Lack of Understanding of Mental Illness
Last night I was feeding my cats and thinking suicidal thoughts - I like to call that a Wednesday night. And I was thinking to myself that no one (save others in my position) understands what that is like - to go from some sort of normal person in the daytime to a sobbing, suicidal headcase at night. I thought about the fact that I have spent eight years talking about this very disease, this very state, this very problem, and yet still, people don't get it. No matter how many words I use, no matter how I phrase it, people simply do not understand.
So what do we do with the lack of understanding by others?
Lack of Understanding about Mental Illness
It's reasonable that people don't innately understand mental illness - it's a hard thing to grasp and most people don't have anything to really compare it to. And let's face it, I don't understand how such transformations are possible so how realistic is it to think that others can?
Lack of Understanding Hurts
And, of course, this lack of understanding hurts, because most often what it results in is people telling me (and other mentally ill people) that we're lying, making things up, exaggerating, being dramatic. When this genuinely isn't the case. And it hurts when people insult you and don't accept your genuine reality. It hurts to be told that you're lying.
What to Do about a Lack of Understanding
So I've reached a conclusion - some people understand and some people don't; some people never will. And it's my job to accept that. You can't change others and you can't make them accept you or your mental illness. Their lack of understanding, in the end, diminishes them, not me. I will keep doing what I do, and try to promoted understanding, education and awareness, but I'm going to accept that not everyone can get there. Not in my life, not in your life, and certainly not online. And it doesn't matter how many words and nifty metaphors I use to explain it.
Tracy, N. (2012, January 5). Lack of Understanding of Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, May 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/01/lack-of-understanding-of-mental-illness
Author: Natasha Tracy
That is not true. You have helped me understand BPD immensely. I cannot thank you enough.
Love from Finland,
just a slight adjustment to my previous blog. the bible charactors according to the bible wanted to die, not that they were suicidal. However there is no suggestion that they were suffering from mental illness just that there situation had become difficult to bear. The fact still remains that God was unerstanding of their situation.
Sorry for that.
Just to say I have been studying the bible for 30 years now and there is know where in the bible where it says that if you commit suicide you will go to hell. In fact there are occasions where people, like Moses, Elijah, Jonah and Job felt suicidal and cried out to God about it, and he comforted them.
Whilst the bible is not a medical book it does give comfort to the depressed, such as the many psalms, and tells us at, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 in part to," speak consolingly to the depressed soles".
This is for those of you worried that God might judge you for how you feel, but to take comfort in the knowledge that he understands.
From a fellow Bi-polar sufferer
I remember hiding under the desk at work because I had gone from normal to crazy in a few minutes and I didn't want to explain it to anyone. Only problem was a tradie came in to fix the airconditioning while I was under the desk. Sobbing turned to laughter, and as he walked out of the room he turned around to see me standing there, He looked like he'd seen a ghost!
Great post. Your writing really inspires me. I am afraid I went from some sort of normal person to a sobbing, suicidal headcase within the span of about 5 minutes at work today and THAT, nobody understands. In fact, I'm still trying to figure it out myself. Anyway, I just really wanted to thank you, reading your blog always helps.
I have 5 cats, so Monday,Tuesday,Wednesday,Thursday and Friday are pretty much covered. Feeding my 2 dogs pretty much covers the balance of the week, if you know what I mean?
I agree with you that it is difficult for people who have not lived with mental illness to understand us. Though I don't want to kill myself, the intensity of my suicidal thoughts can be severe at times, yet my husband may comment with a loving smile on his face that I am looking happy in that moment/day! It is both confusing and scary to realize that the person who knows me the most intimately, doesn't know the darker side of me at all, or to what extent, and how creatively, I can obsess about my own demise.
It is not as though he hasn't had enough proof of my lability - there have been several hospitalizations and enough therapy in the past to put a serious dent in our savings.
I think the gap between us feeling understood (or not) by our loved ones, is when they (out of necessity), become desensitized to our illness. They cannot, on a daily basis, contemplate the prospect of our possible completed suicide, or they would in turn become very depressed themselves. Someone has to hold it together while we are unravelling. They would be living with CTSD (continuous traumatic stress disorder), if they confronted our demons as often as we do.
