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I don't wanna be sick :(
May 7, 2014 5:42 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend books and other resources to help alleviate the self-stigma of mental illness? *Aerated Wall of Snow inside*

Hi AskMefi! I apologize in advance if I say things that would offend anyone coping with mental illness or a loved one. It is not wholly intentional, it is kind of part of the pain of what I am dealing with now. If you'd like to skip all the text below, I bolded the Q's with numbers. Thanks for your reading and your mental exertion.

I asked a question over a year ago about hypomania with major depression. Well, after a few months, a dropped class, a destabilizing whirlwind romance and a lost research internship, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. I am currently taking mood stabilizers, and in an Intensive Outpatient Psychotherapy Day treatment program to work on my life skills (attendance and staying on top of things/staying engaged while in the throes of the horrible depression; substance abuse; emotion regulation is also a big one for me), and I am really, you know, "proud of myself" for seeking help. I've been seeing an individual therapist for a year now, as well. So yay, I have sought help and am getting it. Everything is fine and dandy, right?

No, it is not. And I know the expectation is not that it will be fine and dandy, I've learned enough to know that that's not realistic. A lot of it is stuff I need to address in therapy. But there is one thing I am really struggling with and I wonder if you guys can help me out, from your own experience perhaps if you can relate to this. The biggest thing I am dealing with now is very paradoxical considering I want to become a Clinical Psychologist and I honestly feel great empathy for people who have Mood Disorders. It is just very difficult to apply to myself. My biggest struggle, now that I have accepted that I have/have been diagnosed by a doctor with a condition (I don't even like saying mental illness), and have accepted that I have pathologically misused substances (am attending AA though I still don’t say I am an alcoholic, have been sober 60 days, will continue and begin stepwork), is an immense feeling of self-stigma.

I know that there is stigma out there, and even if people say it has gotten better I really don't think that is the case, even within the psychology field, even though everyone in my IOP says, "yeah so many people have depression and anxiety, and take meds". I KNOW that the stigma exists though. And bipolar seems to be...more “crazy”....I don't know, the way people talk about it. Also, I believe I have some borderline traits, while I have not been officially diagnosed; I used to have Rule-Out personality disorder; BPD is even worse when it comes to stigma. Also, I have known for a long time that I am “crazy” and now it has just been outed and I am feeling very uncomfortable and sad and isolated and like I will be alone for the rest of my life. I have pretty much accepted that I will not have a husband and I am mentally preparing myself for the reality that I will become a mother on my own, when I am 36 or so. Even if other people with bipolar have successfully found partners, my self stigma makes me feel like for me, personally, it will not be possible.

On top of that, for my schooling I read about the neuroscience and symptomology of bipolar disorder and it's all "impairment" here and "deficit" there and I don't know...I am really struggling with the stigma and just, the reality of having this "illness" and really internalizing it. I am having trouble even viewing myself as a capable or competent individual, even though I can write papers and get A’s on tests and whatnot. Growing up as a relatively poor Asian American child, I felt very marginalized among all the "normal" kids (even though, I know, everyone has their issues); this was magnified by my mother’s nearly decade-long battle with cancer and death at my early adolescence, and I believe that initially my way of compensating and finding my role in the society around me was to be a very high achiever. Now I feel that even that aspect of my identity is compromised by having a mental illness...like I have an unsound mind ... and yes, it has been very difficult for me to keep a job and that causes me great shame. I know it's RIDICULOUS; I feel like I have an open mind about mental illness except when it applies to myself.

When I bring up these concerns in therapy, my therapist/the group's response is very patient, and they challenge my beliefs. But it just doesn't enter my skin or my brain. Their challenges aren't working. They just remind me how hard I am on myself, I'm too hard on myself and that's a major thing I need to change, blah blah blah. And they gently remind me that my perfectionism is not realistic. It just is not sinking in. I am hard on myself for good reasons, because there is a standard to social behavior and you must match those standards; there are desirable traits and by having a major mental illness, I have a HUGE red flag just waving over my head. I am an emotionally imbalanced person and now I have a label to confirm it...

