30 Day Mental Illness Awareness Challenge – In One Post

I’m inspired by http://zedmondson.wordpress.com/ in particular to do this challenge. I have no patience to do this in parts, and am having trouble sleeping, not out of the ordinary for anyone suffering from mental illness. Enjoy.

Day 1: What is/are your mental illness(es)? Explain it a little.

Bipolar Disorder Type I and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I chose links I felt would describe the disorders pretty well, because it would take up a lot of space to explain it all, and I’d probably forget a few things anyway. You live with it, it just becomes of your life, and you don’t really think about the textbook basics anymore when they’re worming through your body.

Day 2: How do you feel about your diagnosis?

I was relieved, among a few other mixed feelings several years ago when I was diagnosed. I wasn’t just an emotional freak anymore, there was some grounds to it all. Over the years I’ve spit on the diagnosis and other times hugged the community for dear life in need of support. Overall, diagnosis means a basis for treatment, and though I dislike popping pills as much as the next person, I’m grateful for some relief because of them.

Day 3: What treatment or coping skills are most effective for you?

Distraction. The best thing for if you know you won’t be getting any sleep in a manic state, or just have a chunk of free time to dwell on your anxieties and depression to read. When I’m in the car, the best way to keep my mind from spinning is listening to music, particularly a playlist I’ve created depending on the severity of my depression and trying to avoid songs or playlists that’ll set off spiked feelings. Writing is also a large part of finding comfort in those rough patches. I exercise six days a week but don’t feel the high you’re supposed to feel nor do I feel better about anything I’m miserable about, but try it for yourself, it’s SUPPOSED to help.

Day 4: What are the pros and cons of having a mental illness(es) or your specific illness(es)?

Pros? When I had horrible agoraphobia in conjunction with my OCD and BP I was able to take administrative withdrawals in college, which changed what would be F’s to W’s. It’s not something to brag about, but it did help a lot to be ill on paper. Cons? It’s all consuming no matter how much medicine you’re on or how much therapy you’re getting. Like having arthritis it’s there to remind you it’s there even when you haven’t moved around for a while and might seem to forget it.

Day 5: Do you believe nature (biology/physiology), nurture(environment), a mix, or something else has an impact on mental health?

Both definitely. The environments we are raised in play a big part of things, as well as the pressures on each individual that come to play over the course of a lifetime. Also, we’re not having to run for our lives from tigers and wild dogs anymore, so that anxiety response for a lot of us is overwhelming in situations that may not actually be so life and death.

Day 6: Do you have a family history of mental illness or mental health issues?

It’s possible. OCD in my maternal grandmother, possibly BP in my paternal grandfather, but neither were diagnosed. We’re going based off of a symptom guide and mindfulness of their behaviors. As a psych major I’m extra versed in symptoms of different illnesses, but I’m surely not qualified to diagnose willy-nilly.

Day 7: Do you think there are any triggers or patterns to how your illness(es) effects you?

Triggers galore for my BP. Anything a little too emotional or that rubs me the wrong way can send a spike through me. The neurons are just jonesin’ to fire off those signals. As for the OCD, the big one is stress, also over the years I’ve had some really dominant obsessive thoughts that were all-consuming, and when something in a minor way worries me about something related, the thoughts come back in full force for a period of time regardless of medication, though I’m much better at coping with them than I used to be.

Day 8:  What age you were diagnosed at?  At what age do you think your symptoms began? (You can make a timeline)

I was diagnosed at 20. I think my symptoms for BP began at 13. I did some majorly manic things in those early teen years and felt some low months as well. It’s actually kind of comforting to know what stemmed my behavior when I got older, but it took a while to re-look at those memories and put them in place. My OCD behaviors and thought patterns started a lot younger, can’t can an age for you, but it drove my parents crazy.

Day 9: What are some of the important events in your life, that may have effected your mental illness(es) for the worse or better? (You can make a timeline)

I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease at 16. It was a rough battle I never fully went into remission from. Also, living with my Asperger’s sister whose only grown more frustrating over the years has taken a toll. I’ve also done a grade-A job at screwing up some of my closest relationships, and never being able to forgive myself for them. They’re stand out marks on the timeline.

Day 10: What is the best thing in regards to your mental illness(es)?

A ‘Divergent’ mind if you want to throw some pop culture into the mix.

Day 11: What is the worst thing in regard to your mental illness(es)?

Regret over how far behind in life I feel like I am because of it all, and regret from some of the decisions I’ve made, things I’ve said, or money I’ve spent in an altered state.

