I have noticed that I have been blogging more about my personal life than I have about mental health issues. Considering this is (supposed to be) a mental health blog rather than my personal journal, I should speak more so on the matters that affect my mental health or educate my readers about bipolar and various other mental health issues.
I was reading an article this evening that really got my gears grinding. A fellow blogger wrote about how her bipolar disorder and depression caused her to view depression as a “bad habit”; that it was easy said as well as done to just snap out of a depression or manic state and change your mindset and behaviors because you frankly shouldn’t be in a depression to begin with.
The title was something along the lines of ‘Taking the Suffering out of Mental Illness’. There are a few reasons this rubbed me the wrong way. I give the blogger this; it has a catchy title and got me to start reading because who does want to suffer with bipolar or [insert your mental health dilemma here].
Here’s the thing…
Attitude affects how you view your own struggle, but it doesn’t eliminate the struggle altogether. Mental health issues are very real and to downsize the adversity by making the statement, “it’s all about how you view your situation” or “you are in control over your own suffering” makes it seem like disorders such as bipolar can be easily managed on their own, which has no evidence base whatsoever.
I do admit, you have some power to change your mindset, but if you had complete power, you would never suffer, period. You would never have the struggle or the adversity of feeling sad or depressed or suicidal. But, if you have a condition like depression, your brain does not operate the same way as someone who does not have depression or mental illness. Your brain, if depressed, does not create the feel good chemicals needed to regulate moods and mental health well being. When you are severely depressed for months on end, you can’t just wake up one day and say, “Hey, I am no longer going to be depressed!” and then just be happy all of the sudden. That’s not how mental health issues work at all.
However, if you address, manage, and treat the symptoms, your ability to view your tasks and complete them changes exponentially. If you hide your feelings of hopelessness and push them underneath the rug, then it will only build resentment and create unresolved feelings later on. By addressing that there are these feelings, stresses, and emotions stemming from mental illness, you can create a plan on how to deal with a particular person or situation or feeling. You can manage and treat symptoms with medication and therapy.
I do want to state you can perpetuate your own suffering and sorrow with a bad head space in addition to being depressed or bipolar or borderline, etc. With that being said, bipolar is an existential mind fuck and sometimes you gotta play the mind games with yourself; your own head is your worst enemy. Creating mind loopholes is a trick I learned in my time in therapy. For example, if getting up and making a ham and cheese sandwich is too hard, but you know you haven’t eaten all day, rather than eating a sandwich, you can get the components of a sandwich and eat those. So eating the meat and cheese separate from one another serves the purpose of your need to eat, plus it is not actually as strenuous as making a full on sandwich with condiments and vegetables.
It is quick and innovative problem solving like this that will allow you to overcome larger obstacles. At what point do you say that this obstacle is too large to fight off? At what point do you throw in the towel and ask for help? First off, you can’t blame yourself for what you can or cannot do. If you do let the downside of adversity get to you, it will eat you alive. It is best to get help when you are at the beginning of the downward spiral, rather than the middle or the end. But help, bottom line, is what anyone needs the most when struggling with mental health. What you don’t need is somebody telling you that you need to pull yourself up by the boot straps when you’re depressed/bipolar and to build a bridge and get over it.
Your words matter!
I also would like to again comment on how important our rhetoric is when having a conversation about mental illness. The blog post I referenced earlier discusses mental illness traits as “bad habits”, but I don’t believe the author of the work really thought about how her controversial rhetoric would make those who suffer greatly with mental health problems feel. It makes me remember the post I made about the differences between high and low functioning mental illness and there ought to be no such thing. For the author to say that those who can’t control their actions and emotions are going to suffer, you can easily make the connection that those who can’t control their actions and emotions are lower functioning than maybe the author and some others who can easily just change their attitude and avoid the toxic traits that go along with mental health issues.
Implying lower functioning due to mental health issues takes a toll not only to their pride and ego, but lowers the will of the mentally ill to want to get better and to want to improve where they are at. It’s like telling someone when they are stuck at the bottom of a 15 foot well that they can’t get out and then you just walk away and don’t help them or get the tools that they need to get out of the well. Although that’s a little dramatic, we need to encourage those with mental health issues to do what is in their power to succeed, whether that be in therapy, or taking meds, or to journal their issues out. As outsiders, everyone else besides the person with mental health issues, needs to be the person outside of the well, calling for help and acquiring the ladder. Without help from the outside, those with mental health problems such as myself will drown in the well once the rain comes.
I’ll end on this note. There are some days that I wish nothing more than to no longer be bipolar. It only makes it worse when you hear someone suggest to you that bipolar or mental illness in general is all in your head or that you can solve it with “good thoughts”. Bipolar is not a bad habit and neither is mental illness because chances are, if we had a choice in the matter of mental health like we do with *real* habits that you pick up, none of us would be mentally ill.
Until next time,