Category Archives: Relationships

Anger and Stress and Mental Illness

I must admit that this topic is not well decided/understood in my own mind, but I feel it’s important.

Anger and stress exacerbate my condition.

As does caffeine. Which I’m now attempting to rid myself of. I’m not moralizing about this, this is a connection that is present in my own mind, it’s helpfulness to others is debatable.

It leads to an interesting question though. How does an individual who has… well, an itchy trigger finger, have a conversation about conflicting ideas that does not end badly?

I’ve gotten better about it. But I see bettering myself from this point on as just avoiding unnecessary conflict. Which in principle isn’t a bad thing until you consider that a little bit of conflict is ok. Really a little bit of conflict is good for you at the idea level. It’s problematic though. I’ve turned off the comments on youtube (look up No Comment on google chrome for the add-on) because I get aggravated by stupid people. Even stupid people who are obviously trolls.

I don’t watch much TV anymore. I can’t stand it, though not for the normal reasons. I actually liked a lot of the crime shows, it’s just that as my illness has progressed, it became more and more evident that watching it was untenable as it left me in a very odd position. I can’t stand to watch people argue. I can’t stand to watch shouting. Weird thing is I’m pretty good at shouting. I have a huge, scary voice.

But, like a cornered pit viper, I hit hard to those things that push me into the corner. The worst part is I may even be right. It’s very hard to show people that you’re cool and calm and have the correct point of view when you’re shouting at the top of your lungs.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far… in case anybody’s interested

1) Physical Awareness: Don’t strain your body while straining your brain. Pain in the body will just irritate you more.

2) Avoid Law & Order: That just seems to be a must for me

3) Be self conscious about your language. Not in an obsessive way, and DO NOT require this of other people’s language. You can’t change them. But you can look like a cool and collected person rather than a bumbling fool like myself if you can keep your cool.

4) Apologize. This last one is specifically if you get in a fight with a friend and you realize that your manner was not controlled. You can avoid losing friends this way.

So two things in the end:

1) Sorry G, I’m shaking with irritability right now, so I’m sure I said some stupid shit that I didn’t even realize I said on top of that that I do know about.

2) Be well, and think twice.. or three times.. but not over seven.

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I’m Bipolar, Pleased To Meet You

I was in the DMV not too long ago and I was talking to a cop. He had just changed beats (is that the right word?) from Oakland to a moderately rich suburb. I said that it must be a break going from Oakland to that place. He said he preferred Oakland. I asked him why. I can’t remember exactly how he worded his response but the answer was essentially, if you treated people in Oakland like decent human beings, with dignity and respect, most of them acted like decent human beings in return. If you treat them otherwise they act however you treat them. You treat them like animals they’ll bark like animals. But in the suburb the rich felt entitled over him, because he was a cop and happened to be of a minority race.

 

I would ask that people treated the mentally ill like decent human beings. We are. Or most of us are anyway, I mean there are crude nasty human beings, but most people are decent, good folk if you treat them that way. We’re not criminals because we’re ill. We’re not to be pitied because of our illness. We are not so different from you all. Don’t treat mentally ill adults like children. We aren’t children. Don’t treat us like a plague upon society. We’re not.

This applies to many different groups, not just the mentally ill. If you see a physically disabled human being treat them like the second half of that title, not the first. Granted, at some points we are treated differently. For example at my university since I am considered disabled I can take fewer units than the minimum. Similarly a person in a wheelchair can park in handicapped spots. You know the similarity in those cases? It doesn’t affect you. Sure you might have to park a little further back. Sure you might have to take the minimum number of units or over. But remember an earlier post where I made the point:

The true unfairness isn’t that the person in the wheelchair gets to park closer to the store.

The real unfairness is that he’s in a wheelchair.

We are human beings, I promise. We are mostly decent human beings like the rest of you. I promise. So why not do this today: If you see someone in a powerchair, or someone disabled in some other fashion, say hello. Maybe even ask how they’re doing. Maybe it’s just me, but if I were in a powerchair I would feel lonely a lot because people, with the best intentions of not embarrassing the disabled person by staring at their wheelchair/powerchair, ignore them. So I shall name today: Say Hi To The Guy In The Wheelchair Day. Or maybe good morning, I don’t know. Something nice. (Though perhaps not “That’s a nice wheelchair you have there!” they may not appreciate that one, but who knows maybe a lot of thought went into it I don’t know.) But We shouldn’t need to have a specific day to do this. People are people are people.

We have feelings.

We don’t like feeling alone.

Be well, both to those in the wheelchair and those who can walk.

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Say ‘Thank You’

This is just a quick thought:

If we’re lucky when we are seriously ill there is someone who will help us out. With regards to mental illness this often is not done terribly well. But there are people who are trying very hard as the caretaker or support for the mentally ill and still screw up, with the best intentions.