Day 12: What do you think about your diagnosis in general?  (Some ideas are: stereotypes, commonalities, misdiagnosis, over diagnosis)

Stigma is a bitch. I feel like my family has the closest idea to what my reality must be like, among other peers with the disorder, many of which I’m grateful to have met on WordPress. Aside from that even the closest of friends can’t REALLY wrap their minds around it, and maybe that’s just something I’ve been telling myself for years on end. That’s for sure why I’m constantly apologizing over periods of isolation.

Day 13: If you know the criteria of your illness(es) which ones do you think you meet? Or what are your most common symptoms?

Obsessive thinking rules over the ritualistic behavior for my OCD, but it’s there no doubt. As for the bipolar, I’m a textbook case and a rapid cycler at that.

Day 14: Have you ever experienced stigma?

Not exactly, our society I feel at least in the midwest…at least in IL…at least in Chicagoland, is trying to be more open-minded to these things. But I still think that homosexuality is less stigmatized in the US than mental illness is.

Day 15: How has your life been effected by your illness(es)? (Some ideas are: relationships, career, school)

My isolating behavior has caused stress in friendship style relationships as well as with extended family members. Overly emotional outbursts and obsessing over things that may or may not be entirely made up in my head until I’m ready to burst are problems in romantic relationships. School has taken me 6 years longer than it should have in order to graduate, and I’m still waiting to take that last class I need. And careers? Stress is overwhelming a lot of times on the job, but it’s usually in a situation in which I wasn’t properly trained, or trained long enough, as well as poor treatment by the management of whatever company. In a healthy work environment I do pretty well for myself, but it’s been a while since I’ve experienced that.

Day 16: How many people are you “out” to with your mental illness(es)? Why?

I met a couple of people in school during my psychology studies who have Bipolar Disorder. I’ve met the rest of the folk online through platforms like WordPress and DailyStrength.org (which by the way is totally broken these days, I used to be a huge fan). Of course, there are always the people who YOU come out with who dare to say, “I think we’re ALL a little OCD.” Who deserve a good slapping.

Day 17: If you could get rid of your mental illness(es) would you?  Why or why not?

Sure, why the hell not? Unfortunately, I’d probably be really disoriented and not know who the hell I was anymore.

Day 18:  What do you wish people would understand in regards to mental illness and/or mental health?

It’s like having emotional Cancer. People “get” Cancer. They don’t “get” mental illness as easy.

Day 19: Have you ever read a self-help book or a book related to psychology?  What is your opinion on them?  If you have read them do you have a favorite?

I have. “When Panic Attacks” was pretty helpful. Sean Covey also writes pretty inspiring books. If a book has a ‘workbook’ either integrated or attached, I say go with that one. Hands on is more helpful than just a butterfly trying to tell you how to zen out, which is how most Co-dependance books that I’ve read are written.

Day 20: Where do you get your support?

My immediate family has grown to be my most supportive outlet.

Day 21: Many people say stress triggers symptoms, do you agree or disagree?

Umm, duh it does. (Very strongly opinionated in agreement)

Day 22: What is your opinion on medication used to treat mental illness(es)?

Everybody’s body chemistry is different, and it changes over time. It’s a tricky thing to get right and usually it requires a “cocktail” of drugs. Trial and error a lot of times, I’m for western medicine in treatment of mental illness, but I think you need a sharp doctor whose willing to work with you at every turn.

Day 23: What is your opinion on therapy? (It can be any type, some examples are: group therapy, talk therapy, social skills training, exposure therapy, ERP,DBT, CBT, ACT,  marital counseling, and many more)

Group therapy was heaven for me the two times I was a part of it, about four months total. Talk therapy is alright, but the closer I’ve ever gotten to a therapist, the more guilty I’ve seemed to feel at spewing the same things I’m stuck on week after week. Social skills training is a definite yes for people with Asperger’s and other developmental disabilities. My sister skirts around getting it, but she sure as hell needs it, and it would benefit her. CBT is the best of the three letter therapies when it comes to re-shaping your brain, but without constant practice it’s not of any use.

Day 24: What is your opinion on alternative treatments or treatments that aren’t commonly used? (Some examples are: EMDR, hypnotherapy, herbal or vitamin supplements, acupuncture, massage therapy, art, music, or recreational therapy, ECT, VNS, TMS, DBS)

I have to laugh at the massage therapy one. I get so uptight thinking about when the massage is going to be over and I won’t have enjoyed it for long enough that I don’t end up enjoying the damn thing at all because I’m too stressed out about it being over too soon…Art, music, recreational therapy are great. I suggest flax and omega 3’s for the extra support alongside your traditional medicine as well as milk thistle to help your liver be healthy since it’s being doused with foreign chemicals.

