Hope for Mental Health

Even if we can’t cure our disorder, we can always try to manage it.

By Victoria Maxwell, Psychology Today

I just spent an inspiring few days attending CREST.BD‘s annual network meeting. One of my fellow attendees was Andrea Paquette (a.k.a.: Bipolar Babe), founder and executive director of the Bipolar Disorder Society of BC. Andrea’s passion and contributions to the meeting were also inspiring. So I thought this the perfect time to post a guest blog she wrote for me. Read on and be inspired.

Hope for Mental Health: Even if we can’t cure our disorder, we can always try to manage it

Even though mental health treatments may not work consistently, there is always hope for patients. I’ve had bipolar disorder since the day I was born but I didn’t start displaying symptoms until the age of 26. So I’ve been dealing with a mental illness for nearly 11 years. As I reflect on my medical history I’ve come to accept that with any mental illness, it is only ‘manageable’ and not curable. There are limitations with what one can do to stay well and there are also barriers on what a doctor can do to help. This may sound discouraging, however, I feel that it’s important to recognize that there’s a difference between managing your illness and trying to cure it. A mental illness is not curable, despite what anti-psychiatricproponents would argue. Realistically we have to face that we may be ill for periods of time during our lifetime.

I’m Executive Director for the Bipolar Disorder Society of BC, also known as Bipolar Babe in the community and even though I work a jam packed schedule balancing my career in the non-profit world, there are times when I am deeply and severely affected by my mental illness. An interesting but unfortunate truth is that I have often experienced mild symptoms of psychosis – a lot of them. The lights double over and glare so brightly that I’m barely able to cope in the world. My senses become extremely heightened and affect my ability to experience my surroundings in a ‘normal’ and stable way. I exude intense paranoia and it feels beyond awkward to be around people; it actually feels horrendously uncomfortable.

Late last year I dove into a deep sea of hallucinations where my pillow appeared patterned with roses and twigs and the creases in my blanket were swallowed up by snakes. I can usually sleep off the psychotic symptoms but in this case I could not rest as I was bombarded by hopelessness.

Even though I take medication and have a team of professionals tending to my care, I still get sick. People can become ‘immune’ to medications and tweaks are often necessary. It can be frustrating, but in the long term we have to trust that at any turn we may just feel stable again. As of today and for the past 3 months I have not experienced an ounce of psychosis due to that slight tweak in my anti-psychotic drug.

People often live in fear of their mental illness (as I did). It’s common to experience discouragement and mental torture when things are not working out as you had planned, but you can’t give up. It’s vital to always anticipate that there may be a treatment out there that may work for you. Don’t live in fear, don’t succumb, and never think that you are a hopeless case. I felt fantastic yesterday and today is even better and I perceive this to be a big win. I’m thankful I don’t always feel sick and that there are days when things reflect sweet perfection.

Andrea Paquette is Executive Director for the Bipolar Disorder Society of BC, also known as a stigma stomping ‘Bipolar Babe.’

Victoria Maxwell is a playwright, actor, and lecturer on her ‘lived’ experiences of bipolar disorder, anxiety, psychosis and recovery.

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