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Stigma Stomp Day

Wow!  What can I say but magnificent!  Friday was Stigma Stomp Day created by Team Eventus-Leadership Victoria partnered with Bipolar Babe.  It was amazing to see 300 people wearing stomp-babe t-shirts united together for one cause.  I was pleased to give a small speech but even more delighted to introduce Jenny and Cara  to the stage!  Their stories warmed and touched my heart.

I was so impressed with the different skills of Team Eventus.  Sarah B. was always so cheerful and eager for my input; Nicola was strategic and a get things done kinda gal; Michael was funny and brought a certain touch to the activities; Sharlene really showed her leadership skills and was a great chair to the meetings; Michelle was to the point and very professional; and lastly Sarah H. was quite the amazing coach.  They worked so hard to make this happen, I was merely on the sidelines, making recommendations, arrangements or giving advice, but this event was born because of them.  The board at the bipolar disorder society of BC is thankful and ever so grateful for your contribution to us and to the world at large. 

Stigma generally exists in the world due to a lack of understanding and knowledge and Team Eventus and Bipolar Babe really did some amazing sharing on this special day.  Danny the Intern from 107.3 KOOL FM was so touched from stories that he had tears in his eyes and did a group huddle with the youth after their speeches.  I also saw another young man crying after Jenny divulged about her past anorexia and bipolar issues.  I gave him a BIG hug and his tears subsided.  The day was one to remember.

More exciting news…May have 3 more teens2twenties youth to take part in our group.  Two whom I met through the event!  Just a call out to keep the word going that this group exists and we are here to help our teens manage their lives.  It is a place of healing but also of fun! 

Well, it is a BEAUTIFUL day outside and I am getting off my laptop now to enjoy it, you should do the same!  Much Love, Bipolar Babe  

Stigma Stompin on New Ground

What’s new in the world of babe?  Well, I was in Burnaby with our President, Rachel Lariviere conducting presentations for working professionals in the educational field and I also presented to a small alternative school.  A young woman arranged the entire thing and she was so enthusiastic about our presence.  Every time I speak I realize why I am doing it and feel happy that I am taking the opportunity to share my personal story in hopes that it will help others better understand what life can be like for someone who has a mental illness.  I was a little unnerved by a young student that left the room because he had been in the psych ward and I suppose a lot of what I was saying was ‘hitting home’.  If my perception is correct, I recall feeling the same way a long time ago…defensive.  No matter what anybody said to me during my hospitalization, ‘they’ were all against me.  I was somewhat hurt when the young gentleman left as what I was actually trying to do was to make him feel comfortable with the reality of what simply is.  I asked the group to bring up images in their mind when I said ‘mental illness’ and one kid said ‘retards’ and another said ‘annoying’.  To say the least I had a tough crowd, probably the toughest yet!  Overall, it seemed to go over well in the end and the kid that said he pictured ‘retards’ was delighted to hand in an evaluation card that said ‘Great Job!’  Phew, I got through that one.  If you are keen to have a babe presentation please let us know and I will be happy to accommodate.  We have now brought our program off the island onto the mainland and are thrilled to be spreading the word.  Let’s keep ‘Stigma Stompin’ together!   

A special shout out to the Accent Inn in Burnaby!  They kindly gave us a night on them – complimentary!  The stay was so smooth and comfortable, we can't help but be super grateful.  Thank you for your continual support and generosity to local charities like us.  🙂

Acceptance

As I ponder my diagnosis and the time that I have spent getting to where I am today, I am realizing how important acceptance is.  It is not only personal, but it is a beautiful thing to have people in your life who are accepting of the fact that you have bipolar disorder.

 I recall a time when I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror without feeling a sense of overwhelming shame.  Shame that I was marked by such a stigmatized illness, that I was different, that I had experienced psychosis and gone ‘crazy’ at one point in my life.  Not too many people can say they have experienced this and frankly it didn’t make me feel special or unique.  In time and with creating Bipolar Babe I was able to utter the words “I have bipolar disorder’ without feeling such a shame but there was still a weariness around others.  I can say today I feel free to share and I suppose it may be easier for me as I have shared my story with thousands of people and plan to continue doing so.

 I have to say that the acceptance of having loved ones in my life has made the transition from shame to empowerment much easier.  I have never met a more accepting individual than my boyfriend.  I have shared some of the things that I have done due to my illness and there is not an inkling of judgement or worry.  This is rare and if you find this kind of acceptance in a partner I urge you to hang on to him/her because judging from my experience, it is rare.

