All Articles Tagged "mental health"

When A Lover Threatens Suicide Over A Breakup

September 30th, 2015 - By Brande Victorian
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Source: Corbis

Source: Corbis

Yesterday we were sad to hear Jim Carrey’s ex-girlfriend had chosen to take her own life. It was even more heartbreaking to read details that Cathriona White, 28, had reportedly left a suicide note citing her breakup with the comedian as the impetus for her suicide.

It’s a familiar tale. Even a somewhat personally familiar tale in my case as I thought back to January and February of 2014 when my ex began constantly sending me messages on Facebook, asking me to “just say something” to him. When I refused, one Saturday he sent a message that said “If u don’t call me in five mins I’m going to kill myself.” For a brief minute my world stopped. While I didn’t take the threat seriously at all, part of me was paralyzed by the thought of him actually doing it and the guilt I would feel as a result. Towards the end of our breakup in late 2010, I was convinced my ex had some mental health issues. In a way he knew it too, but was crushed by his attempt at getting help when he told a counselor he felt he was going crazy and was laughed at. I hurt for him, too, in that moment, but four years later the threat of suicide felt like another attempt at manipulation and I refused to be sucked back in. So, I still said nothing. Ironically, there was a sense of thankfulness when 26 minutes after the threat more messages began pouring in. And though this situation worked out, for lack of a better phrase, I’ve always questioned whether I did the right thing in that moment.

While there’s no evidence White threatened Carrey with suicide when they broke up September 24, many lovers do. According to, which covers borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, the most important thing you can do in this situation is take threats seriously. Specifically, tell the person making the threat that you are going to call for help and actually do it. If the threat is immediate, 911 is your best bet.

Another recommendation is to express concern, but don’t give in to the threat. Let the person know they are still loved and you want them to be happy, but being in a relationship with each other won’t fix the underlying problem. Be firm in your decision to leave the relationship while letting your ex-partner know their behavior isn’t healthy and they need to work on themselves without you in order to get to a healthy place and that you support that.

Third, don’t start a fight. While some people are terrified of a suicide threat, others may become angry that their old lover has put them in this position. Now is not the time to accuse your ex of attempting to manipulate you or question their sincerity or even dare them in hopes of stopping the attempt. It’s possible the person may actually go through with the act just to prove you wrong.

Regardless of the scenario that plays out, the one thing you must do for yourself is not assume responsibility for the actions of the other party. Quoting Thomas Ellis and Cory Newman’s 1996 book, Choosing To Live, BPD writes, “Remind yourself that you are not threatening the other person with homicide-the other person is threatening suicide.” At the end of the day, their choice is their’s and you are dealing with a mentally unstable person who needs professional help that’s above and outside of you. All you can do is try to convince them to seek it out, but should they not, again, that is their choice.

For more resources, check out the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention,, or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

My Ex Got Married… I Got Depressed

September 16th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

A few months ago, or possibly when it was cold outside, my most recent ex-boyfriend called to give me an update on his life. Apparently things had been going swimmingly with the woman he was seeing — make that the woman he left me for, the woman he’d started up with while we were still dating. He wanted to tell me directly instead of having me hear it from our mutual friends, as if it wouldn’t have been equally annoying to hear from either source. I told him that I didn’t care one way or the other, which I didn’t. Then I learned that my ex got married and I cared a bit more, but not for the reasons you might think.

When your ex gets married you can be mad, or sad, or even glad if you’re one of those people who stays friends with everyone. To be honest, I’ve never been one of those “happy for my ex” people, though I know they exist. I’m more like a petty, wish you grief and unhappiness person, which is probably because I’ve been left more often than I’ve done the leaving. The last time I initiated a breakup was in my 20’s, at the height of my self-confident awesomeness when I was bold and assertive and positive about my love life. Then in my 30’s came depression and uncertainty and men breaking up with me.

I’m not exactly sure of the causality between my mood and the change in tide of my romantic fate, only that dating failures have heightened my depressive feelings. Perhaps my depression and underlying self-doubt made me a bad date, a bad girlfriend or a bad chooser of men. Either way, whenever an erstwhile suitor decided to call it quits, I sunk into a pit of hopeless despair and rumination over romantic failures. I always thought I’d done something wrong to make them not want me. I never thought I’d find the right person. I believed that I’d be alone forever.