If you have someone who has supported you in times of trouble and illness, especially mental illness, you don’t always think to thank them because the state you’re can leave you barely able to comply do anything.

If such a person exists in your life, I would hope that you would try your best to say

“Thank you”

even if they screw up, as long as their intentions were good, they probably will find hearing that a nice thing. And when someone helps you with your needs, like putting your meds together or waking you up because the medication makes you drowsy or reminding you to eat if your med makes your hunger levels very low or helps you get where you need to go because you are not capable at that time for whatever reason, consider saying

“Thank you”

It could possibly mean a lot to them.

 

–Unthought

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Mental Health Advocacy and its Personal Consequences

There’s a bit of a problem with being an advocate for the mentally ill I’ve found in my case…

People know when they meet you that you are mentally ill.

This makes things… interesting to say the least.

I’m still totally unsure of how to deal with this. To be a little less heady than usual, it’s hard to get a date when they know up front that you’re bipolar. It’s something that you usually can just work up to… strange to have it up front.

But perhaps that’s better. Perhaps it’s better for someone to know upfront, then they can decide right then and there whether they want to pursue you or not.

I would like to date someday, but I will always be an advocate. I suppose we’ll see how this goes.

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Online Communities for the Mentally Ill

First, in case this invokes a tldr response, here’s the group that I visit

http://www.abrilliantmadness.org

It’s quite good, I highly recommend it for those who have mood disorders. Just remember that A) it is not run by professional psychologists/psychiatrists, that misses the point and B) I would ask that you  go only if you suffer from a mood disorder or related mental illness (personality disorders and the like), it’s not a zoo. If you have questions about mental illness I will gladly accept and try to answer them. That is not the job of the site.

I said a lot of what I wanted to say in this post already…

Online Communities are a very welcome idea in my mind. We can talk with a therapist, but at some point it’s therapeutic to speak to those who have the illness and to feel a heightened sense of normality, in the sense of “I am not alone”.

Two things that are especially helpful are the anonymity and the distance.

In a community group in a physical location, people do live near to you. That may frighten some people, especially if they feel the need, sometimes very legitimately, to hide their mental illness from some people. In the online setting there is no “close distance” problem (well, most of the time this is true).

Further, consider age for a moment. It’s quite hard in my opinion to commiserate in a physical location with people far older or far younger than you. In the online community that isn’t staring you in the face all the time. You can speak as you would around friends (possibly limiting vulgarities). If I had been in a physical room with some of the people I chat with, I would find it very hard to keep a conversation going. Granted, this may show my own biases with regards to age, but I think these biases are not uncommon. You don’t have to “act your age”. You can speak your mind. I may come back to the age gap in a later post…

The anonymity is similar to distance. If you don’t want people to know your physical location/age/career/whatever, they don’t have to. You don’t have to share that information.

Think also about appearance biases. I will admit that some alternative body styles can really cause me to stereotype very early. If someone has tattoos I have a small amount of this thought I can usually keep that one at bay. But I get uncomfortable around the highly pierced for example.  In the online community it doesn’t matter. The person can be themselves, in all their humanity and fragility. And from this we lessen our fragility and strengthen our feeling of being a person among others, not an outlier who no one could understand. You don’t have to be tough. You don’t need to keep your “shields” up, you can lower them because no one knows who you are or why you have shields up in the first place.

What if someone was severely disfigured? Severely disfigured people are still people, but I must admit that I really have to work hard to keep myself normative around someone who it may even be, sadly, hard to look at in a certain sense. I am no saint with regards to this. I have looked away when talking to someone who it’s hard to look at. Imagine the elephant man. Online he’s just a guy. Offline people are frightened of him. Perhaps if the elephant man had an anonymous, blind group he wouldn’t have ended his own life.

A final note. Always remember that people in chat are people. Respect them as such. Respect that they make mistakes and that they suffer from mental illness which may lead them to making more mistakes. We are all human. We all screw up from time to time.

Be well,

–Unthought

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Convincing Doesn’t Work

Imagine for a moment you saw a big rabbit wherever you went.

And imagine, for a moment, that no one else could see the big rabbit, even though it talked and told jokes and was generally a well mannered rabbit fellow.

They’d tell you you’re crazy.

But you’d still believe in the rabbit.

They’d stick their hand through the air where the rabbit was.

“Oh, he moved” you’d say.

They’d tell you you’re talking to the air.

“Excuse me! Me and Harvey were chatting before you so rudely interrupted!”

Nothing they could do could convince you of the absence of Harvey.

Now consider the case of individuals with any number of conditions, from Anorexia Nervosa to Body Dysmorphic Disorder to severe depression.

These all have their Harveys.

Except in these cases Harvey is now some litigious demon Herod.

People see you’re feeling down. They ask you “what’s wrong”? or “why are you so sad? you’re such a good person!”

