My Self-Harm Story – #SelfHarmAwarenessDay

Today is Self-Harm Awareness Day. I want to share my own story with self-harm today on this blog from a chapter from my memoir. This is an important topic to discuss because self-harm is such a significant part of mental illness. This is often a silent struggle, but if you are self-harming now or have in the past know that it gets better. It is possible to get to a place where you no longer have the need to self-harm.

#SelfHarmAwarenessDay

Cutting and Self-Harm – My Story – PT 1

I am not advocating that cutting and self-harm is right or wrong. For some, it is just a way of life because for a time in our lives before we get help this is the only escape. Sometimes you get to a point where the emotional pain gets to be too much—self-harm is the only answer. 

This subject means the world to me. The scars on my arms and legs are a constant reminder of who I was, and how far in the last ten years I have come. It’s a sensitive subject, but I would rather talk about it then push it to the side. It is important that others like me know that eventually you can get to the point where you no longer need self-harm.

Today I decided to touch a subject that most people hate talking about (or hearing about), and that subject is cutting and self-harm (I will for the most part call it self-harm from here on out.) I saw some interesting posts today on social media that prompted me writing this chapter in my blog.

I always believe that if people knew more about this subject, people would be less likely to ridicule someone who has lived through something so traumatic that they chose to cut on their skin. Even more so that someone has the courage to talk about their self-harm, which is never easy.

Humans are more connected than ever before thanks to social media the the technology of our time. With so many people connected, it opens a floodgate for people to be more open about their lives. Our little lives are just out there on display for all to see. And yes, I realize people don’t have to put their lives out there on social media, but I digress.

Some people want to post their every thought and emotion on social media merely to make a connection. At times the result of people posting these types of stuff on social media is that people can be harsh. I have seen people bullied because they need to talk about “self-harm.” The comments that people leave are part of the problem, but the issue is more profound and darker. It saddens me because I understand, I have lived it, and people making horrible comments only makes it harder for people to eventually get help. When I was not so in tune with my mental illnesses I too stopped talking about self-harm on my social media because of the negative backlash from the people that called themselves my friends (and some family.) They didn’t understand, and I get that now but it still hurt.

People at times hate what they don’t understand. When the subject if self-harm comes up on social media, people tend to attack it in vicious ways. Most are on one of two sides: the people that cut (I will call them us) and the people that criticize. In this world, there is not much grey area, and people see us as attention seekers. This is an untrue judgment, the posts we make might just be what gets us through a day. It might be what we need to not self-harm that day. There is always a history for someone who cuts, and most people don’t know that person’s past. If you knew this history would you still judge us?

So that’s where this chapter is headed. I want people to know some of my own experiences with self-harm. If you see the history of one us, you might understand what leads us down this path. It is not pretty, and it’s a subject that is in the past I would rather not talk about here, but at the same time, it has to be discussed.

Emotions have always gotten the better of me. Being bipolar, my feelings are heightened to the extremes. It is a cruel world, and most people prefer not to hear about your problems. They have issues of their own, and that’s understandable. That is how it was for me since I was a teenager and into my twenties. People saw the side I let them see, the me on the outside, I was an okay kid. I got decent grades and interacted with people the best I could. On the inside, I was much different.

Dealing with my problems was never my strong suit (it still isn’t.) I prefer to shut my issues inside, and never deal with them head-on. I have never been a people person, and I prefer to be locked inside writing than out socializing with the world. In school, I had people I knew, and I guess you can call them friends. I could never talk about how I felt about self-harming in high school. Most days life just passed me by. This made me different, an outsider. My problems compiled in my head. I never talked about how I felt. I allowed my pain to keep building until it left emotional scars, and those are the worst kind of injuries.

Emotional pain can be an unbearable experience. The world disappears. You get lost in your mind, and escape seems impossible. You feel tired. Alone. It is a dark place. You feel like you are holding the weight of the world. I would lay there for hours doing nothing but staring into space lost in my mind. Social media was my way of escaping. People that experience emotional pain in their lives it is a part of life, but for me, my emotions were magnified by a thousand some nights. The emotional distress would go on for days, weeks, months, and yes, sometimes years. The toll it took on me, it always led me to the wrong solutions— self-harm.

