Preconceptions of Mental Illness

No one wants to be mentally ill. Being mentally ill implies that there is a lack of ability to reason – whether we want to admit it or not. There is still an inherent stigma attached to mental illnesses and perhaps, since it’s so easy to label those who disagree with us as mentally ill, we are deathly afraid of being diagnosed with a mental illness. Being diagnosed mentally ill is like running into a scary maze except it is full of dead ends and the anxiety that you will never find your way out. When I received my diagnosis as having Bipolar Disorder, I received the opposite of comfort. The feeling I discovered was dread, failure and opposition.

See, being labeled Bipolar means to the people working at the mental hospital that you could have done something to solve it – by taking medications already.

My own psychiatrist said to me this: “You’ve been a burden on your family you’re entire life.”

Was it true? I suppose it was true. I had been the bratty, youngest child all my life. I had been bullied in school and rejected by boys. The only explanation was that I was Bipolar.

Yet I wasn’t happy with getting the diagnosis. I spent the rest of my time trying to pretend that I was getting better while I was in the mental hospital. I tried being extra nice to the workers at the hospital, speaking up politely in group and befriending others who looked lost. I thought if I were pretending to be friendly and better, I would get out and by getting out, could get off my medications.

I ended up going to the mental hospital the next week for a bad reaction to Risperdal. When I arrived at the mental hospital the second time, I was not as happy to be there. I was angry that a psychotic reaction to medications meant I had a “Bipolar Relapse” and needed to be on new medications. The second mood stabilizer they got me on (Zyprexa) made me cry about people killing roaches. The fellow inmates in the hospital were angry at me because I was not behaving. They wanted me to behave so they could get out of the mental hospital as well. The staff hated me for being upset. Just another proof of my “Bipolar.”

I think my preconception of mental illness was that if I was depressed, everything would be easy. Princess Diana was loved by all of Great Britain and Demi Lovato had a loyal group of fans. Already girls I saw who cut themselves ended up having boys who loved them, but when I got on these medications – I feared that I was damned for life to be a burden to everyone around me.

I guess it is because when you are diagnosed mentally ill, you are burdened with the task of getting better. It is determined that you have been moping or being dramatic and others are happy to confirm it to you. You are taught to hate yourself for your illness and are told you have to keep trying and trying to get back to where you were. That it was your fault. Not that you deserve love, or a break, or acceptance for your madness. Perhaps then Mr. Psychiatrist, the reason no one wants to be named mentally ill is because it implies that they will be damned the rest of their life to try incredibly hard to please everyone around them, or they are simply “not trying hard enough.”

Then there’s the “It’s not fair!” syndrome: “Why should I have to put in years of work, when other folks are lovable without doing anything?” Yup. No fair. Boo hoo. Now, are you going to do the work or not? If not, that’s fine. Everything I’ve ever achieved in life has been through lots and lots of hard work, but sometimes I choose not to do the work. When that happens, I take responsibility, and you do, too. Either do the work or say, “I am not going to be lovable in the future, because I’ve made the choice not to try.”

The assumption is that you’re not trying. That you had never tried. People love to blame other people for their problems. That is why my Great Aunt is blamed for her illness and my Grandmother for hers, long after they were dead. Perhaps it means that humans are selfish but ultimately it means we are still unable to treat mental illness with love and kindness – instead we treat it with punishment and blaming. I understand that this won’t be a realization to people now, but someday I hope they will be able to not blame everything for the family members that burdened them or the people they thought did them wrong based on the fact that they had a mental illness. I hope people will start being able to look at themselves, but ultimately psychiatrists are all too happy to blame their patients as well for their problems even though they are supposed to help them.

We want to tell others that biological illness isn’t a choice, but we still assume that a person’s life actions are a choice and take personal offense at their mistakes – shunning them their entire life based on what they didn’t do for them. The narcissists win because they are unable to be diagnosed mentally ill, because they believe they are okay and everyone else is wrong.

I think the reason mental health stigma is so bad is because of selfish people. I don’t think everyone who is mentally ill is selfish, but I do think that when someone is labeled mentally ill – it is an explanation to the others around them that they are fine while their family member or someone they know intimately is mentally ill. It’s a way of projecting one’s own problems onto others.