I mean it's even central to the notion of mental disorder - there is no disorder without an order against which to measure it. I don't know, the feeling of having been measured as mentally, like,... disordered or deficient is extremely devastating to me. Before I sought help I was just on an antidepressant that didn't work and I could just tell myself that I had depression maybe or that just maybe I was a tortured individual but now it feels like I have a severe mental/emotional handicap and I am really, really struggling with that. I am beginning to view myself as more deficient than I actually am, and my therapist has called me out on it; I say that I am bad at intimacy with human beings in general, but she says I am generalizing from failed romantic relationships (with men who have felt that I am emotionally too much to handle... and I am!!); I say that I am incapable at life and she reminds me that a 9 to 5 at something I am not passionate about was impossible for me, and that I have areas at which I excel and areas in which I need to mature, and she tries to remind me to stop splitting.

Anyway, a lot of that was rant that I kind of needed to share, so thanks for reading it if you did; but I do have questions:

(1) if some of you out there have felt the same way, are there any resources besides therapy, like maybe books or movies or essays, that have helped you normalize your self-stigma? I feel like maybe some kind of media would be helpful to me.

(2) even if you just understand and have felt the same way, and can share what caused a change for you, if it has changed. Or even if you understand and feel the same way right now.

(3) If you can think of any skills I can use to address this, and yes I will bring it up in therapy, but you guys often have such wonderful insights, if you can shed any here I would be grateful.

TL;DR: I am feeling self stigma over my diagnosis of bipolar disorder; I feel that it is justified by society and also by my desire to be socially acceptable and even desirable; it would be nice to hear some validating voices as well as suggestions to any resources, books, movies, essays, etc. that might help with these issues.
posted by bengalibelle to Human Relations (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
(with men who have felt that I am emotionally too much to handle... and I am!!)

I have known a few bipolar individuals. I have no reason to believe I am bipolar but I seem to be emotionally open in a way that you sometimes see with bipolar people. My reason: I was molested as a child and button-holing total strangers helped me get assistance when nothing else was working. So my experience is that "the truth shall set you free" rather than that "the truth hurts." I am make plenty of mistakes but I rarely act out of malice towards people so I feel I have nothing to hide, in terms of motives. We all make mistakes. None of us is perfect.

A lot of people find me emotionally "too much to handle." But not everyone. My sons are both aspie-ish and they tell me things like "you make the best faces." Since they have trouble reading social cues, they appreciate that I signal them loud and clear.

I write and I started some comics and I try to use those creative things as an emotional outlet. I did a recent Ask to help me do that better. I work more these days on finding constructive outlets rather than on judging myself for being the way I am. I always felt I was unlovable and too much because of being molested and raped as a child. I felt stigmatized by that for a long time. But I did get over that and plenty of men find me attractive. Trying to work out the details is a challenge but that seems to be a challenge for most people (need proof? just read through a few relationship Asks...). During my divorce, I found that whatever I think is a "bug," someone, somewhere, will see as a "feature."

So, some men deal fine with my emotionalism. In fact, some men crave how emotional I am. For me, the trick is looking for a man who craves it from me but is, himself, calm. Men who are also high drama are just a catastrophe waiting to happen. I gravitate towards people who are kind of aspie-ish or otherwise calm, cool, and collected for some reason. I knew a man for a time who had been questioned under torture while in prison for his political activism. It was a good relationship. He had enormous self discipline and was good for me and did not find me "too much." He found me to be a feast.

You might try reading books about giftedness, like "Different Minds" (I have not read it but have seen it recommended on various lists) or Temple Grandin's writings such as "Emergence" and "Thinking in Pictures." You might also read books about other disorders which are not classified as "insanity", like dyslexia, such as "The gift of dyslexia."

I spent a lot of years on parenting lists for folks who had gifted kids. Past a certain IQ, issues like ADHD, ASD, OCD and so on are so common that some folks refer to them as "comorbidities" of high IQ. You might try joining some email lists for gifted parents and listen in. "Genius" is fundamentally about the mind simply working differently than "average." It comes with good points and bad points. I have two sons who are both twice exceptional -- bright but with other issues -- and I was a good student but I have a serious medical condition and some other problems. Staying mentally and emotionally grounded has long been a challenge for me. Learning more about how the mind works in a more neutral way -- that some minds are simply different from others, whether we call that differentness "crazy" or not -- has been helpful for me and my sons.

I also would recommend you read biographies of people you can identify with some manner. I sometimes say that "If Joan of Arc were alive today, she would be in a psych ward getting her meds adjusted to try to make the voices go away instead of putting a man on the throne and playing handmaiden to the birth of modern France." For various reasons, I have wrestled at times with wondering whether or not I am simply crazy. There is an Einstein quote I am fond of: A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?