It was emotional pain led me to do things like cutting on my arms and legs  for some of my teenage years and my early twenties. Physical pain, compared to the emotional pain that comes with a mental illness, is easier to deal with because at least physical pain can be healed. That is why my solutions led me to self-harm. My arms and a razor became my sanctuary. When I cut, the emotional pain was pushed out of mind for a short time. Physical scars heal over time, but emotional scars may never recover. My past was always difficult to deal with, and in the present moments I was in turmoil. 

I would hide my scars with hoodies that I never took off so that people couldn’t see what I was doing to myself. For years no one knew that I turned to self-harm. It was easy to hide, and it was just easier to deal. When self-harm became too much, there was always the last resort—suicide. If I am honest, there were so many times that self-harm kept me from committing suicide. The suicidal ideations would appease when I turned to self-harm. I am still here, so there is something positive in the negative.

The point I am trying to make is that life for some people like me, life can be very harsh. We are human just like everyone else. It has been many years since the last time that I cut. I got to a point where I could manage my emotional pain at a level where I didn’t have the need to self-harm. I look back and I realize that my scars made me who I am today—a better person with a mental illness.

I have come a long way, but the scars on my arms are still the reminders of a time where I couldn’t deal with life. It hurt. It cut deep. But ridiculing someone because they would rather have physical pain instead of emotional pain it can destroy that person even more. I know it did for me. There is no shame in being so strong for so long and finally giving in. I believe those are brave people in my eyes.

There are so many people out there, especially at the teenage level (when I started cutting) and I speak to them now. It will be okay. If you haven’t already get help. It would mean the world to me if you got help. If you would like to share your story with me, please do. I will not share it with the world. If you need someone to talk to, I am always there for you. Cutting is not the end of the world.

Always Keep Fighting

James

My GoFundMe

I wanted to say first, thank you all to those who have already donated towards upgrading The Bipolar Writer Collaborative blog to the business level. There have been some fantastic large donations and also amazing small donations that have brought us closer, but we are still not quite there–as of today we have made close to 300 dollars, which is really amazing! I think this final push will help us finally achieve our goal. 

What is the Goal?

The next level. Upgrading The Bipolar Writer blog to the business level for the next year and a half. This will give the blog more options on getting the collaborative work out there into the world. I also want a place where authors can showcase and sell their work on here (I am working on how this will be possible.) At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to spread the stories and experiences of those in the mental illness blogging community with the world and end the stigma.

This campaign will end on Sunday, March 3. I hope we reach our goal, of not I will put that money into savings until I can reach that goal with my own money. Every penny will go towards the upgrade.

https://www.gofundme.com/rasing-to-upgrade-the-bipolar-writer-blog

This blog has always been self-funded by my own money, but the community has also helped me with funding from time to time. Every penny that I raise is going towards this blog and spreading the many stories that feature on this blog. It takes just small donations (significant donations are also welcome) and with the 11,100 plus followers of this blog donating 2-3 dollars we can finally reach the goal! The final goal will be $425. 


I Jump to Conclusions like an Olympian

If jumping to conclusions was a sport, I would be competing in the Olympics. See you all next year in Tokyo 😉 !

When something bad happens like I make a mistake or I’m having an argument with somebody, my anxiety launches me to the worst possible conclusion. I get hurt, put on my jet pack and zoom off far away from reality!

My anxiety has always influenced my reactions to something that has either hurt or scared me. It takes me from the actual situation and sucks me into my mind where it tells me that something horrible is about to happen.

“Megan, you’re so stupid, why would you even say that? Everyone now knows how dumb you are.”

“Megan, why would you do that? Now they hate you! They never want to speak to you or see you again.”

When I get like this I hide. I hide away in my room if I’m at home, I hide in my office at work or hiding can be me not speaking to anybody for a while. I do this out of guilt and fear that everybody hates me.

I also jump to the worst possible possibility when I’m reading too deeply into something. My mind tells me that “they’re doing that because nobody wants to be near you” or “this is happening because you’re a terrible person that nobody likes.”

I know it’s all rooted in anxiety which intensifying the fears I’ve held on to all my life. But when you but an ant under a magnifying glass, it can look pretty damn big.

