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bipolar stigma

“Mania Days” – Movie about Bipolar Disorder

“Mania Days,” Debuts at South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin

Mania Days” is a movie by Paul Dalio, features Katie Holmes and Luke Kirby as two New Yorkers suffering in the various stages of Bipolar DisorderMovie About Bipolar DisorderDalio, who in actual bipolar mode, wrote, directed, produced, edited and unbelievably – “scored” his own movie which is based on his own discovery of his bipolar disorder.

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Dalio describes the Holmes character as what he was like when he had his first episode “really scared and ashamed of it”.  The other character, played by Luke Kirby is based on a period of when he “started to romanticize bipolar disorder” and “embraced lunacy”.

Dalio himself endured three years of bipolar misery but eventually adhered to treatment when he recognized the pain he was causing his family.  Now he credits much of his inner peace to meditation (in addition to medication) and adherence to a routine schedule – including sleep.

The film debuts at the 2015 South by Southwest (SXSW) Music, Film, and Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas which runs a number of independent films.  The film festival coincides with the world famous music festival and an “interactive” conference which includes “gaming” and interactive media.

Katie HolmesKatie Holmes’ presence in the film shows potential for commercial success, but whether it achieves stardom – it is a good thing for bipolar disorder.  Basically, any attention for bipolar disorder is good – even the “bad” of bipolar disorder – as awareness can only reduce bipolar stigma.

I know that in my own journey over 20 plus years, I have gone through many stages.  I don’t much remember being “scared” of the diagnosis – or even of my behavior.  I have chosen to steel myself with “it is what it is”.

I did, however, maintain a long romance with the idea of “crazy” is good.  I spent many years believing (and many hours arguing with my therapist) that being “normal” was boring.  The last thing I wanted to be was “normal”.

I would like to say I was young and stupid – which I was but maybe part of the truth was that I had been crazy for so long that it was “normal”.  Eventually, crazy is exhausting – and you can’t do it anymore.

In most cases – you are eventually stopped from being crazy – up against a wall, sometimes caught by family members but sometimes a lot worse.  You get normal – only to get bored and do it all again.

As much as I would like to say that there is a real way to stop this cycle – in many cases there is not.  Even with medication, the cycle will continue – for a while.  Eventually, hopefully, you just get too tired of doing crazy.  Lost relationships, lost jobs… lost stuff.  It is exhausting.

Today – I am stable on medication.  Like an alcoholic – I say today.  Tomorrow and likely next week I will be stable on medication.  I would like to say forever – but I remember (at least what I do remember) that someday I may not.  The best I can do is to be open and forthright about my disorder so that those around me may know the signs if I decide to do “crazy” again.

Even though, I live near the festival and have many friends who are attendees, musicians, event planners, and sponsors – I won’t be seeing the film in Austin… crowds, excitement, and all that are no longer my thing – but I will see it, and I hope it is good.  Even if it isn’t great, it is another step in the right direction for the disease.

The Movie about Bipolar Disorder, “Mania Days”, Debuts at Film Festival in Austin

Melissa Lind

Woman with Bipolar Disorder Wins Court Case

Future discrimination of people with Bipolar Disorder may be more difficult

Score one (kind of) for Bipolar Disorder.  A federal jury awarded a woman who was fired because she requested time off from work to deal with a manic episode $32.5 thousand.

Bipolar Disorder StigmatizationBipolar disorder (and many other psychiatric illnesses) carries a relatively big stigma in the workplace.  Unless you are in the creative arts, likely, you will not want anyone at your job to know that you have bipolar disorder.

Three years ago, a nursing assistant who worked in an assisted living facility, named Charlotte Massey realized she was in the middle of a manic episode.  Charlotte had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder – and kudos to her for recognizing that she needed to do something about it before it spiraled out of control.

When she called her boss, the owner of the facility, her boss not only didn’t give her “kudos”, he gave her a pink slip.  She got fired because she asked to take a leave of absence to deal with her medical issue.

Unlike most people who have been fired for Bipolar Disorder – Charlotte didn’t lose her job because she went wacko.  Instead, she maintained enough mental clarity to notify her employer of her Bipolar Disorder Discriminationdisability and was rewarded with… firing.

It is certain that the owner of the facility was aware of the American with Disabilities Act.  It is likely that he or she was aware that he could not randomly fire employees with physical or obvious mental disabilities. But, it may be that he was unaware that “mental disabilities” includes illnesses such as bipolar disorder.

The ADA bars discrimination against persons with physical or mental disabilities who can perform the essential functions of their job with “reasonable accommodation” and without imposing an “undue hardship” on the employer.

From the outside, some may say… well she wanted to take time off.  In fact, she took a whole five days off, with herself or a family member reporting in each day with the supervisor.  When she returned to work after only a week of absence, she was fired.