“Lunatics are similar to designated hitters. Often an entire family is crazy, but since an entire family can’t go into the hospital, one person is designated as crazy and goes inside. Then, depending on how the rest of the family is feeling that person is kept inside or snatched out, to prove something about the family’s mental health.”
― Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted

Before the Diagnosis

IMG_1696.JPG It started out before in a nice little high school in the suburbs. This high school may have been one of the best little high schools anybody could go to. The white students could go there without trying to hard and the Asian students could go there just to raise the average test scores – even if they weren’t from the area. It was a school you went to that meant that even if you weren’t trying so hard, you could still take a couple of AP classes to get into UGA. Even if you weren’t in public school, there were millions of private, Catholic schools you could try and they would help you too from trying too hard.

Everyone started their relationships in high school. I was the only one who hadn’t. I was behind and upset. Not only that, but I also had periods. Periods that made me need birth control. If you don’t know about birth control, it basically is involved with easing the pain of periods. For me, it was a method of controlling pain of a condition I would later learn to call Endometriosis.

I became depressed on this medication. I shunned all my friends. I stalked. I hid in the bathroom during lunch. I was bullied for being sensitive – for potentially hurting my own friend with Bipolar Disorder. I didn’t know I was pushing her away as a confirmation bias of BPD. I thought about mental illness only cause all the girls were mentally ill back then.

Everyone was cutting themselves in high school. I would find myself sitting with some of the girls I did not know very well and staring at their wrists. One girl had bright red welts on her wrists. Another friend of mine had a friend who cut herself all over her body and her boyfriend from Spain was worried about it. We all tried very well to hide our jealousy – we all too wanted to be the girl with a loving boyfriend from Spain.

I guess when I got on my birth control, it was a confirmation bias. I fell in love with the depression I had on the pill the way you fall in love with an affair or chocolate. I let myself be depressed. Sure, I had the chemical help of Ethanyl Estradiol, but I made it my own mission to wallow in my depression as a way of telling the people who wronged me that I was oppressed. So when I went off to college, I was not prepared.

I don’t know if you ever met someone who pretends to be confident while being secretly insecure, but that was my roommate. My roommate was a beautiful, black girl with big curly hair, a great body and cat eyes. I kept telling her that she was the real life equivalent of Beyoncé. Unfortunately, things got so wrong. She thought I was racist.

Was I racist? I fell into Conservative politics the same way I fell into Depression – possibly making me racist at the time. I’m sure you don’t sympathize with me and perhaps you are picturing me the same way you would picture your current Conservative politicians, but I do not fit into the stereotype of the Conservative. I will be spending the other few posts on this blog demonstrating to you that I inherently lack an identity to begin with as well as how my identity has fallen apart over time as result of mental illness.

My roommate and I grew apart. She was sexually confident. I was mortified and wanted to go home to the comfort of my cats. She talked about me to my roommates, ones that were afraid of her as well as eager to please her, thus making me more isolated then before. I went for help at South University only to be denied help – by a CL who was afraid of my roommate and by a Resident Director who was simply too lazy to move me into another room.

We had one conversation together with my CL. She won that conversation, making me cry and admit that I was probably too mentally ill to relate to her well. I was still on birth control at the time, pills my gynecologist insisted would not cause Depression, as well as probably having been gaslighted by my roommate. My only option was to forfeit my sense of ethos in the conversation. She felt happy at the result of triumphing over our conversation.
I, on the other hand, ended up believing I was crazy. I walked into the counseling center of South University and did not come out – instead I went to a mental hospital.

Looking back, I can see that the complication of being a teenager and the side effects of birth control led me into believing I was depressed. Was I really depressed? I think to answer that question, you need to understand being a preteen and a teenager as a complicated time that is defined by college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT, sex and friendships. I do know that I believed I was depressed. Perhaps then I drew myself into this situation.

I had a desire that night before being institutionalized, while watching Girl Interrupted, for myself to go crazy. To be allowed to be crazy and to get treatment for the “crazy.” I think when it comes to psychosis, whether it’s induced by a mental illness or not, we need to allow ourselves to get help when we need it. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be ashamed by what happened. Unfortunately, I was terrified of being put in a mental hospital. That meant I had failed to be the responsible student, loving daughter and caring friend that I was meant to be. Ironically, many of the people I met at the hospital were young. I will go into my experiences at the hospital in another post.