So, when family and friends come together in grief at the funeral of a loved one who completed a suicide, and, with furrowed brows, agree that the actions of the deceased 'came out of the blue' , or that the individual had seemed so 'stable and happy' lately, it is surely a symptom of their collective numbing and denial of the horrors of this illness? I can't say I blame them! Who wants to dance with the devil every day of their lives - certainly not me, but I don't have that enviable choice.
Some of us DO understand :-)
I agree, one day _will_ come, but we don't know when. Until then, we just have to surround ourselves with people who do get it and wait for others to catch up.
We all feel that way sometimes. I have felt that way more times than I can count. The only thing I can do is remind you that it hasn't always been like this in the past and it won't always be like this in the future. Try to hang onto that and know that what you're feeling is perfectly normal. Everyone get's bone-tired from feeling sick all the time.
Please read this as well http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/07/for-loved-ones-after-a-suicide-attempt/
Your family/friends may also want to read it. I hope you're getting the support you need. You can make it through this.
I believe "one day" will come I just don't know when...
I have been blessed to have a very understanding wife, kids, and parents who don’t have the disease, but have done everything in their power to try and understand it. That only works if I am truly honest with them. Meaning I must be straight up with them about my moods, my thoughts and my feelings. If I have a day that I feel hopeless and can’t see the light through the fog, I’ve got to be frank with them. If I have days when I can’t get out of bed, don’t answer emails or phone calls, I must also keep them in the loop to do my share letting them in on my BP. So I think it’s a two way street, we with the illness need to be upfront explaining ourselves so others without it can relate.
So I feel comfortable with myself knowing that I am trying to do my part in the education process. BP can be both a blessing and a curse. I’ve been in senior management in the healthcare administration field for two decades now. It’s a blessing that I can work days without leaving the office, finishing up the work of two people. But it’s a curse to know I am probably taking years off the end of my life due to the crazy hours I keep, both at the office and at home. The only thing I regret is now that my kids are getting older, they personally see some of the issues I usually in the past have dealt with in secrecy.
I have also found that being extremely educated isn’t always a blessing with this disease. If you weren’t you would simply take the damn pills and go to therapy. But being educated will send you on a quest to fix yourself and think that, because you are currently feeling fine, it’s OK to get off your medication. We’re so smart that we don’t even see the reason we are feeling fine is because of the medication. I do go to therapy every week, believe it or not with the same therapist since I was 17. I relay on to her all my current issue, my thoughts, my problems, and if it’s only to get these things out on the table, it’s worth the copay. It’s also beneficial to spend an hour once a week conversing with a highly educated person in the mental disease field and bouncing things off of her. But I am always searching for something, not a cure, but for more of a harness to better control this problem. And for killing myself, well that would be one way to end this, but what will this do to my wife, what about my kids and who will teach them and my parents would probably be quite disappointed with me. After all they have put in the time with me; I need to return the favor. It just goes to show, the easy road is not always the best road to be on.
You put my feelings into words when you said, "...the loss of how i once lived/functioned just swirls in my head." I have snapshots of that time of my life in my mind and I sort through them on a daily basis. I desire to have the vitality and zest for life I once had and the confidence in myself-I really miss that. And I'm frozen somewhere between grief and rage. I feel like I've been robbed, stripped of my identity. I try in vain to get some semblance of that person back. Striving toward acceptance as you are doing would bring me more peace I think. Thank you for sharing.
I feel so grateful to have found your blog. I have a bipolar disorder and attempted suicide two months ago. I have been searching for someone who understands. Suicidal thoughts are seductive indeed. I feel ashamed of what I did and guilty for what I put my family through. I am on medication and in therapy. I have a supportive family of which I am presently relying on. And I still have times when I want to give up. I also want to be a productive member of society, but am not past my fears yet and confident in myself. Thank you for sharing.
