When your touched by mental illness-perspective changes

Twenty years ago I was admitted involuntarily to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I remember the devastation I felt emotionally. I was embarrassed and worried I’d lose the intellectual credibility I had worked hard to gain. I was concerned people would treat me differently and look at me strangely. I felt helpless when relationship dynamics changed.

My concerns came true. People did treat me differently, at least for a period of time. For awhile I was able to regain ground and my social standing only to lose it all again with the next hospitalization and manic/psychotic episode.

My phone stopped ringing. I was no longer sought after. Life as I knew it would never be the same.

Much of what I experienced is familiar to many people who live with mental illness. It’s common to live in social isolation, be unemployed, struggle to complete daily activities and deal with managing the symptoms of an illness.

In short, those of us who live with mental illness have suffered to varying degrees, but nonetheless have suffered.

In my case, I’ve also been the family member helping loved ones deal with their mental illness. At this point in my life I simply accept these challenges as a part of my life. I’ve learned to adapt to the cards I’ve been dealt.

I chose to rebuild my life with a passionate purpose on educating others about mental illness. I do this because I love to teach and speak. But most of all I love to help others.

This past week when President Trump so boldly proclaimed mental illness is the cause of mass shootings. While also suggesting we should reopen mental institutions. His comments frustrated, disgusted and hurt. So I wrote a Facebook posts about it.

There is so much ignorance, fear and lack of knowledge when it comes to mental illness. And yet when I read the comments on my Facebook posts and saw the number of people who reacted, I realized the statistics about mental illness don’t lie. Millions of people are impacted by it. Family members struggle to help their loved ones. They “get” it is not helpful to blame people with mental illness for all the horrible things people do.

When my brain got sick I didn’t instantly turn into a dangerous, violent person. Neither did my family members. And neither did the many millions of people who live with mental illness.

I don’t know why some people buy guns and plan mass shootings. Some say they are loners and isolated. Some say they are mentally ill or temporarily insane.

What I do know is we have a public health crisis with mental illness and suicides. I do know people are very reluctant to seek help because of the very same stigma people perpetuated this past week. “Mental Illness is the problem not the guns.”

Believe me when I tell you it’s bad enough having a chronic illness, but the pain of the stigma can be worse than the illness itself.

I have this perspective because of my experiences. And I’m going to continue to share it every chance I get.

Being silent is not an option.

6 thoughts on “When your touched by mental illness-perspective changes

  1. You are so right. ALL countries have citizens with mental illness, but only the US has the mass shootings. And if we look back to when we were in school, that kind of anger didn’t lead to shooting. Maybe to a fistfight. And the first person I knew to die by suicide was when I was 19, a classmate who had washed out of the military. Yet now it seems my family and friends are touched by suicide so frequently, it’s terrifying. What changed? And how do we fix it? That’s why we need warriors like you fighting to get through the rhetoric and find the answers.

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    1. Insightful Lori. Our culture has changed significantly. Faster pace, greater pressures either perceived or real, instantaneously sharing information, access to information, and access to weapons with high capacity magazines. I read a study yesterday that said, β€œ Mass shooters sympathize with other mass shooters. They plan out their actions in a pre-meditative manner.” Instant and easy access to information does have a down side. As does everything if it’s used in a dark kind of way. We need education to help people understand the warning signs of suicide. Education to make people aware of the importance of taking care of mental health and not being afraid to treat mental illness. We need more research money in medications for conditions that effect the brain. Hell..we need a cure for schizophrenia and bipolar-why not dream big!πŸ˜€

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  2. I’m a walking miracle. To see how far I have grown it’s like reading a book in my mind. So much I’ve kept inside. I’m so thankful for the policeman who was very well trained. Early intervention is so important. God works in mysterious ways. My medicine is my boat right now. Until I learn to walk on water like Jesus. I believe in miracles. Medicine is a step out of.the boat.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy, you area gold metal winner in the field of mental illness advocacy! Please never give up on the wonderful work you are doing to fight stigma! Louise

    Liked by 1 person

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