stigma

Mind control

Control your mind and you’ll be fine

he said to this insomniac

during a hypomanic attack

lucky for him it was said via ext

or else I’d have broken his neck

Control my mind?

Something that’s never been mine?

A quick trick so simplistic

the mere thought of it makes me sick

he crossed the line this time

I’ve tried to be honest about my illness

that there never is any stillness

or reprieve to be received

the concept is understood

but in practice its’ overlooked

a sarcastic apology defensive

in my raw state it’s offensive

to redirect blame is a shame

There are hundreds of things I cannot say”, he shouts as I walk away

I can’t argue with that

all I can do is detach

Control your mind he says over and over

but if I could, I’d have the cure for bipolar

Advertisements

There is nothing normal about stigma

There’s her and then there’s me. We work in the same department. She’s an outcast like me and we are both talked about behind our backs for different reasons.

The facts

In June I fell. A side effect from bipolar meds – loss of balance. I was alone. No one to help me. The pain? I sucked it up. I had to. I’m alone. What else must I do? I went for physio and endured this pain for 2 months without anyone giving a shit. They were intolerant, annoyed with me. I presume a lot of eye rolling. After no improvement 2 months later, I was put into hospital. I drove myself there and I drove myself home. Despite the pain. I was in hospital for 5 days. No one from work messaged me, phone or visited. No one gave a shit. Diagnosis – a herniated disc and sciatica. Treatment – drugs, physio, and an epidural. None of the treatments worked and I was sent home in exactly the same pain with no information on pain management for sciatica. I did this alone and have no one at home to help me with everyday tasks.

She also fell. Granted a far more dramatic fall than mine – she fell down some stairs. But there are parallels in our injuries because both have resulted in pain. Her – a broken rib and a compressed vertebrae. The difference? She has a husband and a teenage son. They helped her, phoned an ambulance. Everyone one of us at work was more than concerned. The people I work with had a busy day, sending text messages and phone calls to her, to family members and involved themselves in her crisis. Concern was expressed, we talked amongst ourselves with compassion. No judgement or criticism; sending good wishes, getting updates. There was no eye rolling involved. They’re all going to visit her over the weekend.

The difference

As far as our ‘work friends’, in her crisis, she mattered. In my crisis, I didn’t. The difference? I have bipolar. She doesn’t. I was long ago labelled ‘drama queen’, over sensitive, too emotional. So everyone rolls their eyes and I am dismissed, overlooked and invisible. No one believes me. Fuck, I feel so alienated. This does not feel normal. I’ve tried to find the normal in this but realised stigma is not normal. At least, it shouldn’t be.

Ignorance is not a good look. Don’t they realise how ugly it makes them. I am also going to visit her this weekend because I know how important it is to have visitors when you’re in hospital. I’m going because I genuinely care, not because I’m just fucking curious.

Unfolding me

what’s mine

what’s me

what’s meant to be

will unfold naturally

no more sorries

no more worries

where I am and what I have

is just that

my life is a map

not a trap

I’ll explore

what I adore

and that’s all

not more force

or contort

try to control

what I hold

what I have is what is meant to be

so its perfectly enough for me

and who I am

is not damned

the me I’m getting to know

needs to go slow

to explore

exactly what it is I adore

Thank to everyone who lifted me up during a painful and vulnerable episode on Thursday. You each made a difference and I can’t express how comforting it was knowing I have friends who care, and make time to offer support and encouragement. You are all special to me

 

Stigma calls me a monster?

Sometimes I do turn into a monster. Sometimes I do feel like a monster. Sometimes I feel consumed by monstrous thoughts and tidal waves of emotion.

But I am not a monster. I don’t accept that. I am a beautiful empath. The intensity of my emotions make me passionate in everything I do. My sensitivity makes me able to walk in another’s shoes. I am the keeper of secrets when people confide in me. I am creative and caring. I am kind and reliable. I am incapable of lying. There is never an agenda in any thought or action. I have a sense of humour and am the first to laugh at myself. I am strong and brave. I have a beautiful heart and a deep, insightful soul. I am intelligent and interestingly imperfect. I fiercely feel every ounce that life has to offer. I’m no monster.

