Friday, July 26, 2013

Dr. Jekyll, I presume? Or is it Mr. Hyde?? Which mask are you wearing today?

   Would you be able to tell the difference between brilliance and madness just by the mere sight of a person?

   I can't either, and I'm the one behind both masks.  If you think it's difficult living with someone who's bi-polar, stop and ponder for a moment what it might be like *as* the person with a mental illness.  I'm not sure about many of you, but when I was in grade school, we were taught a form of "sensitivity training," where our vision was obscured and we were challenged to read something from across the room without assistance; yardsticks were taped to our legs so we knew what it was like to have to walk with braces; and we were even allowed to attempt to navigate the halls in a wheelchair using only our arms.

   Back then, mental illness wasn't discussed as openly as it is today.  As a matter of fact, it wasn't really discussed at all.  And if the subject just happened to pop up, mental illness was looked upon as a negative trait about a person.  People were treated like they had a contagious disease, or with "special care" so as not to 'disturb them' even further.  Even today, the subject of mental illness being brought to the forefront of American society is still somewhat of a taboo subject.  Where has the sensitivity gone?  What ever happened to helping your fellow man?? Why is it that our society still refuses to acknowledge that mental illness is not only very real, but it needs to be addressed and handled with swift and intelligent action?

   A stigma still exists and is seen most commonly when we turn on the news and find someone has destroyed lives in one way or another. We see more and more incidents all over the place about shootings; television, movie and athletic stars performing various acts to land them in the spotlight.  Not for their talents, but for the crimes or negative acts they've committed to get them into legal trouble.

   It's easy for those individuals to become the "face" of mental illness, one which the rest of our society vilifies and makes it even more difficult for those of us who are truly suffering and trying to do the right thing, by getting help, to actually live.  In my opinion, it's become a stupid fucking cliché. Oh, they're not guilty because they've had a mental illness for years and suddenly it just popped up?  Sometimes, I can see that as a viable reason.  But other times, I pull the "bullshit card," shake my head and practically despair that there's any hope for those of us who do suffer and have suffered for a long period of time.   

   I've written before about the frustrations someone like me goes through just trying to exist on a day to day basis.  I've met people who've shied away from me and refused to get to know me simply because I was open and honest about my condition.  I've made lifelong friendships with others who simply sat and listened to me talk about my life and the struggles I've endured in dealing with my mental illness.

   I've had to come to some stark realizations about other relationships I currently have with people in my life all due to the fact that they either don't understand and refuse to try, or they're in denial and don't want to be bothered with having to deal with me.  Those people frighten me the most.  They are just as skeptical as I can be, only a lot worse.  And they blame the medical community as a whole for the state of our medical care nowadays.  They point fingers at the pharmaceutical companies stating the company's sole motivation is to bilk money out of hard working Americans for something that's complete conjecture. 

   There are many faces in our society today that suffer from mental illness.  More specifically, bi-polar disorder.  Stephen Fry, for example has been extremely outspoken on the topic by writing, producing and directing (not to mention starring) in films about his condition. Anyone whose seen the 1954 movie "White Christmas" with Rosemary Clooney would probably never have guessed she was a verified "manic depressive."  Charles Dickens, Carrie Fisher, Patty Duke, Ernest Hemingway, Frederich Nietzsche, all of these people suffer/suffered from bi-polar disorder.  They were pioneers in their own right for their sheer talent.  But they were all trailblazers for recognizing their ailments and for some seeking help.

   Glenn Close and her sister, Jessie Close, have founded Bring Change2Mind, to help our society end the stigma behind mental illness.  Glenn's nephew, Calen, also suffers from bi-polar disorder.  Their work has been heralded as a true blessing to those of us who need help.  And it's not the kind of help most people think.

   No, we don't need to be told to see a "shrink."  One, they don't exist. Therefore, two they don't shrink anything.  Three, for the most part, we already know we need to get treatment.  No, we don't need to be locked up "in the looney bin."  Does the phrase "cruel and unusual punishment" mean anything to anyone?  How about this one, "let the punishment fit the crime?"  No, I don't need to have the most severe treatment pushed upon me against my will, without my permission.  I trust my doctor enough (especially with this doctor at the VA), to help me determine what types of treatment will work for....that's  No, I don't need the United States Government restricting my rights on various subjects prescribed within the Constitution.  I feel the laws need to be rewritten, changes need to be made.

   And I'm one of the faces you'll see doing my damnedest to affect those changes.

   Thanks for reading the lyfeinmyhead.

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