Mental Illness

I have approached this topic from different perspectives at different times. At times, I felt like I needed to express my experiences and views regarding mental illnesses and injuries – I even had a blog dedicated to the topic at one point – and at other times, I’ve felt like there was little for me to contribute to the topic. I think I do, however, have a few things that I could offer to the discussion; hence this page.

My own experience with mental illness and injury (a difference I observe, not necessarily everyone else) comes from a few different sources. I grew up with a father who suffered under an emotionally and physically abusive mother, before serving his country in combat. The after effects of this made themselves known in my own upbringing, during which (in order to ‘build’ me into his notion of a man) my father spent a great deal of time tearing me down, like his mother did to him, emotionally and physically. I was molested as a child; and I knew violence as a child from other kids as well as my father. This traumatized me. When the molestation was discovered, my parents took me to a psychiatrist, who instructed them to simply not talk about it and that, as I grew older, I would simply forget it. I didn’t. As a teenager, alarmed by my own inner violence, I sought help on my own; and was told by a psychiatrist that I needed to suck it up and not spend so much time worrying. In my 20’s, I was misdiagnosed with major depression. Later, I would be diagnosed with a nasty bipolar disorder with psychotic features, and PTSD. My coming to terms with this took the better part of a decade; yet for the past couple years, with the blessing and guidance from my doctors and therapist, I am free from both the disorder and the other therapeutic measures involved in treating the disorder. I am still bipolar, as far as I’m concerned – it is how I am hardwired in my head – but I have learned to manage my life with this in such a way that there is no disorder to it. Some might say that this is remission, while others might say that it wasn’t truly bipolar disorder to begin with – both are possible – but my diagnosis came from a very conservative doctor, who told me from the beginning that he was generally reluctant to make that diagnosis for patients in the first place; and it was this same psychiatrist, after working with me and following my case the whole time, who managed the reduction and eventual elimination of therapeutic measures. From the technical side of things, I would say he is the expert, as well as the psychotherapist who also followed my case from early on – from the practical side of things, I am not suffering from a disorder anymore. To be clear: I am not bringing this up as an encouragement for others to come off of their medications – I bring this up because it belongs to my history with mental illness and injury. My situation is not typical – lifelong medication, coupled with psychotherapy when necessary, is reality for most people with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder has been shown to be a genetically predisposed reaction to certain environmental stimuli … from the genetic side of things, I have a grandfather who had a mysterious seizure disorder (although he didn’t have seizures) before he went to war, who self-medicated his post-war PTSD with alcohol. Beer, whiskey, and seizure medications (which have been used to treat bipolar disorder, as well) were his reality – and even then, he was notorious in the family for being unfit to be around for a couple days every month. Depression and anxiety disorders are also to be found in my family, as well as alcoholism on one side.

I have also had the pleasure to know a number of people who are also dealing with these kinds of challenges – we each seem to deal with these things in different ways, and that is as it should be. One of the things that was made clear to me during therapy was a belief championed by the late Dr. Oliver Sacks, who advocated the idea that people were not stamped out of the same dough by cookie-cutters. We are individuals, as are the illnesses and injuries that we are confronted with; and thus our ways of dealing with and managing them should also be expected to be different. I am a proponent of the idea that there is great wisdom to be gained by listening to people who have been dealing with mental illnesses and injuries – we look at the world and society differently, we are capable of great things both good and bad, and we count experiences to our lives that many others simply do not. Essentially, we are like anyone else – and there is great wisdom to be gained by listening to people in general.

I have created this page for a simple reason: I will open the comments section here; so others can relate some of their own thoughts and experiences with this topic, to include a link to one’s own blog or site that relates the same (even if, like this blog, it is not entirely dedicated to the topic). This is my way of providing an opportunity for people to listen, to read and educate themselves further, to exchange information and ideas; and it is my hope that at least in some small way it will help.

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