a blog about mental illness and community

Archive for the ‘Your Stories’ Category

The Bipolar Wall

rainbow brain

Source: flickr

This is an illustration of the Bipolar Wall.

It’s like the Berlin Wall but depicted on a brain as a metaphor for mental illness.

With me so far?

This is how I look at it: the Bipolar Wall is the divide between ‘us’ (the chemically imbalanced) and ‘them’ (regular, non-pathological folk).

We have BIG communication issues.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to have a conversation about important stuff like self-harm and suicidal thoughts when there’s a bloody great wall between you and whoever you’re talking to!

Our voices can’t be heard. The messages get garbled.

Sometimes, it takes so much effort for ‘us’ to keep hollering for help and ‘them’ to keep shouting well-meaning questions and encouragement that both parties simply give up.

Communication breaks down.

And there you have it, the Bipolar Wall – the barrier to effective communication about mental illness; the obstacle to awareness, understanding and collaboration within the community.

To change the situation, we need to grab every sledgehammer we can find, break down that dastardly wall and get the dialogue going – from both sides.

Or we could interact online and foster a validating community where it’s safe to share personal stories of mental illness…

You can share your story, anonymously or otherwise, right here on savvy, willing & able.

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Optimism or insensitivity?

Aspiring filmmaker Thanh Huynh has struggled with anxiety for years.

He prides himself on being an open-minded kind of guy, but there’s one sentence he simply can’t abide: “Don’t worry, everything will be all right”.

According to beyondblue, 3 million Australians are living with depression or anxiety.

We all feel anxious now and then, but for a person experiencing an anxiety disorder (when stress is ongoing and excessive), these feelings wreak mental and emotional mayhem.

When it all becomes too much, people who struggle with anxiety may reach out to family and friends for support.

As Thanh Huynh explores in his short film, it can be very invalidating if someone shrugs off the issue with vague optimism or suggests an unrealistic quick-fix.

It’s important to spread the message that it’s okay to not be okay.

Most people say “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine” with the best intentions. However, a friend’s desire to comfort doesn’t make the sentence any easier to hear.

Often, the best thing you can offer as a friend or family member is acknowledgement: i.e. “yes, things are terrible right now and the situation can’t easily be fixed, but you have my full support”.

Hugs are good too.

Have you ever been told not to worry – that “everything will be okay”? How did it make you feel?

When you’re anxious or going through a rough time, what would you like your friends and family to do or say?

Alta’s story

According to beyondblue up to 3 million Australians are living with anxiety. That’s a whopping chunk of the population!

Alta is one of those people – she experiences severe anxiety attacks. As the first contributor to the Your Stories segment of the blog, it would be great if we could make Alta feel really welcome here by sharing helpful comments and information.

I have anxieties….the really bad kind. Im constantly worrying that Im going to die of a heart attack….I get all the symptoms of a person having a heart attack. Im dizzy, my arms hurt, especially my upper left arm. My heart flutters, I have headaches, constantly having to get up to go to the bathroom, especially at nite, my muscles ache, I have diarreha, I can go on & on about all the symptoms I have. I have been to the ER 5 times this yr alone…thinking I was having a heart attack…but all the test results always comes back normal. I cry myself to sleep at nite becuz I dont know how to cope & manage my anxieties. I was hoping that talking about it with someone might help. Please let me know if you have similiar symptoms….or am I losing my mind.

As we can see from Alta’s description, anxiety can be debilitating and extremely distressing.

Anxiety disorders (such as agoraphobia, generalised anxiety disorder and social anxiety) are characterised by ongoing anxious feelings that may seem to exist without any particular reason. They are serious conditions that makes it tough for sufferers to cope with everyday life.

The beyondblue website is a fantastic resource, with lots of information about anxiety disorders and where to get help.

Is there anything you’d like to say to Alta?

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