“Crazy, but that’s how it goes, Millions of people living as foes, Maybe it’s not too late, To learn how to love, And forget how to hate” Ozzy Osbourne
“The pills, the pills the magical pills that cure your ills and give you no thrills” FeatherLeaf
What is life like living with bipolar disorder? The most traumatic thing about living with a mental illness is the diagnosis. The shock that you are mentally ill, that something is ‘abnormal’ with your brain. It is a reality that is so hard to accept that some people will resist for their entire lives. My friend Frank despite countless hospitalizations and ‘crazy’ behavior denied it for three decades until his suicide. Frank couldn’t come to terms with the fact that he needed help.
Mental illness is a stain on one’s psyche. It shouldn’t be that way but it is. People who don’t understand look at the mentally ill with fear, as if we are the star of some horror movie. As a result we are pushed away from society when we needed to be embraced. I recall my first hospitalization and how it seemed so unreal, this couldn’t be possibly happening to me.
Medicine is key to recovery. I stopped taking my medicine three times all with disastrous results. Going to a psychiatric hospital is an event that one should avoid if at all possible. I’d like to call it a setback but it’s not. A psychiatric hospital is great if you are suicidal or manic but if you’re not either it is best avoided. A psychiatric hospital is a tool to use, but it is best left as a last resort. If a mentally ill person can find a medicine that works they will avoid going into hospitals. Don’t give up on taking the medicine. When I take my medicine it reminds me of my mental illness. I wish I din’t have to take it but I know it is necessary.
Having a mental illness is awkward. I remember one time I met a young lady in church. She was nice and I had no romantic interests in her. She was new to New York City and unemployed as was I. In a couple of weeks she found a job as a salesperson in a store. I however was still unemployed .”What’s the matter?” she asked. What was I to tell her, that I was mentally ill and I couldn’t work? You see the mentally ill as human beings want to be accepted as we are, but we fear revealing our illness at the cost of being rejected.
Mental illness is an added weight to our cross. Not only do we have all the struggles in life as do regular people but we have that added burden. Think of life as a marathon, now imagine you had your pockets full of lead.
Mental illness will tempt one to surrender on life. I have seen many of my peers give up. They live in group homes and their lives consisted of going to day programs, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Therein lies the challenge in helping somebody with mental illness. One must gently push them forward to achieve but recognize that all is not well. One cannot expect a person with mental illness to be ‘normal’. If they ‘achieve’ in life it should be counted as a blessing and not taken for granted.
I intimately know the face of mental illness. I have walked that walk and I have talked to my fellows. There is a common denominator of suffering. That is that my fellows have went through hardships, sometimes extremely severe. These would include abuse, both verbal and physical, bullying or service in the military. I have heard horror stories of the most terrible things that my fellows have been victim of.
Finally people with mental illness have wonderful characters. Often we have deep depths of artistic talents. We are a loyal lot, giving, kind, thoughtful, compassionate. We who are relegated as the ‘dregs’ of life fully know the meaning that the first will be last and the last will be first. It is ironic that our society glorifies ‘business men’ who exist serving only their own selfish interests while giving, caring people are pushed aside as outcasts.
To explain my story it would take a book or several books. I have my memoirs “More Than The Madness” which tells of my early days and how I struggled in life and overcame mental illness. Please consider purchasing a copy. It is a great educational tool in entertaining form. https://www.amazon.com/More-than-Madness-John-Kaniecki/dp/1539430138/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8