Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Where Are the Bipolar Success Stories?

There was an article today in the Los Angeles Times about a meeting place for mentally ill people in their twenties and thirties. The seed money was donated by the parents of a man named Daniel, who was diagnosed as mentally ill when he had a psychotic episode in college many years ago. He went on medication, graduated from college, was a client at another mental health facility and then a staff member, and then he committed suicide.

While I imagine the story was intended to be uplifting to low-functioning people in this age group who have no social life, I thought it was yet another depressing article about mental illness.

I truly wonder whether being bipolar is so bad or if it's just the treatment that is so ineffective. Isn't there a difference between people who suffer from psychotic episodes and those who suffer from depression? If people who suffer from depression get help--truly effective help that enables them to change their behavioral patterns and stop the triggers--isn't it possible to stave off this illness early on?

Surely, there are people--besides me and a few others who read this blog--who get well.

I've often wondered whether people continue to feel ill because they think of themselves as mentally ill? Do they continue to feel depressed because they're hanging around other people who feel depressed? Was it truly a good idea for Daniel--once he was well--to be a staff member at a mental illness facility? Might he not have felt better if he had spent his days in a more uplifting environment?

Any thoughts?


Casdok said...

Food for thought indeed.

JayPeeFreely said...

Sometimes I have to believe the media, the all caring, all knowing, all informed about life media, seem to miss "the point" about certain mental illnesses.

I once was watching a reporter expound on a situation by calling the mentally ill person, "this psycho" in respect to the actions.

I wanted to say, "is that a clinical term? Did you get that from years of expert training?"

The story, I assume it had "good intentions", but underlying it was what you noticed: some can't be helped, and well, the deserve to be locked up (or in a institution.)
Or they will eventually "do themselves."

I always find that love is missing from the hearts of people that can't rightly know what it is that people depressed or (psychotic) endure through. They just can't put aside their pre-conceived, pre-ordained notions as to what people under this problem have to get through.

Syd said...

Susan, you are a success story and so am I. I know there are others too.

Unfortunately the media chooses to focus on the most extreme and disturbing cases because they make for higher ratings. And to be honest, many within the BP community perpetuate the "awfulness" of this disorder by focusing almost exclusively on how terrible their lives are.

As a result, many people with BP who aren't miserable or always focusing on the worst, or killing their children or committing other heinous crimes are afraid to go public because of the stigma that's been created surrounding this disorder.

So, it's up to those of us who are living life in spite of BP to continue to share our successes so that others will know that a diagnosis is not a death sentence or a jail sentence.


marja said...

I agree with Jaypeefreely: "I always find that love is missing from the hearts of people that can't rightly know what it is that people depressed or (psychotic) endure through."

I also agree with Syd: "So, it's up to those of us who are living life in spite of BP to continue to share our successes so that others will know that a diagnosis is not a death sentence or a jail sentence."

But I believe that, one day, psychiatrist will subdivide bipolar into a bunch of different illnesses. I think there's a great difference between us in the way we suffer. The bipolar 1 that I suffer with had been hell for me for many many years, with many psychotic episodes. That must be different from those who have depression as their primary symptom.

I consider myself a success story as well, but believe my wellness came as a result with how I lived and having found purpose in life - having something to live for. Some people don't have that and have only their illness to focus on, perpetuating the symptoms.

There are SO many life-building elements - too many to list here. It would take a book to discuss.

I'm supporting a person now who continuously tries to take her life. How can I help her find a purpose for her life? That's what she needs more than anything to get well.

Sorry I've gone on so long...and I've probably gotten way off the topic.

marja said...

PS: When I said, "The bipolar 1 that I suffer with had been hell for me for many many years, with many psychotic episodes. That must be different from those who have depression as their primary symptom." I didn't mean that life for those who suffered mainly from depression wasn't hell. It's just a different kind of hell.

And to be more on the topic: Yes, we need to tell our success stories. But, unfortunately, the stigma keeps many from telling those. I think many that do well would rather just forget about having the illness altogether. They just want to live their lives.

Me? I'm just so grateful about how well I've become that I want very much to talk about it. We need to encourage those who are freshly diagnosed. We need to let them know that a good life IS possible - in spite of how bad the diagnosis sounds.

JayPeeFreely said...

Thanks Marja. I appreciate the support. I do think your right to reflect this will be subdivided into various alternative disorders..Maybe not correctly, but that's what the med. professionals do.

Syd: you are very right about Susan and yourself. Success is truly inside both of you.