Well, I am out of time. I feel that is a bit scattered but I hope it helps you.
posted by Michele in California at 6:09 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


I can only give you my advice and opinion as a mentally interesting person who has bipolar disorder.

I was diagnosed with manic depression at age 19 -- I'm 47 now, you do the math. I've never hid it from anyone -- ever. Why? Because the stigma is social construct that is only allowed as long as people let it continue. I didn't ask to be born with a miswired brain and I'll be damned if I'm gonna feel guilty about it.

I have four children. They're great adults. They survived their childhoods having a mentally interesting mother. Now, I did go through two husbands (while unmedicated I'll add) and quite a few broken hearts (also while unmedicated) before finding my current husband, but he is my match and he's here to stay.

I also have a Master's degree - which I recently obtained. My college was more than willing to work with my mental interestingness. Again, I hid nothing from any of my instructors. They all knew of my bipolar as well as all of my other physical disabilities. I never once felt stigmatized by any of them. Though one suggested I might be better off not taking medications (but he was a hippy throwback). I just kinda ignored his non-medical advice. Other than that, nothing. They worked with me whenever I felt either emotionally or physically overwhelmed. Honestly? In my experience, being mentally interesting isn't nearly as horrible as it was back when I was 19. But even then I didn't care who knew.

It's been my experience that so long as I act and feel as though I have nothing to be ashamed of... so long as I feel I am not "sick in the head" then people tend not to treat me as a leper. They treat me as the person that I am. And I am one heck of a person. Just ask me. :)

If you had any other problem - arthritis, fibromyalgia, etc... would you hide your head in shame? Hell no! This is not something you should be ashamed of IMHO. It's not something you brought onto yourself, and if society makes you feel ashamed of your interesting, miswired brain, then shame on society. That's the way I feel anyway. And it's worked for me in dealing with bipolar and its stigma.
posted by patheral at 6:45 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]


I brought this up earlier in another thread, but it hit me very hard when I was sitting in a darkened theater and Tony Stark had a panic attack.

You aren't deficient. You're different. Very few people are completely typical; you're a little further away from the mean than most. There are some ways that will hurt you. There are other ways it will help. Most things that could happen physically, you only have the down side to compensate for, so mental health is a different kettle of fish. I think it's a bit like being Deaf. You feel things differently than a lot of people do. You will need to learn to regulate that in ways that fit at least loosely within the bounds of socially acceptable, but you don't necessarily need to pass for completely ordinary. Stephen Fry is bipolar, as is Hugh Laurie. Chris Evans has talked about his anxiety problems. Merlin Mann, the 43 Folders productivity guy, has ADD and I suspect he probably wouldn't have gotten into the productivity stuff if he didn't. The thing about these people is that they have gotten into places in the world where being a little weird is pretty okay.

There is a place in the world for us, too. It's okay to be a little crazy if you can manage it well enough to make your life work. It'll take awhile to figure all that out, but you'll get there.
posted by Sequence at 6:48 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]


Also, I forgot. You asked for resources... There's the Bipolar Survival Guide, which is a go-to book for people newly diagnosed with bipolar. I got it for my new husband. It's helped him a lot in understanding what's going on with my miswired brain. It might help.
posted by patheral at 6:54 PM on May 7


As far as resources go, you should look into stuff on the recovery movement. As a jumping off point, here are two essays by Pat Deegan, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager and went on to become a clinical psychologist:

Recovery and the Conspiracy of Hope

Recovery as a Journey of the Heart
posted by fox problems at 6:56 PM on May 7


I don't know how this works for bipolar or possible personality disorder, but for depression and/or anxiety, the gold standard therapy for irrational thoughts (or even not-so-irrational, but overblown or unhelpful thoughts) is some version of cognitive behavioral therapy. You can even buy a book and/or workbook and get started on the exercises right now.

Come to think of it, there was a recent New York Times article on the founder of DBT (similar, but more focused on mood and behavior regulation I think) who "came out" as someone who had been diagnosed with actual Borderline Personality Disorder as a young woman. If I were you, I'd focus more on working on your thoughts than getting too deeply into analysis or rumination about where they came from, what might happen in the future, etc.
posted by blue suede stockings at 7:00 PM on May 7


Congratulations on day treatment. That is an important step.

