It’s been a little while since I’ve wrote any articles here and I have lots to share but I’m saving it for a book that I am working toward publishing hopefully by the end of next year or sooner. However, I do want to share some pieces of my journey with my followers and what I have recently been working through when it comes to the topic of mental health and trying to explain to others that have never experienced any kind of mental health trauma or are so convinced by the media’s narrative that they believe every stigma that’s out there.
Where shall I begin first? First things first, most of my followers know that I have children who have been diagnosed and living with a variety of medical health challenges. One of my children has bipolar 1 disorder, one has developmental delays, one has epilepsy, and one has never been diagnosed but I strongly believe lives with a personality disorder. When I speak about things in my articles I come from a place of my own lived, real-life experiences and not what I read about in a book or watched on television.
This past year was quite the journey with my son’s battle with bipolar disorder, but to God be the glory he is stable and doing significantly well now. This is after a very long fight with episodes of mania and depression and anger. Talk about an emotional roller coaster. It’s amazing to see just how stable his mental health is now, to the point that it makes my husband and I look back and think that all those prior years of his youth he must have been living in continuous hypomania. He was right in the middle of his junior year at college and track and field season had just begun and here it went again, the mania phase! He was living on campus and looking back now, I think that was a mistake. School itself was a major stressor for him and although he managed to graduate high school with honors and at the top of his game with sports, he really never was able to enjoy all the celebratory moments. Because due to his mental health, he was mostly depressed during these moments in time. I have always felt extremely bad for him, because I have always had to watch him battle his own thoughts, moods and behaviors. As a mother or parent of a child who is living with a mental illness, I’ve found it to be both heart-wrenching to very rewarding depending upon the season of life we are in. The rewarding part comes after the success of finding the right mix of medications that works effectively for his stability and to keep him balanced. It’s that period of time where everyone can breathe again, and the eggshells don’t have to be walked upon anymore. It’s when I can sit down and have a full-blown conversation with my son without him becoming easily agitated and angry. I have to be honest, there was a point during the crisis and trauma that I began to lose hope and thought I would never be able to have my son back to who I knew him as, which was the gentle, funny, kind-hearted, caring, loving person that he is. Because one thing that others on the outside looking in, don’t understand, don’t get, or don’t know about, is that bipolar disorder is a chronic brain disease, a chronic illness and when a person’s brain becomes sick and doesn’t function properly and is functioning irregular, it is hard to watch the one you love to suffer through all the symptoms that fall under this diagnosis.
One thing I’d like those who are untouched, uneducated or inexperienced to know when it comes to bipolar disorder, is that you need to see the individual and the illness separately. When a person goes untreated or maybe they are under treatment but haven’t found one that is effective for their condition, they are still human. For example, when my son was not well, his condition made his brain function irregular and differently, which then impacted his thinking and made him behave in ways that he would not normally behave. When I compare this to a person who is living life and suddenly has an onset of cardiac arrest, it’s similar in the sense that a person’s heart has begun to beat irregularly and when they go into cardiac arrest their heart is malfunctioning and they will experience physical symptoms that are beyond their control. I see this the same way with people like my son who are living with bipolar disorder, they can be just fine one moment, and their brain becomes unwell the next, and it causes their behaviors to come out and be expressed different.
I’d also like to add another one of my thoughts and frustrations when it comes to how some of the insurance companies and treatment centers are handling situations and individuals who need immediate help. In my experience, I’ve learned that most physicians, and insurance companies will speak and refer to bipolar disorder as “mental health” and they will say that it’s not considered medical and that it’s not covered under “medical coverage”. Basically, I became extremely frustrated that they don’t consider bipolar or any other mental health condition as “medical”. I’m very annoyed with that. If it’s not medical, then I don’t understand why the same exact medications are used for both a person who is living with epilepsy to treat what’s considered “medical” and prescribe that same medication for someone who is living with bipolar disorder but it’s not “medical” it’s mental health. And when it’s prescribed for a person with epilepsy it’s referred to its purpose for anti-convulsion meds, but when it’s prescribed for a person with bipolar disorder it’s referred to as a mood stabilizer. I’m not a doctor obviously or a scientist, but I do know these are both conditions that affect the brain and cause some pretty severe symptoms. All I’m saying is that I think mental health should be equally considered as a medical condition and the coverage for benefits should be just as good for mental health or what they refer to as behavioral health. Because what I’ve found is that most hospitals don’t offer any type of charity care or financial assistance when it comes to behavioral health, so you’d better have some real good insurance. Thankfully we do!
