Archive for the ‘mental-health’ Tag

Am I Obese Or Is It Just In My Mind?   Leave a comment

The other day I saw a grossly overweight woman trying to get a place in the check-out line at the supermarket.  People were jumping in front of her because they assumed she moved slowly.  It seemed like they were thinking, “She’s fat and will slow me down in the if I get behind her.”  This really bothered me.  The cashier checks you out, not the customer.  How could this woman have slowed down the check out process due to her weight?  It was simply insulting and taking advantage of someone because of the way they look.

This upset me on several different levels.  One, just because I hate seeing human beings being cruel to each another.  Mankind has enough hardships without creating more on our own accord.  That woman may not have shown it, but I’m sure in some way it made her feel like less of a person.  It made me want to cry.  Second, I have been in her position before, convinced I was grossly overweight and horrid at which to look.  I know what it feels like to have people laugh and disrespect my slovenly appearance.  I have been the Elephant Man.

In my teens and early twenties I simply could not understand overweight people.  I’d see them lumbering around town, guts hanging over their belts, flabby legs stuffed into their pants, shirts so tight they’re about to pop buttons, arms too chubby to fully rest at their sides, double and triple chins plus whatever else goes along with obesity.  And they’d be huffing and puffing up even the slightest inclines.  You just knew they were stuffing their faces with delicasies like sausage colachies, pizza with cheese baked into the crust, deep fried chicken tacos, milkshakes, ice cream by the barrel and 64 oz. bottles of soda to wash it all down.

And although I would not overtly make fun of them, I’d always think “how could they let themselves deteriorate like that?”  I don’t always feel like working out, but I force myself.  I’d rather have a super-burrito, but I make myself eat salad.  But these people have no self-discipline.  They deserve to be fat.  They should have to buy two airplane seats when they fly.  They wanna be pigs, let them pay for it.

Then one day I started to see myself as fat. My depression had gotten so bad I couldn’t get out of bed to exercise and eating was one of the few things that brought me pleasure.  I began to feel very out of shape and eventually literally saw myself as severely obese.   When I walked around I felt people were making fun of my big bobbling butt, hanging turkey gizzard of a neck and protruding stomach.  My self worth was in the gutter.  I was convinced of being the most unattractive person in the world.

Finally I got on the right medications for my Bipolar II.  And as I starting feeling better psycologically, I ceased seeing myself in the distorted image of a fat man anymore.  But it opened my mind to the depression the obese must face every day.  In my mind I felt the stares, jokes, rudeness and disrespect overweight people absorb on a daily basis.  I understood what it was like to be trapped in a body you hate with the seemingly insurmountable task of losing a significant amount of weight.  I experienced the depression that comes with thinking about all this plus the fact I may never find someone to love and accept me.

The average person does not understand obesity.  However I think being Bipolar gives special insight to obese trials and tribulations.  Many of us have been severely depressed.  Too down to exercise, the inactivity of constantly sleeping and not eating right causing Body Dysmorphic Disorder.  This is when you see your body as something other than it is.  And, you do not see it in a positive light.  Depressed and inactive, many Bipolars seriously view themselves as overweight and unattractive.  This is literally what they see when they look in the mirror.  It’s what I saw before I was on anti-depressants.

At one point I actually did start gaining weight due to a side effect of the medications I was taking.  However because I felt better mentally, I was motivated to eat right and work out extra hard to keep most of it off.  But the terror that comes with thinking you might blow up like a parade float is incredibly debilitating.  Depressing enough to make you want to stop taking your medication.  And many Bipolars would rather have Bipolar depression than be depressed about their weight and body image.

I do not look at obese people the same way anymore.  First of all, I refer to them as overweight, big, obese or large.  And I never fault them for being in that condition.  Many times it’s genetic and has nothing to do with exercise and diet.  Certain people are just large.  For others the idea of having to lose a massive quantity of weight is so ominous they become paralyzed.  Or, some individuals need a trainer to ride them, because they don’t have the self-discipline to do it on their own.  Of course there are still some people out there where in their mind food trumps weight and they don’t have a problem with their size.  I admire them for being happy with who they are.

I feel as Bipolars we have been given a gift to better understand what it’s like for these overweight individuals.  We understand the debilitating depression and other psychological obstacles that make change seem daunting or even unattainable. Since we have to take medications which have side-effects changing our bodies and curtailing certain of our abilities, Bipolar people understand what it’s like to be trapped inside of ourselves.

Overall I believe most obesce people are not happy with their self image and are likely to suffer from some degree of depression over things they can not do or have.  Moreover, in at least one aspect they have it worse than those afflicted with Bipolar Illness… You can not tell when someone is Bipolar because it all happens on the inside.  Unfortunately, overweight people have to wear their problem on the outside for the whole world to see.  I think it’s our duty as Bipolar sufferers to look past the body at the person inside.  We can not expect kindness and understanding from the non-afflicted if we don’t show the same compassion toward others in need.

