Feeling down. Was feeling productive even good this morning. Then got two disappointing grades and my mood just plummeted. Actually thinking of dropping one of the classes. Emotional me wants to drop out entirely, well out of life- but you get the picture. My image for so long has been built on my academics, since I’m not able to work. It’s either that or my mental illness when it prevents me from school. Ugh.
I’m at my parents house tight now, killing time before needing to leave for school. Today is the first day of the semester, I really should be looking back on my Italian. I have a feeling she will be going right into Italian and I will be confused, it’s been a year since I last took it but on the plus that’s going to be the case for almost everyone in the class because it was dropped last semester due to lack of enrollment. After Italian class will be a counseling appointment then later this evening my math class.
I am feeling better today. I had these nasty nasty feelings inside yesterday. I was trying to blog them out but just couldn’t express it. It seemed they were going to overtake me. I decided to facebook message a blogger friend, and though I was super negative I was able to express what was going on. I cried for quite a bit but felt somewhat better after, the feelings lifted some. This morning I am back to my base self.
I need to catch up on my blogging, both Zero to Hero and linking the round up posts for the 30 Days of Mental Illness Awareness Challenge. I also have a bunch of ideas floating around and some half written posts from the recent surges in energy. I’m just trying to stay stable or at least not end up hospitalized or self harming or anything like that; and sometimes that means stepping back from just about everything. So I apologize for my hit and miss blogging lately, especially to the new comers. I usually blog at least once a day and if not that every other day or so.
These past few weeks have been odd, my life is always odd so I didn’t think much of it. Then again I am constantly over analyzing so when I didn’t feel an ounce of tiredness at 4 am on Thursday night/Friday morning I thought maybe I’m going back into a hypomanic or manic type episode. My symptoms have been wacky lately with a disproportional “up” period and unusual properties of the voices and re-emergence of the self harm urges. I think it may be the Effexor, I am rarely on 2 anti-depressants at a time. The schizoaffective disorder bipolar type means I am on Lamictal (moodstabalizer for bipolar), Seroquel (anti-psychotic for schizo and has mood stabilizing properties), Desipramine (anti-depressant because I deal with depressive and mixed episodes most in the bipolar scheme) and other meds not related to that diagnosis. In November because of a deep depression, Effexor was added to the drug cocktail and in December it was increased as I was still in the depths of the depression. I am now wondering if the anti-depressant is triggering manic or hypomanic symptoms like it can do in people with bipolar disorder. So that’s why I’ve been slacking, trying to figure out this medication and symptom situation. Hard to blog when you are running around and got a million ideas in your head, some will be finished today and posted.
Anyone with bipolar disorder had a reaction with Effexor that induced manic or hypomanic symptoms? Looking for feedback.
Part 3: Myself, Stigma, and Certain Mental Illnesses
I don’t think anyone would chose to have a mental illness. But if you had to have one and got to pick it out, what would you do? Why would you pick that specific diagnosis? If you are a person already living with a mental illness, would you chose your own or a different illness? Why?
There is stigma attached to mental illness, I don’t care which one there is. People are making efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness by awareness and telling their stories. Mental health blogging, media attempts in the UK, billboard adds in my state/city, videos posted on youtube, conferences, support groups, education in some form (whether to schools, law enforcement, providers, etc.) A lot more people are “coming out” about their mental illness than in the past. But there is still stigma, judgment, and even discrimination.
Even more so it depends on what mental illness you have. Some illnesses have more negative stigma attached to them: schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, autism, sometimes bipolar disorder, and personality disorders. Others have a more acceptable nature to them: depression, sometimes bipolar disorder, and OCD. Of course there are many more mental illnesses than these and people’s perceptions change depending on how your symptoms present themselves. I investigated how some of these stereotypes and stigma have been created and reinforced by the media through crime and celebrities.
Now, I want to tell you about the stigma that comes with my disorders and how I think about it. I have schizoaffective disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD), along with symptoms of many other illnesses that I am not formally diagnosed with. Both schizoaffective disorder and BPD have a lot of stigma attached to them.
With schizoaffective disorder, most people do not know what it is or are familiar with it. Heck, I hadn’t even heard of it until I was diagnosed with it myself. My explanation is usually “it is a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.” The reactions I get vary from awkward silence to “no that can’t be you, you look too normal.” I have people who avoid me after learning my disorder and some who are rather inquisitive. A common question is “do you hear voices?” As I have mentioned before I really like kids and have worked with them in a variety of settings. I have NEVER mentioned my psychotic symptoms to employers, co-workers or co-volunteers, or the parents of the children I have taught and looked after. People perceive those with psychosis to be dangerous and not able to look after themselves. In most people’s minds and experience there is nothing that “normal” people experience to compare to psychosis. It is not something they can relate to themselves and therefore is scary and grossly misunderstood.
The bipolar tends to be a lot more accepted, most people know what it is and it doesn’t have as much stigma attached. Celebrities with bipolar disorder have some what normalized the condition and the increasing rates of diagnosis makes it very likely that they know someone who is effected by it. The mood symptoms are by far, the most recognized and easy to relate to. Though people often minimize bipolar symptoms when they try to relate it to themselves; but it is my opinion that they are trying to help or take a positive approach to it.
With BPD I have a much harder time. BPD is a term known more than schizoaffective but less understood and contains MANY more stereotypes. Other than mental health professionals and family I have only told 2 other people by diagnosis of BPD. BPD has a lot of stigma because of the symptoms and the fact that many people do not see it as a brain disorder. The main “stigma” causing criteria are:
- A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation,
- Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, threats or self-injuring behavior such as cutting, interfering with the healing of scars (excoriation) or picking at oneself.