One last thing I will share here is that most behavioral health hospitals aren’t resourceful in providing you with anything other than a piece of paper when you discharge from their facility. And what I’ve discovered is that often times the workers themselves don’t have much of any knowledge about what resources are out there to help this person stay supported once they go home. So that left me to figure it out for my son. If I can share any information that might be helpful to anyone who may be experiencing a similar situation or finding themselves in crisis and you may not know what to do or where to turn for help. First of all, know this, if your loved one isn’t well mentally, it can be extremely challenging to get them help, because if they aren’t posing any threat to harm themselves or others, they don’t have to get help and you can’t make them do it unless you have a court order, or they are able to be detained. In any case, if you find yourself in crisis, and IF you have to call 911 and IF they must dispatch police, make extra sure that you explain to them clearly your situation. In our situation I made it crystal clear that we had no weapons in my home, that he was not a threat and that I just needed to get him to a hospital. This was several years ago before they changed to the national number. One other option you might have is a crisis line within your local city or county and you could call them for help instead of 911 and they may have a mental health professional and a team that could come directly to your home in the middle of the night. Another option is to call your insurance and request a case manager who will be assigned to your case and help you search for covered treatment facilities, some even being in another state. With my son, we had to fly him to a different state for treatment because our state did not offer the type of treatment facility here. Most all facilities where we live would only take him if he had a dual diagnosis with a co-occurring condition such as an eating disorder or substance abuse along with his mental health condition. This is all stuff I had to find out on my own. I had to search on google for treatment facilities and I came up with the idea to request a case manager on my own. Some things aren’t advertised or told to you from the places you’d expect them to come from. It’s also important as I stated earlier to try your absolute hardest to separate their illness from who you know them to be as the person they are. It was extremely difficult for me not to take things personal when my son wasn’t well. He would say things and behave in ways that I knew wasn’t him. I’m grateful to God for my faith and for having a prayer life and connection with Jesus because it truly was only because of God that I was able to go through the fire and withstand the heat. It was God that kept my son in those times when he couldn’t keep himself. Thankfully my son has never been to jail, never been on drugs, or ever done anything to land him in jail. He’s not perfect and he is human and has made some mistakes, but I thank God that his story didn’t end with suicide or homicide, and it never involved it either.
I’m also thankful for celebrities like Jenifer Lewis who have come out and shared publicly that she is living with bipolar and she explains her experience. It’s people that have a platform as big as hers that can give the people who are like my son, some hope for their future and see that they too can do whatever they set their mind to do and do it well even living with their condition, as long as it’s managed and they are able to find balance for themselves.
One thing I’m trying to encourage my son about is that he doesn’t need to continue to feel embarrassed about his behaviors when he wasn’t well and when he allowed others to see him in a different light, because if anything, those same people are able to also see you now and doing well and how you overcame adversity. And better yet, they know you’re human.
Lastly, keep your faith in God. Continue to hold onto His unchanging hand. Jesus is our one and only consistency and person who will never leave or forsake us. In times when you might feel he isn’t present, those are the times you need to keep connected and draw closer to Him. Continue to wait on the Lord, change will come afterwhile. Ask God to lead and guide you and then allow Him to direct your path. In all honesty, I used to be anti-meds, but not any longer. You have to trust in the process of waiting and know there is purpose in waiting as well. Don’t just put it all on God either, do the natural things you can do to help yourself.
Well I think that’s all for this article. I want to thank each one of my followers for being here and sticking with me. And if any one of you has questions for me, or want to ask me something specific and directly, please feel free to reach out to me on my page in the tab titled, “let’s talk“.
Have a blessed life!