Category Archives: stigma of mental illness

What to say when you feel like screaming

There are many people whom I have not told I have bipolar illness  It is hard to tell someone that you know cares about you and means well. Do you trust them? Will they reject you? Judge you? Will they say “So what? Buck up!” As many of you know, I have been writing about this issue in different ways throughout my blog [shrug]. Obviously I have not entirely resolved this.

These are people who know you and they don’t. They see a person who is “normal” who says they are struggling, but they think you are fine. And I’m responsible for that; I don’t say a word about what is really going on, I present myself well. It’s an automatic response that I learned growing up, and later, as a professional. .

Here is an example of such a relationship, in which the choice was to push them away, or to try to tell them. I wanted to tell them gently, but a part of me wanted to scream Can’t they just take my word for it that I can’t work right now, without my having to tell them why?

But on the other hand, how can I expect ANYone to understand whom I have not told? They can’t read my mind. But boy do I wish they could. It is so hard to explain to people, especially people I am not and will not be all that close to.

This is between a nice older couple, who has left our church in Maine to live in Florida, and myself. I am thinking of moving down and wanted to be in touch with them somewhat. Here’s their note (after we’d written back and forth a little) and my response.

Theirs:

“I think that the end of Aug. or in Sept. Son # 3 and the grand kids may come again … So when you know more (about your move or visit), let us know, and by then we may know more what they are going to do. But if they do come it will only be for A few days. We will help you in any way we can and you are welcome to stay here. I think you could find A job with your skill. looking forward to seeing you.”

Oo, it was the “I think you could find a job…” that got me. I’d told them multiple times that I was unable to work, but not exactly why. I’d mentioned the depression and anxiety; I’d done a lot of “implying;” but that was it. I thought, “Why do I have to explain! Why can’t they just accept what I said!” Sigh… But, I decided to be a little more direct, and see what happens.

So, here is my response. Will it work?

“I have bipolar illness along with some other things. There is a link below that explains what it is. I haven’t been able to work at all since a year ago May. Nursing wise I haven’t worked since 2010 I think it was. The last time as a nurse I did not know I was manic and I was dangerous to myself and others, even driving. My last job was as a cashier at a crafts store. Even that was too stressful for me. I have been working with Pastor and Mrs.X. on all of this since I started at [our church] in 06. Sometimes I do ok and sometimes not. It is easy to hide for short periods of time so you may not know that I am having symptoms. When it is bad I just don’t go to church at that time and I watch the service on the computer. I don’t talk about it because I feel embarrassed about not being able to do things. I tell very few people. It is also kind of hard to get into a conversation about it in the middle of church  🙂

What I do for work now is volunteer at church to the best of my ability at that particular time.  Sometimes I do a lot, sometimes a little. My resume looks like Swiss cheese right now.  😦 I can’t even keep my word anymore as far as work goes. As I said, it is very embarrassing! Anyway, as I mentioned, click here for information about bipolar disorder.

“What does the Bible say about Bipolar Disorder/Manic Depression?

This post is quite good. It addresses the legitimate medical AND spiritual concerns that need to be addressed when helping a person who has bipolar illness. I agree with the Bible about sin and holiness. But the person with bipolar and other mental illnesses needs proper medical supervision and treatment. Going without that is extremely dangerous.

THE WALL: a blog of Baptist Voice Ministries

Note: as with many psychological issues, there are often both a physical and spiritual aspect of manic depression / bipolar disorder. While we believe psychologists often miss the true spiritual nature of the sickness, we strongly encourage anyone suffering with a mental illness to seek medical attention and counseling.

Answer:“Bipolar disorder” is a name that first appeared in 1957 for a severe mental illness. Before that, the same illness was called “manic depressive illness” or “manic depression,” though that name only dates back to 1921. Neither term appears in the Bible, but the Bible teaches us a number of lessons we can apply to bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness characterized by severe mood fluctuations. These fluctuations go far beyond simply being “happy” or “sad.” The “manic” symptoms can include feelings of extreme euphoria, marked increase in risk-taking, racing thoughts, forced speech, and increased energy. The…

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New Plan (“… If you want to make God laugh…”)

Stupid depression.

Stupid laryngitis.

Have y’all ever had laryngitis? I don’t know about you but it makes me so mad! I want to communicate to my therapist, for example, and I say, “I’m so mad that I can’t talk and tell you how I feel!” He says, “What?”

