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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gun control and mental health

I've purposely waited for the NRA to make their public statement before expressing my views regarding gun control, as well as how it should relate to mental health. Now that they've held a press-conference (however terrifying), I'm weighing in. 

The idea that every person treated and/or medicated for any type of mental illness should be entered into a national database is deplorable and disgusting. One in four American adults experience a mental health problem in any given year, yet the U.S. Surgeon General determined over a decade ago that 'the overall contribution of mental disorders to the total level of violence in society is exceptionally small.' (NAMI, 2012). This ranges from a woman suffering from post-partum depression to a soldier experiencing anxiety after returning home from war to individuals who suffer from chronic mental illness such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Are all of the illnesses of the same caliber? Should all of these individuals be labeled for the rest of their lives? Who gets to determine how severe the illness must be for an individual not to receive a gun permit? Is everyone who makes a poor decision with a gun mentally ill or is every mentally ill person going to shoot people?

In my third trimester of pregnancy, I began to experience overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks due to the extreme changes in hormones and brain chemistry caused by creating a new life. Once K was born, these feelings further intensified and remained until I finished nursing her. This information is in my permanent medical history. Should I not be allowed to own a gun  because of anxiety six years in my past? Better yet, my husband has bipolar disorder. Should I be denied a gun permit because we live in the same household?

David believes that it's not in his best interest to own a gun, due to his depressive and suicidal tendencies. This is a decision he has made to keep himself safe. He receives consistent care from his psychologist and psychiatrist. If they were of the belief that he was a threat to others, then I believe they are in a position professionally and ethically to weigh in on the matter. But the NRA, who has never met David and has no idea how his illness effects him with regard to violent tendencies, does not have that right. Nor should they. 

I do not own a gun. I am not, however against them for personal protection, hunting, and yes, recreational purposes. I do believe there is a line, though. Does anyone need a fully automatic assault rifle for any of the uses stated above? No. Will a person who truly wants one get one legally or illegally? Maybe, but not always likely. In many instances in which guns are the weapons used to cause devastation (e.g., Sandy Hook, Columbine, etc.) these weapons were obtained legally. Whether or not the incidents would have occurred if these individuals had a more difficult time obtaining the weapons is truly an unknown variable. 

Irregardless, blanketing the entire segment of society who have been treated for a mental illness at some point in their lives is not the answer. Doing such will only lead to fewer people reaching out and receiving the help they need in fear of being permanently labeled. The stigma associated with mental illness will grow, not decline as so many have been striving towards for years. 

I am appalled by the recent statement by the NRA. Yet another strike against those trying to lead normal lives. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Have I mentioned this illness sucks?!

In case I haven't mentioned it before, this illness sucks. It takes a perfectly good day and shoots it right down the freaking crapper. When his day turns to shit, so does mine. Well, sometimes I'm able to stay in an okay mood, but yesterday and today, not so much.

I left work early today, which just adds to my stress. A) because I have so much going on at work right now, and 2) because I always worry about my job (for no reason, I'm aware).

So, coming home to calm him down from his massive panic attacks, when I'm totally stressed, is probably not super helpful.

Ugh!! Have I mentioned this illness SUCKS?!

End rant.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Post Mania & Stigma

Yesterday, David had the opportunity to read my last post about his mania and how scared I was. Here was his response:

I finally got my relief, as my mania broke. I also learned something about what my disease does to my family. Even though I may be physically present, I am mentally absent. Life just passes me by, and after the mania or depression subsides, it is like trying to catch up on a tv show, figuring out what all has happened. Without meaning to, I ignore everyone. This mania made it to the point that K tells me I lie and don't keep my promises. If there were ever an environmental trigger to stop the mania, that was it. It woke me up and I realize I have to take better care of myself.
I was hard for me to read, but at the same time, refreshing because he really wants nothing more than to feel better and he keeps trying. We've had two close calls of late where we thought he would definitely be hospitalized. Both times, he has given it everything he has to keep that from happening and brings himself back from the brink. This is a tremendous step in the right direction. He is not solely relying on the medication to heal him, but is working on behavioral therapy to correct his actions.

He is definitely feeling the come down from the mania, and almost always this leads to depression. We are trying hard to keep that at bay and he is not taking it lying down. Quite literally, he refuses to lay down and nap during the day to try and avoid the onset of depression. While he is having mild feelings, he is keeping busy in effort to not let it go past mild.

Yesterday, he emailed me this link that he said made him think of me. It's pretty spot on. Life caring for a loved one with a mental illness / mood disorder is exhausting. This is probably one of the few times he has recognized and mentioned how much he realizes I deal with each day. It's a good feeling to know that he appreciates how difficult it is on our family, not just him.

He's still running his support group every Thursday night and we've added several new members, which is nice. I'm happy he has stuck with it and kept it going even during times when he hasn't felt the best (like last week). He really wants to help others; I love this about him.

