It has been bothering me for a few years now. The surge in young teens who seem absorbed in mental illness.
I first noticed it after I’d had my iphone for a while. Probably over a year after (I was 18 when I got it). I’d been diagnosed when i was 17, and was probably 19 when I noticed. I was on instagram when I got the random desire to see if there were posts about mental illness on there.
And what I saw horrified me.
Kids as young as 12 were posting horrible photos. Typically it was just the cliche depressed quotes over and over again. But there were also photos of other things… there was “thinspiration” where people would post skinny girls who were their “goal” look in terms of thinness. And then there was the pencil test to determine if you really are thin or not, so people posted pictures of those. And pictures of thigh gaps. But I can’t relate to eating disorders, never had one and don’t think I ever will. Then there were ones that flooded my search and were even triggering to me- self harm photos. They were everywhere. I was horrified.
I haven’t been able to work for over 10 years. Mostly because stress makes my symptoms worse. I have been thinking of attempting to work. I have sent out some resume’s and gone on interviews.
Those didn’t go so well, but I am still looking. I found an agency that places people with disabilities in jobs. The employer gets a tax break. I haven’t been very impressed with the company so far, but I haven’t seen any of the job leads.
But, I have been rolling the idea around in my head. Who will pick up the kids and do the things I do when I am around? Am I making a mistake? What if I can’t handle it? What can/can’t I do?
Here I find myself, papers scattered around- my assignments and my notes. My thoughts feel like they are shuttering, I can’t understand this chapter, I am lost. And I feel scared.
It makes me stop. And I have to ask myself, what’s happened? It has been weeks… endless weeks of nonstop studying. I grew tired of doing research for my essay but the only other thing I could think of doing was another homework assignment (due in over a week).
And now I’m stuck. My brain doesn’t know what to do. I am too burnt out to write the essay but I am stuck on this physics chapter. The Ritalin I’ve been abusing is nagging at me to keep going. But I realize that some part of me is very weary.
The therapist applauds me for my determination, motivation, and hard work. Even when I suggested I might be hypomanic.
The mentally ill person is not a child. I have had the experience of would-be helpers who treated me so. When I attempted to describe what I needed, they argued and belittled me for needing help. I felt very alone and one result was that I stayed away from the church where this person was not only a member, but an officer of sorts. It was hard for me to treat him with charity. I turned my back when he greeted me afterwards because I could not stand his hypocrisy.
We are sensitive about being patronized because of our condition for the same reasons that African Americans are sensitive about race. No one wants to be excluded on the basis of a condition that he cannot help. No one wants his condition denied. No one wants to feel cut away from the body politic. What we want is for people to take us seriously whether or not we are in episode.
Many of the problems that people have with the mentally ill have to do with communication. Those who wish to help (and those who do not want to help) believe that the objective of interaction is to get the mentally ill person to follow a treatment plan or pull herself up by her bootstraps or realize that it is “all in your mind”. (“Have you tried not being depressed?”).
So we all know quitting your meds cold turkey is a very bad idea. But sometimes… things happen.
I wasn’t really paying much attention to how many meds I had. I knew I saw my psychiatrist and would get a prescription and then the mail order pharmacy would send it to me (they’re much cheaper- 3 months for the cost of 1- and they’re authentic). However, I ran out early. I called my psychiatrist to have her fax a 1 month prescription to my pharmacy but when I got there they said my insurance had already covered this month through the mail order service. In other words- I’d have to pay out of pocket.
1 pill costs $12. And I take 2 a day.
I called my mom asking how long it’d be before we’d get the pills in the mail. And she said it won’t be for at least a few more days. The service had emailed us saying that the medications were “delayed.” But when I demanded to know what that meant, she simply sent me the email. All the email said was that it was delayed. That was it. No hint as to how delayed, nothing.
I left the pharmacy holding back tears. I guess I was going off my meds for a few days, with no tapering.
When I got home I broke down sobbing. My mom called me back about it and then asked if I was crying, when I said yes because “you don’t know what this is going to be like” she yelled at me saying I shouldn’t put this stuff off for so long.
She later apologized.
And yes I am terrified. When I forgot my pills one night I almost killed myself. Although when I found out I felt that way only because I forgot my pills, I cried with relief.
I take 2 anti-psychotics. Luckily this is less important one. My main one keeps a lot of symptoms under control- mania, anxiety, etc. This one just keeps me from being depressed. It actually made me feel like a normal type of stable. Generally I was in a good mood, instead of my normal slightly-down mood.
