Perceptions Of Mental Illness Disability
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It takes an open heart to see
I recently had an impassioned conversation with a friend of mine. The topic was people with mental illness being on disability. He was baffled why people with mental disabilities were allowed to be on Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). I suspect there are many people who share his disbelief and lack of understanding. His opinion is that if you could walk, move, or carry yourself without assistance you could work.
He left little room for argument, as he is set in his ways. I in great detail described to him the struggles people with mental illnesses go through trying to live a relativity stable life, hold down a job, go to school, and try to maintain healthy relationships while cycling through episode after episode, with normal episodes in between the mania and depression..
You have a worthwhile job, a career you love, you're doing extremely well in school. If you are lucky your able to hold onto all that with a lot of perseverance.. If your not, you will be missing a few days here, and a week there, because you are to sick to get out of bed from the depression that has griped your life. You're not snapping out of it. So you take a short leave of absence. Then you use all your vacation and sick days, then you know you just quit.
You quit because you were so far behind you knew you would never catch up. Getting on unemployment checks sustained you for awhile. Because cycles of manic depression can last for days, weeks or months before you are stable enough to work again. Or finish getting the degree you have been working on for a few years now. Because you just can't seem to get through a semester without missing huge chunks of time. By then you have failed all your classes. And you either start over or give it up.
You eventually get stable from the right medications or your moods are at a normal stage, so you are good to go this time. Everything is going to be okay. But that is not how it happens. You feel wonderful and able to tackle every assignment threw your way. You are able to find any job or get through any interview because you are invincible. You trick everyone who interviews you, you are the ultimate choice for the job. Soon you begin moving from job to job because they are uninteresting, or you just feel like defecting. Your brain tells you will start your own business. You never quite get there though. Mania has a way of manifesting itself in brilliance and total domination in whatever you decide to tackle.
You are so out of control your behaviors get you fired anyway. You decide to move away to any city on the map. Doesn't matter as long as you're moving somewhere. This whole process repeats itself several times until you find a medication cocktail that works or you figure out how to deal with the mood swings on your own without muddling up your life over and over again.
This is bipolar
This mood disorder is called Bipolar. It is debilitating as any illness. You need to take care of yourself like any other person who has an illness. Just because you can walk and LOOK like the average person, doesn't mean your able to hold down a job, go to school or live a stabilized life every second of the day. With proper treatment it is possible to live a full healthy life. But sometimes people are just not able to consistently hold down a steady job. So they end up on disability. This can be a life saver for those you cannot function with the stress of holding down a job. Disabilty gives many people with mental illness their life back. There are a lots of people like my friend who just don't understand it. Unless you have walked a mile in their shoes than judging them is probably not a good thing.
Someone with bipolar or schizophrenia can be completely stable at times, but not always consistently. There are hospitalizations that helps get them back on track. Hospital stays often last months. Getting well is not easy. And staying there is even harder. It is a life long process. What people see on TV or in the movies is not exactly realistic of what a mental illness is. There are people who are mentally ill, that do succeed in life at their chosen profession. Celebrities for example,obviously excel. They I think do not tell the whole story either. They seem to find that magic pill and we never hear from them again.
It isn't cool or fashionable to be bipolar. It isn't a fad, or the in thing to be. It is a life threatening mental illness that takes a lot of work, support and love from friends and family to maintain a life that is meaningful, and worth living. My friend seemed to warm up to my explanation of why people with a mental illness are on disability. He has become less critical about mental illness. I wanted him to see that mental illness is real, that it is a serious illness if not treated it can be destructive and unhealthy. And many times being on disability give one hope to start the recovery process to wellness. We talked about it often after our initial discussion.
When I began this article my friend was adamant, he slowly began to comprehend the importance if disability, and offered empathy and understanding. But unfortunately I will not get the chance to see him grow in his feelings, as he passed away from a bad bout with pneumonia. I cherished his friendship even in disagreements. I know it is possible for people to see once they open their hearts, as my friend had begun to do.