In therapy I’m working on not jumping to conclusion so fast. I’m trying to take time in my thought process and attempt to assess reality (which can be really difficult).

If you struggle with jumping to conclusions, is there any tips that you have on how to work through them and return to reality?

You are all such strong individuals, I love reading the posts on this blog. It absolutely makes me feel less alone in my mental illness.

When illness is invisible, take more initiative in checking up on the friends who look healthy

I scrolled through my instagram today, and watched a video of me singing with a ukulele (very original, I know) from almost a year ago and reading the slew of comments – compliments, hearts, recognition for how cool people thought I was – was really hard for me.

At the time, my immune system was too weak to fight off hemorrhagic laryngitis (it’s like normal laryngitis except all the blood vessels in your throat burst, super terrible), and I developed an anti-biotic resistant infection. My doctors (multiple in this case) kept saying  all I had to do was stay relaxed, not increase my heart rate, and reduce stress so that my body could fight the infection.

Except that I suffer from anxiety – and as the year increased in stress levels, so did my anxiety. My immune system couldn’t keep up. My body and mind have always been too sensitive and too connected to avoid physical illness when my mind was in a rough patch.

I battled with recurring debilitating fevers, flare ups, sore throats and a consistent effort to keep it under control for almost an entire year.

But it made my singing voice sound super cool in the video for Instragram, so…

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It’s not as though this was the only health problem I’ve dealt with because of my anxiety. I began to suffer from symptoms of PTSD (after a traumatically abusive relationship) and I developed a nightmare disorder.

In fact, yesterday I was at the doctor for problems with my spleen and ovarian cysts – a result of chronic anxiety and stress.

What I’m really trying to talk about, though, is that feeling about the comments under a video made at a time that I knew I was struggling to face each day with the constant, never ending battle for health I couldn’t seem to win.

It makes me feel alone. I can be right there, in front of people, some I consider close friends, and this huge part of my life is hidden from them, because my illnesses are invisible. It’s surreal, realizing when I post pictures of me receiving awards, everyone thinks, ‘wow, she’s killing it,’ even on days where I feel like my body and mind are killing me. 

So, while recycled and aged, please don’t judge people from what you can see on the outside – even people you consider close friends. When you ask someone how they are, really mean it. If a few more people had taken the time to check up on me instead of congratulating me for achievements at university or complimenting me on my clothes and ukulele playing, I would have felt a lot less like the ground was constantly falling out from under me for a majority of the days last year, and worrying that I would seem ungrateful if I spoke out about it. fabrizio-verrecchia-228667-unsplash

I’m not saying you should pry, or that you should assume every girl on Instagram with a ukulele is mentally ill, but I am saying that even when someone doesn’t reach out or start a conversation about things they’re going through, if they matter to you, take initiative.

It would have made the WORLD of difference if someone had seen another instagram post of me busy at some or other activity and texted me, “hey, so glad to see you’re achieving so much. I’m sure it must take a toll though, how are you doing?

Whenever my fiends saw me, they’d say things like, “I am so proud of you, you’re doing so much, it’s so impressive, you’re amazing, you’re so strong, I don’t know how you do it!” It felt IMPOSSIBLE in the face of those sentiments to say, “actually, all things aside, I’m not coping.” 

When I did, I’d get horrible advice about stress management, which I’ve covered in this blog post on how to correctly respond to loved ones’ anxiety.

harli-marten-135841-unsplashWhen someone is important to you, going that little extra mile to let them know you recognize that things might be challenging or difficult for them can be incredibly appreciated – and needed.

It seems a bit weird at first, but if you know someone has struggled with invisible illness in the past, chances are they’d appreciate even just letting them know you recognize their rough situation. It might even give that person the courage to take initiative themselves.

Trust me, it could mean the world of difference to them.

What’s the Make, Model, and Year of Your Mental Health Struggle?

Hi, I’m Chelsea. I drive a minivan.

I didn’t want to drive a minivan. When people learn that I do drive one, they start assuming other things about me. They also assume: I drive slow, am distracted, have no taste in vehicles, have children, will make a bad decision whilst driving because I’m probably turned around yelling at said children, and that I shop at Costco every day.

