Self-Stigmatization

shadows-of-hands-and-humans-in-gloomy-room
Photo on Visualhunt.com

When I was figuring out what to write about today, this paragraph from my previous post popped up.

“Relatives might ask where I am. Others might think I’m disrespectful for not being there. If I was there, I can only imagine the deluge of questions. Why’s your hair that color? Do you think you’re still a kid? What is [this] PHP? Or maybe no one would ask any questions at all.”

And that’s when I observed that I self-stigmatize. I was so worried about what other family members might think of me. Okay, my dad and uncle already told me that the Philippines is half the world away, Mama won’t recognize anyone (dad), and Mama will understand (uncle). Then, when I expressed my worry about relatives not seeing me and wondering about me (above paragraph), they basically blew that off — not the question, the other family members. I could have held my red head high and talked about why I don’t have kids.

If the funeral was here, of course I’d be there, and I’d be there ready to answer any question sent my way.

The word “loser” just popped into my head, but I don’t know who it’s meant for, because it certainly isn’t for me.

Pay attention to your speech patterns. Do you self-stigmatize?


Daily Prompt: Observe

Sunshine Blogger Award #2!

Thank you to orange walls for  nominating me for . . .

sunshine-Blogger-Award (1)

. . . and you should definitely check out her blog, especially if you want to know why she calls it orange walls! Recently she blogged about various mood tracker apps, which is certainly worth a read.

Sunshine Blogger Award Rules:

The Sunshine Blogger award is given by bloggers to bloggers who inspire positivity and creativity in the blogging community.

The rules are:

  1. Thank blogger(s) who nominated you for a blog post and link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  3. Nominate up to 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

Here are orange wall’s questions:

  1. What/who inspires you to blog?
    The public. My hope is that my blog contributes to the battle against stigma towards mental illness.
  2. What are your favourite self-care tips and tricks?
    When I’m depressed, I couldn’t care less about my appearance, in terms of how I dress. But I always keep my weekly salon appointments for various services such as a haircut/color, mani/pedi, and facials. Feeling pampered once a week is important to me and a big part of my self-care. Also, I’ve been going to the same salon for over 10 years and know the staff (who knows about my bipolar), so I get some socialization by going there.
  3. Where do you see your blog in 5 years?
    I just hope I’m still blogging in 5 years! I have a tendency to lose interest in some things I begin because of depression, but I hope this blog isn’t one of them.
  4. What is the hardest part of your illness(es)?
    Bipolar depression, for sure — I don’t often have hypomanic symptoms. I’ll feel okay for 1 or 2 months, but then, as my psychiatrist puts it, I “hit a wall” and enter another depressive cycle.
  5. What thing(s) can you celebrate about yourself?
    My resilience and strength with regard to my bipolar.
  6. Do you have any hobbies? If not, what hobbies can you see yourself doing and why?
    I crochet, I recently learned that I like to work on jigsaw puzzles. I’m planning to take a knitting class in a couple of months, and I’m hoping to be able to take martial arts classes again. I’d also like to play hockey again. The last 2 depend on the tendinitis in my hip.
  7. Where do you blog/write (i.e at a desk, in the kitchen…) and why?
    Usually at my desk in our home office, because that’s the most comfortable. Sometimes, like if I’m depressed or feeling lazy, I blog on a TV tray while sitting on the sofa in the living room. On weekends, my husband and I like to go to coffee shops, so I’ll blog from there.
  8. What kinds of tips can you give to someone who has recently been diagnosed?
    Educate yourself about your illness and medication(s). Mental illness can be managed, but often it takes time to get the right combination of meds that work well. Be patient with your healthcare team, and stay in communication with them.
  9. What is your favourite season and why?
    I have a love/hate relationship with autumn. I love that the weather finally gets cooler, and the different colors the leaves change into are beautiful. However, it’s usually the time of year that I’m most vulnerable to falling into a depressive episode.
  10. What keeps you blogging when barriers exist?
    The only barriers I can think of is my bipolar depression. Writing is therapeutic for me, and I’d also like readers to know what I go through when I’m in a depressive or hypomanic episode, so they get an idea of what it’s like, at least for me. So even if I’m depressed, I force myself to post daily.
  11. If you have 1 thing to say to your readers to inspire them, what would it be?
    Love yourself the way you are! <3

And here are the nominees!!