Part of the law includes an evaluation of whether the employer would be subjected to “undue hardship”.  Is giving an employee time off to deal with a medical issue, an employee whose shifts could be made up by another person – an undue hardship?

Workplace StigmaThe court thought it was not.  The jury awarded Massey $25,000 in damages for lost wages and benefits and $7,500 in punitive damages.

The employer and his lawyer attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed by claiming that:

•    Charlotte Massey wasn’t fired; she resigned
•    She had a faulty memory of the events due to her disability
•    She never reported her disability to her employer

In fact, none of those were true.  Though the employer’s attorney repeatedly referred to the case as “frivolous”, the jury found otherwise.
This award may be the first of its kind, and it may be small, but it is a groundbreaking case.  With the ability to claim protections of the ADA, future discrimination may be more difficult.

Melissa Lind

More difficult for Bipolar Disorder stigma in the future!

What NOT to Say to a Bipolar Person

Stupid things said to people with bipolar disorder

Bipolar Disorder has become a bit more recognized lately, most likely due to the “coming out” of celebrities with outrageous behavior.  This has been good in raising awareness about bipolarity somewhat, but it has been bad because a lot of people think they know all about it.

In addition to not completely eradicating the stigma – it is also highly annoying when someone says something mean, wrong, funny, or even just plain stupid about bipolar disorder.  If you aren’t bipolar – don’t give advice to people who are.  Here are some of the things you should not do:

Don’t try to “join in”

Soo DepressedDon’t try to tell me you “know how I feel”.  Don’t relate your stories about how you were soooo depressed when your dog died.  Don’t try to tell me about how bad your insomnia is.  Don’t try to tell me about how you seriously almost destroyed a poster once or how embarrassed you were when…. Don’t.  Unless you are bipolar, you cannot understand the depression, the agitation, the anxiety.  I can understand that you want to show concern and make me feel “normal” but don’t.

Don’t tell me I should do better

Don’t tell me I can fix this.  Don’t tell me that I brought this on myself.  Don’t tell me to try harder.  Don’t tell me that it could be worse.  Don’t tell me that only religion can make me better.  I am doing the best I can; I didn’t want this disease, and frankly, I don’t want to hear it.

Don’t minimize

Don’t tell me to “snap out of it” or “get off my ass.”  Don’t give me platitudes like “this too shall pass” or “cheer up.”  Don’t tell me Not to Bipolar People“tomorrow will be better” or “everyone has a bad day sometimes.”  My disease, my experience is as bad as it is.  You can’t make it go away by acting cheerful or sympathetic.

Don’t try to shame me into being better

Don’t tell me that I am a real downer or that I am “dragging you down.”  Don’t tell me all about my bad behavior and how being around me is so painful – like “walking on eggshells.”  Don’t tell me about life not being fun…I already know.  If you don’t like it, it would be better if you just leave.

Don’t blame every disagreement on my disease

Don’t say anything about bipolar “shit” in the middle of an argument.  Just because I am angry doesn’t mean I am off my meds.  It doesn’t mean I am crazy.  Using my illness to win an argument is just plain wrong.  I have a right to be angry sometimes, and sometimes I am.

These are just a few things you should not do.  We have a lot of rules – some of which change just like us.

Happy Day!

Melissa Lind

Bipolar Disorder and Facebook – To Tell or Not to Tell

To Tell or Not to Tell – Bipolar Disorder on social media

I am an avid Facebook user.  Mostly I use it to amuse myself, keep up with old friends, get to know people who should be old friends but weren’t, update family on my kids and such… But, I also enjoy reading “pages” … pages about funny things and pages about serious things that only “we” understand are funny.  I am talking about bipolar” pages.

Facebook - Like PagesBecause Facebook lists updates of what pages you have “liked”, my relatives, who know I am bipolar, have been able to see that I am not keeping my disorder as a big secret from my social group.  Most everyone who is on my Facebook page already knows (or would guess) that I have bipolar disorder.  To them, it is not a big deal, it is just part of who I am, and in some ways actually explains part of who I am – manic-depressive, why I am the way that I am.

I bring this up because one of my “relatives” actually sent me an email “warning” me that I should “be careful” about what pages I frequent, referring to the bipolar pages.

That was one bit of unwelcome advice.  Another bit of advice might be to “unfriend” him or hide my activity from him.  I am NOT Bipolar - I have Bipolar DisorderHe is a close relative so “unfriending” him might cause problems.  I could hide my activity but have made a personal policy that if you are my “friend” then you can see my page.  I haven’t taken advantage of the “close friends”, “friends”, “acquaintances” – feature of Facebook – but then I don’t let anyone on my page unless they are actually someone I know.

The last bit of advice would be to ignore him.  Luckily, he is such a close relative that I have made a practice of ignoring his advice, as a child would ignore a parent.  I did just that – ignore him.

