( Madness )
( Madness )
Browsing through the tag, I’ve seen people interpret Elsa’s part of the story as a queer coming out story. And while this is a valid interpretation, I have a different one. To me, it’s about mental illness, and how to learn to deal with that, especially from a chronic MI perspective.
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"But mostly what I learned is how little is actually known about mental illness. All they know, it's rarely about finding solutions. It is more about managing expectations."
So true. And I wish there was more research into mental illness, but there isn't. Mostly because there isn't much funding. Because who wants to invest money into the crazies when they can research "real" illnesses. And fuck that the illness I suffer from has a mortality rate of 15-30%. Even if you don't count in the suicides, people with bipolar usually die earlier than people without the illness, simply because (wow surprise) it puts an enormous strain on the body. Oh, and meds. Let's don't forget the taking meds for life, meds that often come with a bunch of side effects that aren't all that nice.
It doesn't matter if people die because they take their own lives, because of a drug overdose, a car accident or because there is something wrong with their bodies. What matters is that people. die.
The weather was really nice today, and I spent the whole bicycle ride back home coming up with terribly florid metaphors for my surroundings. If I wrote them down, I'm pretty sure people would either think "wow this is awesome" or "wow this person is a complete hipster". Anyway, it inspired me to write, and my still not finished crossover fic now has another scene to it. It's short, but hey, we're getting somewhere again!
Yesterday, I came up with the idea to make a nice detailed spreadsheet to keep track of my moods. I used to do it via www.facingus.org, but the problem with that one is that it doesn't keep track of ALL THE THINGS on the form. And I want to keep track of ALL THE THINGS. So I'll devise my own. Which has the added bonus of that I can keep track of things that are specific to me. Or might be.
I bought some retro games recently, and have started playing and breeding Creatures again. I used to spend hours with that game back when I was still living at home, and during my first few years at university. Before I got into the Sims. It's a fun little game, and hey, it was cheap. I also want to re-play all the Ultima RPGs. OK, all of them from IV onwards, because the first three ones are pretty much one long dungeon crawl with hardly and story and really retro (as in, almost nonexistent) graphics. They're still my gold standard for what a computer RPG, or any kind of RPG, should be. Complex story, moral dilemmas and fun times killing things.
Mental illness needs to be de-mystified. It needs to be taken seriously, and at the same time, the misinformation, fear and hysterics about it need to stop. And that can only be achieved through communication and advocacy.
I have bipolar II. I wasn't diagnosed until about a year ago, but I've had it for a long time, probably 15, 20 years. Yes, this means that I've been running around with a chronic mental illness for half my life. Now, bipolar II is a bitch to diagnose. It usually takes 10 years or more until it's properly diagnosed, because unlike bipolar I, it doesn't get these really really obvious manic episodes. I get hypomanic episodes, which aren't as obvious to outsiders. Those who really know me well might notice them, but otherwise, it's something that's more on the inside. And while parts of them are fun (hello, increased creativity and high mood!), other parts are horrible (hello, racing thoughts and increased anxiety and aggression!). The depression was, and is, more visible. Which is why it got diagnosed first. That, and the anxiety. It took me actually going to a therapist who worked with me for 1,5 years until a proper diagnosis was made.
So why did I wait so long before going to a therapist? The answer is pretty simple: stigma. In my mind, and that of a lot of other people, if you see a therapist - that means something is seriously wrong with you. And I didn't want to be "seriously wrong". Of course, that's bullshit. Therapy is a great tool for getting mentally and emotionally stable, and it doesn't mean you're some kind of loon. It just means that there is something in your life that you need help with. But I've always had problems with admitting that I need help. Because it meant that I was weak, that I wasn't strong, smart, good enough to work this out on my own. Because it meant that something was wrong with my brain.
The last one is actually accurate. There is something wrong with my brain. So far, science has only the most rudimentary of clues as to what it actually is. Something to do with neurotransmitters and the way my brain processes stuff. Basically, I have a kind of diabetes of the brain. But for some reason, people with diabetes don't get the same looks I get.
No, I'm not some psycho who will kill you when you're not looking. I'm not a danger to anyone other than maybe myself (the suicide rate for bipolar II is sometimes put as high as 50%. Makes you wonder why there isn't more money invested in finding out what exactly causes it, or into researching drugs that aren't basically hit and miss). Also, no, I can't infect you with the crazy. Well, unless you're related to me, since this is hereditary (which btw does not mean that this is my parents', or anyone else's, fault). No, you don't have to treat me with kiddie gloves. Or like I'm an imbecile, because I'm not. Being bipolar does not lower my IQ in any way. Most of the time, I'm perfectly functional.
But just like a person with diabetes, there's certain things I have to do to stay that way. I take medication, I adjust my lifestyle. Diabetics stay away from sugar more than non-diabetics, I stay away from stress more than neurotypicals. Diabetics have to monitor their blood sugar to anticipate an episode, I have to monitor my moods. Stuff like that.
Also, like diabetes, this does not go away with willpower, or by ignoring it. I don't have this to "get attention" or "because I'm too fragile" or because "it's all in my head" (well ok this in in my head, but not in the I'm just imagining it sense). So please don't say that to me, it's insulting. In fact, please don't say that to anyone with a mental disorder, regardless if it's permanent like mine or only temorary.
Don't just shuffle people away or silence them because they make you uncomfortable. Seriously, how do you think we feel? We've got enough on our plates without the rest of the world giving us the side-eye all the time.
Be supportive. When we talk about our illness, listen. Don't question our treatments, because if you're not a professional or someone with personal experience, you have no idea what works and what doesn't. Don't presume you know how we feel. If you want to know what it's like, ask. Cut us some slack now and then, because for us crazies, life is just that little bit more difficult than it is for everyone else.
One last thing: 12 to 18% of the world's population will suffer from an episode of depression over the course of their life. 5% of the population will suffer from bipolar disorder. Schizophrenia: 0.7%. Anxiety disorder: 14-18%. Personality disorders: 9%. Etc, etc. Bottom line is that about 1 in 3 people will suffer from a mental disorder at some point in their life. Keep that in mind, and "normal" kind of loses its relevance.