A balancing act

A Pause, Not an End;

Randomness Inked

My Loud Bipolar Whispers

Because I’m too lazy to come up with 11 new questions, I’m going to recycle orange walls’ questions lol!

 

Bed-and-Breakfasts & Being “Out” About My Mental Illness

B&amp;B
Photo credit: Onasill ~ Bill Badzo on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Since I was diagnosed in 1994, I don’t think I’ve ever hidden the fact that I have a mental illness. At first, my parents wanted to deny it, but not me. I wanted to own it. Most of my friends and family, at least those on Facebook, know that I’m bipolar and have anxiety. One of my aunts even reads my blog and occasionally leaves supportive comments. Most people who know me outside of Facebook also know, at least if the topic has come up.

When I meet new people, I don’t come right out and say, “By the way, I’m bipolar.” But should the topic of mental illness come up, and occasionally it does, I “out” myself. I’ve had good reactions so far. Maybe those who had bad reactions remain silent. Either way, most people continue conversing with me.

Most of you know that I don’t leave my house much, so you may be wondering where I meet new people: at bed-and-breakfasts (B&Bs). My husband and I like to travel to towns or cities we’ve never been to, within driving distance (2-3 hours) from Chicago. We always stay in B&Bs.

If you’ve never been to a B&B, it’s like a hotel with fewer rooms, about 6 total! They’re usually housed in a historic mansion with fancy interior designs from a previous century (original wood, or at least restored to what it used to look like, etc.), and furnished with antiques galore. Obviously, I’m not as interested in the architecture; I’m more about what our room is like and the service, which in all but one of the places we’ve stayed, were awesome. We’re even repeat customers at a few. Some are kid-friendly, but the guests are mostly couples.

B&Bs don’t offer room service, but they provide a full breakfast. Sometimes it’s a buffet, but most of the time  it’s like going out to a restaurant, because the innkeeper places a plate of food in front of you at the table! Some places have a specific time that they serve breakfast, while at others, you can choose the time you wish to eat. They always accommodate our vegetarian diet. Some B&Bs have separate tables where guests can eat alone, but most of them have a big, fancy dining table where all of the guests eat together.

I know it was a long story, but this is how I meet new people lol! I’m always a little anxious when we enter the dining room, particularly if it’s a community table. In my imagination, I feel that I’m going to be the only person of color at the table, and most of the time I’m right. However, strange though it may be, I’m comfortable talking to these new people — probably because I know I’ll never see them again! Except maybe at breakfast the next day haha!

If the topic of mental health comes up, I “out” myself. But one of the things that almost always comes up is what I do for a living. I hem and haw, and finally say that I’m a fiction writer. I would feel awkward telling them that I’m on disability, because my illness is invisible. Recently, my therapist and I came up with how I can answer this question in the future: “I’m a fiction writer, and I blog about bipolar disorder.” It isn’t exactly “outing” myself, but should anyone ask why I chose that topic, then I would tell them, and best case scenario, hope it starts a positive dialogue about mental illness.

I have yet to use this answer, but we’ll be traveling again in about a month, and we don’t know what the eating arrangements will be. I kind of hope that someone asks me what I do for a living lol!

Have you ever stayed at a B&B? What was your breakfast experience like?


via Daily Prompt: Imagination

Stigma Towards ECT

IMG_0638
Me, post-ECT, November 2014; photo provided by author

When I posted The ECT Procedure: How It’s Done on Twitter, someone replied that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or, electroshock treatment “is craniocerbral [sic] trauma” and that it “causes brain damage.” The person referred me to the site, ECT Resources Center, to confirm this.

I was surprised to receive such a response, because I thought that ECT is a largely accepted treatment for depression, because it works and is considered safe. There are memoirs out there, particularly Carrie Fisher’s Shockaholic, that describe positive experiences with the treatment. In Fisher’s book, she treats ECT as just another form of therapy. She doesn’t make a big deal out of it; rather, she normalizes the treatment.

At the point in my life when I read the reply, I had undergone ECT many times. All told, I’ve had approximately 50 or so treatments — maybe more — I’d have to ask for my medical records for the exact number.