My sister has had significant mental health issues. And by significant, I mean impactful on her life. I have had my own mental health issues that certainly felt significant too. But I know her path has been filled with more struggles. So, my answers will be both perspectives, personal, and as support for a loved one.

Normalcy comes with time. Not a comforting answer. As you get older you care less. But for now: Self-stigma is tough. However, I'm guessing that in addition to DBT as Blue Suede mentioned above, you are also involved in CBT. Behavior can affect cognitive, right? So start the re-frame. As those negative thoughts start, you stop it. How do you do that? If those negative thoughts creep in, start singing. Dance. Get on the computer/phone/tablet and research individuals with bipolar who are successful. Study art created by artists who have bipolar disorder. What else can you think of? This will take work, much harder than snapping a rubber band to stop biting your nails. But baby steps.

Also, I really enjoyed reading memoirs of individuals with mental health issues. Depression, bipolar, eating disorders, etc. If you can handle the negative parts which are usually the beginnings, than usually memoirs improve and get to how they learned to be more than just their diagnosis. I felt inspired and it normalized mental health concerns. I went to the local library and checked out books to do this. Just find the mental health area (nonfiction) and see what you find. Free. Maybe you will write one in a few years. :)

My last bit of advice is this: I am ok, my sister is doing well, and I sincerely hope you will be. First rule: No harm to others. First rule, part deus: No irrevocable harm to self. Second rule: do your best. Third rule: Always get out of bed. Those are my 3 rules that I would give to my sister that she swore helped. Best wishes to you.
posted by Kitty Cornered at 7:17 PM on May 7 [1 favorite]


Watch "David & Monica" on Netflix. It is a nuanced portrait of a young couple who both have Down's syndrome. They contribute whatever they are capable and no one faults them for that. They are not deficient; they are who they are, with various skills and challenges. You may have pictured a different road for yourself but this is your road and you are doing what you are capable of.

Think evolution: if there truly was no point to mental illness, it would have evolved itself out somehow. It must have some role or function in society.

Finally a word of hope: I am, I suppose, what you would call "a handful", as is my sibling, and we've both found people who adore us just as we are. Everyone has their shit, no one is perfect, & it sounds like you have a good heart so focus on that.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:44 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


there is a standard to social behavior and you must match those standards; there are desirable traits

I think the standard for social behavior is a much lower bar than what you're setting for yourself, and different people find different traits desirable.

Would it be possible to hang with an edgier, weirder crowd who are all pushing the boundaries of normalcy in some way, or are magnificently far beyond abnormal?

The John Hughes movies with Molly Ringwald might be comforting. The goal isn't to be popular; the goal is to find your niche. Maybe you're not a summer blockbuster; you're a cult classic, and that's OK.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 8:59 PM on May 7 [3 favorites]


(2) even if you just understand and have felt the same way, and can share what caused a change for you, if it has changed. Or even if you understand and feel the same way right now.

I can relate to a lot of what you're talking about. I don't know what to do about any of it really, but I just wanted to let you know I hear you.

One thing that I do and that I think you're doing, too, is to see yourself in black and white terms and to strive for extremes. So either you're perfect or you're broken, either you're perfectly competent at everything or you're perfectly incompetent at everything. If you are like me in that way, if it turns out that you're not going to be "perfect," you'll force yourself to the very extreme of "imperfect." Try not to do that, try not to force yourself to be the worst out of despair that you're not the best.

I say that I am bad at intimacy with human beings in general, but she says I am generalizing from failed romantic relationships (with men who have felt that I am emotionally too much to handle... and I am!!)

This sounds pretty similar to me -- I'm also prone to going from zero to sixty (and back) when it comes to intimacy, which has frankly not served me (or anybody) well. Something that's been useful to me with that is thinking about it using the framework of the abuse cycle, which can also involve (the abuser) pulling someone in very close, and then pushing them away very hard, over and over. Since I don't want to be abusive or hurtful to people, being conscious about not creating that cycle in my relationships has helped me keep a more even keel with people altogether.

by having a major mental illness, I have a HUGE red flag just waving over my head. I am an emotionally imbalanced person and now I have a label to confirm it...

I hear you. You're not just this label, though, and neither is anyone else who it applies to. You already felt marginalized as a kid, you didn't only begin feeling alienated after you were given this label. Without a diagnosis, what would really be different except that you'd be at least as alienated as you are now, except that you'd have less support and more confusion?

