Category: Bi-polar


Despite the fact that people are talking more freely about mental illness as a disease like cancer or heart disease, the stigma is still there. It is hard enough to live with it, but when you have to hide it, everything is worse.

 

Like cancer, mental illness can kill you. Just notice all those besides Robin Williams who have died from suicide, or drug overdose. Usually, the source of drug overdose is some form of severe mental illness.

 

Since mental illness is unspoken and unexamined by most, the general public does not know the facts about it. Most of us secretly think mental illness has no effect on us, so why should we care. Often people describe with annoyance the symptoms of family members or acquaintances. They do not know they are complaining about the same symptoms as those with some form of mental illness. It would serve us all to educate ourselves on the topic. Knowing the symptoms could add understanding to those who are suffering, giving them a break. It could also lessen the annoyance of the observers. Once the probable source is known, we can attempt to understand the person, instead of judging them.

 

The numbers of sufferers are likely higher than you would think. “About 2.4% of people around the world have had a diagnosis of bipolar disorder at some point in their lifetime, according to the first comprehensive international figures on the topic. The United States has the highest lifetime rate of bipolar disorder at 4.4%.” http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/03/07/US.highest.bipolar.rates/

 

Another way of understanding the number, instead of percentages is the following. According to NIMH, The National Institute of Mental health: “In 2012, there were an estimated 9.6 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. with SMI (Serious Mental Illness) in the past year. This represented 4.1 percent of all U.S. adults.”  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/Statistics/SMI_AASR.shtml

 

Since there are many people younger than 18 with serious mental illness, that number of 9.6 million is lower than the total number. And that number is just in the US. Think about the world.

 

If we can be compassionate with Robin Williams, can we be equally compassionate with those in our family or in our neighborhood? Can be compassionate with those in our workplace and in our world?

 

How do I know about mental illness? I was born to parents with severe mental illness. Witnessing the effects throughout my childhood, it was up front and personal. And in recent years, I have taken supplements to control Seasonal Affective Disorder.

 

Approximately, there are 95.6% of us who do not suffer with severe mental illness. We cannot know what it is like for those with neurological disorders. We do not even come close to experiencing the kind of pain that the 4.4% feel.

 

Besides those who suffer severely, there is a larger percentage of the population that suffers some milder form of mental illness. Then add in another percent of us with mentally ill family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors. That counts for huge numbers of people. On top of that, count in the unknown numbers of undiagnosed people with neurological disorders.  Is anyone immune to the effects of mental illness in their life?

 

With all these numbers, it would behoove us rally in the streets for this disease to be addressed more rigorously. More attention to neurological disease is needed in the medical field. As voters, will we demand our elected officials to allocate resources to mental health? Mental health levies often fail because voters don’t see how this issue affects them. In the process of saving a pittance, we lose valuable people. It is not simply through death that we lose people. We lose them through the suffering that kills their spirit when alive. We see it took away a beloved celebrity. Yet, we are blind to the unimaginable, extreme agony Robin Williams endured. He suffered along with 9.6 million adults living just in the US.

 

Obviously, people who need help are not getting it. What will we do with this knowledge? Who will speak for them? Who will defend them from the ignorant people who blame the victim?

 

Even with the mental health facilities we do have, we as taxpayers can demand that the mental health departments support those that need it most. The leading research psychiatrist on schizophrenia, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey decries the trend that ignores those with the most painful symptoms. “Torrey has been a fierce opponent of the influence of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. He has also argued that psychiatry should focus only on severe mental illness, conceived as neurological disorders, rather than other mental issues that he viewed as non-medical.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._Fuller_Torrey

 

We all have a responsibility to be aware. This is our world. Until all people have access to effective mental health care, we will continue to lose valuable people to this disease through everyday suicides, through mass murders, through personal vitality, and individual productivity.

 

Help begins with each one of us. It would be in our national best interest to have compassion for all those suffering mental illness. Can we agree to start there?