 Acceptance is a beautiful thing and although there is stigma, it is not something to be feared, not only do we have to fight against the stigma out there, I highly suggest working against and abolishing the stigma within.  It is not until we raise our voices and embrace the fear of judgement that we can truly be free and accepting of oneself.     

Andrea 🙂 XO

Acceptance

As I ponder my diagnosis and the time that I have spent getting to where I am today, I am realizing how important acceptance is.  It is not only personal, but it is a beautiful thing to have people in your life who are accepting of the fact that you have bipolar disorder.

 I recall a time when I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror without feeling a sense of overwhelming shame.  Shame that I was marked by such a stigmatized illness, that I was different, that I had experienced psychosis and gone ‘crazy’ at one point in my life.  Not too many people can say they have experienced this and frankly it didn’t make me feel special or unique.  In time and with creating Bipolar Babe I was able to utter the words “I have bipolar disorder’ without feeling such a shame but there was still a weariness around others.  I can say today I feel free to share and I suppose it may be easier for me as I have shared my story with thousands of people and plan to continue doing so.

 I have to say that the acceptance of having loved ones in my life has made the transition from shame to empowerment much easier.  I have never met a more accepting individual than my boyfriend.  I have shared some of the things that I have done due to my illness and there is not an inkling of judgement or worry.  This is rare and if you find this kind of acceptance in a partner I urge you to hang on to him/her because judging from my experience, it is rare.

 Acceptance is a beautiful thing and although there is stigma, it is not something to be feared, not only do we have to fight against the stigma out there, I highly suggest working against and abolishing the stigma within.  It is not until we raise our voices and embrace the fear of judgement that we can truly be free and accepting of oneself.     

Andrea 🙂 XO

SIDE EFFECTS

What to share today?  Someone once asked me what was it like living on a day-to-day basis with bipolar disorder?  The first thing that came to my mind was ‘side effects’.  I am specifically referring to the side effects of my medication.  I have been struggling so hard lately with my diagnosis and the prescribed medication regime.  I am so sick of acne, weight gain, feelings of paranoia, visual disturbances, depth perception issues, and the loathing every day when I swallow those pills knowing it is probably going to destroy my thyroid or kidneys some day.  Sounds pretty grim doesn’t it?  I envy people that have a mental illness and go along their way for years untouched without symptoms, but quite often those symptoms will usually reappear at some point.  I was in such a deep psychosis that it was only a regime of intense meds that brought me out of it, that I know to be true.  As I was in the hospital, I believed that airplanes were going to crash and burn on Parliament Hill and I was assured that earthquakes were going to overturn Vancouver Island.  I was in this state for over a month and I wonder how much longer it would have lasted had I not been medicated.  Some call it a spiritual experience but for me the majority of the experience was terrifying!  I plan to discuss my curiosity with my doctor and plan to inquire about other methods/meds as my thyroid is already swollen and I fear it losing function.  At least my GP has ordered a MRI to see if there is anything underlying.  I feel like I have been living in fear for the last while.  Fear of the side-effects.  Knowing that I probably need medication but not truly being at peace with it.  It makes my stomach churn and I can’t help but wonder what path I need to take.  Which one poses more risk.  I just know that the way that I am living my life with these side-effects is not how I want to be, but could it be worse on the other side?      

Doreen – A Fellow Stigma Stomper

Let me introduce Doreen to you folks.  Just call her Doreen, SBC : 'STIGMA BUSTER CHICK!'

Doreen writes a lil piece for our blog:

This summer, I picked up a copy of a newsletter put out by a professional association. When I read it, I almost passed out. The newsletter contained a repulsive joke with some of the most insulting, cruel references to people with mental illness that I have ever read. The joke repeated those poisonous stereotypes that constitute and perpetuate the destructive stigma about those with mental health challenges.

I was outraged. The reason that I was angry was because that publication would never have dared to print such slanderous statements about other oppressed groups like First Nations or gays. I thought to myself " Those of us with lived experience are no different. We have the same rights to dignity and respect as any other group. After I calmed down, I called the professional association and spoke to their secretary. I said that I worked with people with serious mental illnesses and that they are some of the most highly intelligent, courageous and exceptional people that I had ever met in my life. I said that it was unacceptable to slander and malign people in recovery in their newsletter. I said that it was cruel to take thoughtless jabs at people struggling with serious illnesses. I said that their joke showed a lack of respect to those in recovery and that people in recovery deserve better than that. I requested that they publish a very sincere apology in their newsletter to people living with mental illnesses.