People with mental illness need help and often times don't seek it out because they are ashamed. There is a stigma placed on mental illness that makes it taboo. Why?? Are people afraid they will catch it? Do they really believe that the person is weak and should just "snap out of it"? Until our society can start acting more accepting of those who suffer from a mental illness, affected individuals will continue to seek what they see as the easy way out - suicide. I'm appalled and ashamed of the attitude we have towards these individuals. Mental illness is not ANY different than heart disease, diabetes, or even cancer. Your brain is the most complex organ in the body; how does it not make sense that it can also be affected by disease?

The new health care regulations (I'm not looking for a political debate) will really help those with mental illness in ensuring they can get the proper treatment and medications.
Treating any chronic illness, which is how mental illness is classified, is extremely costly, particularly for those without insurance. Heck, for those of us with good insurance it is still expensive - we spend approx. $1,500 per month on insurance premiums, doctors visits, and medication costs. That's more than our house payment. This legislation will hopefully help to alleviate some of the burden by covering costs at a higher rate.

I'm not complaining about having medical expenses - it's part of life. And I'm quite thankful that I have a great job with excellent benefits. But there are so many people who don't have this luxury. When your choice is medication or food for your family, what do you think a person will choose?

If you know someone with a mental illness, support them by being their friend. Don't treat them differently. Don't single them out because you think they can't handle something. We all want to be normal, and the best way to do that is to act as if the disease doesn't change who the person is - because truly, it doesn't.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Today I am scared. David is on the inner edge of mania, walking a very fine line. He's become obsessed with a project for his computer and it consumes his every waking thought. If left to himself he wouldn't eat or sleep or do anything that wasn't involved in his project.

However, I do not leave him to deal with this on his own. I make sure he takes his meds, does his CES treatments, eats, sleeps, and unplugs from the computer. I force him to get through his responsibilities.

This morning he tried to tell me that he couldn't go with my dad to a training he was registered for because he didn't feel well and wanted to sleep. While I know his sinuses and allergies are crazy right now, I wasn't buying it for a second. Not that I think he was trying to lie to me, but mania is a persuasive disease. It does what it wants to get what it wants. At times mania is much scarier than depression.

Last night when the two of us were trying to figure out exactly how to keep the mania from coming on full force, he said something that made my heart ache. "Honey, please don't let me go back into depression, I don't know if I can take it."

ARGH!!!!!! I freaking hate this disease! Why are mania and depression the two main options with a little bit of normal every once in awhile? How is this fair? While I would never want to lose him, I have this feeling (please don't be offended if you have experienced this) that a loss would be easier to heal from than a chronic illness. I'm not saying death is easy by any stretch, but I feel like there is at least some closure and you can start the healing process even if it takes a very long time and you never stop some of the hurt. With bipolar we have NO end in sight. His pain and struggle continues day after day with no cure on the horizon. Again, I never want to lose him, I just want him healed.

So I'm scared, terrified really. Full blown mania is Bad! Definite hospitalization required, and he hates the hospital. I woke up 10 times during the night just to make sure he was still sleeping. His heart is racing, his bp is elevated, and he just can't shut his brain off. I'll call his dr but am afraid he'll want to reduce the happy meds and then he will fall back into depression. I'm so very tired. I'm also feeling selfish because I have 50 women coming to my house for a bridal shower for my niece on Saturday and I'm praying I can pull it off with him being okay.

I can't eat because the anxiety from my worry makes it hard to swallow. I just want to go get him, drive to our place at the lake and enjoy the serenity and peace totally unplugged from technology. God make this better. Hear all of my prayers and answer as you see fit. But please give David some relief.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I want to say thanks to each of you who have offered words of support and encouragement. It truly helps to get through the toughest of days knowing you are thinking about and praying for us.

I'm always curious (appreciative, but curious) when someone tells me how strong I am, because strong is not an adjective I'd use to describe myself. I've done nothing extraordinary. Nothing beyond supporting my husband, my love. I vowed in sickness and in health, in good times and bad, and I meant it. I've been asked why I don't leave and live a "normal" life. To that my initial reaction is "wow."

If David was battling cancer, would I get the same question? Because honestly he has no more control over being bipolar than getting cancer or any other illness.

It does not make me strong to love my husband. It makes me a wife. A wife who feels weak when I cannot take away my husband's pain. Who feels weak for the times when I'm worn out and frustrated when I need to be supportive. Who is terrified of losing the love of my life because of a mental illness that takes away his will to keep fighting for better days.

David is the strong one. He DOES keep fighting even when he has nothing left to fight with. He does this for one reason. Her name is Kennadie and she blessed our lives 6 years ago. Our daughter makes the most unbearable days worth living through. I'm not sure if he would still be with me fighting this battle if not for her.

So thank you for your support, kind words, and prayers. They mean more to us than you know.

With love, M