This listicle came to be because #endthestigma matters to me. Over on my facebook wall, and in my newsletters, and my articles, and my books, I talk about living with bipolar disorder and the other invisible illnesses I experience. I do this because I think it is essential for those of us who suffer with hidden ailments to come out of the shadows.
Why? For so many reasons. We can’t find support if no one knows we are suffering. Also, when any one of us is willing to stand as an example of what it means to live with a disability we make room for others to stand up too.
Because it is important, I invite conversation – within bounds. Unfortunately, sometimes the topic ends up veering into territory that makes me feel like I need to defend my choices. This little personal essay was born of one of those instances.
Without further ado, five reasons it’s worth it to me to medicate even when the meds are hard to deal with – and three ways you can support me:
1. I like caring about relationships, and conducting myself in a manner consistent with that caring. The kind of mental health disorder that I live with, when unmedicated, makes me really not capable of consistently giving a shit about agreements, other people’s needs, etc.
2. I like remembering consistently that I want to stay alive. I have lived with suicidal ideation since I was 14 years old. It’s amazing I got through some of those days and years. When medicated I still experience suicidal ideation, but I know it for what it is. When off meds, that is a much more challenging conversation to be having.
3. I like being able to work. When I am unmedicated, both mania and depression can wreak havoc with my ability to stay focused and productive.4. I have a family that relies on me. I want to be here for them. I want to be able to listen, interact, support, celebrate. When I was unmedicated, or medicated improperly, I was not able to be the kind of parent or partner (or person) I am now. I like this me better.
5. I like being able to be me. When I finally went on a mood stabilizer I was 38. Once the dust settled, I realized I had never in my whole adult life EVER been in control of my emotions before. The realization was like clouds splitting open and the light pouring down. Unmedicated I can’t find who I now know to be me in the midst of all the crazy.
1. In closing, if you aren’t sure I’ve thought it all out, rest assured that I have. If you don’t support pharmaceuticals, you don’t have to take them. (But also please don’t expect me to take you seriously when you run down a list of natural medications and at the same time shoot down pharms. Meds are meds, people.)
2. Don’t assume that I am taking meds and NOT doing the other stuff. I’m doing it all, most of the time. I exercise as much as I am able. I eat a healthier diet than many. I have spiritual practices. I take amino acids and vitamins and minerals. I use tinctures.
3. If you want to support me (and the other crazy folx in your life) you can start by assuming we have probably thought it all through, at least a couple of times. Start by assuming that we know what we’re about. From there, if you want to offer support, ask us if there is anything you can do to help.
We’ll let you know.