When people ask me what I write about, the first thing I say is my life with mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder. I never wanted to be known by my disorder. I never wanted it to be what defines me, and yet, it is the one thing that is prevalent on my blog. So, I’m going to share the things I want you to know about mental illness.
5 Things I want you to Know About Mental Illness
Did you know that approximately 25% of the population of America lives with a diagnosable mental disorder. That’s one in four people. Here are some things I want you to know about mental illness.
The easiest thing you can do to help someone you know living with a mental illness is to learn as much as you can about their disorder. Read books, ask them questions, go to their doctor appointments with them. Learning and trying to understand what they are living with goes a long way in showing you care and support them. It also means you are aware of the warning signs that they may need medications adjusted or maybe their diet or exercise.
Understand this is not a choice
Nobody would willing choose to live with a disordered mind. The racing thoughts, the sleepless nights, the endless amounts of energy and drive are all fun and exciting until they aren’t. My first suicide attempt, I drank an entire fifth of rum, and swallowed handfuls of medication in an attempt to shut my mind down. I was tired of the endless racing and obsessing over things I couldn’t control. Nobody would choose that. The other end of the spectrum looks like spending days in PJs because taking a shower and putting on clean clothes just takes more energy to muster. Sure laying around in bed all day sounds amazing! Unless it’s day three or twelve.
We are allowed to have bad days
Our medications are not Botox for our emotions. A bad day does not mean a mood swing, it means that asshole co-worker was extra asshole-ish today. The medications are to keep us within normal acceptable ranges of happy and sad and excited or disappointed. It does not mean we live in a world of all rainbows and unicorns. We are allowed to cry and be pissed off. It’s when we’ve cried for 36 hours that it’s a problem.
Speaking of Medications, Mental illness can not be treated like an ear infection
One of the tricky things about mental illness is that there is no set course of treatment for it. There is usually a cocktail of medications that are involved, and have to be tweaked sometimes. Stress, weather, food, other illnesses all can change the balance in our brains, and make the medications we are currently on less effective, or more effective. A friend of mine had an ear infection once that landed her in the psych ward for 4 days. I can’t drink certain energy drinks because they effect my moods. Just because a cocktail has been found to work that doesn’t mean it will always work.
No matter how “crazy” we look or act it’s much worse inside our minds
By the time anyone sees any indication things are off with me, I have been struggling with it internally for days, or weeks. I will have hidden I’m having trouble sleeping, I will put on a happy face and pretend that everything is fine. But inside my mind, I’m struggling. I’m listening to depression lie to me, or I’m trying to ignore the racing thoughts that sometimes are louder than the people I’m taking to face to face. I will have tried to correct what is wrong on my own and “hide the crazy and act like a lady”. It’s always so much worse in my head.
The biggest thing you can do for someone with a mental illness is get informed. Learn as much as you can about their disorder. Don’t judge them when they struggling. Remember and try to understand that this is a disordered mind. And above all else, know that there is always hope.