Now…. some of those things might be true. But, guess what? am not the minivan. I just drive it. am a person. My name is Chelsea. I am not slow, distracted, tasteless, children, bad decisions, or Costco. I am a human and I am also worthwhile.

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When you go out into the world, what sort of vehicle do you drive? Van? Jeep? Truck? Bicycle? Bus? Sedan? Train?

Are you large, difficult to turn, and roomy like that van? Are you fun outside but hard on the joints over speedbumps like a Jeep? How about pushy and a bit too high off the ground like a truck? Maybe you can’t really afford much in life or are environmentally conscious like a bicycle.

Our mental health struggles are our vehicles.

Say that you go out to the workplace after a difficult morning, only to snap at someone because they echoed a mean thought your Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder chugged and chugged and chugged. That wasn’t you, though. That was the OCD you have to take to work.

What about the night that Depression was your ride? That dark interior, battered trim, and iffy transmission was only how you got to the party, not who came inside.

And let’s not forget the lunchtime meeting you had with Anxiety. Your mechanic still shakes his head over the number of ‘strange noises’ you swear it kept making, the sudden stops, and its refusal to even start when you were at a traffic light.

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Thinking about mental illness as a vehicle might make you say, “Well, then, why can’t we just get another car?” Money, mostly. Circumstance. What your insurance will cover. What you need for your size of family, parking space, parking expenses, and (again) budget.

That’s not to say you’re stuck forever in your quirky transport, nor that you can’t address some of its more-limiting issues. In fact, you really need to address them.

-If you are repeatedly blocked from getting the engine to even start

-If you are constantly arriving late

-If you cannot seem to ever get out of the seatbelt when necessary

It’s time to see a mechanic -er, a therapist or mental health doctor of some sort.

No matter the age or condition of the vehicle, they can always help. No, your car will not be the same as when you first unknowingly signed that crappy contract and drove it home -but, do you want it to be?

And, sometimes, you do get a different ride. Sometimes you have no choice. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes worse. But, the car you drive is still not you.

You are you. Most importantly, you are always the driver. Never forget that.

Photo credit:
Rodolfo Mari
Pixabay
James Sullivan

Falling Back Into Depression

A month ago I wrote about how I wasn’t feeling depressed, that I was able to feel happy and be productive (check it out here). It was really great while it lasted but I have started falling back down into the hole of depression.

It hit me yesterday evening, just tripping me up. I began to lose control over my emotions  during a stupid little thing with my boyfriend. I began to cry, something I often do when I feel out of control and when I feel like I have done something wrong. I cried even though he tried to tell me everything was fine but that voice in my head told me otherwise.

I woke up this morning figuring yesterday was just a fluke, that everything would be better today. I was very much wrong. My brain kept conjuring up feelings of guilt and telling me that my boyfriend doesn’t love me anymore because I am the way I am. I began sobbing, shouting into my bed that everything is all my fault. That it is my fault he is unhappy and that I am ruining my relationship even though this isn’t true. We have been together for nearly 2 years and are planning to live together in 2019.

In that fit of sobbing I knew my brain felt weird. That something wasn’t quite right, something was off. I felt depression grabbing me, dragging me back down into the imaginary hole where it lives. I’m back to where I was a few months ago. Feeling empty, sad, lazy and that I am not good enough for anyone or anything.

It is such a stark contrast from where I was yesterday afternoon. Depression gives zero f***s about when it wants to punch you in my stomach and drag you back to where you were trying to escape.

I feel disappointed in myself to be back in this depressive state. It feels unfair that I have to return to this state of being after being truly happy for over a month.

I’m not “too sensitive.” I’m mentally ill.

It hurts when people erase us – our struggles, our scars, our victories, our invisible battles, a part of our lives that shapes us and our paths in ways others will never comprehend.

It hurts when people erase our mental illnesses.

gabriel-762937-unsplashIt’s like being told that everything must be your fault, a result of your flaws and weaknesses and choices; that it’s inconceivable that there is an invisible destiny carved into our bones by genetics and external factors of trauma or tragedy, leaving us learning every day the forever-evolving face of our mental illness and how best to get through the new day.

