Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Bipolar Dating Game

For those us of us out there that live with a mental illness, telling someone that you have a mental illness can be one of the tougher things to deal with when it comes to any relationship.   When it comes to dating someone new it can been so stressful due to the concern of how the person might react.  It can almost give you so much anxiety that you do not even want to bother.  Dating can be very tough but when you live with a mental illness it just makes it that much harder.   I am now married to a wonderful, very supportive man that is always there for me during my break downs.   Even after nearly four years of the tough mood swings, suicide plans, and saving me from three suicide attacks he still is just as supportive as the day I told him I had Bipolar Disorder.  He never even blinked an eye when I told him and he never saw me as a  broken woman but sees me in my true light.  This was the first time in a romantic relationship that anyone had ever done this.  I often feel guilty about him still be married to me.  I have even told him a few times that I would not hold it against him if he wanted out because he had never truly seen just how bad the mood swings could be.  Of course he shakes his head at me at such a silly idea and always says "why would I leave my best friend and the love of my life ?" However my relationships in my past have not been this healthy nor understanding.

I can not even keep count on how many men could not handle my bipolar disorder.  I do not blame them for that because it is a tough illness to live with.   I know I would not choose to live with it if I had a choice so I am not sure why anyone would choose this.  There have been many boyfriends of mine who honesty did try but just could not handle it.  I think my illness has always been a factor in my very low self esteem and I am positive it was one of the reasons I married my first very abusive ex-husband because I did not feel worthy of love.  However there have been a ton of men who ran as fast as they could when I did tell then of my medical condition.  The stigma and the misinformation out there is just too great.  I even had one guy who told me he was in love with me but after "consulting" his friends at work thought I was some deranged lunatic.  I believe his friends exact words were "you better be careful man  because she will kill you in your sleep."  Well for men that cannot not even have an open mind then I am glad they took off running.  This goes for some of my so called friends who could only be there in the fun times.  So thus comes to the question I have been asked many times... When is the right time to tell someone that you are dating that you do have a mental illness????

While there is no perfect formula because everyone is different, I will share what I think worked best for me.  As I have said many times that I am still heavily guarded with telling others that I have a mental illness, I think a romantic relationship with someone is completely different.  I think it is only fair for the person to know the truth once it is getting serious.  Now while you are just casual dating and there is no hint of it being serious I think it is fine to not tell them and let them get to know you and see you for who you are and not just see your illness.  Throughout the past 8 years before I met my husband I used dating services online.  I found it a great way to meet people, get to know them through deep conversations and just see if they might be a possibility. Of course having social anxiety did not help going out to meet new people but talking to them for awhile online seemed to make it easier.   I was always safe with it and met them in public several times before I went on any official dates.  I of course never walked up and said oh yes and by the way I have Bipolar Disorder.  I always waited until it was exclusive, they had a chance to get to know me, and normally after they told me they were falling in love with me.  I think that is fair and it seemed to work for me.  I also made sure they knew the facts and if it was serious enough have them meet with my psychiatrist.

I have learned quite a bit about myself in the last 8 years and my time of dating after getting out of my extremely abusive difficult marriage.  I learned that I was worthy of love and that my illness should not keep me from pursuing that.  I was blessed enough to find a man that only sees my mental illness as a medical condition that requires treatment just as if I had diabetes.  So while my way of going about the dating game with a mental illness  might not work for everyone or anyone else, hopefully it has left you with more insight on how I have handled that dreaded part of sharing that highly guarded part of my life.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Boston Marathon bombings, PTSD, Mental Healthcare and the side effects

I am very saddened and upset over the recent bombings at the Boston Marathon 2013. I pray for all those affected by this heinous cowardly act. There are so many that have lost limbs and have suffered great injuries and I pray for their recovery. I also know there were 3 that lost their lives that day and a brave police officer that became the 4th victim. All of them were such a joy to everyone around them and they will be sorely missed by all that knew them.   They each had such a promising future and the world has lost their gifts and contributions they would have made in their future to our society. However it seems all left a lasting impact on this world in their lives cut too short.   Those talented and amazing people we lost in this attack were Krystle Campbell, 29, a female restaurant manager, Lü Lingzi 23, a female Boston University graduate student who was a Chinese national, and the youngest victim Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy who held a sign that said "No more hurting people, Peace. The brave police officer who gave his life to protect and to serve during the aftermath was MIT police officer Sean Collier.

