, my father hired an excellent attorney and I won full, protective custody in spite of my diagnosis of clinical depression and extreme anxiety. My ex-husband was much worse off with his mental health than I was, besides being in denial.
I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 1 when I was around 40, and it was actually a relief to know why I was acting the way I was, although I did run into stigma with friends who thought of manic-depressive as being uncontrollable and always psychotic. Also, in retrospect, I could see bipolar disorder in my father and grandmother. That's when I started doing as much research as possible, so I could be knowledgeable about the disorder rather than let it just run my life. I am now stable thanks to medication, therapy and Healing Touch treatments.
Since I was diagnosed, I've tried to be an advocate for mental illness. I'm very open and honest about my disorder and will answer any questions anyone has for me. I'm not shy about correcting someone's misconceptions about bipolar disorder or mental illness, and hope my blog brings awareness and support to those in need of the information.
If you do have any questions, please feel free to contact me using the form on the Contact page of the blog.