Monday, July 25, 2011


It's been two and a half years since I've written this blog. Why? Because at the time, I felt that writing about bipolar disorder was perhaps not a healthy thing for me to do.

I was wrong. Lately, with public figures displaying the sad symptoms of the disorder, I started thinking about Swing Time again. I had hidden it from public view and yesterday, I reopened it after writing my other blog, The Knitting Curmudgeon.

Throughout the past two years, I have been doing fairly well, although symptoms occasionally break through. Nonetheless, I'm functional, although working as a consultant makes me unemployed far too often.

My latest sadness is over the death of Amy Winehouse, the newest member of The 27 Club. What upsets me are the comments made from friends and the media: "Oh, no surprise!" If you do not have bipolar disorder, clinical depression, or addiction, it is hard to understand that these are brain disorders. As I always say, "PHYSICAL!" If Amy had suffered from a brain tumor and died from that, you know that there would have been far less "I knew this would happen" comments and a greater understanding. Cancer is socially acceptable. Amy, who wrote her hit song "Rehab", clearly denied her illness and addiction. Who let her down? When people are mentally messed up, they have to be hammered sometimes until they see the light. And sometimes, they do not, as Amy didn't.

Mental illness is still viewed as a personal weakness, even though TV is full of ads for Cymbalta (a hideous drug that I once took for less than two weeks and dumped), Seroquel (my lifesaver), and Abilify, amongst others. These drugs are not cures. There are no medicinal cures for addiction, for depression, for bipolar disorder, for schizophrenia, for personality disorders. There is nothing, although research does continue. Because BP and creativity walk hand-in-hand, the fear of losing creativity via medication is huge. I have taken medication for years and have never lost my creativity.

Addiction often arises due to self-medication. People drink and do drugs because they are mentally ill and need something to relieve their agony. As a commentator on CNN said today, addicts can't recover if they don't accept treatment. They don't because they are frightened, because they are convinced that rehab is more like prison and not a cure. Having worked with drug addicts and alcoholics in the past, when I was a psychiatric technician back in the '70s, I completely understand this attitude. Yes, society has failed addicts in many ways by pointing fingers at them and calling them "weak lunatics." Weakness has nothing to do with mental illness. Support from family, friends, and society means everything. But the epiphany of understanding and accepting your illness is the ultimate cure.

I remember when I had my epiphany during my one stay at a mental institution. If you want to get better, you have to face yourself, look at your life, and decide to accept help. It may be the hardest thing you've ever done.  Fortunately, my bipolar disorder is not as severe as it could have been. My family and friends were always there for me. However, society still blackballs me. I don't tell my employers, obviously. The stigma of mental illness can ruin you professionally, even if you are successful at your job.

I have always reached out to fellow sufferers and have been told that this blog has helped a number of people. Although I am the Knitting Curmudgeon, I love to help others if I can. I've been through enough shit and worked my way out of it. If I can pass on my solutions, then I have contributed something good.

One day at a time is the true path. I take each day and stroll. I'll be back writing here anon. Stay well, take your meds, and remember that you can help yourself live a good life.