How many of us have at some point been told that we can be a little “too sensitive,” “too emotional,” or “too involved” ? How many of us have felt that we’re being told that our pain, our exhaustion, our hopelessness, our control over our minds slipping through our finger tips, are our fault? Our choice, even?

For me, I’ve heard it countless times.

“You need to toughen up.” “You’re too soft for this world.” “You can’t be so sensitive and expect to be treated right.” “You shouldn’t let things affect you this much.”

And in my head, with internal hot tears of anger and hurt at the erasure of my pain, of the war I have battled without complaint or surrender for as long as I can remember, all I can think when I hear that is, “thank you! So! Much! I am cured, of my depression, of my anxiety, and finally, presented with the easy to make and simple choice of “tough” or “sensitive,” I can continue my life with contentment and joy, never again to be pestered by the whisperings of my own mind! Bless you, kind sir!”

miguel-bruna-503098-unsplashI’m a little angry about it, I guess. And I should be. Because, when I’m at rock bottom, at my wits end, my life falling apart, my mind urging me to figuratively hit “quit without saving” on my existence, when I’m crying in the shower and in the elevator and in the moments no one is watching, when my hands are shaking as I desperately count the pills from my doctor and the consequences of absence from work, from relationships, from the world, are knocking on my door demanding that I attend to responsibilities even though I can barely attend to myself –

You telling me I need to “toughen up” and not be “so sensitive,” is erasing my mental illness, and you’re erasing the victories I win every single day with them, and you’re erasing the fact that mental illness is ugly, real, and that I am so so much tougher than you could ever imagine, because I face their hideous faces every morning.

It’s not that we’re “too” anything. It’s called mental illness.

Mine are called Depression and Anxiety. Whatever yours are called, kudos to you for fighting quietly or loudly or neatly or messily. However you win your battles, even on the days you lose, you’re not too sensitive or emotional or self involved or at fault. None of it is your fault. Call it what it is, and don’t let people who don’t understand convince you to agree with the shady voice in your head that tries to convince you it’s all on you, because it’s not, and I hope this is your daily reminder of that.

–  Steph

To Be(er), Or Not To Be(er)

“Please Drink Responsibly” is the phrase slapped across every product you must be twenty-one years of age to purchase in the United States. Alcohol has been, is, and always will be one of the most controversial matters in history for many reasons. Our grandfathers’ fathers made it hidden in the south eastern mountains to provide for their families in the most lucrative way they could. A tradition has been made out of its’ recipes and stories of bootlegging and prohibition. It’s the one thing that even the United States government couldn’t stop.

As with anything however, where there are pros, there are cons. As with anything, if enjoyed in excess there are many debilitating effects it can cause on your health and the health of others. Poor judgements and decisions are made which can impact many people for the rest of their lives. If you live just below the Bible belt as I do, don’t be surprised if some mega church preacher attempts to release you from the grasp of the Devils’ nectar as he lovingly embraces you while reaching for your wallet and groping every square inch of your wife with his eyes.

The point I am trying to make is that we live in a society that welcomes the use of alcohol like an old family friend. It’s as American as apple pie, baseball, McDonald’s, and this messed up obsession we all have over reality television. So if no one else seems to have a problem, and it all just is a natural part of life, do I really have as big of a problem as I think I do?

If you have followed me or my blog for any amount of time, you may have stumbled across my introduction or several works about alcohol and my battle with the bottle. Today I want to give you a little background about it, as the subject weighs heavily on my mind lately. I have been drinking since I was fourteen years old. It started out as simply as it typically would. Tall bottles of Smirnoff Ice which eventually led my curious tongue to tall cans of malt liquor. I drank A LOT of gut rot, gas station specials as an early teenager such as Steel Reserve 211 and the likes, until I finally calmed down into normal domestic beers.

At around the age of eighteen I began to indulge in liquor. Trying a little bit of anything I could get my hands on, I quickly discovered that vodka and gin were two of my least favorite liquors. As stereotypical as it will sound, I was a bourbon guy through and through just like my father. The smoky taste, the warm burn of eighty proof tingling down your throat, and that decadent smell of oak as it swirled around in my glass could make my mouth water with every sip. I had made it my mission to become a connoisseur of bottom shelf bourbon. Even when I moved out on my own, the only things I had to my name were a few pots and pans, a record player, a futon mattress, and most importantly… a bottle of rye whisky.

