When I facilitate groups, I ask people to say their name, something about themselves unrelated to their mental health disorder and, “And I’m more than that.” Inevitably, a person says something like, “Hi. I’m John. I’m bipolar, and I’m not much more than that.” I’m always sad when this happens because none of us should be defined by our mental health disorder. We are so much more than that!
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Mary Alice Do
After my husband and I had been married for 16 years, his liver became damaged from Hepatitis B. A year later he had a liver transplant which he survived for five and a half years. At the end of that period, the Hepatitis destroyed his new liver and he needed another. He died during the second transplant.
It is that time of year again. The holidays. People often think that they should be a happy time of year, what with the music and the lights and the gatherings. But, actually, they can be a difficult time of the year for many people, and I don’t just mean people who have a mental health disorder.
I have bipolar disorder, but I also have an anxiety disorder. I really dislike feeling anxious so there are various things that I do to fight it.
The first thing I do is try to see if there is anything to be anxious about. If there is then I see if I can resolve the situation the best I can. Of course, sometimes there is nothing to be anxious about or nothing I can do. I’m just anxious.
This is Mental Health Awareness Week, and as a minister who has bipolar disorder, I am aware that churches tend to be filled with silence not awareness. One of my passions is helping churches become more aware of mental health issues and know that recovery is possible. A great deal of stigma stems from the church which once (and some still do) thought it was a form of demon possession and that reading the Bible more and praying would take care of the problem. Heaven forbid a person take a medication or see a therapist! (I have found both really helpful.)
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and third among young people. I first had suicidal thoughts when I was nineteen and in college. I thought I would kill myself by cutting my wrists, but I couldn’t cut deep enough and once I started bleeding then I would feel relieved and be able to go to sleep. I eventually overdosed on medication but only became a little sick. [Editor’s note: Cutting is not always associated with suicide. There are many reasons that might lead a person to self harm that are not related to suicide.
I have been very anxious lately although a good deal of what I feel is excitement. Combined they have made me less than completely functional lately.
After six days in the psychiatric hospital, I was taken to the intensive care unit because I had thought of a way I could kill myself in the hospital. There wasn’t much freedom in the regular unit, but there was even less in ICU. We were only allowed outside into a small yard once every couple of hours so those who smoked could have a cigarette. I didn’t smoke; I just wanted to be outside. A staff person went with us, we had to come back in when the staff person told us to, and then the door was locked again.
I had been out of work for five years and then four months ago, I began working part time. The job completely drained me and so I quit Thursday a week ago. I couldn’t believe how relieved I was afterwards. Then Friday came; I began second-guessing myself and worrying about what was going to happen. I became afraid.
Because of the job, a couple months ago, I began listening regularly to the song “Be Not Afraid”. Its words reminded me of struggles and fear I have faced and overcome. I will share just a few with you.
Psychiatric disorders can cause a multitude of problems that would be very difficult for a person without a psychiatric disorder to deal with. If you have a psychiatric disorder, it is even worse.