Daily Archives: 2014/09/01

Normal in Training – Darkness and Light, Part 2

I am deeply saddened by Robin Williams’ death. I love the roles he chose as an actor. He was a comedic genius. And he was full of life–a light that seemed to shine a little brighter than the average star.

As a psychologist, I don’t have any special knowledge about why Robin Williams committed suicide. I wasn’t there. I didn’t know him personally. I wasn’t his therapist. I do know that, no matter how well you think you know someone, it is difficult to fathom the depths of the darkness they live in. Because who wants to share that with other people? Who wants to burden other people with additional darkness? It’s hard enough to deal with our own.

I also know what it’s like to have multiple depressive episodes. My psychiatrist compared relapses to breaking your leg in the same place multiple times: with every break you become more vulnerable to injury; it takes a little longer to recover each time. . .

I don’t think it’s fair to accuse Robin Williams of being weak. Clearly, based on his body of work, he was anything but weak. He was fighting it all the time.

I was also taken aback by the anger that some people felt about his suicide. But I don’t judge them for it. I can understand why, if you have been personally affected by suicide, you would identify more with the people who are left behind and have to make sense of this loss for the rest of their lives. Fortunately, I have never been there, but if my dad had ever given in to his demons, I know I would have been devastated.

I think that people who see mental illness as a weakness, an excuse, or a nonexistent entity fear the darkness in themselves. They try to deny it in themselves and in others as vehemently as possible, lest it find a way to escape. But some of us don’t have that luxury. We can’t lock our depression in a closet and throw away the key; it is too powerful. It does not obey our will.

Read the rest of the story. Visit Normal in Training: Darkness and Light, Part 2.

Toss the Typewriter – Is It Ever Enough?

If you are following the news right now, you know that Robin Williams suffered from addiction and depression and finally succumbed to his illnesses. It is incredibly sad to lose yet another talented person to these dual diseases.

So many of our children and loved ones battle co-occurring disorders. Although they are not publicly recognized, they are talented, intelligent, and amazing people. Often, these brilliant stars have only us on their sides; and I know we all wonder, will that be enough?

Rest in peace, Mr. Williams. Rest in peace.

The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is

1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Note: For help outside of the United States, please refer to the resources listed here as one way to connect you with compassionate, understanding, and supportive people.

Read the rest of the story. Visit Is It Ever Enough? | Toss the Typewriter.

PsychConfessions – How I’m feeling post Bipolar Affective Disorder diagnosis….

3. Enlightened

My emotional reaction to the psychiatrist reeling off a number of possible diagnostic labels (e.g., emerging bipolar affective disorder, Bipolar II, etc) made me realise that I was expecting more of an exact, definitive diagnosis. But given the complex nature of mental health and the fact that many of the symptoms are subjective to the individual experiencing them and cannot be directly observed, it became clear to me that mental health diagnosis is by no means an exact science. I knew this on an academic level before entering the psychiatrist’s office, but the appointment made this much more real for me. It was a very different experience than going to my GP for something more physical in nature. I now realise that my expectation of a definitive diagnosis was unrealistic. Mental health diagnoses are likely to change and different mental health professionals may disagree on the exact diagnosis. I suppose what matters is that it leads to the individual with the diagnosis getting the right support. . .

4. Dismissed

The psychiatrist decided that I can be discharged back to my GP’s care and also informed me that there are no therapies or psychological treatments for bipolar affective disorder available in secondary care in my area. He also told me that. . . my only solutions are drugs and self-help books. The psychiatrist old me to take my medication, read up on self-help CBT for psychosis/bipolar and to get on with my life. Oh, and he also casually told me that I have auditory hallucinations when hypomanic but that’s ok because I have insight into them… Interesting. . .

6. Apprehensive

Who do I tell about my diagnosis? Asides from the DVLA and my car insurance company. Will people believe me? Will they see me differently? Will they be frightened of me? Or perhaps people will be more supportive than I expect. Time will tell.

Read the rest of the story! Visit How I’m feeling post Bipolar Affective Disorder diagnosis…. | PsychConfessions.

