Do you have a serious mental illness…?

And get frustrated when people make a really big deal about how awful the illness is while also getting frustrated that people don’t recognize that it is significant?

I’m trying to sort thru the contradictory nature of this. Very few people would recognize that I have manic depression (which is good),…

I’m not sure what you mean by “significant”, but I think of questioners here who are terribly distressed with anxiety and/or depression, yet their question is how they can fix it themselves, as if anyone here has some magic words that we’ve been keeping from the general population to fix all this without even having to talk face to face, without telling parents, without having to face anyone for whom mental illness brings out their competitive, controlling nature with all the putdowns and “advice” that goes with that.

I do wonder what’s so hard to accept that mental illness is treated with psychotherapy and meds, maybe more one than the other depending on the person and the diagnosis, and that this requires working with a mental health professional, not 10 bullet points. Buddhists see all people as wrapped up with delusions and attachments. That’s as good an explanation as I know that so many lay people have such ignorant and arrogant opinions about mental illness and what to do about it.

Sometimes I wish I was born later, so depressions would have been better understood while I was still a teen. As it was, the doctor at student health never mentioned depression. I talked her into a thyroid test, which was normal. I saw my first psychologist at age 20 after several years of depression. We got to the insight that I got depressed when I didn’t have a girlfriend, but not when I did. Lots of lay people would put a label of “situational depression” on that and pretend they understand it, but then I became cyclothymic in my twenties and had my first mania at 34. It was a surprise with every development, and no one among family, friends, and co-workers took it well. Those here who give harsh answers out of competitiveness and resentments would have been even worse. Even those who knew me wanted to know why the lithium I started in my twenties didn’t fix this. Hey, it’s not perfect.

So I understand how distressed people want to avoid the shame and fear of admitting they have a condition that they can’t fix themselves. People’s actual responses to those with mental illness are even more shaming and intrusive than those in such denial know. Yet some of us have no choice eventually but to admit that there’s something about our brain that’s beyond us to fix.

I do find it frustrating that there are no words that fully convey what I know to anyone here, including those who are both distressed and in denial. I went through a career as a neurologist. I know a lot about this. But it’s like religion, politics or anything else. People have strong beliefs despite the lack of documentation for them. Growing up in our culture, one hears all these beliefs, not a chain of evidence that goes all the way back to primary sources. Maybe that’s slowly changing.

I manage my frustration on this point as I do that from any of the ills of our society. Those ills are all about human nature. They are to be expected. We don’t know all the biology and psychology of human nature, but we understand more all the time. I’m happy reading evolutionary psychology from academics like Pascal Boyer and Steven Pinker. You don’t need to understand all that much about cognitive neuroscience to understand that all these delusions and attachments exist because of how our brain is organized to fill in missing information. Science has turned out to be better than our intuition in this. Everyone will get that message eventually. It might take 500 years, though.

In the meantime, people all around you are demonstrating human nature. Some of them might know better, but not enough to be different yet. Some are trying to be better. Some don’t care. It’s everything biology, culture, and maybe spirituality has brought to them. It’s bigger than I am. That and lithium go a long way for me.

You can always try saying, “You should see it from my side …” and just describe whatever you find significant. Eventually you’ll get used to what people can understand. Even my grown daughters have trouble understanding certain things I would tell them about experiencing mania. They’ve only had depressions. Hopefully it will stay that way.

First of all, I must applaud you for getting the help you need. Many people with mental illnesses try to ignore it and probably hope it will go away. I have not been diagoned with any serious mental illness but I know people who are and as a concerned friend/relative I can understand where you’re coming from. There are times when I simply think they’re undisciplined and other times I believe it’s demon possession. Both extremes thoughts are not helping the situation. But unfortunately unless people are experiencing an illness most of the time they will either under or over estimate the seriousness of the condition. Sorry I can offer in this area but I am doing some research. Good luck.

Right now I am not dealing with it too good. My meds aren’t working and I am under a lot of stress.
When you talk about recognition I know what you mean. Sometimes I just want the people who are close to me, to ask how my day is. Even my closest friends don’t always want to hear the truth because they don’t know what to say.
I find doctors inconsistent with their advice. i.e. My family doctor now tells me that I am in the majority with treatment resistant depression.
There is an old fashioned expression that says the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I sometimes have to ask for a doctor’s appointment even if it is sooner than was suggested. You never know when an appointment may actually make you feel better.


That’s a very interesting and thought-provoking question. I’m glad to see that many well thought-out responses have been submitted.

I don’t like to make a big deal out of my mind illness; in fact, I prefer that most other people don’t know. Because of the amount of misinformation, ignorance and fear that many people have about our type of illness, I just try to live my life and have more or less given up on educating everybody else.

I don’t want special treatment nor sympathy. On the other hand, I often feel like I’d like to have others be aware of what sorts of obstacles I’ve had to overcome to live like I do. Sometimes, I would like for people to know what we experience.

I’ve had to make a major career “downsize” because of the illness. I just tell people that I wanted to do something “less stressful” if they ask.

I keep my pride within myself about the fact that I am actually pretty high-functioning. It’s probably more about my medical care than about something I’m doing through my own power.