While I myself have never experienced PTSD, it is classified as a mental illness  One of my largest drives and passion in life is to try to help others understand mental illness better and this is no different.  PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and it is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.  It is so important that those that are going through this get the help they need. I cannot imagine the horror that day must be bring for so many. I know just seeing it on the news channels had a depressive effect on me, but I get to turn the channel. Those affected by that day cannot shut it off so easily. I can only go back to the time that I lived in Atlanta and experienced the horror around that cowardly act at the 1996 Summer Olympics to somehow relate. The victims of this attack go beyond the ones that received medical care that day. There were over 200 that went to a hospital that day but that does not count those that were present that day that will have lasting trauma. I started talking about the treatment of PTSD because I am sure many will be have this in the aftermath. However there will also be many that will experience grief, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks to name just a few. The National Alliance on Mental Illness is always a great source to find out more information and find support at NAMI

It is so important that those that need therapy do in fact receive it regardless of their financial situation. I know some have a lot of medical care ahead of them with their physical injuries but I hope they also seek help and receive therapy for any mental trauma they experienced. One of the many things that I have witnessed during the aftermath of this horrific act were Veterans visiting those wounded in the bombing. The wonderful acts of the Veterans going to visit those injured in the hospital will surely help them as they tell their own stories. They shared their experiences and told so many that their lives would be different but left them with a hopeful future. This is example of therapy that does not cost a dime and it is very beneficial to have a support group during this time. I know it helps to talk to others that went through similar experiences that know how they feel. There are so many ways to reach out to others and help them in some ways that not many can. So many will be facing so much recovery in the upcoming months and life changes and the sense of community sharing in the recovery is key I think to begin the healing. This rings true with probably just about any other illness and this is no different.

Boston is such a wonderful city and I often traveled there for business trips at a previous job. I always enjoyed the warm welcome from this amazing city. The people I met and spent time with in the Boston area made me feel at home and they made a large city feel like a friendly small town. The day of the attack I watched such selfless acts and everyone helping each other. As many have said time and time again during these times that the worst is seen out of people, it also shows the very best in people that outways any cowardly act.  I was so amazed to see how many people did not even hesitate to run toward the bombing sites and help as many as possible.   This gives me some renewed hope in our current society that can sometimes seem cold and divided.  

There has been a fund set up to help the victims of the bombings with medical care that can be found at The One Fund Please check it out and help if possible. However, there are many ways to help out that involves no money as I highlighted above. An example of this is when I saw that a man volunteered to cut the grass of one of the survivors that lost both legs. There is so much support of those that had lives changed that day but the hope is that we do not forget them when the cameras roll away. I have referred to many as victims that day but they have proved me wrong because they are true survivors.
 God bless the city of Boston and keep staying strong


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A true Silver Lining

Award season in Hollywood is underway and it is something I have always enjoyed watching.  I love to go to movies because they are a great escape from everyday life.  However, this year has been unlike any other for me this season.  In the past I have been very sceptical of a movie that deals with mental illness.  Most of the time they write the stories through stereotypes and cause more harm than good.  So after the movie The Silver Linings Playbook was nominated for best picture I had to check it out for myself. 

I must say though after the movie I was really touched and moved and I thought they did a wonderful job of portraying mental illness in a true light.  Bradley Cooper did an amazing job playing a person with Bipolar Disorder and I can see why he has been nominated for best actor for The Academy Awards, The SAG Awards, and The Golden Globes to name just a few.  It was so refreshing to see how living with Bipolar Disorder really looks.  I loved the way how it did not just focus on the illness but focused on the family and friends dealing with it.  I have said many times that a great support system is very key to surviving with Bipolar Disorder.  I could relate so much to the story though mine is different.  One of the most touching scenes in the movie is when Robert De Niro's character sits on his son's bed and starts blaming himself and wondering what he could of done differently.  I can relate to this so much because both of my parents have at one time or another blamed them self for my illness.  Even after almost 25 years they still at times feel that way.  Of course the truth is that no one is to blame because is it something a person is born with from day one.  The best thing a friend or family member can do is to just try to be there for that person, try to understand it as best that they can and help them in their time of need. 

I really do not want to spoil the movie for anyone that has not had the pleasure to see this movie so I hope I have not given up too much already.  However, I do want to mention that Jennifer Lawrence did an amazing job playing opposite of Bradley Cooper.  The speech she gave at The SAG awards however is one of the most important things she has done for the understanding of mental illness and bringing more attention to mental illness.  She said something in her speech that I did not know but explains to me why the movie is done so realistically.   She, in her own words "thanked the Director David O. Russell for making the film for his son so that he wouldn't feel alone and so that he could feel understood... you've helped more than your son"  I was in tears when she said that because anyone with a mental illness just wants to feel understood. 

This of course led me to look up the story of the Director David O. Russell.   His son does have Bipolar Disorder and now I can see why the movie is so realistic because he has lived with it. I am currently reading the book from which this movie's screenplay was adapted from. It was written by Matthew Quick and when the late Sydney Pollack gave David O. Russell the novel several years ago he knew it was a great fit and a film he knew he wanted to make.  I can't thank him enough for bringing the right type of attention to this disorder and I think it helps more people truly understand what it is like to live with a mental illness or with someone that has one.  In an interview he said  and I quote, "I was looking for a story that I could tell that would reflect my older's son experience in the world, and make him feel like part of the world." This is wonderful because movies do need to be made that bring better understanding of mental illness and hopefully chip away just a little more of the stigma that goes with it.