Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Thoughts on lithium and other stuff

My story was never going to make a conventional book. I hope it portrays something of the bipolar mind and my sometimes chaotic life. In many respects, I am amazed that I came out of it in some sort of shape.

Before I started writing again, I was not suicidal but I had no view of the future. I didn't really care whether I woke up next day. I have written parts of my story in the past. I have inflicted it on unsuspecting friends by email on forums in various places. I never addressed the whole of my bipolar experience (at least the last 27 years). I never delved into the crevasses of my earlier years.

I had issues in spades. I knew that they were holding me back but I never found the right therapist. I find that my personality is such that I always present to professionals as up and positive. I can't access the hurt. Once I addressed my more recent issues, I felt a real inner peace come over me. The secrets of my first thirty years were holding me back. It is hard to imagine the effects of 27 years of lithium on top of that. Lithium may have kept me free of manias but did it suppress my ability to address the past?

I have no regrets. I can see that lithium has let me lead a full and mostly successful life. It is sad to say that I owe my current financial stability to my parents thrift and good planning. If my mom had not passed away in 2007, I would still be living on government handouts. I would
have been very unlikely to write my story, let alone publish it as a book. A little financial freedom and a reduction in lithium led to my writing.

I am not a writer but I have things to say, maybe things that I have wanted to say all my life. I rely on rewriting to produce something reasonably polished. I will never write flowery prose. It is the content that drives me. My mind seems to save up all sorts of stuff. I am now more able to transfer it to the computer. Thank God for spell check.

I am sure my writing is different when I am "inspired" from when I sit down to write without preconceptions. I am often writing without thought, simply transferring stuff from my brain. This reminds me of automatic writing. It is exciting and exhausting. It is usually more accurate and more insightful. This kind of writing leads me to thinking that it is connected to mild hypomania. I may have been in a heightened state for a couple of months. Alternatively, I might have been in a suppressed state for most of the past 59 years.

Most psychiatric medications come with side effects. Most are bearable. If you read the blurb that comes with medications, you would soon become paranoid. There is nothing subtle about treatment of mental illnesses. Most meds were discovered by chance after they were developed for another disease. Ironically the other illnesses do not share the stigma attached to mental health. Not many meds were designed for purpose.

Why are we as a people so scared of mental illness? Is it the fear induced as the news people delight in connecting a murder to Schitzophrenia? When did you last see the headline " Cancer sufferer murders young lady" or "Diabetic shoots up school" ? We are constantly given suggestions that mentally ill people are a danger to society. Is it not possible that their very illnesses stem from their inherent violent makeup. I have not seen any stats on the backgrounds of all violent criminals. I am sure that only a small percentage have a mental health problem.

We are right to worry about un-treated violent schizophrenics wandering the streets. We shouldn't translate this to a fear of anyone who has a mental illness. I have no remote connection to a schitzophrenic who gets life in prison for a grizzly murder. I have been in the "system" for many years and I have never met anyone who showed signs of violence.

Please can we start to treat the mentally ill amongst us with respect and dignity. It is bad enough living with a lifelong illness with out friends, family and society treating you like outcasts.
We used to treat the mentally ill with no respect in the early twentieth century. Have we come far from that? The asylums look better but how have we improved?

14 comments:

  1. I don't know why people are so fearful of the (us) mentally ill. I think it's a lack of knowledge. If people would educate themselves they might not feel this way. Alost every single person I know that has a mental disorder is extremely bright, creative or talented.

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  2. I am sure that as with most things a large part of the fear is ignorance. One of the reasons that I think your blog and future book are such a positive step - not only for what they are giving you but for the part they can play in broadening people's knowledge and awareness. Good luck with the publishers.

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  5. Bipolarfella: Great blog. Right on the nose. Diagnosed at 48, lived a "type a life." Really was manic-depression but who would think to know in the 50's, 60's, 70's. Self medication would be the leader in my band. I wrote a book during 1st manic/truly hypomanic experience. Hypergraphia, religiousity, med hallucinations. Lithium tempers what the energy of darkness wishes to control. I hate it though. I want desperately to be the who I am. I'd like to pass your writing on. Thanks for sharing.

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  7. thank you so much for your honesty! I have been diagnosed for over two years now, and i read a lot in order to learn to cope with it.this is the first time i read anything on the topic that actually corresponds to my feelings, it makes me feel a little less lonely while in the midst of a big, scary and alienating diagnosis. you're doing a lot of good with this blog.

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