Herod of course whispers in your ear that you’re the scum of the earth. That there’s no one worse than you. That everyone would be better off without you. Even when people confront that directly, and say they would be very sad if you were no longer with them, Herod comes up with articulate reasoning that reminds you that they’re just lying. That they just pity you.

And I want my readers to think about that for a second.

When you tell someone with a disorder “I’d be very sad if you died”.

What exactly are you telling them? Are you telling them “Don’t kill yourself! Nono, nothing to do with your internal value or your personhood, just for ME! Don’t leave ME!”

I lived on that argument for a while. I took quite a while for me to accept my own internal value.

But that last one also sounds like the “snap out of it!” or “STOP!”  ejaculations.

What do those really say?

“What are you doing?? Don’t do that you’re hurting yourself!! Snap out of it! Why are you doing this to….

…ME????”

I have to say I do not know the solution. But I think people without mood disorders should know what these things sound like.

–Unthought

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Relationships and Mental Illness Part II: Platonic Relationships

What can mental illness do at the nonromantic level? What might come up when a man talks to his mentally ill friend?

Perhaps you must see as we see, and hear as we hear.

Mental Illness can make small annoyances into large conundrums. Irritability can be both a symptom of the disease AND a side effect of the medications used.

Imagine you’re on a busy freeway. It’s very irritating, it’s easy to get frustrated. Now reconsider. What if when you got off a freeway you were still in traffic. What if traffic never seemed to end from the beginning of the excursion til the end? Irritability would probably rise to boiling levels in many people. Are we going to do something stupid in this condition? Probably. Is it still our fault? Yes, but it would be more than a little stupid to mess with someone showing signs of extreme irritability. The worst thing you can do is meet irritability with more irritability.

What you do when a person is in this state depends highly on the situation, and I hope that you can read body language. Perhaps the best thing to do is not to immediately ask what’s wrong and continue after one “I don’t know”. If you keep pushing A) you’ll get irritated and B) the person you’re asking will be embarrassed because the anger and irritability FAR outranks the cause of the state. That’s more or less what a propensity towards irritability is. That’s what mania and hypomania can be.

But consider the depressed individual aas well, don’t leave him out. He may find himself in a place where he does not want to talk. You may provoke a serious reaction if you ask him what’s wrong. Especially when you know very well that he’s depressed. If you KNOW the reason, perhaps it isn’t the best idea to ask.

Perhaps that’s the best advice I can give. Avoid conflict with a mentally ill friend over something that’s causing him pain. Certainly don’t tell him “Oh, it’s not so bad”. That is the WRONG idea. Of course the situation’s not so bad. There’s always a worse situation one can come up with. But that’s not the point.

Remember this above all else. Clinical depression is clinical for a reason. Ifit were an appropriate response to a situation then it IS NOT CLINICAL! That’s normal! Any doctor worth his salt makes sure that there is no overriding condition that makes actions rational. Now a rational person with a very bad situation may need counseling. They may even need meds to get through it. Like an antianxiety medication or something. Clinical depression is clinical, it is not reasonable, that’s the point. If your brain chemistry is compromised, reactions may very well not be rational in extent.

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Relationships and Mental Illness Part I: Romantic Relationships

I want to address a concern of mine about relationships with one (or both) individual with a mental illness.

First I need to make this clear. It is legitimate to not pursue or end a romantic relationship because the mental illness is either too much to handle or is just making the relationship work is something you cannot imagine doing long term. We always have a right to end a romantic relationship if we feel it cannot be sustained.

Beyond that, how does mental illness affect relationships?

Well, I’ll start with the most physical and end with the least.

In a romantic sexual relationship, there is at least one side effect that can really make things difficult.

That is the problem of loss of libido or the nearly absurd increase in libido.

Both partners should realize this is a problem for the other. The mentally ill partner does not, in general, want this to be the case. Not being able to meet a partners sexual needs is a very frustrating issue on either side. We must understand that this is not of the volition of the mentally ill but rather something outside of their own control. And we must understand that it’s very difficult to accommodate a partner whose sexual needs seem to change drastically.

In my manic phases I suffer from hypersexuality. Some make the absurd claim “Wow, that must be nice”. It isn’t. It is in NO way a nice feeling. Especially when one has no outlet outside of oneself. This has nearly driven me mad as a single male, and if I were not single it would still drive me mad as it would be a bit much for any normative sexual person I think…

Similarly there’s the issue of sexual dysfunction. Anorgasmia I think is one possibility. This would be incredibly frustrating as you can probably imagine. If you love your partner you want to do your best to fulfill their needs, at least up to a reasonable standard, and being anorgasmic or having a partner who’s anorgasmic is frustrating.

I will write part II either today or tomorrow. Until then this is Unthought, signing off.

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