As much as bipolar is a curse, it is also a blessing. Without its depths I would feel hollow and dull. I can’t imagine living a life like that doesn’t gleam with intensity. Mood swings? With inconsistency every day brings a new surprise. From those dark days comes wisdom. I am proudly bipolar. So stigma can kiss my ass, along with all the ordinary folk that fuel its existence. I am me, and I love me just the way I am.

 

Isolated by rage and stigma

This has been a difficult week for me. I want to say traumatic but some people would think I’m being overly dramatic. I am having problems with an internet service provider. I have been verbally abused, intimidated, dodged, transferred from one department to the other and lied to. Repeatedly. My complaints go unanswered by the company, even though I’m well within my legal right and could actually sue them.

In judgement of rage

So naturally suffering from bipolar rage, I had a blowout [here] but the resulting fallout is I have plummeted into depression. I mean, I was depressed to begin with. Now this. And my co-workers think I’m a lunatic. This is what they told me – I didn’t handle the situation properly;  I should have spoken nicer, acted better and if I had done those things I would have received a better response. But if I receive a phone call from the company and I am screamed at right off the bat and not given a chance to talk, OF COURSE I’M GONNA SCREAM BACK. I still asked this woman “are you intimidating me”? Her reply was “Yes. I am intimidating you”. How am I going to respond to that? Of course I’m going to get fucking angry.

I feel powerless. About the situation and in an emotional sense. Which in and of itself is distressing and hopeless. I don’t know where the line is between passive or aggressive. I swing to either extremes without ever finding a calm, cool foothold in the middle. I get the feeling I’m not allowed to be angry… ever….  That my anger is dismissed – oh, she’s not getting angry because she has just cause to be, but because she’s ‘bipolar’. Does that make any sense?

When living in the real world

I am entitled to get angry when someone is being unjust with me. But why am I the only one held accountable, blamed? Why has no one said – that saleswoman was a bitch; good for you for standing up for yourself; asserting your rights? No, the finger is pointed squarely in my direction. I am the one at fault! I have behaved inappropriately. And I have to sit surrounded by these judgements and assumptions all day long.

I feel ‘less than’ my co-workers because I react differently, because I have bipolar. I feel invisible, diminished, judged, shamed, inferior, incapable, truly disabled and barely tolerated. I am overshadow by self-doubt, paranoia and self-loathing with a mix of suicide ideation. Its a case of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenario to live in their world. When I’m myself, I’m accused of being awful. And when I’m silent I’m accused of not participating. So I try not to exist. I would rather retreat into silence. If I don’t open my mouth, I will not ripple the water. I thought yesterday counted for something. But it didn’t. Stigma is still alive and well because I am living and working amongst it. I can literally say, I have been silenced by stigma.

Rage episode brings about advocacy

Today has beaten me. I’m black and blue and trailing blood.

rage

The culprit? Another rage episode. That’s what my doc calls it – a rage episode. This is my worst symptom second only to insomnia. At work I am rather notorious in the temper arena, in the past having been called in by management for numerous accounts of “unacceptable behaviour”. I’ve worked very hard on strategies to temper that temper, but it would appear my current instability has breathed new life into it. My biggest trigger is when I feel something unfair or unjust is being done to me. Which is what happened to me today while dealing with an internet provider.

Advice isn’t always a bipolar fit

But ordinary folk don’t understand this side of bipolar – the uncontrollable rage. They offer advice (or judgment depending on the person). Suggestions of:

all you need to do is ….xyz
maybe if you this…..
or maybe if you didn’t do that…….
you don’t have to get so upset
it’ll blow over in the morning….
just put a smile on your face
its not bad, you’re blowing it out of proportion…..
maybe if you spoke nicely…..
remember you attract more bees with honey…….

After the unexpected outburst I disappeared into the toilets to cry, giving opportunity for my co-workers to talk about me. You know that abrupt silence mid-conversation as you walk through the door? Yep, I’m already deeply ashamed, and now I’m marginalised. I felt demolished by the whole incident. But I took a deep breathe, apologised for my behaviour and, punctuated by crying-hiccups, tried to explain triggers and episodes in this particular instance.