For what it's worth, I also have so much trouble "owning" any diagnoses or labels for myself, and not just in things related to health. I'm just *so* not a joiner, I guess? What gets me over that, at least sometimes, is the desire to show solidarity with and support for people who are dealing with similar things as me or in a similar context and who *do* want to own that label.
posted by rue72 at 9:00 PM on May 7 [2 favorites]


You want the blog Esme Weijun Wang. She is definitely mentally interesting (several diagnoses), and writes about living with mental illness often. She's well educated, well spoken, productive within her limits, and married.
posted by jrobin276 at 9:08 PM on May 7


An Unquiet Mind is a must-read.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 12:22 AM on May 8


I'm going to mention this as an option, because it's what I ultimately did: reject the diagnosis.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at 21. I was given the usual story and the usual drugs, and went along with it. At around 32 I realized the usual story and the self-conceptions that are encouraged by it and the drugs that are administered with it were, at least in my case, the apparatus of a radically distorting fiction which had discouraged me from grasping or grappling with the actual problems -- cognitive, moral and spiritual -- while pushing me into otherwise pointless patterns of behavior.

Abandoning the social institution of being a mental health care patient is unfortunately a tricky business, to say the least, and I did not finesse it. I tried to go too fast, and there were further difficulties. It's a long story and not exemplary. I eventually found a psychiatrist who was able to listen to me. And now, at 46, I am four months away from being drug free. (I'm still taking a trace dose of clozapine -- 12.5mg per diem -- of which I have been very patiently stepping down the dosage for about five years.)

My conclusion has been that, in my case, a vast amount of suffering and waste of time would have been avoided had I rejected the diagnosis and rejected the treatment proposed to me when they were first introduced, 26 years ago. After 26 years of dealing with mainstream psychiatry, it's plain to me that it is a profession in almost total ignorance about its purported object -- madness -- and that its methods of classification and care are on the whole more destructive than they are helpful. (Please look at a previous post of mine on a somewhat related question -- scroll down -- for a fuller statement and some references.)

What I would urge you to do is familiarize yourself with the contrarian literature. Entertain the possibility that the concept of a major mental illness as something neurologically and biochemically characterizable is flawed to the point of being pseudo-scientific. You are absolutely right about there being a real stigma; one that the psychiatric profession more or less, in effect, seeks to enforce. (They are enthusiastic classifiers and assigners of levels of 'functionality'.) One way to get beyond the stigma, at least personally, is to see through the entire enterprise of materialist psychiatry. Otherwise put: to see that, whatever your no doubt very grave problems are, you do not 'have' anything properly called a mental illness.

Also I'd advise you do a lot of introspection about what is actually going wrong when your psyche is going wrong. The story you are being encouraged to tell yourself by the professional help -- there is this mood disorder -- is probably introducing unnecessary scripts and meanings and obscuring what has actually been happening. Reading in psychoanalytic and spiritual literature may give important clues. (For me, the book Thoughts Without A Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective, which is a little of both, was extremely useful.)

I hope this perspective helps one way or another. I know a lot of mefites accept contemporary materialist psychiatry as being basically valid, and feel that one ought to organize their lives within its confines, but you do not have to.
posted by bertran at 2:03 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]


I have Tourette Syndrome, and I wrote a bit about the shame and stigma of it here (it should be noted I was having a really bummer time dealing with it when I wrote that comment). I'd like to address the concern that you'll never be good enough for a partner.

I've joked to partners that they're getting a discount, like a floor model or a dented can; I'm so cute and such a good boo, but I'm broken. They always look at me like I'm talking complete nonsense.

People notice my tics. I get stared at by strangers and I have to explain myself to people at parties. But, say, after a year of living with someone, they don't even notice my tics anymore. It's just background noise.

No one will love you, and understand you, like the person you're supposed to be with. I think you have this idea that potential partners are going to be even harder on you, and have these standards for you: WHY AM I SETTLING FOR THIS CRAPPY DENTED CAN?

That's not how relationships work, honeypie. I can get through a first date without screaming the c-word a bunch of times; you can get through a first date without having a meltdown. By the time you're together long enough for them to see your symptoms emerge, they're going to be in love with you. And after a few years or so, your illness will just be background noise, and no one will understand it or have more patience for it than your partner.
posted by Juliet Banana at 8:18 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]


Hi. {BIG HUGS} You are not alone.

