Essentially, it all boils down to this: it’s destructive and debilitating A.F. And people get tired of hearing about it or being supportive, and you know what? That’s okay. That has to be okay, too. It’s the loneliest disease combination I can personally concoct, and no one would wish it on him- or herself nor their worst enemy.
And the mechanisms to fight one set of symptoms often exacerbate the other. It is an unrelenting fight against a horrific cascade of misfires, and when you add a few other imbalances in the complex, interrelated chemical reactions of the brain involving neurotransmitters and the disordered thinking and behavior caused by biochemical factors and personal experiences that shape it all, it is catastrophic. It is one small step, then another. It is seeing a mountain only to scale it and find a larger mountain waiting.
There is a sign at the psychiatric center where I go that says, “Know the Signs of Suicide.” My gallows humor immediately went to: “yes, a dead body . . . likely next to a note.”
But DO KNOW the signs of an individual who is suffering a confounding battle against enemies who are also allies: dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, and even cortisone. Know that many of us are on medication that may make us seem “drunk” or “high,” or “messed up on something,” or that stop our inclinations to self regulate. We may say things that embarrass or surprise you. We may seem sleepy or slur our speech in the middle of the day. This does not mean we’re addicted, or harmful, or incompetent as workers or parents. It means we are fighting, just as one who may be medicated with morphine for advanced-stage cancer.
It stuns me how shunned folks are who are fighting an illness of the brain versus an illness of the liver, the breast, the kidneys. And the sad part? Many of our “symptoms” have a positive side: the ability to open doors to greater creativity, emotion, and a certain paradigm-shift in the community. We are often the oddballs and the artists, the freethinkers and the ones who cry openly in the street. We are often the ones who feel the pain of others most keenly. The shunning is devastating to those whose only “crime” is having been struck with a complicated illness that effects the organ that controls personality.
Compassion. Read this, and then go read the links in the comments . . . if you’d like. I understand if/why you wouldn’t. It’s tedious and it seems like so much self-indulgence, probably, to some. But it’s not, it’s neuronal/biochemical fact, measurable in a lab setting. Schizophrenic brains LOOK different. Bipolar shows as a lack of lithium salt in situ. The depressive’s brain shows grooves where repeated experiences lead to the same negative emotional outcome, a process which must be rewritten *usually with the help of a serious medical protocol.*
So if you’d like to know, you can begin here, because it’s a fine place to start.