I am scared of having to endure the next few days until I get the medicine. We are going to call the service tomorrow and ask them to expedite it, it costs money but it is literally less than paying for one days worth of the medication.
I will survive. But it will be hell.
And I am scared.
A few weeks ago, I took a survey by Marya Hornbacher, author of Madness: A Bipolar Life, which probed my feelings about mental illness. She has written back with more questions. Here they are with my answers:
Do you consider mental illness a chronic physical disease? Please explain your response.
There’s no other explanation for it. I have tried willing myself into better moods or trying to stop my impulsiveness, but they were just too massive a problem for mere force of mind. It was like trying to prevent my cold from generating mucous or insisting that my pancreas produce more insulin. I tried, believe me, I tried to stop the tidal wave of emotions that consumed me but they kept rolling over me and I drowned. When I stopped seeing it as a character flaw and began treating it as a disease of my brain, I got on medications. While my nasty habits didn’t vanish overnight, the moods that drove them achieved a halcyon state in which I was not thwarted in my efforts to change. Just as my heart medications lowered my blood pressure, so, too, my mood stabilizers calmed me.
I found this on Queer Secrets, an LGBT Tumblr blog devoted to posting the “secrets” that people send in. I know what it is like to feel this way about someone, at least to a degree. My person, however, was a boy. I will give him the pseudonym Angeline here, because like with Genevieve, I want him to have a pretty name. Angeline also means “angel”, and he was that to me also.
He was my angel because he was my friend. I often teased him, and he’d retaliate by chasing me around the yard we all called a playground. When he was given detention, I skipped my recess to be with him. When I found out he self-injured, I told Davina (another pseudonym) what was going on. Davina was the head teacher there, and she told Angeline’s mother, Kaleela (pseudonym), what was happening. I was known as so close to Angeline that one day, I asked Davina what was wrong with him. She looked a little hesitant, but led me outside.
“You know that Angeline had a brain tumor when he was very young, right? Well, that tumor affected his brain in certain ways. Much like your mother’s stroke affected her. As a result, Angeline cannot always tell appropriate behavior from inappropriate behavior. He needs special help for that. He also has a hard time with reading and writing, just like your mother.”
Hello all, this is drunk Quinn. But don’t discount me now- I have some things to say and being drunk shouldn’t turn you away. I want to explain myself, my drug use and bipolarity. Specifically I want to discuss self control.
There are two opposing parts of me. It is slightly difficult to explain. I am both very in control of myself and very out of control. I am incredibly impulsive, I can’t stop myself in many situations, but if there is one thing I cannot stress enough is that I know exactly what is happening and the consequences of it.
Tonight I went out drinking with my friends. I was essentially a “third wheel” but this is my little group of friends- just the three of us. I don’t have any friends I hang out regularly with until I met them. I talk to a few people but we never hang out. These friends I actually hang out with. And tonight, we went drinking at this pub.
I had been there before. I had to drive and I had class early the next morning. I figured just one drink would be fine. I was wrong. After they closed I had to sit in my car for quite a while until I was “safe” to drive. I had one drink, a Mai Tai, and I was gone. It is rare that I get that drunk. I learned though. That drink at that pub will do a number on me.
I have to rebut these when they are said by family members, fellow patients, and random members of the public. Every one of us who lives with the condition has heard some if not all of these time and again. You might even have a few of your own to add. You may note that I don’t include “It’s all in your head” (though the issue of faking is covered below). It is all in my head! Bipolar disorder is an organic brain dysfunction and the brain resides inside my skull. So I don’t count that a myth, just a misapprehension of the truth.
Here are my twelve most common myths:
Bipolar disorder is just something psychiatrists made up so that they can get rich.
Not too long ago, a Fox Radio commentator told a caller that she had been duped by her psychiatrist. They just made it up to get your money, he told her. She begged to differ but he was having none of it. Even when he was forced by his employer to apologize, he equivocated.
There are a few things wrong with this belief. The first any person with bipolar disorder can tell you: the highs, the lows, the paranoia, the hallucinations, and the delusions are all too real. Physicians have observed the disease in patients since the time of Hippocrates. And patients have suffered, suffered mightily.
I wake up and throw myself into rants about how I am irritated with a multitude of issues in my life that are all intersecting to make my day frustrating and uncertain.
After ranting for two hours to various people, I start studying. I am fixated trying to complete problem after problem with undying devotion. When I get stuck I force myself to turn my attention to what is more important- the assignments due tomorrow.
What should have been a half hour at best of work, turns into what feels like over an hour. I write an abstract for my lab report and spend an immense amount of time editing it until it is “perfect.”