I've recently discovered the work of Alice Miller. I don't know your background, but I found her writing extremely helpful in gaining insight into how my own "condition" works, why I think/do what I do, a possible twist to the origin of my "helping" tendencies - and found a lot of relief in the understanding I got from her work.

You may also find the site Reappropriate of some use.

All the best!
posted by Wyeldfire at 12:31 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Thank you for your responses.

I am not proficient in comment responses so I don't know how to highlight people's names, but I wanted to respond to each one because this topic is very important to me and I am touched at those who responded.

@Michele_in_california, I really appreciated your response. I am sorry for your childhood experience. I kind of felt regrounded to read your take on things, it was very thoughtful and it made me imagine a reality that is more...real, not made up of extremes of normal and abnormal as my head sometimes operates in. That was helpful. I appreciate your suggestion of reading books about all kinds of "disorders" or different ways of thinking/being/having a mind. I have been reading Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon which is interesting; if you haven't read it yet I think you might enjoy it. I really think I have been steeping too much in Normal Tea lately. And it is somehow both bland and triggering.

@patheral, thanks for your response. I really love reading other people's takes on their diagnosis. I love that you call it mentally interesting. I am going to save that and repeat it to myself. It relates to the idea that I need to look at things as DIFFERENT not deficient. I have been recommended the Survival Guide by someone in my IOP as well. Once I radically accept (Yes, I am doing DBT) my diagnosis I can then move forward with actually learning about it. I am still in a state of denial, as is obvious.

@Kitty Cornered, thanks for your warm response. I think the idea of treating the rumination as an action and then distracting away from it is a good idea. For DBT we have to list our cravings for urges for like, suicidal thoughts, bingeing, drinking, etc. It helps us to be aware of it that way, to mentally compartmentalize, and to remind us to use a skill when the urge comes up. I will list self-stigma as an urge, a behavior that my mind engages in, rather than accept it as a state of reality. That was really helpful. Also the Get Out of Bed. That's been REALLY tough for me. I should paint it on my ceiling and wall hahaha.

@bluesuede, Yes, I am currently in a DBT program and it is in theory very helpful. I have been lagging in applying what I've been learning. Thanks for the reminder that self-stigma is actually a version of the black-and-white distortion and I need to work on addressing the thoughts & behaviors. I know it's supposed to be an active effort...but the first step, the radical idea of inherently not trusting my thoughts is still so scary to me.

@fox problems, thank you so much for those links. The background story alone makes me want to read them, and I have added them to my folder. I am really interested in the take of people with diagnoses who have gone on to become Clinical Psychologists as that is what I envision for myself.

@St_Peepsburg, a movie! Thank you! I will absolutely check it out. I am having a lowkey night tonight so I think I will put it on now. I just finished the chapter on Downs Syndrome in Far from the Tree which I mentioned above; I had never really read so much about the experience of having Down Syndrome (just read about it scientifically) but I feel I picked up a little from my reading and watching this will also give me an idea. The "different road" metaphor is also a good reminder. There is no one road.

@Bentobox, yeah my group of friends is really straight edge. I went to a preppy boarding school and then a university that it fed into. 95% of my Facebook Feed are either consultants, getting MBAs at Top 5s, getting JDs, or working for start ups, nonprofits, or nonprofit start ups. I need a reality adjustment. First step: Deleting Facebook.

@rue, it was really nice to hear some sympathy from someone who relates. I am thinking of joining some forums. I think opening up at IOP will also be helpful, there are a lot of people in my groups with Bipolar and Borderline. I guess it's just tough bc we are just all a bunch of mental patients right now. I mean, we're more than that. But we are also that. But...yeah, there is something to work on there. And I'm reminded why I want to become a psychologist, bc everyone is relatable and the labels are irrelevant to humanity.

@jrobin, thanks I will check out her blog!! I need a blog to follow!! thanks :)

@ProfessorPlum with a rope, I have read it for my Abnormal class. She is definitely an inspiration. I should revisit it now that I have the diagnosis.

@bertran, I really appreciate your advice. I am going to save it and revisit it throughout this process. Because that idea is radical and it's also important. I have moments where I view myself as a speck in the ultimate reality and remember the constructs of social/"biological"/psychological normalcy are just constructs. I want to become a Clinical Psychologist but I am also naturally a skeptic so I would like to be able to see things from both sides of the coins as I go through my career, rather than constantly be eating the cake, if that makes sense. I also have begun to read "The Unheard Cry for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl whose memoir really spoke to me early in my undergrad. I appreciate his approach and I think there is definitely something very contrarian about it. It speaks to the compassionate part of me that transcends all the diagnoses and stigma; I wish I could be that person more often.