Day 25: What is your opinion on forced/coercion in mental health treatment? Can be legal (law enforcement or psychiatric holds) or a “helping” friend/family member.

When my dad pointed out that I needed more help than I thought I did I was at first furious, but after having received help, I was grateful. It’s not the same story for everyone. If you’re going to end up hurting yourself I feel that being forced into a helpful environment is okay, but I do think that such helpful environment should be monitored by your doctor, or A doctor who is sharp, and wants to see you get better.

Day 26: How is your day-to-day life effected by your mental illness(es)?

Everything is exhausting. I feel like I shouldn’t have to struggle through every day of my life. I’d enjoy a day off here and there at the very least.

Day 27: Explain a “good” day.

You don’t struggle too much, you’re productive, you laugh and can have a genuine conversation with people.

Day 28: Explain a “bad” day.

You struggle a lot. It’s the opposite, plus you’re stuck in a black goo of bad thoughts.

Day 29: What are a few of your goals regarding your mental health.

I want to live a long life with as many good days as possible.

Day 30: What does recovery mean to you?

Saved the hardest question for last did we? Recovery is like laughter I suppose. It’ll be sobering up from an hour of crying, or going to the grocery store the day after sleeping 18 hours. It’s something to be proud of, and something to strive for in the long run if by a lucky chance you can really ditch the nature and upgrade the nurture.


28 thoughts on “30 Day Mental Illness Awareness Challenge – In One Post

  1. WOW! Awesome answers. I am Bipolar, Rapid Cycling along with Severe Anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD, OCD and a few other letters thrown in for good measure. Thanks so much for sharing so deeply. It is inspiring.

    • Thank you! Throwing in other letters for good measure is a specialty of mine too. I’m glad that you enjoyed my answers as I had fun writing them and felt really relaxed after. I’ll pop by your blog this weekend when I have more time!

  2. I have Bipolar Disorder III, depression, anxiety and an anger issue. I identified with you on the isolation from others. I too constantly apologize for being absent, and the amount of guilt I feel is intense. Thanks for a relatable read.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post from both a fellow “consumer” of the mental health industry and also as someone who is studying mental health. I found similarities in opinion and diagnosis and found that comforting, as I am starting on a bit of a depressive breakdown. It was good for me to read another lived experience perspective.

    I think I may have to partake in this challange. =)

    • I hope you’re pulling out of your depression! I know you wrote this a while ago and I haven’t had a chance to get back to you yet. Usually I’m on an awkward computer so I take a while between blogging and commenting to get back to people…but I always try to at some point (ASAP). I’ll be stopping in on your blog often even if I don’t comment. I agree being able to relate to someone else on here is kind of comforting.

  4. “Day 3: What treatment or coping skills are most effective for you?


    You identify more strongly with the term ‘Mental Illness’, than the illness itself. Fascinating.

    The therapy on offer merely tampers with the symptoms of the two assumed identities. The reason is that a ‘consumer’ must be kept ‘intact’ while undergoing treatment. That’s morally divergent on a different level!!

    I’m not going to tamper with your condition, but your point of view needs to change ‘slightly’ to see the truth.

    When did your Bi-Polar symptoms start if I may ask?

    • I’m co-morbid Bipolar and OCD so I generally don’t like to say one is more dominant than the other. The OCD is just more under control with treatment, and though I complain more about the bipolar which is trickier to handle, I still identify kind of as a grouping under mental illness as a title. My Bipolar symptoms started at 20, which is a common onset age.

      • I suffer from a mild swinging mood I’ve noticed. I seem to oscillate between coping, and not coping. My partner more-so. If you don’t mind, rather than keep those descriptions to yourself, perhaps we should all take them on-board, and see just how normal it is to carry a few characters around in the mind at the same time.

        Being one step ahead of the concept of mental illness by being fully aware of your ability to create a character from scratch if you like could be helpful. I think you are displaying quite normal reactions to being conditioned in your early years. At some point, you needed to create and adjust these characters in your life. Understanding the character creation process and how you become what you imagine yourself to be is very important.

      • When I say swinging mood, I mean from awake, centred and bright, to stay in bed depressed for a day. Sometimes it even took longer to come out of it and it got progressively worse, until one day, it all converged. Partner was kicking me out because of my moods. Job was more stress that it was worth. 100% of life seemed in the bin already. That got me to a point. The suicidal point.