 

We can never replace Robin Williams, or any loved one lost to this disease.  Robin Williams represented joy to us, and he could not have it for himself. Now we can learn from this very public loss and bring understanding and possible action into our lives.  Let us add our voice into a cause that turns silent indifference to genuine support. Since we are interrelated, any positive action for mental health goes a long way  for the welfare of all citizens.

 

 

By now the world knows that Robin Williams suffered bi-polar disease, formerly called manic-depression. Mental illness is a neurological disorder. The disease takes a terrible toll on the sufferers, and on those around them. For those of us who do not have it, we cannot grasp fully what it is like.

 For decades, I have known that this actor, and many other celebrities, suffer from bi-polar or other mental illnesses. Whenever I saw him in a movie or in an interview, I marveled at how he could carry on so courageously while he felt so terrible inside. At the same time, I wished that Robin Williams, and all others with mental illness could get adequate help. While he likely was not suffering every minute, he demonstrated many times when he was obsessively funny, even when it was unnecessary. I witnessed the mask of smiles when they were driven by pain.

 So beloved, Robin Williams’ untimely death has deeply grieved the nation. A gift to the world, he used his talent tirelessly and generously for the benefit of others. Meanwhile, he was battling internal challenges much of the time.

 In the midst of national sadness, will we collectively forget about the disease that killed him? Or will we inquire into what can be done to help others that face the same challenges?

If Robin Williams’ desperate cry for freedom from his pain sets off a national dialogue about bi-polar disorder and other neurological problems, his death will make a difference.  He represents millions of people whose neurological diseases plague people throughout the world.

Obviously, if a rich and famous person can suffer so much without proper help, think how difficult it is for the millions of not-so-rich-and-famous to get through life.  Part of the reason that this disease is under-funded and under-valued is that we do not have the collective will to even deal with mental illness.

Each of us needs to be honest with ourselves to see where we are stuck in this mindset that the problem of mental illness is in other people, on the streets, in homeless shelters.  We think the problem is always away from us.  Besides, we think the problem of mental illness cannot be here in front of us, not in our family, not in our neighborhood. We do not see it, or hear it. And if we do see or hear it, we blame the one who suffers. “They should do better.”  “They are losers.” “They are stupid or lazy,” we think to ourselves. “They” are not like us, we want to think. Yet, “they” are us. “They” are us with a brain disorder that they cannot control. And they very often cannot get adequate medical help, as someone with heart disease would expect. Too often sufferers blame themselves for their disorder.

As a society, we have a stigma attached to mental illness. Let’s be honest, it is considered shameful. This stigma remains even though many celebrities have shared their struggles, like Catherine Zeta Jones, Jim Carrey, Carrie Fisher, Patty Duke, Drew Carey, Dick Clark, and hundreds of others.  We do not know what more they would be capable of if they did not have to deal with a neurological disorder.  It is amazing what some people manage to do despite the struggle.

To continue, go to: http://mentallyillparents.com/index.php/2014/08/14/robin-williams-part-2

 

The Gift of Having Mentally Ill Parents

In this excerpt, I describe one day with my bi-polar mother and depressed father.

MOTHER’S SELF-EXPRESSION

Weekends were Dad’s days to unwind with his precious radio ball game and copious amounts of beer with chasers. He smoked a lot, too. The kitchen became his station as he stood near the radio, probably so no one else had to hear it any louder than it was. He could be very thoughtful. The real reason may have been that he knew that Mother would not be there in the kitchen.

On one particular day when I was ten years old, Dad bought paint for the kitchen at Mother’s insistence. Not just one color. Mother wanted both pink and white.

Everyone knew Dad did not like to paint. The color pink wasn’t his color, for sure. It is not that he had a color. If he did, it would likely be gray.

With breathing problems, I felt like I could suffocate with the smell of paint. Staying out of the kitchen, I wondered how I would ever survive later in life if I had to paint a room. It was midsummer and the heat was agonizing long before the height of the day. That, in itself, was more than I could take.

