November 6, 2017

Mental Health Monday: Having "a person" on your side

Before I get into the point of my post, I just wanted to share that I did end up increasing my mood stabilizer dose (and yes, when I talk about changing meds, it's been discussed with my psychiatrist first). Last time I increased the dose, I got acne; so, the acne side effect may happen again, but the hypomania was making me crazy(-ier), and I needed to get back to the stable place that was making me feel "normal".

It's been six days, and already, I am feeling back to stable. The hypomanic phase was minimal this time, and didn't even last very long--a month or so? I'm not sure how I'll feel if the medication causes me to get acne again, but I will talk to my psychiatrist about it if it does. Side effects of medication suck! If it's not one thing, it's another.


Anyway, it's nice to know that this medication is working well for me in keeping me stable!



I came across the most powerful video today regarding mental illness, and I just have to share it. It's been viewed over 60 MILLION times, so maybe all of you have already seen it or heard of it. But I hadn't seen or heard of it until today, and it made me feel all the feelings.

The first time I watched it, I had choking sobs at about four different moments during the poem. Then I watched it again to see if there was anything I missed. Then I made Jerry watch it, and I explained to him why it was such a powerful video to someone (me) who has mental illness.


While I don't have obsessive compulsive disorder, this poem is the perfect explanation of why it is so powerful to those of us with mental illness to have "a person". I hate that phrase: "You're my person" (mainly because it reminds me of Grey's Anatomy!) but I'm not sure how else to explain it. Watching this made me feel so grateful to have a person on my side that I can count on.

Jerry is my person. I do have some really amazing friends--Thomas, when I want someone to tell me the truth with no sugar-coating, or to banter with in a very light-hearted way; Andrea, when I need to tell someone a deep secret without it turning into gossip; Caitlin, when I need to share news with someone, good or bad; Emily, when I need to talk to someone who understands bipolar; Renee, when I want to talk about running, wine, Shameless, or any of the other common interests we have; and several other people for several other reasons (I hope you know who you are).

But Jerry is my person. I am not an easy person to live with, let alone be married to for 14 years and counting.


I was misdiagnosed with major depression early in my life, and accepted that diagnosis until early this year, when I was diagnosed with bipolar. I took antidepressants for 16 years that were working basically as placebos, because they didn't do a damn thing for me. Each time I thought they were working, it was actually just a hypomanic phase that I was in. Depression, hypomania, depression, hypomania... since I was a kid. (*See the comment section for a better/more thorough timeline)

I have a lot of "quirks" due to the bipolar disorder that Jerry has either found endearing or just put up with all these years. He loves me unconditionally (and when you think of the meaning of that word--"unconditionally"--it really is powerful). No matter what I say, how I act, and how annoying some of my quirks are, he still loves me.


I've always been able to tell him if I'm feeling sad or irritated or crazy excited or depressed. He doesn't have the issues with mental illness that I do, but he has learned so much about it because he's helped me through it. And I'll never be able to put into words how much I notice and appreciate it.

Jerry is always the jokester and has a very carefree personality; but when someone around him says something offensive about mental illness, he is right there to tell them the facts in a very "fired-up" way, haha. He stands up for all people with mental illness on my behalf, and I love that about him.

There are a lot of people who have no idea what to do when someone they care about has a mental illness and needs help. So, they do what they can. And to me, it's so reassuring to know that they are trying.

And a lot of the time, I don't think these people realize how much they are appreciated. I don't think that someone's "person" always knows just how helpful they are in the everyday ways that they act around us. Those of us with mental illness appreciate (or at least I do, anyway!) the small gestures that make us feel "normal".

I choose to think about my bipolar with humor (hence all the memes). Jerry knows this, and he jokes about it all the time with me--which makes me happy! I love to laugh about it. I don't like for people to avoid the topic completely, or to feel uncomfortable mentioning it, and I especially don't want people to feel like they have to tiptoe around my feelings, just because I'm labeled with "bipolar". It's totally okay to joke about it with me!