@Juliet Banana, you are right...I think my self esteem definitely needs some work. Thank you for the example. Reading your post was really touching and informative. I don't know anyone with Tourette's and while reading your post I was horrified by what you come across but also not surprised To a less reductive extent, bipolar is also a punchline. It's gotten to the point where I become very, very sensitive anytime someone refers to someone as "crazy" in a denigrating way, which is pretty much any time someone calls someone crazy. I need a harder shell, but...there really is a lot of ignorance. Or maybe I am expecting a sensitivity that is just, rare. Also, "I can get through a first date without screaming the c-word a bunch of times" might be the best sentence on this page.

@Wyeldfire, thanks for the hugs!! I checked Alice Miller out briefly, she definitely has a compassionate voice, and interestingly one that scoffs at modern psychotherapy it seems. I always like to read different perspectives. I will read more.

Thank you to everyone. Reading that other people hear me, understand or if not, just care, and are taking the time to offer resources is really...just really valuable. I appreciate it so much. I sometimes forget that being human is about being alive and connecting; for so long to me my life and existence has been about performing and excelling and I keep forgetting how that is extreme and missing the point. Oftentimes my favorite part of the day is coming here just to read how this community responds to people's needs, and that phenomenon as well as the diversity of voices reminds me of what human existence really is. I just forget to apply it to myself. So thank you.
posted by bengalibelle at 8:33 PM on May 9 [1 favorite]


Also, @Wyeldfire, Thanks so much for the Reappropriate link. Clicking on it brought me to several articles regarding Asian American mental health issues, depression, and a movie about Bipolar Disorder in Indian women, and what looks to be interesting recent book by clinicians, a Feminist lens on Asian American women in therapy. I ordered it :-)

Thanks a bunch! That was an amazing resource.
posted by bengalibelle at 9:37 PM on May 9


Late to the party -- sorry! I have depression and totally empathize with you. So please know that people are on your side. And I recommend the graphic memoir Marbles by Ellen Forney, a Seattle cartoonist who has Bipolar I. She describes the journey she's made since diagnosis-- the desolation, the severe self-deprecation, the search for effective meds, figuring out how to disclose, developing a circle of supportive friends and family, and the joy of getting back onto an even keel. It's way better than I can describe! (It's also funny and warm, though not in a self-consciously "inspirational" way.) Here's a link: http://marblesbyellenforney.com/. I wish you well ...
posted by virago at 5:48 PM on May 10


My oldest has a very long list of issues. He was 11 before things began getting constructively unraveled. So I have read a lot of stuff on oddities in how the human mind can work. I just dropped back in to suggest you could also read up on Synesthesia. It is one of the weirder things my son has and he only has it intermittently: When sick enough, he "tastes colors." (No, I don't understand it. He was 19 when I finally learned that. Yeah, he isn't wired normally, not at all.)

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 1:33 PM on May 11


Yes, I've read about Synesthesia...it's really interesting! I watched some youtube video and a guy tastes words, including names. So he didn't know how to tell his best friend's wife that her name tasted awful to him, like shit. Nothing personal. Just the word, haha.

Through my schoolwork, I've learned a lot about the weird ways that the mind works, from taking classes on psychology and neuroscience. And when I actively learn about it, it does give me an appreciation for the range of human mental/psychological/neurological experience. I guess I just...wanted to be closer to the mean?? But I am beginning to radically accept. I also shamefully observe, as has been demonstrated above, that I have become overly self-absorbed during this entire process of monitoring, introspecting, etc. so I am signing up for NY cares to volunteer and just get out of my head into the world, and care for others which usually gives me feelings of connection and proper "worthiness".

Thanks for your well wishes and suggestions.

And virago, I have seen that title when I went to check out the aisles in the "psychiatry: bipolar disorder" section, which is the first thing I did after my diagnosis haha. I will check it out as well. I have been considering whether I want to read it or not, bc at first I wanted a scientific rather than experiential/autobiographical text, but maybe the connection with another would be more helpful. Thank you for the rec
posted by bengalibelle at 2:56 PM on May 11 [1 favorite]


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