It took Dad all day. Dutifully, he painted the opposite walls the same color. Two were pink and two white. To please Mother, he even painted the drawers pink and the cabinets white. By nightfall, he put away the paint cans, brushes and ladder.

The verdict came in. Yes, it was different. And yes, surprisingly it looked crisp and clean. We were impressed. It was 1957 and we had never seen a two-paint combo. This was one crazy idea of Mother’s that wasn’t all bad. Quietly, I told Dad that I liked what he did.

That night watching TV in the living room held no interest. The smell was worse in that part of the house. It was always risky anyway since Mother had a habit of turning it off when it got interesting. With no viable alternatives, I went through the door to the bedroom area. Closing the door to my room off the hall, I tried to sleep very early.

It was ghastly hot, too scorching to go outside. With the smell of paint through the main part of the house, I had more trouble than ever breathing, but that was nothing new. Most nights I sat up all night wishing I could die and just get it all over with. Sitting up as usual, I pondered if this really was my last breath since it was such a struggle both inhaling and exhaling. Amazingly, the struggle just continued as I watched the minutes go by and I accepted the end of it all. I watched the evening light gradually switch to dark. Eventually the need for sleep overtook me and I continued the difficult breathing after exhaustion ruled the night.

In the morning, I was mystified how I made it through the night. I always awoke sleep deprived and usually shocked into consciousness. I was rudely awakened by the sound of loud radio music that my father used to wake us up. One of us, he explained, was hard to awaken, so all of us had to hear this monstrous sound much louder than was necessary to awaken hibernating bears.

We had thirty minutes to get dressed and eat before leaving the house for Sunday Mass. Soon we met in the newly painted kitchen to get ourselves some stale cereal and rancid skim milk.

Mother was there already. Immediately I noticed the painted cabinets and drawers. There were words written in crayon, pencil and pen. Seeing it, I felt deep disappointed. I stopped and looked around. The nice kitchen couldn’t last. I knew it. “But so soon?” I was not prepared. I regretted going to bed early and not enjoying the kitchen while it was new. My face clearly told the story.

Mother glared ready to pounce on me, as if I was the one who had defaced the room. She wanted me to say something, so she could defend herself. My face had already said enough.

Silently, first searching for milk in a moldy refrigerator, and then
cereal, bowl and spoon. They could be anywhere and rarely where you’d expect. Ah, the spoon was in a drawer, and it was clearly used before. I decide to use it anyway since washing it was a problem. The dishrag was filthy. The sink, full of caked-on dirty dishes, smelled.

Finding a bowl was another matter. A bowl could be any room except the kitchen. Bowls would be wherever Mother had a whim to put them. Knowing how clever and creative she was, I wasn’t in the mood. So I took the dirty bowl left on the table. Probably Dad used it because I heard him leaving the kitchen earlier. So I sat down silently with my disappointment.

Seven-year-old brother Eddie came in. “What’s this?” was his instant, innocent inquiry.

“What! Don’t you like it?” Mother shrieked. “This way I’ll know where to find things” she justified.

I wiggled in my seat with this piece of news. “Wow, when did she ever want to know where anything was?” I questioned wordlessly. She had far too much fun playing the ‘lost’ game. I dared not look up, much less say how ridiculous that was, as I kept looking at the anemic and curdled milk in the bowl. I was sure that Mother added water to the skim milk to save money. No one wanted to drink much milk, so it went bad before it was used up.

Twelve-year-old brother Jerry came in. As usual, he searched for a bowl, gave up, and asked me when I’d be finished with mine. He showed not the slightest reaction to the kitchen ‘décor.’

Not a thing surprised him, or he had a good pretense of not noticing and not caring. I marveled at his demeanor. For him, nothing happened before the paint or after Mother’s grafitti. Either nothing mattered to him, or he was smarter than Eddie and me.

Another chapter can be found on http://www.MarifranKorb.com