It wasn’t until last year in September that a panic attack made me really look at myself and question my life. Once I began my journey for better mental health, I realized I was using the alcohol to self medicate my anxieties and possibly even some of my bipolar tendencies when I look back in retrospect. I made a lot of changes to my lifestyle with help from my wife. I decided to not keep beer in the apartment we share and she agrees because she feels it’s a waste of money. We agree to only drink when we go to restaurants or concerts and I stopped buying liquor all together because if it’s in my reach, I will drink it.

It’s not uncommon for me to become my own worst enemy. I am my worst critic, my worst judge of character, and the last person I ever want to have to confront. Lately if I’m out somewhere and decide to have a beer, I look at myself in shame and feel regret over my decision. I feel as though I’m letting myself down and even you down. Even though I don’t drink for the same reason anymore, enjoying one beer throws so many questions into my mind, it almost makes me wonder if it’s worth it. On the other hand, I’m not drinking for the same reason anymore. I enjoy beer as a craft and a beverage. Taking barley and hops and creating a flavorful masterpiece is a skill I am honestly envious of. There are so many good things about beer that go far beyond alcohol content.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a situation that is different. I am not writing this to sway someone who is struggling with addiction to drink. If you are someone who is on the fence, I encourage you to please take the plunge and reach out to your local alcoholics anonymous program or outpatient rehabilitation center. What I am writing this for is to tell my story and to pose a question to my friends, the readers.

With the habits I continue to follow, I find myself wondering if I really have as big of a problem as I think I do. Am I more in control than I realize? Am I blowing this entirely out of proportion? If no one else seems to have an issue, then what is my problem? I am fine with not buying liquor, but am I wrong if I buy beer from time to time? What are your thoughts, and do you struggle this as well?

Stabilize

I sat in the waiting room clutching papers in my hand. For two weeks I had prepared to tell my doctor that I finally began seeing a therapist and that the diagnosis from her standpoint was leaning towards bipolar disorder. Awkwardly I gathered my things together once my name was called and followed the nurse for blood pressure and weight checks. Weighing in at 210 pounds threw me off guard at first, but I suppose that’s what happens when you stop drinking every day.

The nurse handed me the same GAD checklist that gets filled out each visit. I hadn’t seen my doctor in a little over a month so my numbers were up higher than in previous visits. As I would fill out “More than half the days”, I could feel that I was getting beside myself again. I should’ve been better than this. I should’ve been normal.

The doctor came in the room almost as quickly as the nurse left it. Before I could even allow the “hello” to escape her lips, the paperwork was extended in her direction and I told her I had gone to a therapist. “We think I may have bipolar disorder. I’m not throwing chairs or anything like that but after reading off the symptoms, a lot of things make a lot of sense. The high sex drive, the huge interest in hobbies only to drop them within a week or so, the days of not being able to make myself get off of the couch, my lack of focus and excess of indecision, it’s all here and then some.”, I said while pointing at the bipolar information sheet.

“Well I had my suspicions, but getting a second opinion from a therapist definitely solidifies a treatment option. Let’s try weaning off of one of your antidepressants and adding a mood stabilizer.”, she said.

I want to be clear by saying that I’m not glad that I am on another medication, but I am glad that I may be one step closer to finding a way to live life without my life getting in the way of… Well… My life. The problem I have with my mental health is that I wake up with either no motivation to get anything done, or so much motivation that I run errands and still not get anything done. I can have a great day until a derogatory comment is made to either me or a friend, and it sends my mood into a sullen, sarcastic, and depressing cloud for either hours or the rest of the day. I feel as though I have never had any control over my sensitivity or emotions, even as a child.

It has been four days since I have begun the process to stabilize. The new medicine I am trying is called Topiramate and if it’s anything like my Lexapro, it probably is something that will take time for my body to chemically register before a difference is noticed. Honestly, the biggest side effects I feel today are lethargy and extreme dizziness. It is as if I have hit the bottle hard enough to have woken up drunk and held onto it. This medicine is also used to treat seizures as well as migraines, so I feel that it plays with a different part of the mind than I am used to, so hopefully a change will come soon. According to other articles, it takes around five to six days for the side effects to dissipate.

