Saturday, December 27, 2014

Blogging Year-in-Review

This has  been quite the year!

When I was hospitalized in 2013 for mania I left the hospital wanting to write a memoir. The mania had me super excited to accomplish that feat. However, my mood had other plans. I became depressed shortly after the mania ended. And I spent the rest of 2013 and half of 2014 in a funk. The depression zapped my motivation and energy. And the memoir I was so excited about did not materialize.

Hospitalized yet again in 2014 for mania, I was re-determined to write a memoir. But this time I decided that starting a blog would be more manageable than a full-length book. Within days of being discharged I started Manic Monique's Meanderings. I was so manic in those early days that I managed to pump out 52 blog posts in the month of June!

However, the reach of my writing did not end with Manic Monique's Meanderings. Here's what else I've been up to:
  • I was published on The Root. Being published on a black publication was really important to me.
  • I was invited to blog for Huffington Post (sometimes I republish MMM posts, sometimes I write new material). My reading audience has grown exponentially. A UK mental health organization even referenced one of my Huff Post articles. I'm global, y'all!
  • I was interviewed by BP Magazine. The interview will be published spring 2015. I have a subscription to BP so I was really excited for this opportunity! 
  • I was interviewed by and featured on the Real Brown Girls blog.
  • For Mental Health Awareness Week, I guest blogged for Strut in Her Shoes.
  • I was interviewed by MyndTalk, an internet radio show.
  • I was interviewed by Black Women Empowerment, another internet radio show.
  • And social media has been such a godsend.
I have no idea what 2015 will have in store for me, but I'm looking forward to continuing to share my story.

Thank you for reading my blog. Make sure you come back :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

To Accept or Reject Mental Health Labels, That is the Question

What's in a mental health label? Schizophrenia. Bipolar. Anxiety. Depression. OCD. And so on.

Does a mental health label define you?

I've had numerous conversations with my therapist about the bipolar label. I've been diagnosed for seven years now. I went six years in between my first and second hospitalizations for mania. And in those six years I did not really claim the label. My therapist showed me the bipolar entry in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). There is an entry for single-episode mania. Mania is what determines a bipolar diagnosis; otherwise, one would just have unipolar depression. I thought I had that, the single-episode diagnosis, not the full-fledged diagnosis. I thought my one episode of depression and one episode of mania were one-time flukes. I didn't think I really had bipolar disorder. However, my psychiatrist disagreed. He told me "once a Heisman trophy winner, always a Heisman trophy winner." I hated this analogy.

The two medicines I was on for those six years in between hospitalizations kept me stable. Having a bipolar diagnosis didn't impact much for me except sleep. I had to be in bed by 11pm in order to avoid next-day grogginess. But that was the only inconvenience. I had a few side effects within the first few months of being hospitalized, but after I changed to a new medicine I was fine.

Until 2013.

Elevated liver enzymes were detected in my routine blood work. Elevated liver enzymes might mean liver damage. I was told to stop taking this medicine immediately. My psychiatrist didn't replace this medicine, leaving me only on one medicine to maintain my bipolar disorder. Within two months I was manic and hospitalized. This hospitalization removed all doubt that I was really bipolar. I was hospitalized for ten days as the doctors tried to find me a new medicine cocktail to control my mania. I had to also go on short-term disability for two months.

Needless to say my therapist and I renewed our conversations about my label. I could no longer act like I didn't have a mental health diagnosis. I didn't have any friends with mental health diagnoses, so I wanted to talk to other diagnosed folks. In search of a space to discuss my disorder, I sought out and attended a DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) meeting.

My therapist was concerned. He didn't want me to identify with a mental illness. He didn't want it to define me. But I disagreed with him. Just as I am black and a woman and an American, I too, also have bipolar disorder. It does have an impact on my life: my choices, my thoughts, my actions. To deny the label would be like denying a part of me. Now, I don't subscribe to the belief that to have a mental illness means I have to be consumed by instability. I am a highly-functioning professional.

For me, having a bipolar diagnosis does not signal dysfunction or disability.  I've learned to use the diagnosis to my advantage. I think it makes me special: I am creative, intelligent, and empathetic. When I look at my bipolar lineage (all the famous writers, artists, actors, and doctors), I feel proud.

And when I read the DSM entry for bipolar disorder, I see that I have had nearly every symptom of mania and depression. The diagnosis and label made my actions and thoughts make sense. I've actually found comfort in the label. But I do realize not everyone wants to be labelled.

What say you? If you are diagnosed, how do you interpret your label?