I will never forget my inpatient psych rotation during nursing school which fell right on the heels of my rotation on the oncology unit. My impression was when one is diagnosed with cancer we all come running-we fill your fridge and freezer with casseroles, we walk in your honor, we raise funds for cancer organizations, we put those colored ribbons on our cars, we go get tested ourselves, we help in every way possible... When one is diagnosed with bipolar this never happens (this also includes schizo affective disorders and other more complex psych diagnoses). We are afraid, we are nervous, we may have already distanced ourselves from those people because of the difficult and complicated process that accompanies these diseases. They often stand alone as they face the life altering diagnosis of permanent mental illness.
Bipolar can frequently be successfully regulated with meds and therapy along with behavior modification but it takes a behemoth to fight it because it's a hell of a disease. But, it can be done. I am learning more and more about this as a dear friend is standing strong working their way through it. Courage doesn't even begin to touch the surface of the core of this person. Meds can work but bipolar can also take the life of the soul harnessed with the diagnosis because it is a manipulative disease that intoxicates their brains with thoughts and ideas that coax them away from the therapeutic path,that remove their hope, that jeopardize their self-talk into believing something different than what their professionals have told them....Much like that person who encouraged you to try your first drink, your first cigarette, maybe your first joint or more. As floor nurses we see bipolar patients frequently and ER nurses, EMTs, and paramedics see it in its most raw state when those folks stop or misuse their meds or self medicate to try to numb the extensive symptoms that partner with it.
We live in a society filled with undiagnosed psych issues but the world self medicates with alcohol, food, shopping, gambling, hoarding, online games, illicit drug use, sex addiction and more. Robin Williams self medicated and volunteered that information. I think it's fair to say we ALL have hit depression or anxiety at some point in our lives if it's not a chronic issue or a generalized but reasonably functional baseline.
We need to continue to open our minds and hearts to mental illness with each passing day. Our society has come a long way from the insane asylums and "crazy houses" of days gone by but I think we continue to struggle with staying consistent.
I am heartbroken that mental illness took the life of another but how many others died in a similar way today... They are nameless and they were alone, too. Please keep those amazing folks and especially those fighting the good fight in your thoughts, too. Let's continue to work together to de-stigmatize mental illness so these moments can be fewer.
Thanks for reading. I will be quiet now.