This is only the beginning of this journey, and I write to keep you in the loop about this process in case any of you ever go through the same thing. If you feel as though you need help with mental health please reach out to someone. You are never alone. I am available for contact via social media if anyone ever needs an ear to listen. You can find my contact information as well as my other blog posts at www.outtodry.blog.

Take care everyone!

Will the Mental Illness Stigma Ever end?

A Conversation About the Mental Illness Stigma

I wanted to open this blog post with this, the stigma surrounding mental illness is real. I see it every day. It is all over the daily news. “This person did this horrible act because he/she was mentally ill.” While this is true in some of the cases, mental illness is not an answer to a question. It is an uncontrollable imbalance in our minds. Those of us who live each day, often hiding behind our disease, it can be hard to have peace because we fear what people would say.

When people say, “Why don’t you get over it. Everyone deals with anxiety and depression every day.” It hurts more than you know.

To some this dialogue is true. Millions in this world suffer from temporary depression or anxiety. The problem, millions more deal with depression and anxiety every day. When people say “get over it” it stems from a dialogue that becomes every day speak. It trivializes the entire mental health community when people say in a glorification manor, “Oh, I am feeling Bipolar today.”

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I don’t know about you, but I have never told people I am feeling Bipolar when I am in the worst parts of my illness. When someone says, “I am Bipolar” but uses it in a general sense, it continues to trivialize. It takes away from the people who struggle with the extreme nature of Bipolar Disorder. It changes the narrative in a wrong way. Then when someone is Bipolar and fighting, they become fearful of saying they are Bipolar. The fear and backlash from people who have normalized the disease.

Not in a million years would I chose to be Bipolar. It sucks. I live every day of my life with a truth no one should live this life. I am one lousy depression cycle away from going down the darkest of paths— suicide. No matter how well I am doing at this moment, until the day I leave this world, suicide will always be a possibility in my life. I live with crippling severe anxiety and insomnia that makes life not worth living— and yet I try and find ways to continue to fight. I tell myself daily “Always Keep Fighting.”

Ending the Stigma Through Education

That is why I am writing my memoir. Sharing my experience is one part of the equation. The other half— is to inspire more people to share their own story. I connect with so many people on a daily basis that tell me they are happy to have at least one person who understands. That it is “so much easier to hide behind the stigma than to face people saying get over it.” I have shared my fellow mental health bloggers many times because it helps show the real side of the many facets of mental illness.

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Trust me. If I could “get over it” in an instant, then I would.

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I envision a world where the mental illness community is this open place where we talk about real life. Mental illness and the stigma can only end with dialogue, empathy in the community, and understanding. We as a community are the most significant voices. I understand, so many of us have a hard time sharing our real lives with those closest to us. It’s easier to be here and talking, but I have found that the most significant thing I give people that love me, is education.

I recently completed a Diversity class for my degree, and in that class, my project focused on mental health stigma related to college minorities. My idea was particular to the project— mental health literacy. In a real-world scenario, I would start with classes for middle school students that focus on identifying mental illness and at the same time explore the connections with Bullying and Mental Health.

I think most roads start with real mental health literacy. As a society mental illness is ever increasing issue that most of the time is swept under the rug. Part of the problem is that many of us in the struggle don’t want to be on the outside of society. So we hide behind the stigma, which only makes things more difficult not only in our own lives but also for those just beginning their journey. So I wanted to share this part of me.

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I write under a pseudonym because it is easier for me to share my story. Even as good and open as I am, I never thought I could write under my real name. I am part of the problem. So I thought why not tell the truth.

My name is David. I am Bipolar. I write under my pen name because it’s easier, but I will no longer hide behind it. I am David. I am James Edgar Skye. I am The Bipolar Writer.

If at this moment all you can do is write under a pseudonym than I understand. If you can do more, that is good. I am no longer going to hide behind J.E. Skye because that name is a part of me. It is me, but my real name is just as important.

I believe the stigma can end. The mental illness community has a real shot at making real noise.

Always Keep Fighting.

James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoRamy Kabalan

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unsplash-logoRoman Mager

unsplash-logoGuillaume de Germain