Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How I find support and fight the stigma of Mental Illness

This morning as I was going through reading my daily blog post, and I was suddenly empowered by how much support there is out there for people that have a mental illness.  Back in the 1980's when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, support groups were confined to going to a local meeting and sometimes with this disorder you are not always able to physically make it there. While those meetings are valuable and needed, it is encouraging to find new ways to interact with others immediately and read about their own struggles and success.  I am still amazed at how social media sites can actually be the newest form of support.  The best part of it is when you are depressed you may not feel like getting out of the house at that moment but by making these connections before you have an episode you already have a nice network to reach out to for help.  I believe if everyone that has bipolar disorder or a mental illness had some type of support they would be much more successful in staying stable and reaching out for help.  I know when I first heard of twitter I was not quick to sign up for an account because I thought it was just a place for status updates.  I had no idea how valuable it would be to connect with others that have similar experiences and struggles.  I would encourage you today if you have a mental illness to find some type of support.  It can be as easy as logging into and posting comments on the message boards when you have questions or just need someone to listen.  I think not feeling alone is key and an essential part in living a stable life and surviving with a mental illness.

My long journey with a mental illness has also made me a strong advocate of fighting stigma associated with bipolar disorder and mental illness.  I have channeled my disdain for society's misconceptions and partnered with NAMI at and joined their stigma alerts.  I have found new empowerment by writing to Senators and Representatives as well as people in the media.  I would encourage anyone that wants to fight this stigma to join the stigma busters and educate the world that Bipolar Disorder as well as all mental illnesses are genetic conditions that require medical treatment and most people can live very functional lives with the right treatment.  I am proof that the treatment does work .  To take action go to and sign up to educate and stop these misconceptions about bipolar disorder.
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Celebrities can have Bipolar Disorder too

With the recent news of Catherine Zeta-Jones confirming she has Bipolar Disorder, I was interested to see how many celebrities and well known iconic figures in our society deal with the illness.  I was always very found of Ms. Zeta- Jones acting and singing talent but she also seems to be just a beautiful person on the inside and out and a great family person.  She has demonstrated such strength caring for her husband, Michael Douglas, during his battle with cancer.  This can take a toll on any person but a person with bipolar disorder has an even greater struggle with the stress.  I applaud the fact that she was strong enough to also come out to the public and be so open about her disorder.  After doing some digging on the net I was surprised to find out just how many famous people in our past and present society battle or battled bipolar disorder and also gained great success and respect from so many people.  I started thinking if more and more of these "icons" started to come out on record and say they suffer from it and they have received successful treatment, then it might be the right direction to help fight some of the stigma related to the illness.

 I think one of things that has hindered breaking down the barriers is that so many people are afraid to admit they suffer from it and are ashamed to get help.  I do understand why people do not like to share something so private and painful with so many because I myself have been judged harshly by my own peers at school, later in the workplace, many times at my local church, and surprisingly enough my own family members.  It takes some time just to accept that you have the illness but it can sometimes take longer for others to understand it and then to accept as just another medical condition that requires treatment.  There is only one person in my entire life that once they found out I did have bipolar disorder never blinked nor treated me any different as the minute before he knew about it.  That person is my wonderful husband and even after two years later he sees me and not my illness.  He is a wonderful support and there are not enough words to ever tell him how much I appreciate how much of a support to me he is in my life. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Living with Bipolar Disorder, OCD, and Social Anxiety

Well it's been awhile since I lasted posted my thoughts.  My life for a few weeks was very stressful and there seemed to be no light at the end of that dark tunnel.  Well it seems I am digging out once again and in the past month I have stumbled over something about myself that I don't think I really took to heart or really understood.  I was told I have bipolar disorder years ago and I have been under treatment for many years.  While in therapy I was also told I had OCD, (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) as well as social anxiety disorder.  Being told that I had these two other mental illnesses was really no surprise as they do run in my family and I was familiar with them.  I was also told that having more than one mental illness is not that uncommon but I just thought to myself....Isn't Bipolar Disorder enough?  When will the punches stop coming.  I have since learned through a lot of hard times that they never do you just have to adapt and try to be strong and get through each moment. 

With my OCD I am a recovering checker.  This means I use to check my front door 15 times before I went to bed every night.  It meant that I would check the stove each morning and night that it was turned off.  I don't just mean one or two times I would literally have to put my hands on the burners at least 15 times each to make sure that they were not on.  This was even on days when I did not cook anything.  While I have received much therapy in this area and I do take a medication to help, there are a few days that I have a slip and I have to walk back inside to check the stove or oven.  I tried what is called cognitive-behavioral therapy which will expose you to whatever is causing your anxiety and you have to experience the anxiety of not checking the items and seeing that nothing bad happened.  On most good days I can get through each day without over checking as I call it.  Most of my checking steams from my fear that I will leave something on that will burn my place down and not just destroy my property but it could harm others in the process.  I think my fear of harming others as well as my beloved cat when she is home alone is what really is behind my checking.  I believe I think I have a good understanding of this mental illness and have it under control. 

The social anxiety was something that I thought I understood and didn't think it was much more than having panic attacks in public when I am alone.  I have now arrived to the point that I will not go out in public alone unless it is an emergency.  This has hindered my life so much but I have never paid it much attention or tried to understand why I felt this way but it makes so much sense now that I look back at my life.  I think I have spent so much time in therapy concentrating just on the bipolar disorder that I never really looked into my 3rd mental illness.  After looking up my illness further on the net after watching a show on television about anxiety disorders I was surprised at how much it described me as well as why I had overwhelming panic in pubic so paralyzing that I could not move.  You can find one of the articles I read at the following link but I will list what what struck me the most later in my post.