Tuesday, May 8, 2012

First we take Manhattan........

I have realized something. I am just as insecure about the things I write on my anonymous blog as I am about the things I say in real life. Too many times I walk away from conversations thinking, "oh my gosh why did I say that? They must think I'm so stupid. I am so stupid. They must be laughing at me, or think I'm nuts. Why do I even speak?".  It is the same with this. I enjoy writing. I want to write everyday, heck two or three times per day even. However, I have no confidence in my words or ideas. "People will think I'm stupid, no one will want to read that." Which is completely illogical because I started this blog simply as a diary to get my thoughts out. A place for me, and no one else. But then a few people did read it, and that's when the pressure started. Self-imposed of course, but pressure nonetheless. Pressure to be informative, to be interesting, to be provocative, to be right.......

Ah that darn pressure to be right.

To pick the right topic, say the right thing, say it the right way, and always seem witty and intelligent while doing it.

Seems rather ridiculous even to me as I sit here typing it.

I'm not exactly sure if it is the fear and embarrassment of being wrong or the stubborn irrational drive to always be right, but whichever it is, it is hardwired into me. I've been this way as long as I remember. It's as if, somehow, being wrong or letting others see that I am sometimes wrong will spoil the facade. My act will be given away and everyone on earth will see everything I've been trying to hide and mask for so long. Everyone will find out that I'm nuts, and I'm not as smart as I pretend to be.

The funny thing is I am smart. Very smart. Ridiculously smart actually (in terms of IQ points and test scores). I know this. It's a fact. Always has been. Unfortunately, I am also ridiculously nuts so even though I know I'm smart I don't actually feel smart and I doubt myself constantly.

This leads to a horrible situation where either I am right and will fight tooth and nail to prove it to you, or I am wrong but will still fight tooth and nail to prove that I'm still right anyway or somehow it's not my fault I'm wrong.

Even more ridiculous is the fact that deep down I know there is actually nothing wrong with being wrong. It happens to everyone. Everyone. Some, more than others. Many, more than me. But it DOES happen to everyone. Daily.

Being wrong can be a very positive thing. I truly believe that we learn more from our failures than from our successes. That being wrong can lead to research and learning that will only help you in future.

Unless you're me. Then it's bad. Very, very, very, very bad. It means you're weak. It means you suck. It means everyone is gonna find out your dirty little secret and no one will ever love you for the rest of your days. An overreaction? Of course it is. But it is also a very accurate depiction of my inner monologue. Did anyone ever hear the Adam Sandler stand-up comedy bit where the mother keeps saying "NOOOOO, they're all gonna laugh at you."? Well that mother is my inner voice.

I keep saying that others' judgment of us, and the stigmas they assign to us need to end NOW. I am right, of course. However today I am feeling a tad hypocritical (and I really really hate that). Why do I feel hypocritical you ask? How can I expect outsiders to stop judging me and assigning me stigmas and stereotypes when I can't even do it for myself? Until I can stop judging myself, and accept and love me for me illness and all, how can I demand that anyone else do it?

So here we go #twitterpsychward, it starts with us. Until we demand respect from ourselves, until we can stop judging and hating ourselves based simply on the fact that we have an illness, until we can love and forgive ourselves, we cannot tackle the outside stigmas, judgments, and barriers.

Join me won't you?

My name is Cristina. I have bipolar II disorder and it's not my fault. I've had a lot of hard times, been in a lot of trouble, made mistakes, and yes I've been wrong sometimes, but that's ok. It's all ok.

My name is Cristina. I have bipolar II disorder and that doesn't make me any worse or less of a person than anyone else. I have value, I deserve respect, and my illness does not define me.

My name is Cristina. I have bipolar II disorder but I will feel guilt and shame no more. I am more than an illness, more than my diagnosis. I am a bright, smart, wonderful person, and I am fantabulous.

My name is Cristina, and if you think differently you and I will have issues. Starting now.

Speak up #twitterpsychward. Who are you?

First we change our own perceptions. Then we change those of the world.

Friday, May 4, 2012

I just had to write this.....

Yesterday when I read the news of former NFL football star Junior Seau's suicide I cried.

Did I know him? No. Was I a devoted fan? I had heard of him, seen him play, recognized his talent, but no.

So why would I shed actual tears over the death of someone I didn't know, who had no impact whatsoever on my life? Because I've been there.

More times than I would like to admit I have been in a place so dark, so painful, so lonely, so empty, and so hopeless that I would've done anything just to make it stop.

And I did things. I have done many things. In fact, the only reason I sit here still alive today is coincidence and luck. Am I glad I am still alive? Yes. Now I am. But do not judge me or anyone else unless you have been in that horrible endless cavern. Unless you've felt the unbearable, indescribable, intangible pain that we have felt. You will never in your life know hopelessness and loneliness unless you are unfortunate enough to be one of the millions suffering with a serious mental illness.

Let me make one thing very, very clear. Suicide is not about you. It is not about the family, the friends, the co-workers, the neighbours, the doctors, or anyone else. It is a desperate, frustrated, hopeless attempt to stop the seemingly endless pain. A pain that takes over your entire body. A pain that permeates every muscle, bone, joint, and cell in your body. It is a physical pain. It is an emotional pain. It is a mental pain. And it is relentless.

Don't write articles on how suicide is selfish and we all need to make our kids watch the video of Junior's mother's crying. That's ridiculous. If you knew anyone suffering with depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia you would never suggest that as a useful tool for preventing suicide. Because a suicidal person is not thinking about their family at that moment. They are not thinking about the tears or aftermath. The only thing in their mind at that moment is the pain and emptiness, and an uncontrollable need to make it stop. Shaming them with the potential pain suffered by their family would, frankly, just cause them more pain, guilt, and sadness-possibly pushing them over the edge. Because if you knew anything about the mind of someone in the grips of a major depression you would know that at that moment they are 100% sure that their family, and the world as a whole would be a lot better off without them. The fact that they are wrong about that is irrelevant. And you shaming them with their own thoughts is downright ignorant, and potentially dangerous.

A suicidal person, in fact anyone in the grips of depression or other mental illnesses, needs simply this: compassion, support, and understanding. That's it. They don't need advice. They don't need to be told why their thoughts are wrong. They don't need to be told how their illness or death would affect other people. Because they already know. They place so much guilt, shame, blame, and hatred on themselves that they certainly don't need it from you. Especially if that you happens to be a seriously misguided sports writer who is completely ignorant when it comes to helping people with a mental illness.

Do we need to pay attention to this tragedy? Definitely. Do we need to discuss suicide more, discuss mental illness more, and better help those suffering? Absolutely.

Is the guilt and shame game the way to do it? Certainly, absolutely, most definitely not.