Bursting the Bubble of Isolation in Mental Illness

The bubble of isolation in mental illness
The bubble of isolation in mental illness

Living in "the bubble"

Living with mental illness was a difficult battle for me as well as my nuclear and extended family over the past twenty-nine years. I am fortunate to have made a good recovery to date but it takes some work and insight to maintain the balance with a view to sustaining this recovery.

This hub is about addressing some of the issues related to mental health and mental hygiene that I have learned from having lived with a bipolar condition and the best way of describing it is that it is like living in a bubble. If one is in a bubble it is difficult to "connect" with other people in any meaningful way so one becomes isolated and withdrawn. It is nearly impossible for others to help someone in such a bubble because of this withdrawal.

The consequences of living in a bubble are threefold:

1. Isolation

This is the loneliest part of being in a bubble. Sometimes I felt that I would do or say the wrong things so I kept my distance from the people in my life out of fear of hurting them or doing them harm. This was wrong-it is much better to have the confidence to reach out to others but if one is unable to do so, life can be very lonely even when surrounded by one's family.

2. Withdrawal

Like isolation ,this results in loneliness but the difference is that this occurs during the periods when one is not in the bubble of isolation. I used to withdraw back into the bubble out of habit and fear of getting hurt along with fear of hurting others. However, this was a very bad way of dealing with things and worst of all it resulted in the opposite effect-my family suffered because of my withdrawal as they were unable to help me at that time.

3. Negative thinking

It was a very bad idea for me to have spent so much time in my own head over the years as the phenomenon of "stinking thinking" took over. It is also true to say that my perception of the reality of my circumstances was often flawed because of these negative thought patterns.

Furthermore, negative thinking resulted in some anger and occasionally a sort of "silent rage" which was very difficult to manage in the course of my daily business.

It is such a relief that I do not suffer from these symptoms any more and I appreciate the mental hygiene I have achieved in my recovery which was only possible with the assistance of my nuclear and extended family, my friends and competent health care professionals.

In this context, it is worth pointing out that this recovery takes work on a daily basis and it takes patience-not the stubborn patience of enduring mental illness but a patience that comes from acceptance of the condition and a willingness to recover.

Isolation-a hallmark of mental illness
Isolation-a hallmark of mental illness

Challenging the stigma

There is such a stigma attached to mental illness that people are not even aware that they have a prejudice relating to those with mental health conditions. This stigma occurs for two reasons:

1. Fear

All of us know that anyone can be affected by mental health problems. This makes people who do not have this problem fearful that it might be contagious. It is my view that we are all on a continuum of mental health to some extent so that it is not a case of "them" and "us".

2. Misunderstanding

Another hallmark of mental illness is misunderstanding. On the one hand,people who do not hava a psychiatric condition cannot relate to those who do because they just have a different frame of mind. The best thing to do for those who wish to help is to break the silence and listen to what the person with mental health problems has to say.

Secondly,if someone's mental health is limited at times it makes one's communication skills limited as well. One is not good at saying what one means and meaning what one says . In my experience, my mind was so cluttered with stuff, I expressed myself badly. Clear communication and the ability to express oneself are the primary factors to avoid misunderstanding and being misunderstood.

Take the challenge and opportunity to reover
Take the challenge and opportunity to reover

The challenge to change

Those of us who get the chance to make a full recovery are the lucky ones. Many unfortunate people suffer in the silence and taboo of mental illness all their lives. Their quality of life is limited because of their conditionMental illness can also be a life-threatening illness as can be seen from the suicide rates in different countries.

Finally, it is not a weakness to have mental health difficulties.In fact,one has to be strong to manage it and in my case, I am just one of the lucky ones who have been able to get and take the opportunity to make a full recovery.

There is a new initiative for positive mental health in Ireland which you will find out more about at greenribbon.ie

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Comments 11 comments

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

Thanks for having the courage to come out and share your experience with mental illness. Like you said, you are one of the lucky ones who have been able to make a recovery and increase your quality of life. I, too, am in that boat, but I am personally acquainted with others who are still in the "the bubble." It is a tough place to be, whether you are currently in it, or have managed to get out. It takes daily discipline to do what you know works best for you in spite of the obstacles.

Carola Finch profile image

Carola Finch 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Thanks for sharing your story. A serious mental illness has touched my life through someone close to me, so I know the stigma and challenges secondhand. Medication has transformed her life for the better. Hope all continues to go well for you. It is so important for writers to de-stigmatize and de-mystify mental illness by writing about it.

innerspin profile image

innerspin 3 years ago from uk

Kate, I'm so glad you're feeling well. I think one of the difficulties with an illness is when communication problems arise, as you so rightly point out. The ill person finds it hard to express their feelings, and people around them are nervous and confused because they're unsure how to help. I had a brief spell of post natal depression. The bubble came into play. Trying to explain how I felt seemed too much like hard work. Thankfully our family doctor knew me well enough to pinpoint the problem - his wife had had the same experience. Because it was picked up on quite quickly, I had the right help to recover. It must be horribly easy to slip into a downward spiral of misunderstanding. You're raising awareness of an important subject.

Kate Mc Bride profile image

Kate Mc Bride 3 years ago from Donegal Ireland Author

Thank you for your feedback Denise-there are lots of us with the same experience in the world which makes it easier to feel less alone in dealing with "the bubble". Your comments about the need for daily discipline is a wise 0ne. Daily discipline works much better than fighting it and struggling with it.

Kate Mc Bride profile image

Kate Mc Bride 3 years ago from Donegal Ireland Author

Carola, cheers for taking the time to comment. Medication is basic but lifestyle and behaviour changes are also of paramount importance. The medication is not a "magic wand" as some doctors perceive it to be.

Kate Mc Bride profile image

Kate Mc Bride 3 years ago from Donegal Ireland Author

Your feedback is much appreciated innerspin and I see you have picked up on the communication aspect which is of major importance in recovery. I am lucky that I am no longer in that downward spiral of misunderstanding that you refer to in your comment.

ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

Thanks for sharing your experience and I am so happy to see you are fine now. I have seen something similar to this and your observations seem so correct. More than medicines, the support of family and dear ones is required in such cases. The person affected must feel that people around understand, his/ her trauma.

Thanks for sharing the hub!

DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Mental illness can make one isolated and withdrawn from others, you have mentioned many helpful and informative points here.

Kate Mc Bride profile image

Kate Mc Bride 3 years ago from Donegal Ireland Author

Cheers for taking the time to reply and your positive feedback Chitrangada Sharan and DDE.

Medication in tandem with good support and daily discipline is what works best in my experience. Your points about family support,isolation and being withdrawn are well made.

It is best to use healthy,flexible daily discipline for positive mental health instead of fighting it or struggling with it.

tolstoytherapy profile image

tolstoytherapy 3 years ago

Thanks for this, voted interesting and useful. I've experienced how difficult isolation can be when facing mental health issues, and it's certainly easy to fall into a vicious circle. Now I make sure not to isolate myself from others, and as a result I'm a lot happier and healthier.

Kate Mc Bride profile image

Kate Mc Bride 3 years ago from Donegal Ireland Author

Thanks for your feedback tolstoytherapy and glad you could relate to the content of the hub.

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