Not all people with mental illness feel this way, of course. Some of us may want to avoid the topic, some may want to treat it very seriously, some may feel uncomfortable or offended by certain comments about it--and all of those are valid feelings to have--but the people closest to us as individuals will know exactly how we like to handle it, and I think that brings us comfort.

I don't know if I've made my point of all of this very clear, so I'll try to sum it up with this: As someone with mental illness, I very much appreciate the people close to me for doing little things they may not even know they are doing--continuing to invite me to go out, even when I've said "no" for the last 15 times they've asked; texting me randomly every so often, which lets me know they are thinking of me, even if it wasn't a conscious effort; validating my feelings, even when I don't feel like they are valid; and all sorts of other things.


I can't speak for anyone but myself, but these gestures make me feel loved and cared about, and that helps me in so many ways. If you are someone's "person", please know that the things you do to try to help probably don't go unnoticed. Maybe it's the right thing to try, maybe it's not, but I (and I think many others) very much appreciate the effort!


8 comments:

  1. Thank you again for sharing your story and that amazing poem.

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    1. That you Rae! That poem is truly one of the most amazing performances I've ever seen.

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  2. This post makes me rethink a lot of what I experienced as a child. My mom was misdiagnosed with depression when she really had bipolar disorder. Much of our relationship (or lack there of) was built on this push pull struggle she had with me. It's so sad now to think of how my younger self just didn't understand.

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    1. I'm so sorry that you went through that struggle as a child. I can see how that would be very confusing for kids, which contributes to a lot of the guilt I feel. "What is mom's mood going to be today?" It's hard on both parties.

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  3. I think I need to have my husband start reading your blog. I have such a hard time explaining to him what goes on in my head, but you somehow make it easier. Even though my issue is different than yours, there is still something about the way you put what you feel into words that makes it easier for me to talk to my husband and explain some of it to him. Thank you again for being so open about it.

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    1. Shanon, I'm so glad that you are able to talk to your husband about it! Even if you have a hard time explaining it, it's great that you can be honest with him--and then he can know how to help you better, too.

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  4. I am sure I am going to get flack for this and people will accuse me of being mean. But, clearly you are writing this to help people. And in doing so, I believe honesty is the best policy.

    You label yourself "misdiagnosed for years", but previously you mentioned you had two separate doctors, as well as, I believe, family members, tell you they thought you were bipolar several years ago. You refused to believe them. I think that is a huge difference. Misdiagnosed puts the blame on the medical professionals. You're adding to the stigma of mental health professionals. "All they're going to do is prescribe pills, why should I even bother going". I know so many people who have a hard time just starting to take care of their mental health because they think all the doctors are quacks.

    Obviously, this is your journey and you can share what you want when you want. But, complete honesty in your journey might help those who are reading this because they need help.

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    1. It's funny you said that, because I had such a hard time with that sentence when I was writing--for the very reason you described! I deleted and re-wrote it probably six times. I finally wrote that I was misdiagnosed "early" because that was true--I was misdiagnosed as a child and nobody said a word about bipolar until about 16? years later. I should have gone on to explain in more detail, which is what I struggled with while writing. I didn't want to stray too far from the point I was trying to make or confuse anyone. But here is the general timeline:

      Diagnosis of depression: AROUND age 9 (I don't want to say for sure, because I don't remember the exact age)
      Started antidepressants: Age 20
      First time "bipolar" was ever mentioned: Age 25 (no family members ever mentioned this--just a psychiatrist that I saw once and a therapist that worked with him).
      From age 25-33, I didn't hear a word about bipolar.
      From 33-35, there were at least three doctors/therapists who suggested that I see a psychiatrist for a diagnosis.
      At age 35, I finally got in to see a psychiatrist after a very long waiting list. First time I finally accepted bipolar: Age 35

      So, that is the timeline--I wasn't deliberately trying to mislead anyone, I just wasn't sure how to write that in a nice sentence without confusing the heck out of people.

      By the way, I don't think you are being mean, so I hope that you don't get flack for your comment. What I wrote was completely honest, but I can understand how it would be misleading by not mentioning that there was a psychiatrist who diagnosed it 10 years ago. There was no mention of it for at least 8 years after that.

      Thank you for opening up a better way of explaining it!

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)