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Mental illness is embarrassing. Why?
The society is now opening up to same sex relationships. It is something that happens inside one in every 50 homes if not more. I am all for the freedom to choose a way of life. I often speak to my friends who are planning a baby to be prepared to discover and accept their child’s sexual preferences.
If you are wondering where I may be going with this conversation, I wish to talk about ‘mental illness’ in comparison with same sex relationships only because both carry a gigantic taboo around them.
While we are taking to the streets about the rights of the former the latter i.e. the mentally ill are still embarrassed to accept their own condition.
I am one of those people. While I have completely embraced my condition and am learning to take care of myself, I haven’t told my cousins about it, or my boss or a lot of other people. And the reason is 1 of course the fear of being judged, but the other I have realized over the years is that our society is not ready with a reply to the statement, ‘I suffer from depression‘.
Me to boss – I suffer from depression and may at times need unplanned days off. The days when I am in a dark place.
Boss to me – Oh! Sure! How often does it happen?
What? Do you know how often this year will you be down with viral fever? A simple ‘I understand’ would do.
One may argue that one’s sexual preference is not likely to have any effect on productivity in the workplace while mental illnesses can adversely effect productivity and harmony. Here is news for you; do you know what else can adversely affect productivity and harmony in your organization? ‘Migraine headaches’. (which could have very well been caused due to work stress)
I intentionally did not pick common cold as a parallel because migraine headaches can be faked as well as depression. There is no test to detect either but does that mean they do not exist? How do you manage productivity drops due to migraine headaches?
A simple reply to the statement, ‘I suffer from depression’ would be ‘I understand’. But like I said, we are not equipped with answers. Why are we are not equipped with appropriate responses to something that affects 1 in every 4 people?
Have you heard of a little baby who was trapped in a room and had to cry out aloud for the neighbours to come and rescue her, give her a hug and a glass of water?
We are talking about 1 in 4 people trapped inside a room but do not have a voice to cry out loud mainly because they think there won’t be anyone outside holding a glass of water.
These are the ones who need to ‘get out of the closet’ just in order to live a better life.
So here is me coming out of the closet. I suffer from Bipolar Disorder and the more I read about it the more I understand the reasons behind being called names like ‘whimsical’ and ‘tantrum child’ even at a very young age.
At least half of the cases of Bipolar Disorder start before the age of 25 and that it takes an average of 8 years for the disorder to be diagnosed. Definition – Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Bipolar is a serious mental illness that can damage relationships, career prospects, academic performance, and can even lead to suicidal tendencies.
I was blessed to have suffered no damages in 2 areas – my academic performance and my career.
Emilie Autumn, the American singer-songwriter, poet, and violinist said – “I’m bipolar, but I’m not crazy, and I never was. I’m stark raving sane.”
I too continue to ride the Bipolar Roller-Coaster and I am stark raving sane.
Pic: The image used here was part of project on subverting stereotypes about mental illness, by Jen H (Used under a Creative Commons license)
The power of stories to inspire change made me turn into a storyteller. I write
Wow! I go through episodes of clinical depression – which is mild compared to bipolar. And yet I was asked at my last job “how dared I even apply for the job given “my condition”!”. I quit of course and set up my own company! But that is really not the solution is it? Yes, please spread awareness on how common mental illness is. And totally unrelated, how okay it is to be single 🙂
There are many awesome people in the world who don’t feel ready for a relationship because they’d rather focus on healing themselves first. I’m sure you are one of those awesome people, Gouthami 🙂
The taboo that surrounds mental health discussions definitely needs to be disappear and kudos for being brave and admitting your own illness in a world that doesn’t want to hear it. But what also needs to be highlighted is that just like any physical illness, mental illnesses like depression and bipolar disorder can and need to be treated! The treatment method is not always a conventional ‘out of a bottle’ pill or tonic. Treatment includes regular sessions with a counselor or psychiatrist. There’s no shame in that either. It can be a long and slow healing process as compared to popping an antibiotic pill, but it’s worth it. Sometimes, getting to the root of the depression and healing that part of life, takes you a long way down the path to recovery. People who suffer from mental illnesses don’t just need days off, they need healing help from trained professionals. It’s high time that the phrase “I need to see a counselor” is taken on par with the phrase “I need to see a doctor”.
I have seen a psychophrenic brother in law behaving more sensibly than others in my family when I was newly married. I have wondered why he was not included more in the family fold. That was forty years back and his parents included felt ashamed to even accept the fact that it was okay to have a mentally ill person in the family.
My father has been suffering from this since I was a kid and while I am sure the person in question has to deal with many shifts and challenges, the immediate family needs to understand and accommodate those changes which are extremely hard to accept & can get very exhausting & hurtful. Having said that I have seem my dad maturing, growing and even dealing with this illness and making attempts to control his episodes. We as a family have made sure to address this issue rather then hide it in a closet. Our psychiatrist once told us its a sign of greatness- Abrahim Lincholn and Jimmy Hendrix had it!
Read Jerry Pinto’s “Em and the Big Hoom” – the perfect description on how a family handles mental illness. It is not all pathos. There is so much humour in it as well. And really, that is how my life is. An episode is terrible while it lasts, but afterwards, gives me a lot to laugh about.
I meant schizophrenic not psychophrenic – sorry about the spelling mistake.
This is a brave post and I’m glad you wrote it, Aaradhee. It’s a big step forward when people talk on public forums about this struggle with mental health problems. I occasionally blog about mine and I regularly get very heartfelt mails about how it helped somebody to read my posts, not because I said anything very profound but simply because there was another voice talking about it, placing things in context. I’m linking to this post of yours. Take care.
it’s so strong of you to write about it and share it with the public!
Thank you all.
It has been over 10 years and it somewhere sadly feels like a way of life. I am fortunate to have found great professional help and have done well irrespective of the lack of an emotional support system.
It did not take me long to accept I suffer, it took me way too long to get diagnosed but it has taken forever for me to realize that it is OK to be Bipolar and one of the key reasons for writing on this topic is so that the society understands that too – It is OK to have a mental illness.
In fact I truly believe acceptance will helps the cause. The day society has a empathic response to the statement “I suffer from depression” is the day more people will accept their own situation. Acceptance can only lead to change.
Heena, I am so glad to hear how a complete family has come together to deal with Bipolar Disorder. I am sure it is extremely taxing and hence it is great that you are more than one. And yes there is a whole list of great people – http://www.famouspeoplearehuman.com/famous-people-mental-illness.htm. SMILE:)
GAUTHAMI – I am going to get my hands on Jerry Pinto’s “Em and the Big Hoom” immediately.
Have you heard Ruby Wax. She is inspiring – http://www.ted.com/talks/ruby_wax_what_s_so_funny_about_mental_illness.html
I think this is a well written piece and and am so very glad that finally people are going up to talk about this In our country so many things are considered taboo and kept under covers that people spend their entire lives living alone with their problems .Kudos to you Aradhee for having the courage to share!
Thank you Arpita! You have put it rightly about ‘people spending their entire lives living alone with their problems’ only because of a our primitive world views. Isn’t it dismal?
Having a mental illness must be painful but being surrounded by people who don’t get it must make it all worse. I think if more people came forward as you have with their stories it might help the rest of us gain enough knowledge and understanding of this ‘hidden’ problem. Why should it be hidden? thank you for writing such a personal and honest piece.
http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.in/ brilliant work Allie
A big step forward !!!
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