So, tell me more about how my mood disorder isn’t real…

“A woman is safer in a park at midnight than on a psychiatrist’s couch.”  —David Miscavige

How do you have a productive conversation about mental illness, with someone who thinks it’s a myth?

I’m frustrated.

I just got off the phone with a friend who suggested I get my vitamin D levels checked because low vitamin D levels are probably responsible for this “so-called bipolar thing.”

She also suggested I spend more time in the sun, and give up gluten.

Who knew it was so simple?

This friend is also anti-vaccination, and thinks pretty much everything can be cured with chia seeds, colon cleansing and yoga.

I’d love to see that ad campaign.

“I had this pesky brain tumor but then I started yoga. Thank you Happy Baby Pose for saving my life.”

I know this friend is well-intentioned, but to paraphrase Yoda–helpful, she is not being.

Bipolar disorder is difficult to explain, and talking about mental illness makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I think I’m getting better at easing some of that discomfort, and creating a safe environment to ask questions. Most of the people in my life have been really great, as this diagnosis didn’t come as any surprise to most of us. But there is still one or two of ’em who just don’t seem willing to get it.

I call them The I-Do-That-Tooers and The Experts.

It could very well be that people who fall into one of these camps just have no fucks to give. But I’d like to give my friends more credit than that.

 
The I-Do-That-Tooers

“So, how do they know you’re bipolar? What does that even mean?”

ME:  “I’m prone to wild mood swings that are, sometimes, completely independent of what’s going on in my life.”

“Isn’t everyone? I have terrible PMS every month and it just makes me crazy.”

ME:  “I tend to have extreme emotional responses that are not always proportionate to the situation.”

“I know just what you mean. I get so mad at my husband sometimes when he leaves his towel on the floor. I just become enraged.”

Yeah, it’s exactly  like that. Only it’s not.

I cried for over an hour when I read that the newborn panda cub at the National Zoo died this morning. My day has pretty much been shot, ever since. Just thinking about it chokes me up; I’m exhausted, and right now, having taken a shower today feels like a big accomplishment.

I can go from complete elation to feeling like my world is crashing down on me within a matter of days (or sometimes–although rarely–within hours).

The Experts

“Big Pharma is getting rich off of people who only think they’re sick because they’re told they are. This whole thing is a scam. You just need to realize you are a lot stronger than you think you are.”

“I’m worried about you being on all of those medications. They’re toxic, you know.”

“You can do a lot by fixing your diet/exercising more/seeing an acupuncturist/etc.”

Absolutely. But none of these things are going to cure  my bipolar disorder. Believe me, I’ve tried managing my illness without medication. In doing so, I’ve destroyed relationships; ruined my credit; attempted suicide, and have been hospitalized and treated against my will (for which I am extremely grateful, but that’s another blog post).

So, yes, diet, exercise, meditation, reflexology, acupuncture, colon cleansing and any number of adjunct therapies you can list are very good at helping me manage the symptoms  of my illness.

(Except for the colon cleansing, because that’s just nasty)

But the medications I take every morning and every night are actually managing my illness. And keeping me alive.

So, how can I get through to these people?

And is it even worth my time and energy?

Short of distancing myself from these people, I’m pretty much at a loss.

Any advice?

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5 thoughts on “So, tell me more about how my mood disorder isn’t real…

  1. OMG, you are hilarious! I laughed so much reading this…you have got a knack for expressing intelligent points with intelligent humor.

    After I went totally off the wall and had my huge manic breakdown, I buried myself in the safety of my home and my understanding husband while I healed for those first confusing, terrifying months, and do you know what one of my sisters said? “Jenn’s husband is so controlling, he convinced her that she’s crazy.” WHAT? My husband was not in the psychiatrist’s office with me. He was also not in the psychologist’s office, either. As a matter of fact, he didn’t even write me these scrips or know anything at all about bipolar disorder before this blew in our front door!

    I have 6 younger sisters and 2 of them will still not talk to me to this day. I hope I never get diagnosed with cancer! They will be pissed.

    I am not sure what you can really do to get through to these people. My therapist told me in the beginning (when I was trying like hell to explain to my whole family all that I had learned about this disorder) that I had to stop expecting things from people. Even my own Mother. She told me that they did not have to understand or show me support. It was completely out of my control. Yes, you can try explaining, but I have learned to just say less. Like, “I had a really bad breakdown and now I am still stuck with anxiety issues, but I made it through!” I felt so much more relaxed when I let myself off the hook for trying to convince my family that I was okay. When they are ready, I will still be here…no hard feelings.

    • ” My therapist told me in the beginning (when I was trying like hell to explain to my whole family all that I had learned about this disorder) that I had to stop expecting things from people. Even my own Mother. She told me that they did not have to understand or show me support. It was completely out of my control. Yes, you can try explaining, but I have learned to just say less.”

      Jenn, thank you for this. I’ve been putting so much energy into trying to make people understand, but for what? Maybe it’s not fair for me to have any expectations. Huh. You’ve given me something to think about.

  2. Good advice manicjenn. When I quit attaching meaning to the things people told me and realized they were being ‘helpful’ in the manner which they were most comfortable (like my mother the religiousity freak…you aren’t praying enough, Jesus can heal you if you give it up to him…lay it at the cross kinda stuff), I could let go of the frustration. Many people won’t or don’t get it. They think it’s ‘catchy’. Let them go. Talk about ‘safe’ topics with them. Only share with those who attempt to understand. It took me awhile to not want to share with everyone or be understood. It’s ok.

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