- Inappropriate anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights).
- Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).
People do not want to be friends or partners with people who have “a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships.” Word gets around quick and after the ending of an interpersonal relationship (friend, co-worker, partner) there is usually a consensus that you were the cause and that people should stay away from you. The internet is full of stories of people who knew someone with BPD and all the terrible things that person went through because of them. Living with BPD it is extremely hard to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships.
Not very many people understand suicidal behavior, unless you have been there it is hard to comprehend. People get nervous when you mention it. Others think your behavior is attention seeking and manipulative. People will get “feed up” with the “recurrent” aspect of it. Although suicidal behavior is hard to understand in any situation, when it was a one time thing and the reasons leading up to it seemed to semi make sense people can live with that. You were in a tough place, you did something extreme, you learned from it, that’s it. Some insensitive people actually believe that people with this behavior should die, that they are just taking up resources, and aren’t going to get better anyways.
Anger, the hallmark of BPD. I can’t think of a single other mental illness that pops into my mind when someone says anger issues– maybe oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) but that is a childhood mental illness so I couldn’t have that. When people say sadness, there are ideas of different degrees of depression, maybe grief, a stressful event. When people say lots of energy, there is mania/hypomania or ADHD. Obsessive behavior could be OCD, maybe autism or an autistic spectrum disorder. Anxiety could be related to depression, social anxiety, phobias, or stressful events. And all these symptoms I just mentioned tend to have an impact that often doesn’t effect others. When people get angry and have “difficulty controlling anger” it is often directed at someone. The anger is also often seen as irrational or much more intense than the situation called for, “inappropriate ”
Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood, which just means quick intense mood swings. Sometimes they last minutes or hours and rarely more than a couple days. The problem with the mood swings coming so fast is that people can’t predict your mood or behavior. One moment you are screaming at someone and a second later you are crying. When you throw it into the first criteria of relationships that I mentioned it gets even more tricky. You hate someone you are accusing them of cheating on you and then less than an hour later you love them so much and they are the best thing that happened in your life, and maybe you should get married.
As I mentioned earlier I have only told 2 people other than family and mental health professionals about my BPD diagnosis. I also had to explain in depth what it is, why I act the way that I do, and that I don’t fit many of the stereotypes and was not someone to avoid or a helpless cause. Of course, this is outside the blogging world. I know I have BPD and also that many of my behaviors and symptoms have greatly improved over the years. I have not self harmed in over 8 months. I’m trying to cope with my anger is more healthy ways than turning it inward or self harming. I have learned skills and take medication that helps with the mood swings. My relationships still need work, and one reason is that I don’t have many because of anxiety and rejection/abandonment fears. I do sometimes ask other people’s opinions when I have a difficulty in a relationship, to see it from another point of view that is removed from the situation. I still have symptoms and also have all the past behavior that I can’t make magically go away. I have been manipulative, I have had anger outbursts, done impulsive things, and more behavior I am not proud of. BPD is a personality disorder and many people see it as a flaw in character, that is their personality and they aren’t going to change. They have acted like that way in the past, why would they not repeat it in the future. There is little sympathy and much judgment when dealing with BPD, and yes I often feel shame and embarrassment regarding it and am not comfortable letting people know I suffer from it. I am better at the stigma I direct at myself, I understand the illness and know my progress. I don’t see it as character flaws but am too fearful that other do to be out and open about it.
Many people know about my mood instability, in the form of bipolar type symptoms. I struggle more so with depression and people are understanding and often are willing to make accommodations for me. As I mentioned before, people can relate to it on some level. I many times don’t say exactly that I have bipolar disorder but more often the symptoms and that I struggle with depression. When I am hospitalized I often need to explain to college professors why I was gone… no matter the reason I explain that I have schizoaffective disorder and then explain what it is. The reason I do this is because most people do not see bipolar disorder as that big of a deal, people have it and they control their lives pretty well. They may be annoying with their talkativeness and excessive energy but it’s often not seen in extremes. The same with depression, if I mention that aspect the automatic assumption is you were suicidal or made a suicide attempt and that’s why you were in the hospital. Then come the questions of why, the pity, and sometimes advice/pep talks that just make matters worse. When I explain I also have psychotic symptoms, I can write off my hospitalization being due to voices. Most people are too afraid to ask more specifics about the voices and consider it to be impairing and “worthy” of hospitalization. When I was first diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder I was crushed, it is a chronic and sometimes degenerative disorder, it can be managed by medication but still wreaks havoc on my life. I do let people know I have the disorder when it needs to be done, and only after proving myself to be a good person. I need to prove that I don’t meet the stereotype and not have people judging me or assuming by abilities based on a label. Most people are puzzled when I say I have schizoaffective disorder but I have proved myself prior so usually their perceptions of me don’t change.
Interestingly, I am much more accepting of my BPD diagnosis though I don’t want others to know I have it. I have a hard time accepting the schizoaffective disorder and will often stigmatize myself when thinking what I can and can’t accomplish because of this illness. Who I am and who I will always be, but I am more comfortable explaining that as my diagnosis then the BPD. It’s frustrating having two stigmatized illnesses and if I had to pick a mental illness, I would probably not pick either of these. I feel like it is easier to admit to others that I have schizoaffective disorder and to admit to myself that I have BPD. I hope at one point I can feel comfortable admitting to myself and others that I have both illnesses, but neither define who I am.