Stigmatism still follows all diagnosed disorders. Enhanced by the media's quick hit-and-split tactics to stories.

Syd said...

Marja: You've made some excellent comments. Thank you for sharing them. And I too think you're right that there could probably be many subsegments falling within a bipolar diagnosis. I think BP is a "spectrum disorder" that can and does look very different from one person to the next, and even from one episode to the next in the same person.

Your comments made me realize that as much as it frustrates me that people who've never been truly depressed just don't "get it", people who live closer to the manic end of the BP spectrum probably have that same frustration with me.

When I blog about my own experiences of moving beyond being defined by a bipolar diagnosis, I need to be more sensitive to the fact that my experience may be vastly different from many others who have been clinically diagnosed with the same disorder but who manifest it very differently.

And thanks, jaypeefreely.

marja said...

You posed such a lot of questions here, Susan. I had to come back and answer another one:

"Might he not have felt better if he had spent his days in a more uplifting environment?"

I facilitate a support group for people with mood disorders, give one-on-one support to individuals, blog about mental illness, write articles about mental illness, give talks about mental illness and have written two books about living with bipolar disorder. Yet I feel stronger for doing that - not worse. By helping others I've taken myself out of the victim role. I'm a supporter - not a supportee - and that makes all the difference.

No. Being around people who are mentally ill does not affect my own mental health. In fact, I'm very happy doing the work I do. It gives meaning to my life.

sandygal said...

What can I say, this is a new site to me and I have found it very interesting to hear everyones views and agree with the fact that yes we all have different concepts of how we react to Bipolar situations. I too, being a bipolar have come a long way since 12 months ago when my life was at the lowest, suicidal, screaming, yelling and total depression for many many days. Medications and ECT helped to a certain extent, but I feel what helped me more than those was the group I go to GROW - a depression group - I found that by talking about many issues we had with each other was not only helpful to me, but encouraging me by seeing that others have been there done that and come along better each day. I base my life today like a heart beat still but not as defined by the downers as before. Today I help others by working at the Salvation Army Support Centre two days a week, one day in the food room, refilling food shelves and making up food parcels to hand out to the less needy than myself. On the other day I work on the reception, greeting and talking to the less needy people of which many are buried under depression themselves. I still attend GROW once a week and ring other members throughout the week. This is also a big help as we can boost each others morale especially at times when the odds seem against us.
I personally believe to be able to help others, has helped me to face up to life under life's terms.
My home life has had a lot to work on for me too because my son 17 unfortunately knows how to push my buttons, but he is not getting the response as much these days as he wants because I am learning to recognise my reactions and work on them. My hubby was non communicationable because I had blocked him out of my life during the last twelve months, I have not been working on making conversations with him and listening to him instead of thinking all he ever wants to do is talk about himself and not about me (poor me). Poor me was my life with emphasise on WAS, today I am working on not poor me and it is amazing how much better I feel.
Compelling my muscles and limbs to react positively despite my feelings is working, as something I do know is that Feelings are only feelings NOT facts.
You are great to share your responses and I will be coming in here again,
Thanks all

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Sandy,
Congratulations. It sounds like you have made great progress. Thanks for sharing with us. For every person who's facing difficulties and heartache, getting help is always a huge step forward. Sounds like you're not only getting help but helping others!


All my hope for continued "success."


susan said...

Hi Susan.

First of all, you and other bloggers are success stories to me. You are candid about your depression stories, even admitting you need "me time" and taking off blogging to get it. We all know what it's like to be so depressed we cannot move, or so manic we cannot stop. Reading that others have dealt with this and not succumbed into the good night is inspirational.

Second- and the reason I write, is they opened up one of those places about 2 miles from the Rutgers main campus. My mother took me, it was in an old Victorian, and the people couldn't have been nicer. But the setting was like being in the hospital, and not condusive for me, just depressed me. I went once or twice and stopped going, much to my mother's chagrin who thinks I need to make more friends.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Susan,
Thanks for your comment. I believe this is such an important topic.

When I first began feeling well--after mostly a decade of illness--I wondered if I could "get my life back."

I had been so focused on illness and wellness that I didn't think I had anything to say to "normal" people whom I didn't already know.

But, my blog actually convinced me that I just needed to find my passions again, and meet people that way.

It wasn't easy at first. I worried what I would say about the decade I felt I'd missed. And what I would talk about.

But, now everything has changed. As I write this to you, I think I'll post about it, because it's a critical issue and more than I can address in a comment.

P.S. Thanks for letting me know my blog helps. It's always nice to hear...particularly in a low energy period.