I know. Funny. HAHA – except it’s not. I am not a big talker, mind you. I am happy sitting in a room full of people for 2 hours not saying a word, trust me. But when I can’t? GRRR! I want to throw things. It has been about 5 weeks now. I’ll get to that.

So anyway back to the depression. It had gotten increasingly worse (continued suicidality, hopelessness, anhedonia, lack of motivation, irritability, insomnia, isolation, etc etc), so finally a little more than a month ago my shrink increased my Abilify. Currently on Lamictal 200 mg, Trileptal 400 mg, Abilify 2.5 mg, among other non- psych drugs.

The med change still has not helped, so she has increased it again, to 3 mg. We are leery because I have gotten manic on it before; but other med adjustments/changes have either not helped or have had bad side effects. I wish I had a list of all the stupid meds I have been on.

I am also on the wait list to start outpatient hospitalization or intensive outpatient or however you want to call it. It has often helped before. I hate to have to do it but … (shrug) it is what it is.

Now the laryngitis. I’ve had it going on five weeks now. From the get-go the only symptoms have been the laryngitis and a dry cough. Barely productive of sputum (if you are a nurse and taking notes). I have also had an increase in my reflux (food and liquid backing up into my throat). My doctor and I discussed it and decided I should have an EGD (tube that goes down the throat and looks at the esophagus and stomach and etc – they can take pictures, take biopsies, etc). Still waiting on that appointment.

Oh, and the maintenance guy helped me to elevate the head of my bed on blocks, and my Nexium (medication for reflux) has been increased.

 

I think that’s about it.

Oh and just in case anyone wanted an explanation:

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” – Woody Allen

There’s no place like home …

Two [are] better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him [that is] alone when he falleth; for [he hath] not another to help him up.  Ecclesiastes 2:9-12 

Many of us with mental illness are good at isolating. We tell ourselves that we are better off alone, that no one understands us anyway, that we don’t need people, and any number of things that shame us into believing we are defective

The Bible has a lot to say about friendship. There’s a reason for this. You’ve heard the expression, “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” Well, I think God meant for us to handle what He gives us. but not to handle it alone!

Why am I talking about this? Well, today I am going to meet a friend for lunch. I woke up at 6:30 a.m, and at 6:35 the negative voices started:

  • Everyone else in the world is getting ready for work, and here you are going to lunch? Well aren’t we special!
  • She doesn’t get you anyways. Why don’t you stay home?
  • You know you are too tired. You could take a nap.
  • Friends have hurt you in the past.
  • It’s supposed to snow.

So how do I counteract these voices?

  • You have a mental illness. Going to lunch with a friend is therapeutic.
  • She does get you. Anything she doesn’t get, you haven’t told her. She loves you, and even on Sunday she said she wants to be a good friend to you.
  • So what if you’re tired. You’d sleep all day if I let you! Staying up will help you to sleep better at night!
  • You live in New England. It snows! Remember that blizzard you braved when you used to drink?

Etc.

Why am I writing this post?

  • To counteract the thought that I have nothing to say
  • Because I am ashamed of having a mental illness.
  • I love bullet posts

Hope you guys have a lovely day, and if there is a friend or two that you could call, why don’t you? Maybe you could blog about it. I don’t know if you’ve heard it as often as I have, but having support is one of the most important principles when we talk about recovery from mental illness and substance abuse.

If all else fails, you could write a comment here, and let go of the negative voices that are running through your mind even now. It helps to write it down!

Fascination! And more …

Ok, let’s address some more of these writing prompts!

quixoticfaith asked me to expand upon several issues, and was “fascinated” regarding number four. (When my son disappeared when he was a child, and when he was AWOL from the Army). This was already addressed in a former blog post, Noise and Runaways.

Prompt #11 was: What is the difference between being treated for physical problems as a bipolar in the ER, when the bipolar diagnosis is known, versus when I withhold that information. Writing letters of complaint to the hospital, even though I am not one to complain.

There are two times that I can recall that really burned my britches in regard to medical treatment, and stigma against mental illness. The first is when I went to the ER with complaints of severe chest pain. This pain was not typical of any I had had before, and as a nurse I know that women’s heart disease is of great concern. I didn’t want to mess around with it. When I first got pulled into a room, and the nurse began to go over my health history, I “mentioned” that I had a history of bipolar disorder.

