The internet is ripe with single sided viewpoints and I’ve found that most of the information out there on mental health (and those who experience the somewhat inexplicable symptoms correlated with what has been deemed mental illness) is exceptionally black and white.
It is my desire to bring you the grey area. The atypical along with the typical. One individual’s point of view, and information from different times, different sources, and different viewpoints.
So we the people (well, me and my dog Luna) find these following truths to be slightly less evident than we might like, and are heretofore putting them out into the world to act as a cornerstone about our beliefs and what you can expect to find on the bi[polar] curious blog.
1. We are individuals!
I have ventured to support groups in small-town clinics, psychiatric hospitals, at coffee shops, at fundraising walks, and read countless blogs and what I’ve learned is that though I share a general diagnosis with most of the people I’ve met, not one of them has the same symptoms as I do the way that I do.
It can be misleading to receive a diagnosis because the initial reaction is to expect others with that same diagnosis to act or feel the same way we do. Nope! Most mental health diagnosis act merely as categories and a method to let a doctor know what medications might work best for us. It can be easy to forget that we are individuals.
Much of what I’ve found on the internet directly contradicts that idea. Many websites (particularly self-diagnostic “tools”) would have you believe it is as simple as a little mania, a little depression, and it is that straightforward.
This is part of the reason why I feel compelled to write about what I experience (a somewhat atypical bipolar experience with several co-morbid diagnosis including OCD, GAD, & PTSD). It isn’t straightforward. My treatment isn’t straightforward. Yes, I have a bipolar diagnosis, but I am first and foremost an individual.
2. When it comes to treatment options, one size does not fit all.
When everyone has a different series of symptoms, a different background, and different body chemistry it seems ludicrous to expect one treatment (even one method of treatment) to cover everyone. On top of that, when people have different spiritual beliefs, different incomes, different jobs, different families, they have different priorities. As someone with a treatment resistant bipolar diagnosis, I find it infuriating when I’m constantly (and incorrectly) told the only treatment options available to me are psychiatric medications (which don’t work for me) and therapy.
There are lots of treatment options out there folks, it isn’t as black and white as people would have you believe. Usually the treatments people like to suggest are the ones that have worked for them. I think that is logical, but as far as the internet is concerned, I feel like the viewpoint that psychiatric medications are the only option is the majority. What baffles me is that this viewpoint is in no way representative of the people I have met in real life!
I intend to discuss many different kinds of treatment options and occasionally talk about my experiences with them. Reading this blog, you will get a sense that I do not discount psychiatric medications (by any means!) -in fact, I am still trying new ones all the time. I simply want to keep people’s minds open to the fact that there are many different ways to cope and if you haven’t found “the right combination” there is still hope.
3. Each person is responsible for speaking up and receiving the care they need.
I think each of us (within reason) is responsible for our own actions. I say within reason because there may be times when we are (I know I have been) incapable of dictating my own actions, as a result of mania or psychosis. Having said that, it is important for people to realize that they are responsible for all of their actions (or inaction) leading up to those sorts of situations.
How can we help keep people safe? How can we reduce violence associated with mental illness? We need to be responsible for speaking up in situations where our mood or our mental functioning or our thoughts seem troubling. Has something felt different lately? Talk to someone. If that person isn’t listening, talk to someone else. A teacher, a parent, a friend, a therapist, a spiritual leader, a doctor, a support group, a crisis call center, even a blogger.
Having said that, I know that many people fall into that “are my symptoms disruptive or not disruptive?” gray area. Should you get help or talk to a doctor? Maybe, if those things are negatively effecting some part of your life (relationships, school, work, sleep, social situations, etc.). Do you need to worry about it if you are living your life normally? Probably not, but if there is doubt in your mind speaking to someone about it isn’t going to hurt!
4. I am a writer, but also a human living with intense mood swings, obsessive tendencies, and rather anxious behavior.
My writing can often reflect that. While I try to refrain from sharing things I suspect to be triggering or self-pitying, sometimes this stuff slips through the cracks. I do my best to label these articles with a *trigger warning* statement, so if you see that phrase and are particularly sensitive to issues like abuse, violence, or talk about suicidally, steer clear.
5. I care where my content comes from.
I always intend to do my best when bringing you news, reviews, and other tidbits from the internet not to promote stories with obviously biased content (that includes studies, celebrity gossip, or news stories) or content that promotes and/or is sponsored by pharmaceutical companies (except when I can link users to programs to get medications at a discounted rate). Sometimes this can be difficult because scientific studies can be a little difficult (try obnoxious) to read. If I can, I will try to link back to both the original article I found and the study.
I have many people contacting me in an effort to write for my blog, pass on visual aids for my use in posts, or asking me to promote a website, fundraiser, or product. If you have an intention of sending me something that falls into any of these categories feel free to contact me, however I will only post content (at my own pace) that meets my own writing standards and this blog’s standards for open-minded, interesting content.
In addition to that, I do not post a lot of pictures. Personally, I find pictures detract from the words most of the time (unless I have some kind of example to show where an idea is coming from -mood charting is a good example). I find that I feel very uneasy using any images found on the internet without the consent of the person who made them, so you can expect only to find images that have been created (and are therefore owned) by me.
6. Inclusivity is important to me.
While I am extremely flattered with other bloggers linking to my blog via “blogger awards” I have mixed feelings about these practices. Though I consider these (on one hand) to be encouraging to the blogger who receives them and a nice way to pass on an enjoyable blog, I found it slightly unnerving when I was first blogging to see these messages of encouragement passed to the same people over and over and over again.
When you live with a condition like depression or anxiety one can often feel very isolated, and between the peer-passed “blogger awards” and other exclusionary group writing sites that were in play when I began blogging I immediately felt thrust back into the cliquish world of high school. The realm of mental health blogging felt very much like a popularity contest at the time, and I slowly reached the conclusion that I didn’t want to pass on this feeling to other bloggers out there who might still be finding their voices.
I want people to feel good about what they share, to feel included in the larger community of mental health blogging. That means I read new blogs, old blogs, blogs I follow, and those I don’t. I genuinely feel that blogger awards are a double edged sword; yes they may make some people feel really great, but there are certainly instances where they might make other people feel bad or excluded. I prefer to find ways of encouraging people that don’t include any negative repercussions (re-blogging good work, leaving positive comments for both new writers and old friends) and passing them on to everyone around me instead of a select few.
So maybe you’ve left me a blogger award; I certainly want to say thank you! I love knowing there are people who admire what I am sharing, and that the things I write are reaching people who are using that information in their own lives or to reflect on their own experiences. At the same time, I hope that you understand (for the reasons I’ve already listed) I do not intend to pass on blogger awards to other bloggers. I truly do not intend to offend, this is just the conclusion I have come to and I feel good about my decision.
7. You don’t need to agree with me.
My aim is to bring up many different, possibly polarizing topics. I certainly don’t expect everyone to agree with me all of the time, in fact I would be incredibly surprised if you did! My aim is simply to get people to think about things, to consider different viewpoints and arrive at their own conclusions. This is how we learn and grow as human beings!