I think that when people see a Bipolar person coping well with life, then they assume that the condition isn’t really significant, and it probably reinforces the “pull yourself up” mentality.

I agree that this really presents a contradiction that is hard to sort out. I know that I have a serious, life-threatening and all-encompassing illness. I know what I’ve gone through during the last 20+ years. (multiple hospitalizations, two suicide attempts, countless hours of agony during psychotic times, etc, etc, etc) At this point in life, I don’t see any benefit or reason to share these experiences with others.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Meds are unfortunate but necessary part of treatment if you don’t want your illness to be a life sentence, I think when people applaud you its more that so many bipolar sufferers are not as proactive and responsible for their own health. I sometimes want people to understand that the meds and their side effects are nasty and bipolar isn’t something I asked for, but at the same time I just want to be treated normally but because of the illness and side effects special considerations have to be made for me. I look at it as my disability isn’t an inability to participate and succeed in lief and that I know what I’ve achieved even if I don’t have a certificate or TV lauding my achievements. Quiet achiever I guess.

Meds are never enough you need therapy too. I have Clinical Depression and I’m only taking pills and its not really helping that much. All it does is it keep me in a relatively good mood, even though I still constantly think about how much I hate my life. I don’t have anything to look forward to in life or at least thats how I feel.

The only thing that keeps me going right now is that I’m going to Europe in less than a month, so I will be far away from my parents, who agreed to get me meds for depression although they don’t want to acknowledge it as being very serious they just keep telling me that I’m making it up and they hope the pills will help me get over it. But anyway I;ll be in Europe for three months, I have some friends there that I am looking forward to meeting again, and a girl who I liked a lot over the summer but I had to leave before it got serious between us.

I’ll see how everything works out there, but to be honest if it doesn’t it ain’t gonna be pretty and at that point I don’t think the meds are gonna be enough.

Get help, and not just pills, you need to accept what you have and learn to deal with it. It won’t go away on its own.

I’ve got a problem too. For me I want to just strangle people who say “So just don’t be that way… decide not to let it happen”. I have a best friend even who says that, despite having been on the receiving end of two manic episodes so far. I want to just sit down and cry when he starts in on it. I’ve even screamed “I CAN”T CONTROL IT THAT WAY!!! IT’S NOT THAT SORT OF DISORDER!”. He just gets pissed that I’m not listening to HIM. Yeah, and he’s listening to who? The little people who live in the fridge?

I either hand them a print out from the Mayo Clinic on the disorder and tell them to read it before we talk again, or I don’t tell them at all. I just stay away for the most part, keeping contact to a minimum. It sucks to do it this way, but outside of medical professionals I have never met anyone who “gets it”. If they say it’s not a big deal I tell them they need to respect the fact that in my life it is or if they go over board about it tell them “You know what, I’ve accepted it in my life but I’m dealing with it and don’t need it brought up, it just makes me feel like I’m different from you in a bad way so please just let it be”.

I’m bipolar and stopped taking meds in Aug. 2002 and haven’t gone back yet, how I deal with my illness in a way that works for me. I tell ppl upfront that I’m bipolar and when I say I’m having a bad day plz back off and this has worked for me, I’ve lost a few friends over my illness but I’ve also gained a few good ones that accept me how I am. First be honest with yourself and don’t be afraid or ashamed to be you, after you do that I can promise you that a lot of your stress and depression will disappear. Depression is nothing but suppression face your demons and you’ll feel so much better!

i know exactly how you feel. it is not like you want a lot of people knowing your business or making a big deal out of it. however you would like people to try to understand the efforts you put in to making yourself well and the fact that things go wrong and it is real when it does. one thing that i have done with my husband who has the old fashioned “pick yourself up by the boot straps” thoughts is i took him on the web md and showed him what depression and anxiety is and what it causes, then i showed him my meds and showed him the possible side effects and what they can cause and what to look out for. that has helped a lot with him and i have shared what i learn in therapy with him. now with my dad, he is 70 years old and he doesn’t really “believe in that sort of thing” like it was santa clause or the tooth fairy and so baisicly i don’t talk to him about it that much. that is because i know that i can’t change him. do you talk about these issues in therapy because that can help. but just remember that you can’t change people, just know that you are doing what is right for you and you should feel good about that. i know that mood stablalizers are sometimes harsh and you can feel like a lab rat when your doc is juggling your meds. so i guess what i am saying is who cares what others think, its what you think that is truly important. yes it has taken me a lot of therapy to get to that point. hope that this helps and good luck

yes , I have Bipolar Disorder II, rapid cycling

it is really awful sometimes, I am learning to cope with it

with and without meds

I try to not worry about what other people think about it so much

It just got me kicked out of a massage class that I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to stay in and complete. Perhaps the best group of people I have even been with

I have found that its worth experimenting with the meds, with your docs supervision and feedback, if you can stay mostly sane you get to choose what meds to take and when, if not, you don’t

anyway, if and when the meds improve the quality of life day to day, then they are worth taking , if not then not


find what works for you if anything

some people have to choose between hearing voices and mads that are worse than hearing voices all day

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