Living is Not Mental Illness – Pearls of VerMeer

Again, I fell into kinship with the soft moments of Vermeer’s expression. I increasingly saw something familiar and then it hit me: my ways of being nurture my true expression. Not much is actually an expression of mental illness, though. I draw from intangibles and craft them. It’s my nature, my way of being in this stream of time to seek quiet places. I write and paint, and photograph expressions. It’s my passion, and I love it. It’s my natural life way. Yes, I’ve had trauma, and felt the trauma of working through it but I am not mental illness, front and center, as a byproduct.

The space of mental illness does not need habitation 24/ 7, restofyourlife. It definitely isn’t a one-word definition of life in progress. Most realizations in this world linger in pauses, and blank spaces too often filled in with busy-ness and noise. Retreat and reflection work best for many things, for many people, and for many reasons. Yes, illness requires R&R. So does inspiration. Splitting hairs about what happens in our experience with life occurs only when we’ve but one word on the page typed again, again, and again. . .

My peace of mind is not fed by dense, continuous noise and gigantism of box stores. (mental illness?) Most of the time, the music of my day comes with the wind. (mental illness?) The tinkling of chimes, songs of birdspeak, and the shooshing of dense canopies of leaves in the trees tease smiles and a sense of cheer from me. (mental illness?)

This is not mental illness. Eliminate the (mental illness?) and it’s a gentle life of diversity.


I know Earth rampages, presently. I feel it without feeds from media. At times, I breathe with it while watching the clouds flow through the sky, or in rest on the back step as the day deepens into twilight. When I am present, aware of the raging, I breathe deeply, softly, and let tears rise. Their place is clearly part of sorrow. Then comes the shuddered breath of calm, of knowing where I am, and that it’s good I am here.

I remember why I love living, and do it some more.

I care for my yard with greater tenderness, knowing that other minds find rest here, too; whether through pictures in posts, or through windows of cars carrying workers to and fro, to and fro eyes smile. Birds charm walkers, riders of bikes, occupiers of strollers, and rollers on skates. Smiles are easy to share. Words aren’t important. Cheer is a fluid language in this space, and I’m present and a part of it. And yes, storms come and go from time to time as part of the cycle.

It’s natural. So am I. . .

I am natural. I am part of life. I am not a mistake, nor are my ways wrong. I write and play with light and color in photos, then bring them out for play here, on this blog. Genuine exchanges move rapidly through movements of thinkers I gather with. Inspiration vibrates on clusters of blogs, like blossoms on the vine of our internet feed. It’s a green movement. It grows. I share in this life and I’m glad.

Read the rest of the story! Visit Pearls of VerMeer « Living is Not Mental Illness.

Out of My Element – Silver Linings

I remember riding a bus to an orchestra competition when I used the word [retarded] to refer to my stand partner as stupid. The bus driver, while driving, whipped around in her seat and yelled at me about using the word. Apparently she had a mentally disabled son and did not approve of the use in a negative way. That always stuck with me.

And when I really began thinking about it, I realized why she was so upset. The people born with these disabilities did not ask to be this way; they are not stupid. And I was being incredibly disrespectful.

Now, there’s a similar story regarding “gay.”

I had a guy friend who happened to be gay. I used to say everything was gay; it was ridiculous! And one day during Spanish class I said that something was gay and he looked me in the eye—nearly in tears—and told me that it made him hate himself every time I said it. . .

So what do people with mental health issues think about the word crazy? I’m sure it’s the same as retarded or gay. It’s making light of something that may be uncomfortable, but needs to be dealt with carefully and respectfully.

I think there needs to be a lot more discussion—as there has been recently—about mental health. I think talking about things is where the uncomfortable becomes comfortable, or at least better understood.

Talking about depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, OCD, suicide, and other issues in this category will help people speak out or at least get the help they need. When something is a stigma or the punch line of a joke, we tend to sweep it under the rug or turn a blind eye because it’s easier not to deal with it. We tend not to be cautious in the right sense, like knowing what sets people off, being willing to ask the hard questions, being supportive without allowing the person to do whatever he or she wants or not take medication. . .

I don’t have a clue how to fix this broken system in which we live. I have no idea how to deal with the more severe mental health patients. I just don’t know. But I do know that if we continue having these conversations, we have more books and movies about mental health, and we let go of our fears little by little, maybe we can see the silver lining and put this stigma to rest.

Read the rest of the story! Visit Silver Linings | Out of My Element.