OK so this is not easy for me to do, but I’ve been wanting to do it for a while. So I’m going to write a series of posts about mental health. My mental health. Specifically what mental health struggles I have.
First things first: surprise, surprise, I have bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).
You may have seen Stephen Fry’s latest documentary on BBC “The Not-So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive: 10 Years On”. I watched the first documentary 10 years ago, before my own diagnosis. I’m trying to hunt it down to watch it again to see if my perspective has changed since receiving the diagnosis. From what I can recall, it seemed the follow up documentary was more of a depressing watch, there didn’t seem to be much hope portrayed for any of the bipolar sufferers depicted, including Stephen Fry himself. While I have only been officially diagnosed myself since ~March last year, I thought I would try and offer my own personal perspective on the diagnosis process, the medication, and the resources I’ve found available to me through a series of posts.
I have to admit, I struggled watching the most recent documentary. I found that a lot of what was said resonated with me and I understand that it needed to show the truth of living with this disorder. However, I think it really could have benefitted from showing just one person coping, one person managing their condition to balance out the rest of the quite depressing situations. I am by no means in control of my illness as it stands, and I’m still trying to work out how to manage it with my CFS/ME. It is exhausting. But I have found a medication that works for me, which is phenomenally beneficial (I will go into this in a later post). I’m able to stay more balanced and when I do have episodes, my lows are less low, my highs less high. I am considerably safer than I used to be. I am also fortunate in that it doesn’t make me numb, it doesn’t make me a zombie. I am still working full-time in a fast, stressful industry that I love. I have blogged before how I am so lucky because my employer is so patient and flexible in how they let me work.
I wish others with ME, others with bipolar could be able to do this. Many with these conditions have to work part-time, if they can work at all. I reiterate: I am incredibly lucky, and it is something I’m going to have to keep fighting for every day of my life to keep doing. But I am doing it. And I think that someone newly diagnosed with this illness would benefit from knowing that it can be possible. Hence these posts on “Bipolar and me”.
See Part 2 for my thoughts on the illness itself, dispelling some common misconceptions and just trying to fill you in on what living with bipolar really means.
I strongly advise you all to read this small but perfectly formed blog post on the topic of gender stereotypes in sciences. An article was published in the Guardian online (there’s a link to it in the post above) that was just awful; claimed that it was trying to come up with methods about getting more girls into physics and engineering by giving them science in the form of recipes, jigsaws and saying that “well, maths is supposed to be hard”.
The Guardian piece also failed to address the lack of boys in biology, psychology, veterinary and general medical sciences, which is efinitely something to be looked into. The fact that the two former subjects are seen as ‘softer’ sciences won’t help, similarly to the myth that veterinary science is all about cute and cuddly animals (which obviously boys can’t like *sarcasm*).
The seems to be a rising trend in the belief that men and women just are fundamentally different (which I have little problem saying as even some medicines has differing levels of efficacy in each sex)- Scientific American Mind did an excellent issue last year on the similarities and differences between the male and female brain and mind.
However, what I hate is that these thoughts are being twisted into the idea that “girls brains just aren’t suited to maths/physics/engineering” (and according to this link http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/news/whats-the-biggest-problem-with-women-artists-none-of-them-can-actually-paint-says-georg-baselitz-8484019.html us girls can’t paint/draw/compose music/come up with original ideas/write incredible literature, so maybe we should just give up now. Really people!?!?)
I’d like to think most people would acknowledge that male and female brains are capable of the same potential but from the toys we are given to play with and up through to the education system, these things guide our minds to be better at learning in different ways.
There’s also the obvious social expectations (girls are more empathetic so they just ‘make better’ teachers/nurses etc and these careers are seen as care giving roles which aren’t masculine. Which is rubbish. There are many other careers/roles where this happens again and again, but that would take a long time to list so I will leave it there).
I also don’t want this to veer into the realm of becoming a post about sexism in the past and present world as that is a subject unto itself, but they obviously play a significant part.
So please, before spouting putrid and frankly, out of date ideas, have a thought about how damaging generalisations really are and how our children should have the chance to follow whatever career path they want, regardless of their sex/gender.