Ultimately, I do think that teen mental disorders are a complicating time of hormones, situations, and perhaps biology. I do think that teens should seek help when they need it. It’s just that I received the wrong help (Which I will explain in a following post.) I still have anxiety about that time and I think we can learn from my pre-diagnosis that teens experience a lot of anxiety about how they are feeling – not wanting to concern their parents, burden their friends or alert their teachers. Yet it’s the way we respond to that help which we can change. We don’t have to be alarmist in every situation. I understand that in some situations that immediate response is necessitated but ultimately if we don’t force people to go to mental hospitals, we can allow them to get help on their own turns. We should move away from forced institutionalization for children under age 18 so that they will seek help and be met with less worry and scare. That’s just my two cents. Thanks for reading!

The Public and Counter-publics of Psychiatry

Hello doctor. You are who I will be writing these letters to. You are a combination of every doctor I have ever had and you will be the address to these letters. I am seeking to write this blog not to increase the stigma that is tied with getting help with mental disorders but to change the online rhetoric surrounding mental disorders by acknowledging the multiple discourse communities. I am hoping by you reading these articles, you will be able to inspire changes in higher institutions.

See, I saw your video. I will link it here.

You have been a fascinating psychiatrist of mine. Moreover, you are set to change the conversation of mental illness by acknowledging only the psychiatrist’s perspective, not the patient’s perspective. You do not believe that those who have not benefitted from psychiatry should be included as a rational perspective involving mental illness. However, I’ve done some lurking around Twitter in the threads that are against Big Pharma and what I’ve understood from some of the more rational websites like Beyond Meds and Mad in America (not Scientology people) that the main frustration that people have with Psychiatry is not seeking help but not having the information they want about medications.

This is an interesting article. It’s interesting because this same man, directed by Dr. Jefferey Lieberman, interviewed people who had tried anti-psychotics and had success. He did not include the perspectives of those who had not suffered with anti-psychotics and had to get off them but selectively chose people to further his agenda that anti-psychotics work for everyone as demonstrated by a comment from another MD below the article:

Sandra Steingard, MD May 6, 2017 at 12:08 pm

Thank you for this article. Can we find your thesis?
I have read the full paper and one reason why they rejected some papers from their meta-analysis or discounted the findings was due to drop out rates among those who stopped drugs. But the assumption of these researchers is that the drop outs likely had worse outcomes so it skewed results to show negative effects of the drug. This kind of implicit bias is not acknowledged in this paper. The conflation of short-term benefits and high relapse rate when drugs are stopped with good outcome is one of the biggest errors in the field and this paper does that in its original form in a more subtle way but in the press release in an overstated, triumphalist way. I find it ironic that a group who supposedly stands for the values of science would act in such a way. The paper also points how the mere admission of ties to Pharma does little to address the serious problems that COI and bias play in medicine.

In taking my Public Rhetoric class, I am extensively studying articles on Public Rhetoric. One of the articles we had to read was by Habermas – a scholar who has seen Public Rhetoric as making a positive progression from bourgeoise men’s clubs. Another one of our scholars, Nancy Fraser, acknowledges that these Bourgeoise clubs for men did not include the perspectives of women or people of color but claimed to speak for the whole of the group.

“It is not sufficient merely to bracket social inequality. Instead, it is necessary condition for participatory parity that systematic social inequalities be eliminated. We cannot just try to categorize or set aside those areas where people are not equal. We actually have to do away with the inequalities to give people equal opportunity to participate in the public sphere.” (Fraser 65)

I’m finding that the American Psychiatric Association, headed by Dr. Jefferey Lieberman, is adamant about eliminating subaltern discourse communities surrounding mental illness and insinuating that his association of psychiatrists speaks for the overall perspective of mental illness. This project thus is not about telling people to get off their meds but about how people should be directly informed of the consequences of certain medications as well as being encouraged to seek help when they need it. I hope by this project that I can acknowledge the public discourse community insinuated as a singular community by Dr. Lieberman involved in treating mental illness as well as the subaltern communities that are being excluded from this conversation. I will write about my own experiences being diagnosed with Bipolar, getting treated for Bipolar Disorder and coming off my meds as well as writing on Quora about Bipolar Disorder and my own conclusions about the state of mental health and Big Pharma in this country. I hope you will join me along for the ride this month of May in reflection and contemplation for the future.