Friday, May 14, 2010

The Sting of Stigma and Unconditional Love: "The Wind Never Lies" Part 2

The comment below came from Mel, a friend on Facebook, who had this to tell me about a friends tragic journey through the mental health system after reading my post (an excerpt) from "The Wind Never Lies" - you can read the original and entire article here at Beyond Meds.

"Thank you so much for sharing this little treasure Susan! I'm still reading but there are so many things that jump out; ah ha...

Years before my trauma, when life was stable with good health my best friend was diagnosed with Bipolar. This was my first real intimate exposure to mental illness. Over the next five years I would visit her everyday during the 2 -3 times a year when she was hospitalized.

After 5 years from her diagnosis, she developed stiff neck and crossed eyed syndrome while we were on a weekend whistler trip. Within days she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She was given weeks to live.

Did she fall between the cracks of the medicare system? Who knows, they say bipolar can mimic brain tumors. They never investigated the possibility of anything other than she is crazy and lets load her up on pills and ECT treatment.

My point is, as she lay dying in the hospital, so many people began to arrive to pay their respects to her, her husband and family, the same people who made jokes and abandoned her years prior. The stigma attached to labeling someone can be so harsh.

Perhaps my exposure to how society views mental illness has contributed to my own isolation living with PTSD, fear of being stuck forever in this place which others say I cannot recover from and heal."

( Below is the response I got from Mel when I asked if I could publish her story here...this note is a true portrayal of what unconditional love looks like in action....)

"For sure you can post it. I love talking about Julie's story. She was so amazing. Funny thing was I always told her I didnt think she was bipolar, some would view her as acting crazy at times but strangely I saw it as being in another dimension or something. I never told her that seeing men in trees was her imagination, just that I couldnt see them. I spent the last 5 years of her life protecting her and not from herself but from the cruelty of society...

The cool thing about her case is a board member of opthamology in BC pushed the government to include eye care into the medicare coverage. He was really moved by her case and felt she could have been diagnosed earlier had she been to get her eyes checked regularly. "

Once given the label "Mental Illness" many become "marked" and treated as "less than". Once this mark has been given, it often becomes the basis for discrimination, abuse and neglect.

Stop the Sting of Stigma.

You can find Mel on Facebook here.

If you or someone you know has had similar experiences, I would like to invite you to contact me by leaving a comment here or...

Via Facebook here

Via twitter click here


Susan said...

This experience is more common than many realize. Rebekah at Facebook left this comment and gave me permission to share it here:

"I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 5 years ago and was on meds for all of that time and went through the emotions that Steve talked about and no one would listen to me after I was given that label and hospitalized twice, and they still dont, but I know that what I REALLY have is PTSD, and no amount of mood stabilizing medication makes that better, misdiagnosis is so common and so many people just take the meds and dont question it, but now I am finally dealing with the REAL problem and things are getting better. Thank you Susan for posting this :)"

Melissa Mashburn said...

Very good post. It is a huge reminder about how people view mental illness versus other types of illnesses. How ironic, people who had nothing to do with her when the thought she was mentally ill, flocking to her bedside when it was a more acceptable condition, an inoperable brain tumor.

Susan said...

I know; this happens much more often than we hear about I think.

Thanks for stopping by Melissa :)

Kristin said...

This reminds me of why my daughter once said to me, "I wish I had cancer." It was a devastating choice - to choose to have cancer over mental illness but I could totally understand her point of view.
And, here is the proof that she was right; people with cancer do get the attention that she was looking for. The kind of caring approval that has been missing from her life.
xx kris

Susan said...

I'm sorry your daughter has had these experiences, Kristin. In time as more of us who have "been there" and "done that" find our way and our voices perhaps we can begin to be the change:)

Thank you for your comment, Kristin; my best to you and your daughter today!

Suzanne said...

Excellent post. Sad, but so true. Misdiagnosis of BP was a nightmare that still haunts me. For the years I was "stigmatized" with a condition I did not have, I had GPs, neurologists, internists and every other specialist writing me off as a hypochondriac, "It's all in her head". It nearly cost my life on several occasions. One doctor told me to go home and take my meds, pain and fatigue is typical with BP. Long story short -I had an ovarian cyst on a stem that had prolapsed and wrapped around my femoral artery, chocking off the blood flow. Had it not been for my innate fight to prove him wrong I may have died. Instead I went to a couple of other specialists until one directed me to my GYN. I was in emergency surgery the next day. Another doctor told me my intense headache and auras were because I was delusional. The next day I collapsed in a grand mal seizure. Luckily my husband was there, a former EMT, able to stabilize me and call 911. What if I had been driving? You would think MDs would have more common sense than to fall into the trap of stigma.

Susan said...

Suzanne - thank you for sharing your own experiences with this issue. Too often this is the case. Congratulations on having that warrior spirit and the inner strength to fight for yourself. I'm so glad to hear that your life was spared by fighting back this way. You are a testament to the courage it takes to live a self empowered life.