Mental Illness – Are you Out?

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A very public meltdown ‘outed’ me.  I was on long-term medication for depression but desperately trying to get some additional support during a particularly horrible epsiode.  Wired but exhausted, exhausted but unable to sleep  I called the local IAPT helpline and was advised to double my anti-depressant dose.  Bad move.  The dose I was taking was the maximum ‘safe’ dose.  I knew this at the time.  But oh, I would have tried anything.  Whether or not this was the final straw I don’t know, but the outcome of going into work on a particularly twitchy day was that I had a panic attack (only the second one ever-woah those things are nasty) freaked out, spent two hours crying and thoroughly bewildered my colleagues.  Now long-term this meant that I had little choice but to be frank about my mental health.  OH already knew that I had a history of depression, but nobody else was aware.  I was big on ‘fake it til you make it’ and it had carried me through since my teens.  Or so I  convinced myself.  In actual fact, the impact of mental illness has cost me several jobs, and who knows how many opportunities, relationships and moments of joy.

Anyway, that big old meltdown was the catalyst for a lot of change, and it led to me finally accessing proper mental healthcare.  Although the continuity of that is kind of hit and miss.  Having long suspected that depression wasn’t my only problem, I saw a psychiatrist (well, several) who advised me that I have a mood disorder. Symptomatic of Bipolar II – although the severity of my depressive episodes doesn’t make it an exact fit.  Hearing that at least gave me some information to work with.  Somewhere to start in trying to find a way to function as successfully as possible.   Although the problem of coming to terms with long-term mental illness is a theme for another day.

Being outed was actually a positive thing for me.  Although it could have gone the other way.  My employers were incredible, although I continue to live in daily fear that I don’t bring enough to the table to justify some of their accomodations.  Some days I just can’t quite be the creature I am when I am well.  That’s frustrating.  But in some ways life is easier.

However, work is only one area of my life and I still face the age-old problem of how open to be.  Which led to me to thinking about how other people tackle the problem of what to reveal, to whom and when.

Are you out?

‘Celebrities are making careers from mental health problems’ – discuss

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Well, the internet got me good this week.  In a moment of rash curiosity I clicked on a link to an article and ended up on the website of a particularly unpleasant national newspaper.  I wouldn’t do this intentionally.  I deliberately avert my gaze in the Newsagents to avoid seeing this paper’s headlines because they tend to bring me out in pointless rage.  Anyway, the article was posted on what is usually a very helpful website, and I like a good old-fashioned debate so I clicked…’Celebrities are making careers from mental health problems…’  Had I read the small print and checked the source I would have resisted.  Honest.

Now there are several things that are obvious to me. If you’re tripping out on anxiety, sitting at home in the cold or dark because you’ve had to choose between heating and light, if you’re depressed and on the verge of eviction because you’re are barely surviving on benefits, if you are struggling with your medication and terrified that mental illness has made, or is going to make you, unemployable…(yes, I speak from experience) well, you’re not going to feel better because Ruby Wax knows what depression is like, or because Stephen Fry has spoken out about feeling suicidal .   Having said that, the book Depression and how to Survive it co-written by Spike Miligan and Antony Clare probably saved my life.  (And I do have a nerd-crush on Stephen Fry, but that’s beside the point I promise)

The idea that public figures should shut-up about mental illness now is ridiculous and dangerous.    I want people to talk about mental health until everyone is sick of it.  Until you could, should you so wish, reveal your schizophrenia in the same way you might mention your arthritis or any other debilitating condition and people will simply nod and ask you what you take for it and can you recommend a good specialist…

Who knows how many lives the embarrassed silence around mental illness has claimed?  To what extent the myths and  misconceptions have damaged and destroyed people?  You’d have to go back to the beginning of civilisation to find out.

Yes there are pitfalls when it comes to celebrities speaking out, people speculate about their motives and even the validity, or existence, of their diagnoses.  In fact some in the the media suggest it’s now ‘cool’ to be mentally ill (depending, it seems, on which illness you happen to have ) as if celebrities are advertising and endorsing mental illness rather than bringing it into the public domain.

Personally I don’t care if someone makes a mint from their illness.  I don’t care if they somehow get more work or greater exposure because of it.  Who does that hurt exactly? What hurts people is silence and stigma.  And you can talk about whether people are good or bad role models, you can discuss the wisdom of this or that person speaking out.  You can roll your eyes at rehab-celebrities and the negative press some might generate – but let’s face it, it would be hard to make the stigma of mental illness worse wouldn’t it?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2499812/Celebrities-making-careers-mental-health-problems-Bill-Oddie-says-stars-exploit-conditions.html

http://www.leftfootforward.org/2013/10/todays-sun-front-page-mental-health/

 

First-World Platypus: Wah

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An electrical-platypus in the central heating system has led to my wandering the house in several layers of clothes, a hat, gloves and scarf.  Massive socks add the final touches to the look (should you wish to emulate The Platpus’s AW13 style, enure that your over-sized socks are odd and that you have a scorch mark on the thumb of one of your gloves from lighter-related mishaps).  Man, it’s cold.

Were I to live in a crumbling ancestral pile nobody would be surprised to find me thus attired- a constant battle against wintersome chills is the price of such an inheritance is it not.  Unfortunately, the two-up-two-down-ness of my abode means that I have surprised a number of callers with my eccentric appearence.   However, once over the threshold it is clear they are jealous of my hat and keen to return to the comparative warmth outdoors.  Heheh.

Luckily I don’t work from home everyday (otherwise I might have to invest in a balaclava) and the heating should be fixed before the weekend is out.   It will be nice to be able to feel the end of my nose again.   I simply cannot bear being cold.

Anyway, this glitch is a good example of The Platpus encountering a platypus (see The Platypus Explained for complete understanding of this theory) which leads me on to the fact that The Platypus itself is also being rather glitch-y of late.   It objects strongly to cold, dark mornings and evenings and dislikes the sense of ‘shutting-down’ that autumn brings.

It sems there is a distinct seasonal pattern to my moods (although the black dog can bite at any time). Spring generally carries a strong danger of hypomania and Summer usually involves lengthy periods without sleep and some frenetic activity around a project which will be abandoned in the first week of September.   From September on the trajectory is downhill through the autumn and winter.  Despite knowing this, I still find myself surprised every year by the fact that I am repeating what has gone before.

So far into the autumn I have kept The Platypus under control, but it’s hard work keeping the cofusion in your head and remembering that your perspective on things is unavoidably coloured by it.  What is easy is a)  resenting everybody for not having extra-sensory perception b) crying because you can’t open the coffee jar (oh and because isn’t the whole damn universe just so unjust and cruel).  then feeling stupid when the lid finally pops off and you spray coffee everywhere.  Dustpan.  Brush.  Sigh.

Crying over sticky coffee-jar lids is embarrassing.  A first-world platypus indeed.  Although it’s not really about the coffee.  Crying over coffee is just safer than crying about things-worth-crying-about.  Where would you stop?

I wrote about going easy on myself not long back.  I’m still a lot better at it than I used to be, but one of the worst things that comes with this mood-confusion is that of feeling distinctly unlikeable.  If not unloveable.  There, I said it.  That was brave.  Resisting the urge to ask everyone if they still like you even though you are being a bit odd takes some doing.  Of course running around asking people questions like that is what makes you seem a bit odd in the first place. 

Wah…I can’t wait for the bi-polar winter to really kick in. If anyone wants me I’ll be under the duvet.  Possibly wearing a hat.