I am pushing 70, and I have worked all my life. When I'm at work, I'm "on", I'm efficient, people like me and I get the job done - no matter what it is. When I get home, the walls come down and sometimes I just feel tired of living! I'm not suicidal... I just don't know what else I'm supposed to do!
I have suffered so much with worry and fear for my daughter for the past several years - she's been homeless, in and out of jail, completely out of control and in the state hospital on three occasions. Sometimes the emotional pain, for me, was so intense I just wished I would die.. just so the pain would stop! I've prayed and prayed (and I'll never stop).
For the time being, my daugher is doing well. From her last stay at the state hospital, she has been in residential treatment for the past 4 months. She has never come this far before... so, my prayers have been answered and I feel hope and peace, and I am loving it for as long as it lasts. I believe she will make it ... If she stays on medication! She is "herself" while on the medication, but someone I do not know when she's not. She has gained insight and that is majorly important, especially for some sort of "recovery". I'm not in denial - I know mental illness does not go away. But I am so gratefful.
The sad, sad part for me - as the mother of three daughters - is that one of her sisters is more compassionate - even though she tends to view her sister's mental illness as something that needs "tough love" or "intervention". Her oldest sister (the daughter with mental illness is the youngest) has completely cut her out of her life. Talk about "walkiing on eggshells"... I don't talk about the younger sister around her, and she doesn't ask about her. I find it very ironic that she has "helped" her in the past (mostly sending her Care Pkgs because of her homelessness; she has taken some crazy phone calls in the past), but now that she is on a firmer path, she has dropped her completely. Avoids her calls, doesn't acknowledge any cards or letters she may have sent... nothing! I don't get that. But, there's nothing I can do about it. It just hurts me, because it hurts her younger sister - that her sister has given up on her.
Sorry... I really didn't mean to go on for so long in a "comment". I hope it's OK.
I have written much about the seductive nature of suicide and self-harming thoughts over the years, so no worry about freaking anyone out on this side of my keyboard.
You are absolutely right, those thoughts speak with seduction. It's how people end up taking their own lives. It seems like a good idea at the time, but that's the illness talking in its very convincing (and seductive) way.
It's good to hear you've found some things that work for you. Thought-stopping is always a great skill to have but sometimes it requires the right meds too.
Kava is an interesting one and I know some people find it helpful with anxiety.
Many people who think about suicide or who attempt suicide often mistakenly think that others would be "better off," but of course, this is just the illness speaking. When in our rational minds, we know this not to be true. But the illness can be very convincing.
I can't say anything about hell only that I believe it not to exist but others, naturally, would disagree with me on that point. I think that any god worth believing in wouldn't punish someone for being in pain. But that's me.
I'm glad you've found my writings helpful. I'll be here.
You're welcome. Happy to help.
Yes, people have many feelings about suicide. Me, I try not to be judgemental about the whole thing. You can't truly get inside someone else's head and it's really not fair to judge them as if you can. And people suggesting that others are "selfish" or "going to hell" rather tick me off. That just puts more pressure on people who are clearly under enough already.
I don't know about multi-hemisphere thinking preventing suicides but it's an interesting thought.
Thank-you so much for taking the time to write me that. You're welcome. I'm honoured in any small part that I could play.
thank you for persisting all this while in creating an awareness about BPD. Just wanted to let you know that your posts are a great source of comfort to me. plz continue the good work.
All these comments are perhaps said in a persons hope to deter a suicidal person from acting on the feeling. The comments do not eliminate the intense (sometimes overwhelming) desire to end the pain.
If science is correct that the right and left hemispheres of our brains think different then perhaps that is where some help has been left untouched.
Maybe if more bi-polar people (includes me) were taught to use bilateral physical exercise so we might think with both hemispheres we could prevent more suicides? Just a thought
I love this post. I have bipolar disorder. I don't blurt out the fact to everyone I meet, but neither do I make any effort to hide it. Most of the people I deal with are very accepting, but I have run into a few who just don't get it. I think you've come to the right conclusion that not getting it is their problem. All I can do is speak my truth. What anyone else does with it is up to them, not me.