Monday, August 6, 2007

Living With Bipolar

I would like to thank Tyler Pietro, of PowerUp, for contributing some of his personal experience with Bipolar disorder, to the discussion of neurological disorder denialism. It is especially hard to deal with this brand of denialism, when it's one's own parent or parents in denial. In large part, this is why I this discussion is so very important to me.

Again, if anyone would like to contribute their story to this effort, please let me know. I would be happy to hear from you.

From Tyler's blog;
I'm an ubernerdly atheist liberal with an interest in mathematics and computer science, as well as side interests in traditional forms of geekery (video games, electronic gadgets, anime, etc.).

There are multiple reasons people get involved in combating crankery and denialism. Some people do it simply because they find stupidity irritating. Some people do it because their profession in particular is attacked regularly by denialists and cranks. However, I'd venture to guess that the greatest class of people (in terms of cardinality, for you math geeks out there :-] ) is composed of those who do it because they know of it's consequences. HIV denial kills people, creationism condemns children to ignorance and superstition, global warming denial sidelines efforts to curb potentially catastrophic environmental impacts, etc.

In terms of mental illness denial, I'm actually familiar in a very intimate way with what denialist rhetoric can do. My immediate family was dead against it when school administrators became increasingly suspicious about my mental health. I suffer from bipolar disorder, and it was around high school that my outbreaks started occurring. I started to experience severe mood swings, spells of depression and intense anger, and even suicidal timulations on an increasingly frequent basis. It was in particular when one of my freshmen year teachers discovered some "disturbing" writing in my notebooks that I was admitted to the social workers office.

When that social worker suggested that I see a psychiatrist, my family went into uproar. That was when I became familiar with all the standard mental illness denialist canards: "everyone has 'mental illness', no one's the same", "it's just an excuse for personal laziness, quit being so narcissistic", "they're just pulling disorders out of their hats to sell pharmaceutical drugs", etc. I pretty severely affected my family life for a good while, eventually climaxing in a hospitalization that finally forced my family to recognize the reality.

Personally, I suspect it is people who have problems who are the most vulnerable to this sort of rhetoric. Especially in cases of psychotic depression, people are far more prone to blaming themselves for their problems. Taking drugs and receiving regular therapy is a moral failing and makes you a weak individual in the eyes of many, and often times it's not too hard for people to convince themselves of the worthiness of such an idea. But in cool-headed moments you can realize several things that denialist mind-readers can't: flying in and out of depressive and manic episodes isn't some sort of "lifestyle choice", I didn't need a psychiatrist to brainwash me into thinking I had a problem, and refraining from treatment causes severe problems.


Tyler DiPietro said...

Thanks, DuWayne.

I didn't know you had this space up until recently, I'll be adding you to my blogroll.

DuWayne Brayton said...

If I ever get to actually posting links, I'll return the favor. That may happen soonish, possibly this evening - that is if my partner goes to bed early again and I get the movie viewer to myself. I am trying to get through Babylon 5, season two, before I pick up the next season from the library. Unfortunately, she hates it. I have to admit that as far as writing goes, it's abysmal at times. But after reading Rob Knopp's take on the science behind the show, I had to check it out again - got hooked and my library has the whole series. My problem with scifi teevee is that it has to be really, really bad for me to not get obsessive about it.

Anyhow, if I can get the time tonight, I will do it while I watch the B5. If she doesn't go to bed early, I fear my choices will be either working, which I really should do - health insurance would be wonderful, or watching the bad kung fu she picked up from the library today.