Once the dust had settled

I tried to explain ME. That I don’t enjoy behaving in an inappropriate manner; that its not something I choose. I explained I have strategies in place to prevent being put into those triggering situations, but sometimes things in life pop up and are beyond the containment of my strategies. I tried to explain that I couldn’t follow their advice because my brain simply doesn’t work that way. I ended the conversation with – I don’t choose it, it’s just the way I am.

They seemed sympathetic and I can only hope that what I said brought about a better understanding of ME, and a greater tolerance of bipolar disorder. So despite the bruises, bumps and lumps of a traumatic day, there came an opportunity to advocate for bipolar. I hope I did us proud.

 

In the wake of rage

*trigger warning – a long post, lots of words – ADD/ADHD sufferers may be excused. Peppered with ‘vulgar’ language*

Rage. It’s a core bipolar symptom that greatly impacts my life. It’s rarely spoken about, much like hypersexuality, because it is a symptom shrouded in shame, humiliation, remorse and regret. This post has been difficult to write, difficult to face and all the more difficult to post. I’m airing my dirty laundry for all the internet to see. I hope this post can educate the uniformed friend/parent/spouse/partner/work colleague/manager or innocent bystander, and can provide validation for anyone else who also struggles with rage.

A strategy sidelined
Managing this illness involves having strategies to avoid triggers. I knew my old landlord would find some way to not pay back my deposit. I knew this because he had revealed himself to be a lying, cheating, bullshit speaking conman. In anticipation of moving day I knew his behaviour would trigger my own. I had a perfectly good strategy – since my father kept insisting on helping me move, I gave him the job of outgoing inspection and key handover. I briefed him on the lack of maintenance and the risk that I would fly into a rage should I have to deal with that man. But when the day came, my father, in all his controlling glory, insisted I be present. I was raised by him to be codependent, a people-pleaser and compliant, so I did what I was told. Old habits die hard.

The landlord began talking. About 3 words in, I lost my shit COMPLETELY. When that rage breaks the surface, I’m not expecting it. I don’t anticipate it. There is no thought behind what I say or how I behave. It just projectile vomits out my mouth with a will of its own. And once the fury has been unleashed, I don’t really remember much of what I say. But it has been said and the damage is done. I know it frightens people, I can see that. I know it’s abusive because I’ve seen the damage. I am most certainly not proud of myself.

Shame and blame
My father witnessed this rage episode in all its filthy, dirty glory and things will never be the same again. By the time we got back to the car I was still ranting about what an asshole the landlord was. My father turned on me and screamed “For fucksake Pieces, shut the fuck up!”. My father doesn’t swear. I apologised several times over the course of the following week. I tried to explain that what he saw was a symptom. I was desperate, I was grovelling. For his forgiveness, for his love, for his acceptance. All I got was The Silent Treatment. Then exactly a week later he sent me this text:

Hi Pieces. I don’t think you can comprehend just how traumatised I was when I witnessed your totally unacceptable behaviour towards M(landlord) on the day you moved. It actually was a shock hearing MY daughter use such abusive language. I acknowledge that I “lost it” (due to the fact that you continued with the vulgar language [sorry to butt in here, but I never once used the word CUNT so I don’t understand where he gets ‘vulgar’ from] and in turn I swore at you, which I regret and apologise for. All this has not been easy for me to put behind me, but time is a great healer, so let’s move on now.

Let’s move on? LET’S FUCKING MOVE ON? Maybe he’s the one with bipolar because that sure as shit sounds fucking delusional! And speaking of traumatised? WHAT ABOUT ME? YOUR OWN DAUGHTER? YOUR ONLY CHILD? You’ve abused and traumatised me my entire fucking life!!!!!!!!!!! Oops I did it again – was that vulgar? Anyway, detach, detach, detach. I carefully considered my response and went with:

Thank you for letting me know how you feel. Hope you have a lovely weekend. Sleep tight x

No apologies for my biology
In the wake of rage I feel deeply ashamed, remorseful, embarrassed, guilty, confused. So if you love me, don’t blame and shame me. I do enough of that to myself already. On my About page I say “I offer no apology for my own biology”. While there’s no excuse for my behaviour, because strategies can easily avoid the trigger – which I happen to do successfully at work. The one thing I will not do, is apologise for behaviour that is a concrete symptom of an illness that is beyond my control. Who tells a tuburculosis patient to stop coughing! Or someone with a broken leg to stop using crutches? Or a cancer patient undergoing chemo to stop losing their hair? Bipolar is not a choice, it’s a genetic illness. Symtoms are not a choice. They are part of a complex neurobiological disease. Apologising for exhibiting this symptom, in my opinion, is expecting me to apologise for having blue eyes, a different accent, being righthanded, having brown hair or being knocked-kneed.