        Luckily, I just stopped listening to the inner voice that was telling me to kill myself, and for anything else. In fact I often tell it to shut the ….. up!

  5. “Of course, there are always the people who YOU come out with who dare to say, “I think we’re ALL a little OCD.” Who deserve a good slapping.”

    If you understood the nature of the illness, you’d understand the perversion of that remark.

      • And which Freudian metaphor for the part of your brain does suffering come from. The Id, the Ego or the Super Ego?

        I’ll explain a bit. Buddhism (bear with me) is all about psychology, and ending suffering. It knows what suffers, and suggests letting go of the things that define the illnesses we all carry around with us. Even modern psychology states we carry these illnesses with us. They come from “the split”. As our Ego develops, and information is poured into us, we have no time to deal with what is happening in our minds. We simply shouldn’t be thrown into schools like cattle. It destroys empathic abilities and turns us all into suffering, self-pleaser’s and totally wrapped up in whatever our obsession is. Entertainment, News, Games, events. Whatever it is, it consumes us, not the other way round.

      • And I’m not talking about the illness. I’m talking about the ‘mind’. The bit contains the suffering individual.

      • You psychiatrist won’t tell you this because you are supposed to be a happy consumer/sufferer and they like to leave the consumer ‘intact’. That is why they go to college and join a club vowing to never ‘enlighten’ people to what it is that suffers, or how you can ‘know’ and be apart from that ‘character’. The character you created during the split is the bit that suffers. It is merely what you ‘think’ you are.

  6. Ah, yes, the ladies of the club. A nice euphemism from another era, useful to avoid stigma when self-referencing : ) I loved your month of Q and A. I’m going to reflect a little on the questions, but then I’ll be 67 next month, and I’ve pretty much reviewed my life and the impact of my mental illness, play by play, over the years. I was diagnosed late, I think late forties, actually and officially by my son’s psychiatrist! Thank God. I had been so terrorized by bouts of dissociation by then, it was a relief to find out I WASN’T crazy. Just pretty damned ill. And pretty damned good at hiding it. In retrospect, maybe not so much : ) I am grateful for so much in my life. I made incredible mistakes, but I managed to hold it together much of the time, while dying inside. Many days I assumed the fetal position when I got home. Other days, never left. Mental illness runs like a river through our gene pool. Like you, there are indicators in history. You know, like the grandmother in the state hospital in the forties because she was an alcoholic (and so much more) The whole “Our family is high-strung” thing. etc. Every one of my children has a mental health issue. Through the grace of God and the miracle of finding good doctors and treatment, we are all alive. Not always well. But as my sister says, Life is messy. I will be following your blog. You probably cringe at some of these comments, A couple of these people I do have the impulse to slap. But you are courageous and insightful. I know that this blog is a blend of life and art and meaning. I have deep empathy with you and deep sympathy. I hope even better avenues of treatment will open to all of us in years to come. I wish you piece and many good days.
    Oh, and reading your piece about driving and risk rings so true in a number of ways. First in my twenties obsessive thought driving by pedestrians, “I could hit that person.” Horrible. Horrible. Terrifying. (as in, Salinger, Seymour) And that great manic euphoria when driving., even not too long ago. Meds adjustment came right up. That I wish I could post. My poem Hydroplane. I bet you’d relate. What the hell. It’ll be my last post of the day. I’ve realized I have to post in bursts, largely depending on mood. I’m not going to talk about the poem at all. I’m just posting and running. Some of us will get it. Take care.

    • I too, wish you many MANY more years ahead of you and all of them peaceful and memorable for all the right reasons. My posting is mood based as well. I need to stop on your blog and check out what’s new with you. Your comment meant a lot to share your story and know there’s a stranger out here who wishes the best for you no matter what.

  7. You sound very similar to me. I have BP 1 and OCD. The obsessive thoughts and desire to repeat rituals are tough. Can I complete this challenge, too? I’d probably want to do it all at once, as well, lol.

    • I hope you do complete it! If you do it all at once we really are alike 😛 I’ll check in on your blog soon. I need to catch up on comments and then finally reading. Talk about rituals, I just suck at doing it in a timely manner and then hate myself and feel super guilty 😀

  8. I feel the same way about my therapy. I am worried that I have nothing new to say-but I still think that I should keep going. If for no other reason than to tell a professional how I am feeling.

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