My writer’s ink has literally dried up in the last few weeks. At first it was a “I’m too busy” thing, then it was a “people are helping me access treatment” thing, then it was a “I’m too happy” thing and then, believe it or not, it was a “I am accepted” thing. And like the things that are peculiar and do everything in the opposite in Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss, I do not know how to speak or write happy, treatment access, acceptance stuff. No. I can write volumes about what is wrong with mental health services, how people are not accessing the life-saving support they need, how discrimination and stigma crush and damage the people who are living with a chronic illness that changes the course of their lives forever.
Yes. I can describe depression, psychiatric wards and healthworkers who are as sensitive as I am after taking my Serraquel and heading for bed (that’s not very). And I think I have done that within this very space on The Bipolar Writer. Amazingly, many of you wrote back and said what can we do, how can we help. My response a few weeks ago, was that people with mental illness globally should stand up, talk, talk, talk, take action, scream and shout, document and show what’s really happening EVERYWHERE until we see the changes that need to happen. And we are assured that those changes would be sustained. I still think that needs to happen. But my experience – and these niggly things I’ve come across – make me want to add a lot more.
Not only do we need to highlight the darkness, the human rights transgressions and anything that fundamentally affects mental health – we also need to celebrate, and shout loudly about people, organisations, companies, communities that are accepting, that help, that accommodate, that assist people with mental illness. We need to show that it can be done. And that the results are awesome where it works. That we can “function” just as well as our environment allows us to. No, I don’t believe functioning is on a scale of 1-10 – but rather what is best for a particular person at a particular time, and BUT a lot of that depends on how they’re treated and received. What they are provided access to.
One example of the acceptance I received was in a job interview. After a great discussion (which is generally how it goes) I decided after a heave ho in my mind that I needed to disclose that Bipolar lives with me. For the first time since I was diagnosed a good long decade ago. That I would only be prepared to work in an environment that was accepting of that. And that Bipolar wasn’t a matter of running between two poles of sadness and happiness, as I’m built for comfort not for speed (and that would be exhausting). More seriously, I said that my wellness at work was dependent on the relationship with the employer, and not “special allowances” but rather an understanding of where I am, what I need, and what would contribute to wellness going forward. That my treatment team could participate (obviously without disclosing anything) in analysing and assessing what contributes and detracts from staying well. That it was possible. And even more importantly, that I was so, so, so worth it. I have never believed that a day in my life. Never. Until now.
I don’t know if I got the job yet. Maybe they were just being nice… I am, based on experience, skeptical. But they have given me something I could not pay for already. The belief that that a world where I – and people like me – can be accepted, loved, happy. What can we do? What can we change? Our minds, our behaviour, our reception of people who are vulnerable, of people who need help, no matter what affects or ails them. And, maybe, just maybe, we can do that with a smile on our faces. I’m going to. Be part of those who support us as opposed to those don’t. I am 4M’s Bipolar Mom.