Suddenly I was whisked away to a separate section of the emergency room, “just in case you get anxious, dear. You won’t have to be around other people and be bothered. We’ll see you just as soon as we can.” Wham. The prison doors were shut. I was in a locked unit, and I spent the next I-don’t-know-how-long waiting to be seen. It seemed like hours. Guarded by a man in uniform, not monitored by EKG, nothing. The only concern they seemed to have was my mental health status, not my heart. I was not at that time experiencing any anxiety, other than what one would normally have with an episode of chest pain. I was not manic, or suicidal. Just, “by the way,” bipolar.

Finally, the doctor came in with a very serious expression. No eye contact. Very little in the way of a conversation, an exam, or diagnostic testing. After he was done, I was scuttled out the door with no discharge instructions, and no explanation for the symptoms I’d been experiencing. I almost felt like I’d been assaulted.

That incident resulted in letter #1 to the powers-that-be at the hospital. They had no right to treat me any differently than any other patient who comes in with cardiac type symptoms. They had no right to be concerned that I might “flip out,” just because I had a diagnosis of bipolar. And most of all, they had no right to not pursue and diagnose my cardiac symptoms. I came to one conclusion: The next time I had to come to the ER with a medical concern, I would not disclose my psychiatric diagnoses. They might discover it by other means, I suppose, but I would not volunteer the information. Sure enough, the next time I came to the ER with that in mind, I was treated with respect and concern that was just like that given to any other patient who presented to them.

Incident #2 was at another time, when I had been admitted to the psychiatric hospital for a manic episode. Shortly after my arrival, I began to have cardiac type symptoms, this time, much more severe. This psych hospital was affiliated with the same one that had put me in the back room of the emergency room. The psych hospital did take my blood pressure, and it was 200 something over 100. I was obviously very concerned. But it took me two hours to convince the physician’s assistant that I should be seen by a regular physician. My rights as a human being were being violated, and she would not even consult with anyone else to see what she should do, when I insisted. I believe that refusal had everything to do with the fact that I was having symptoms of my mental illness, and therefore was considered incompetent to make a decision regarding my care. Not cool at all.

Finally, the physician’s assistant agreed to consult with the doctor on call, and I was taken to the regular ER, accompanied by a psychiatric technician. She was a very nice woman, but a very meek one. She was not willing or able to ask for what I needed from the hospital staff. Eventually I was sent to radiation for x-rays and a cat scan, after which I was told that I had a pulmonary embolism, or blood clot in the lungs. This is a very serious medical condition which needs to be treated right away, or sudden death can occur. The doctors told me they would give me medication to dissolve the clot, and I was put in a darkened hallway to await treatment.

Here I was, in full blown mania and alone with the psych tech, waiting for them to save my life. I don’t mean to be so dramatic, but that was how I felt at the time. I had no monitor, and no emergency room staff available. Just a “wait here for a minute,” which became two hours. All I could think about was a man who had died while in my care when I was working as a nurse. He was a patient in the intensive care unit, and had turned blue and died within seconds. I was so shaken at the time by how it had occurred that I even attended his autopsy, to see if there had been anything that I could have done. I remember seeing those big maroon clots in the medical examiner’s glove, as he showed me what had caused the man’s death. And here I was in the hospital, awaiting what I thought might be the same fate. My symptoms of mania continued to escalate, along with the continued chest pain, but the psych tech would not intervene. To me, it was obvious that I needed some attention and care, but I felt like no one was listening.

Finally the resident came to me to tell me that they’d been mistaken, that there was no blood clot after all. Hence, letter #2 to the hospital after I was discharged from the psych hospital. First of all, I explained how the PA at the psych hospital should be disciplined and instructed for not acknowledging my right to be seen by a physician. Second of all, the regular hospital should have provided me protection and support, given my manic condition and severe anxiety. And whether I was manic or not, I should not have been tucked away in a hallway waiting for treatment, given the severity of the diagnosis they thought I had. It was total neglect all around, and certainly the results of that could have been tragic. This is to say nothing of the terror I was experiencing in a state of heightened awareness and emotions.

*************

Well, then! Stay tuned, because I am going to have a part II to address some more writing prompts! But it’s before noon, and I’ve had more than one cohesive thought; I think I have done pretty well this morning!