Monday, July 21, 2014

Holding Back the Truth

“There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you're high it's tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the power to captivate others a felt certainty. There are interests found in uninteresting people. Sensuality is pervasive and the desire to seduce and be seduced irresistible. Feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being, financial omnipotence, and euphoria pervade one's marrow. But, somewhere, this changes. The fast ideas are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity. Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friends' faces are replaced by fear and concern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against-- you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves its own reality.”
--Kay Redfield Jamison. An Unquiet Mind

This passage is from one of my favorite books. Kay Redfield Jamison is a Professor of Psychiatry at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and one of the leading experts on bipolar disorder. Her book is written from the perspective of both a doctor and a patient. It describes her struggle with the decision to disclose her illness. She was afraid of the reaction from the medical community if they discovered that she had bipolar disorder. While conducting research, Jamison would often share her experiences claiming that the information came from anonymous sources. 

I have read many books and articles on bipolar disorder. Most are filled with dry statistical information with the causes, symptoms and treatment of the disorder while others are extreme stories of over the top behaviors that some people have experienced with the illness. While I went back and forth trying to figure out if I had the disorder, I did not know what to think. My behavior was not extreme like the autobiographies that I have skimmed through but yet, I could mark almost every item on the list of bipolar symptoms. When I read An Unquiet Mind, certain parts of the book brought me to tears. Finally, I found resource where I could relate to the material.

Many of her words echoed the experiences I have gone through in my life. The thing that stands out the most was her battle with the decision to keep her disorder secret or to share it with others. I have chosen to share my experiences with the world but sometimes I have doubts about whether or not I have done the right thing. I often wonder how it will change the perception that others have of me.

I like the fact that I can be free to be wild and crazy. My behavior and personality has not changed much since I started treatment. The free spirit is still within me. I wonder if having the diagnosis of a mood disorder will make other people think that I am a crazy freak. At this time, the stigma attached to mental illness is strong. I am not sure that people can get past the label.

In my experience, I have found that people are not very forthcoming when it comes to the issue of mental illness. No one ever comes right out and says that they have a mental illness or have a family member who has one until I disclose my information to them. It is as if it is a dirty little secret that they need to hide. That just perpetuates the stigma. I want to change that.

When it comes to many aspects of my life, I am honest to a fault and a bit naive. My husband is supportive of my decision to blog, but is afraid that I may encounter backlash from people because they do not agree with what I have to say. The only option that I have is to ignore the naysayers, but deep inside I know that I will dwell on the negatives instead of the positive.

One of the dilemmas I am going through right now is the content of my blog. How much should I share? Some details shall remain private, but am I being too personal? My experiences are not extreme. Should I exaggerate them a bit to make my blogs more interesting? Am I wasting my time? Are people actually reading my blogs? The list goes on and on as I second guess every decision. The only thing I know for sure is that I have to keep an eye on my swearing. 

Lately, the biggest concern I have had about my blog is wondering if it would be helpful or harmful when it comes to applying for college or employment. Do I disclose my blog during the application, personal essay, and interview process or do I keep it to myself? As of now, my information can be found on the first few pages of results if you do a Google search using the right combination of words. That's pretty awesome when you consider that I have been blogging about bipolar disorder for a little over a month. How many times I will be listed on the web by the time I apply for school at the university level. I have heard that employers and educational institutions search for information about prospective employees and students on the internet. I didn't consider that. Should I have started my blog in the first place? My original intention was to educate people about bipolar disorder and support others who suffer from the same condition. 

As I continue to share my experiences in my blogs, I will continue to question myself. I will just have to trust that everything will fall into place when and where they are meant to be. When I started, my main focus was to make a difference. I hope that I am off to a good start.

Work Cited

Jamison, Kay R. An Unquiet Mind. New York: Random House, 1995. Print.
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