Their office manager totally agreed with me. She took my concerns to their President and Board at their Board Meeting and all of the Board members unanimously agreed with me and my position.

They agreed to publish a formal apology and they did so in their August 2011 Newsletter.

I insisted in giving feedback to the content of their apology. Part of the newsletter's statement of apology are my words exactly

That offensive joke was in their newsletter for two monthes running before I noticed it. I am very glad that I was given this opportunity to counteract those destructive stereotypes out  there that perpetuate that stigma and keep it alive. I am very happy to have had the chance to take part in stomping out and shattering that stigma forever.

I look forward to a day where respect and honour for people in recovery is the rule and not the exception.

I also believe that the revolution starts from within. Each one of us has to take action. Each one of us with lived experience has to be a vigilant  watchdog and speak out whenever we see slander, disrespect and insensitivity shown to those with mental illnesses, whether it is in a casual conversation, in our media, in a book or article or anywhere. Each one of us has to say " NO!, that is unacceptable."  Then gradually we will forge a society of tolerance and respect for all our brothers and sisters living with mental illness.

Hazel Meredith, Executive Director of the BC Schizophrenia Society, Victoria Branch, asked me to tell my story as a guest speaker at the BCSS Board meeting on Wednesday, August 17. I told all of the Board Members about what happened and they gave me a round of applause.

Hazel published a " Kudos" to my stigma – busting in the new BCSS Victoria August 2011 Newsletter. Please see attached BCSS Newsletter.  

Here is the major part of the formal apology given by the professional association in their August 2011 Newsletter :

" We are sincerely sorry for printing a joke which referred unkindly to people living with mental illnesses. We understand that it was viewed as inconsiderate and disrespectful to persons living with mental illnesses. ( The following part is totally my wording ). We apologize sincerely to every person with a mental illness in Sidney, the Peninsula and elsewhere for that joke containing cruel references to mental illness that may have caused them hurt and injury. We applaud the courage and intelligence of every person who struggles every day with the ravages of mental illness.

Thank you to Doreen Marion Gee from Victoria B.C. who brought this matter to our attention.

We will certainly be more diligent in the future in choosing content that does not offend our readers."

 

Mother Mother=Stellar

It has been such a roller-coaster these past few days.  I was severely depressed last weekend and had the most unproductive time EVER!  I discovered NETFLIX and it just brought me down as I watched movie after movie.  I tried to BLOG but my mood was too low.  When will my meds stabilize?  I heard a comment the other day when someone was talking about somebody else who has a mental health condition and they said in a condescending manner "That person well you know…forgot to take their meds."  I thought it ironic as that was a common problem for people with a mental health condition.  Stigma is still so apparent, even in the most common statements, which are blind to the view of many. 

I went to a rock concert last night with the band name 'MOTHER MOTHER'.  A couple of them are old pals from Quadra Island  so it was amazing to see them.  I ran up to Molly and gave her a big hug, it was amusing because I don't think she remembered who I was, even when I said 'It's Andrea'.  Ryan was magnificent, his devilish look was stellar and he played with such heart.  The girls had such personality and the drummer was hidden but not forgotten.  I have become a junkie, a big time fan and I read their BLOG religiously now and I hope that they will read mine at times.  The rest of the band was so talented and the guitarist pulled off a clarinet!  I am impressed. Except I felt really sick during the concert and I had one of my 'acidy feelings', it was back and I knew it would happen because it seems to happen in  loud exciting situations.  All of a sudden I was super paranoid and being around people felt seriously wrong and considering I was around one hundred people, this was not an ideal place to be feeling this way.  I felt like I was out of my skin and I was overwhelmed.   

My vision was even affected.  I just told myself that everything was going to be okay and that nobody would know what was going on with me.  It is very difficult to do when you are also having personal conversations with people and you have to act like you are feeling 'normal'. My body threw itself into manic mode last night and I MAYBE got 5 hours sleep.  Now here I am writing this BLOG a mile a minute because I am feeling quite high.  I couldn't sleep all day and I had to miss work.  I am rapid cycling and that feels just like a roller-coaster, hopefully I can get off soon and resume my awesome life.  One last thing, although I have been on medication for years I still have the temptation to go off.  As I peer at the medication bottles, tons of them, I tell myself "It would be so wonderful to not have to depend on drugs".  Then I am reminded how lucky I am, that even with the kinks and set backs, I have drugs that will help me manage.  It is all about management and I pray that I can continue to do so.  Andrea XO