I had warned him. But he insisted on doing things his way – it’s always his way or the highway. This disaster could have been avoided. I had a strategy. I thought I had a voice. But as is with my father that voice is never heard. I complied and chaos ensued. And he lays the blame squarely at my feet because he is ignorant and uneducated about my illness. Well he chose his way for the last time, and I’m hittin’ the highway. My pleasing days are over. I don’t want his ‘love’ or approval. The cost is too high. I have plenty of people who like me just the way I am. Well, maybe not plenty, but enough.

But god’s honest truth be told, I AM ashamed. I’m deeply ashamed of the person I become when rage overtakes. Which is why this piece of me was so difficult to reveal.

 

I am a human being
capable of doing terrible things
-AWOLNATION (Run)

 

Suicide – a commitment to death

Bipolar can kill you in one of three ways. Firstly, the actual medications used to treat the illness can kill you. Will most likely kill you. Simply put, pretty much all of them will cause organ failure over time or left unmonitored. And if your organs fail you die.

Secondly, people who have bipolar are at a higher risk for substance abuse and addiction, the complications of which can kill in a myriad of ways.

Thirdly, if the illness is left untreated for long enough – whether it be undiagnosed or treatment resistance – you die. You don’t die in the same way you’d die from organ failure – the more socially accepted way to die. No, you die by your own hand. You take your own life. You commit suicide. It is greatly frowned upon (and misunderstood) by ordinary (ignorant) folk who whisper “selfish” and “weak” in dishonourable contempt of the world we, the mentally ill, occupy.

I want to deconstruct this terminology – committed suicide. Selfish? Weak? Not at all. The very nature of the word ‘committed’ highlights the profound intent behind the act. A commitment takes effort, planning, energy, courage, faith, motivation, confidence, determination, ability to follow through. So to not only want to die, but to want to succeed at dying, one would have to be extremely committed to the cause. Think about it – committed suicide. A commitment to death.

I’d call that honourable and courageous.

Tired of lying

I’m a liar and I’m tired of lying.

I’m tired of pretending. I’m tired of wearing a mask that has to change shape with individual people and then changes again for varying circumstances.

I’m tired of saying I’m fine when I’m not. I’m tired of being judged for simply being born as me. I’m tired of pleasing and feeling like a dog performing tricks for treats and approval. I’m tired of trying so hard yet always falling short of expectations – always, always, always. I’m tired of saying ‘I’m sorry’ when it’s beyond my control.

I’m tired of being met by silence when an emotion slips out. I’m blatantly ignored, my emotions unvalidated and no one offers support or comfort. Instead the collective eye-rolling causes a Pacific Ocean hurricane as they label me ‘oversentive’ and ‘what a drama queen’…… I’m tired of my emotions treated as imaginary, being ignored and brushed under the rug – if they don’t see them by default they don’t exist. For them. But not for me. Oh they’re very real to me. So, if you can’t handle my emotions isn’t that your problem, and not mine?

I’m tired of intolerance.  I’m tired of being taken to task for my reactions, motivations and reasoning because they’re different to ordinary folk. BUT YOOOOHOOOO! I AM DIFFERENT. My brain is different to your brain. I was born into this genetic illness. An illness that is legally classified as a disability but to ordinary folk I am a hypochondriac with a wild imagination. I’ve found ordinary folk all too ready to say ‘nooooo, you shouldn’t feel like that’ or ‘nooooo, you’re being silly now’

I’m tired of people trying to change who I naturally am. I’m angry, furious, indignant. But still I take another pill to subdue the ‘undesirable’ parts of me to ease the discomfort of those around me. And I carry on sitting in my private pain, drugged, apologising and doing tricks like a dog to please.