This situation was easy for me to solve under these particular circumstances but can be a lot of trickier.  I also belong to bipolar pages on LinkedIn, Google+ and other sites, and I sometimes wonder about the impact.  Fortunately, I happen to be a writer, and I am not in a situation where an employer (or potential employer) can make an objection to my diagnosis.

For others that are not the case – and it was not always the case for me.  There is still a huge stigma against bipolar disorder.  Technically, making an employment decision based on a mental diagnosis is illegal – it is against the ADA.

Technically, the employer could be in trouble for violation of federal law, but how many times do employers say outright” “I am not hiring you because…(insert problem here)”?  Likely they will not say anything – they just won’t hire you.  In some states, they can fire you for no reason (“at-will” employment states) or “not-for-cause”.

Technically, they should not hold this against you – if you are stable, and if you remain stable.  The question is – will you?  Hopefully, I will, but I can’t guarantee that.

Bipolar BearsIf I were looking for a job – a “real” job, I would seriously consider curtailing my social media and public announcements of “I am bipolar“.  As a writer – I shouldn’t do that, and I don’t.

You have to evaluate your particular situation.  Know that it is against the law to be discriminated against.  Know your history and likelihood that you will remain stable in your bipolar disorder and be able to do your job.  Decide whether a legal fight is worth it to you.  It may be; it might not be.  Decide whether you really want to work for someone who will hunt you down and discriminate against you based on the information they find.

For me, I am happy not being in a “real job “.  The same relative, full of warnings, is not happy about my lack of “real” employment – but I can just ignore him.  Either way, I am still Bipolar.

Melissa Lind

Bipolar II – Really?

Is it Bipolar II – or just plain Bipolar Disorder not yet recognized?

Google “Bipolar” on the “news” tab and see what you find.  It is astounding how many semi-celebrities have come out and said “I have Bipolar Disorder”.  Unfortunately, the story is often about Bipolar II, which somehow makes it “better”.

Bipolar Disorder is still a serious stigma – prevents people from getting jobs and such.  Technically, as Bipolar Disorder is considered a disability, an employer who did not hire or fired an admitted bipolar patient based only on that fact would be in violation of the American Disabilities Act, but few people are willing to go to the carpet on that.  Plus there is the little issue of being “able” to perform one’s job.  I can perform a job if I am taking meds.  If I am off of meds, I become highly unreliable with a lot of other liabilities – risky behavior that I have decided not to discuss.

Only a couple of years ago, I was warned by a well-meaning family member against posting too much on social media about Bipolar Disorder – and this in his mind included “liking” too many Bipolar pages.  He was concerned about my ability to obtain a decent job.  I don’t know if I have a “decent “job today – I have made my own way which works out better for me – no boss to annoy, no dress code, nobody else’s time clock.  For the most part, I don’t worry about social media – I don’t think I will ever have a “real” job again – no more frequent flyer miles for me.

Bipolar 2I was once diagnosed as Bipolar II – but really, both the doctor and the therapist thought differently – they both knew that I had regular Bipolar Disorder but wasn’t ready to accept it.  Actually, I am pretty sure my doctor tricked me into taking Lithium for the first time by telling me that it would help boost my antidepressant activity.

In retrospect, I am astounded that I believed him since I know so much about medication – but I took the medication.  How many of these people really have Bipolar I Disorder and just don’t say so.

It is much easier for people to say and accept that they have Bipolar II.  In my opinion (which is obviously vast and knowledgeable – just kidding, no really), Bipolar II is a way of sliding by the real diagnosis.  As in “I have Bipolar Disorder but not really”.  “I have Bipolar Disorder but I am not crazy”.  “I have Bipolar Disorder but I am not dangerous”.  “I have Bipolar Disorder but I won’t embarrass you”.
When it gets down to it…wasn’t that true for all of us at one time?  Or at least didn’t we believe it at one time?  I still fit some of the criteria – I am “functional”, “productive”, “hypomanic” – except when I am not.

I often confuse my doctor when he asks how it is going by saying “good enough”.  What I mean is that I am not manic exactly, I am not depressed.  Actually it works better for me if I am teetering on the edge of mania.  If I am just crazy enough that I know that I am crazy – then I will keep taking my meds.  Because I forget.

I originally sought treatment for severe depressiondepression bad enough that I had to decide whether to kill myself or study (I had a big exam the next day).  In retrospect, I was actually in a mixed episode with plenty of energy but in a really bad mood.  Oh, and then there was the slight issue of the hypnogogic hallucinations which I denied at the time.  See, even if I know that I have Bipolar DisorderManic Depression – I still forget.

It would be easier for me to say that I have Bipolar Disorder but it is “just” Bipolar II.  I thought that too.

Melissa