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Suffering in a Six by Nine Cell   2 comments

He left the classroom, which was nothing more than a converted trailer, and walked out onto the San Quentin prison yard.  He sat down on the deserted baseball infield legs crossed in his prison blues.  Nobody noticed him at first until he started ripping up handulls of grass and shoving them in his mouth.  Finally a guard took note and walked over to the fence surrounding the baseball field.  He wanted to know what the prisoner was doing and ordered him to stop.  No response.  It was obvious the man was having some kind of  mental breakdown.

Guards at San Quentin, as they are in other jails and prisons, are taught not to enter a potentially dangerous situation with a prisoner without at least eight other guards.  This is to completely imobilize the inmate and not risk their own personal safety.  This particular one was sitting quietly on the ground shoving gobs of turf in his own face. He was obviously a threat and needed to be beaten down before things got out of hand.

So, when the proper amount of guards amassed, they proceeded to approach the man and do just that.  In fact, they protected the prison so well  the man was actually removed from the institution…  By ambulance.   Once again things were safe again inside San Quentin from grass-eaters experiencing psychological breakdowns..

And the volunteer teacher showing great concern who ran outside to see what was happening to her student?  She was also removed from the prison.  Told she needed to concentrate on teaching, and not the delicate prison security maneuvers she knew nothing about.  “Next time stay in the trailer,” were the gruff instructions meted out to her.

If you are not shocked by this, you should be.  But go inside a prison like San Quentin for any length of time and you’ll start to see such abuses of the mentally ill.  Sans the beating,  many are not getting the proper treatment or follow up they would get on the street.  Most of these men, and women in crisis, don’t end up in the hospital.  They are thrown back in their six by nine cells to silently suffer by  themselves.

However, if inmates are hearing voices or anything that pronounced, they could be fortunate enough to end up in the prison hospital where they have a better chance of being treated for their mental illness.  But if you are severely depressed from bipolar illness, that’s ok. “You’re in prison.  You’re not supposed to be happy.” is what you might get back from a guard.

Can you imagine hitting bipolar rock bottom, locked in a jail cell and not getting the right medication, if any at all?  Writhing in deep depression, unable to sleep, not knowing if anybody will come help or if anyone is even thinking about you?  Or to be mistakenly denied your medication and going through serious withdraw symptoms?  And in the middle of your dry heaving, severe muscle pain and uncontrollable tears, you’re told the prison psychologist already went home for the weekend and will see you on Monday morning?  But you are expected to sit in your hot little decrepit yellowed paint peeling cell and wait while he plays a little golf, barbecues a few steaks, gets his Lexus detailed, screws his wife, takes an aspirin for a headache and indulges in all the other pleasantries of being free and mentally stable?

It pains me to my core to know things like this are going on everyday in the California correctional system.  And, I’m sure we aren’t the only state without basic compassion for human beings in mental crisis.  I don’t want to hear, “well, they did commit a crime.” I drove in the car pool lane two months ago by myself intentionally.  It was faster and I was late.  Spotted by the California Highway Patrol, I got a $350 ticket. Does this mean I should be denied on the scene care from an EMT if I ever get into a serious car accident?  Because I once drove in the carpool lane without another passenger on purpose?  Of course not.  So why is it if you commit a crime are you denied psychiatric care, or competent psychiatric care, for that matter?  Why don’t we just stone mentally ill prisoners while we’re at it?

Nobody knew or ever reported on the San Quentin incident.  How many more went un-noticed?   Think how you would feel being incarcerated and bipolar.  Would you feel confident you were getting the right care?  How would your anxiety level be locked in a six by nine cell with another grown man you don’t like?   Everyone is complaining around you.  Can you even make your voice heard?

Being locked up and denied your freedom is the punishment for committing certain crimes.   Mental suffering while locked up is not something the judge orders.  Yet, our prison systems in the United States continue to serve it up.  We have to learn to slip the cuffs of silence on the subject.

It’s Alive!   Leave a comment

I feel like I just created a monster with the release of Buzzkill.   Writing it was the most exhilarating, heart wrenching and challenging year of my life.  I completely put myself out there regarding my life long struggle with mental illness, misfiring medications, suicidal side-effects, horrid hospital stays, out of control OCD, psychiatrists who need to lay on their own couches and family members constantly adding accelerate to the wildfire burning in my brain.

Basically I put in to words for all to see everything I’ve spent my entire life trying to keep secret.  I unabashedly share how I’ve dealt with bipolar illness before I was diagnosed as a child, improperly diagnosed as a college student and finally properly diagnosed as an adult.  All this time was fraught with uncontrollable impulses I could not predict nor save myself the embarrassment of having in public.  WIth Buzzkill I feel like I am standing on stage in a packed concert arena, naked and with a giant spotlight shining right on my genitals.

But there is no turning back now.  And it is my sincere hope that “letting it all hang out” will help someone dealing with the same issues to “hang on.”  People don’t want to hear from a Phd., psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist or psychologist lecturing on the mechanics of and textbook treatments for bipolar disease.  They want reality in a language they can understand;  The truth.  Consequently, Buzzkill serves it up “head in the toilet” raw.   Of course I do interject some wit and levity into many situations, but nothing is whitewashed, out of bounds or off limits.

It’s Alive!