Then I visited that website, run by psychiatrist Peter R. Breggin, MD,, and was surprised at what I found: he claims that ECT

“always damages the brain, resulting each time in a temporary coma and often a flatlining of the brain waves, which is a sign of impending brain death. After one, two or three ECTs, the trauma causes typical symptoms of severe head trauma or injury including headache, nausea, memory loss, disorientation, confusion, impaired judgment, loss of personality, and emotional instability. These harmful effects worsen and some become permanent as routine treatment progresses.”

What?! Except for memory loss, I’ve never experienced any of those things. Did I show impaired judgment by taking a selfie after a treatment? Do I look disoriented? You tell me lol! I didn’t bother exploring the site because I thought it was ridiculous, but I did more research about the stigma towards ECT. I found this article, “Electroconvulsive therapy: A history of controversy but also of help,” written by medical history professor Jonathan Sadowsky,  on The Conversation. Sadowsky states that:

“Many critics have portrayed ECT as a form of medical abuse, and depictions in film and television are usually scary. Yet many psychiatrists, and more importantly, patients, consider it to be a safe and effective treatment [emphasis added] for severe depression and bipolar disorder.”

He goes on to say that most people are “exposed only to the frightening images of ECT.” For example:

“Many depictions of ECT in film and television have portrayed the therapy as an abusive form of control. Most famous is the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” [based on Ken Kesey’s novel of the same name] in which an unruly patient is subjected to the procedure as a punishment. There is probably no fictional story that so haunts our consciousness of a medical treatment.”

These negative portrayals, I’m sure, fuel the stigma towards ECT, as well as the anti-psychiatry movement that Sadowsky describes. I never even knew there was such a movement. The extreme members don’t believe that mental illness exists! (It’s worth reading the article.)

Though mental hospital staff in the past may have threatened to administer ECT to patients they couldn’t control, in my experiences of being in psych wards, I’ve never seen that happen. And in order to perform ECT nowadays, the patient has to sign a consent form. No one can just wrestle you onto a gurney, and give you ECT.

Also, when my psychiatrist recently recommended ECT, he reminded me numerous times that it’s my decision. I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I don’t feel pressured to do it. And he can’t just write an order for me to undergo the treatment.

As for the supposed results of ECT after only 3 treatments listed in the first quote (Breggin’s), I have experienced long- and short-term memory loss. Both are common side effects. Long-term memory loss, I admit, is the trade-off for feeling like yourself again. Since I started blogging daily, my short-term memory loss has improved: words in my vocabulary that I have trouble recalling, I’m now able to conjure up without struggling.

Like I said, I’ve had about 50 treatments, and have I lost my personality? Hardly. I hope this comes through in my posts! As for the other results the quote describes, I haven’t experienced any of them, at least not because of ECT. For example, I get nauseous when my anxiety flares up, not because I’ve had ECT.

It’s too bad that there are people out there using scare tactics to dissuade patients who could benefit from the treatment, from getting help. ECT has helped me.

What are your thoughts on ECT?


via Daily Prompt: Conjure

“Another Kind of Madness” by Stephen P. Hinshaw

Another Kind of MadnessSpeaking of stigma, last summer I read a book (this isn’t a review) called Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness by Stephen P. Hinshaw. It was the first book I’d ever read about the stigma towards mental illness, and is told through the author’s family experience.

Hinshaw’s father was in and out of mental hospitals beginning in the ’30s, and was misdiagnosed. It wasn’t until later (the ’60s, maybe — sorry — like I said, I read the book a while ago) that he was correctly diagnosed as having bipolar I. By then, Hinshaw was old enough to understand what his dad was going through, as well as the reason for his absences when the author was growing up.

In the past, mental patients were mistreated and abused in psych wards and mental hospitals. Most of you probably know that. Hinshaw’s father was no exception. He was beaten; put into insulin-induced coma therapy; received shock treatment (now known as ECT), which in the ’50s “was often used barbarically” (p. 84); among other things.

This book resonated with me for a couple of reasons. First, Hinshaw’s dad was an esteemed professor at The Ohio State University. That’s my grad school alma mater. After graduation, I, too, wanted to be a professor until the Breakdown kept me from pursuing that career. Second, because I’ve also had numerous ECT treatments, which are no longer barbaric, thankfully, and are now done with the patient’s consent.

Although there is still much stigma towards mental illness today, society has come a long way from the stigma experienced by the Hinshaw family in the mid-20th century.

Can you recommend any good books regarding mental health stigma?


Photo from stephenhinshawauthor.com

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