There is still a lot of stigma around mental illnesses. Although it's getting better, we still face these challenges - for example, with everyday conversation - how easy it is to say "Good" to the typical question we see every day when meeting someone new, "How are you?", when deep down in ourselves we are not actually ok and actually need someone to listen to us. Even from a stranger at times, cause why not. How often do we find in this rushed society, it is hard to meet a stranger who actually genuinely cares about you and your mental health? And what actually would happen if we answered, "No, I am not ok." and the self-stigma we may face that prevents us from continuing that conversation? Living with Bipolar Disorder Type I has many disadvantages, I am challenged every day with myself whether to share to a stranger I meet on the streets that I have Bipolar Disorder on those "I"m-not-OK-days". I ask myself, am I putting myself up for trouble by sharing 'too much' about myself? Why am I trying to connect with this person in this way? Cause I do find I have the tendency to share more about myself than the average person, not in an egotistical way, but more like my struggles in life and so on. But in the midst of all the disadvantages of oversharing to a stranger (and perhaps the dangers in it), on the lighter side, I found five positive things I learnt since being diagnosed with Bipolar:
Photo by Erin Smith Photography
1. The better people stay in your life
And the people who don't understand you won't. I have lost a lot of friends in this fight with Bipolar. But I have also found some very genuine, and authentic friends as well. I am lucky and blessed to be surrounded by positive people.
2. Your creativity in art heightens
I always had an appreciation for art, but it grew since being in and out the mental health ward almost eight times now that I am learning to appreciate it even more. When I think about my art, I think about my photography, my painting, my mindfulness colouring-in. It's all very therapeutic.
3. You have more insight into yourself
I'm becoming more self-aware with my thoughts, feelings and emotions. I act on them much sooner if I sense something unhealthy is about to come my way. When I feel suicidal, I have self-coping mechanisms like praying. If they're not working, I reach out for support such as Lifeline 13 11 14 and talk through it with a counsellor, if need be.
All photos by Suzanne Dang unless stated otherwise
Mental Health Resources
1800 737 732 24/7 National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence & Counselling Service. I have called this service several times for the rape trauma I faced in the past. This is a very wonderful service, and although I have only used the telephone counselling service several times, the qualified professionals were always very compassionate and helpful. It helps to have a pen and notebook ready before calling, as they tend to give good, practical tips on how to manage the problem you're having at the time. Highly recommend this service.
13 11 14 Lifeline - Available 24/7. I noticed the times I was in distress and called, the calls were confined to a maximum of half an hour or so. It's good to know someone who can listen. This is a free dial
Acute Care Team (24hr QLD Mental Health Support)
1300 642 255 (also known as 1300 MH CALL) - I use this service as an existing patient with the PAH Mental Health teams as I was an in-patient at the hospital. You have the option to speak with a Mental Health Clinician. I found the clinicians generally helpful. I have a long history with the hospital, and they can easily bring up my file - as long as I say who I am. Sometimes I use this line to check on my future appointments with the team.
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