The same feelings held true with my most recent ex-boyfriend, the one who just got married. This time, however, I’d been in love and while I thought he loved me too, I wasn’t sure we had the same definition of the word. He saw other women behind my back, which I didn’t think you did to someone you love. When I found out the truth during the breakup, I was completely devastated. I thought I’d been duped. I couldn’t trust any of my feelings because I thought my whole relationship was a lie. This breakup depression was deeper than any other I’d faced.

Then, a few years later, my ex got married. I thought I’d spiral back into depression about losing him forever, but that didn’t happen. Instead I got depressed about my own self. I was mad that a man who’d treated me so wrong could find someone to put up with his mess but I hadn’t been that lucky. I was sad about how I’d spent my 30’s and 40’s making myself sick over failed relationships instead of getting my shit together. And I was disappointed in myself for having let some jerks from my past take up valuable real estate in my head. I wasn’t going to do it any longer.

My solution was to take my issues to therapy, to talk seriously about wanting a romantic relationship but feeling trapped by my past failings. Speaking out loud to someone who could hold me accountable for my emotions and my actions is, at least to me, a good start on the path to wellness. And as for my ex — and all of my exes — we no longer speak. Cutting off contact is my way of making sure that I can live my romantic life in the hopeful present without being reminded of a less-than-successful past.

Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.

“I Was Sick And Tired Of Being Sick And Tired”: Celebs Who Had To Take A Mental Health Break

August 17th, 2015 - By Meg Butler
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Celebs Who Took A Mental Health Break

Image Source: WENN

We’ve all reached a point where the daily stress at work feels like too much. When these stars felt like they had bitten off more than they could chew, they decided to take a mental health break.

Treat Your Body Right: Health Screenings Every Woman Should Have

August 12th, 2015 - By Alyssa Johnson
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

Going to the doctor for a health checkup can be a very unpleasant and nerve-racking experience. It can be frightening because it can make you think about your own mortality. You try not to think about it, but the reality that something could be wrong is what makes most of us procrastinate in getting these necessary checkups. Lack of insurance could also be a contributing factor, but with Obamacare, health insurance is within everyone’s reach. Having these simple, routine tests run by your physician can save your life. So let’s stop stalling.  Here are some of the most effective health screenings every woman should have and some you should be obtaining annually.

Suicide Signs To Look For In Your Teenager

August 12th, 2015 - By Rich
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Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth between 10 and 19 years of age and the number is increasing. Although it is not always a comfortable topic, it is essential to know the warning signs and to know the right ways to react if you notice them. Parents, friends, teachers, and sometimes even strangers can help play a part when prevention and helping others is a priority in the community.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics these are the reasons the youth suicide rate has increased and some signs to look for:

Why has the youth suicide rate gone so high in recent years?

  • It’s easier to get the tools for suicide (Boys often use firearms to kill themselves; girls usually use pills);
  • The pressures of modern life are greater;
  • Competition for good grades and college admission is stiff; and
  • There’s more violence in the newspapers and on television.

Lack of parental interest may be another problem. Many children grow up in divorced households; for others, both of their parents work and their families spend limited time together. According to one study 90 percent of suicidal teen-agers believed their families did not understand them. (However, this is such a common teen-age complaint that other factors are playing a role, too.) Young people also reported that when they tried to tell their parents about their feelings of unhappiness or failure, their mother and father denied or ignored their point of view.

If your teenager has been depressed, you should look closely for suicide signs that he or she might be displaying:

  • Has his personality changed dramatically?
  • Is he having trouble with a girlfriend (or, for girls, with a boyfriend)? Or is he having trouble getting along with other friends or with parents? Has he withdrawn from people he used to feel close to?
  • Is the quality of his schoolwork going down? Has he failed to live up to his own or someone else’s standards (when it comes to school grades, for example)?
  • Does he always seem bored, and is he having trouble concentrating?
  • Is he acting like a rebel in an unexplained and severe way?
  • Is she pregnant and finding it hard to cope with this major life change?
  • Has he run away from home?
  • Is your teenager abusing drugs and/or alcohol?
  • Is she complaining of headaches, stomachaches, etc., that may or may not be real?
  • Have his eating or sleeping habits changed?
  • Has his or her appearance changed for the worse?
  • Is he giving away some of his most prized possessions?
  • Is he writing notes or poems about death?
  • Does he talk about suicide, even jokingly? Has he said things such as, “That’s the last straw,” “I can’t take it anymore,” or “Nobody cares about me?” (Threatening to kill oneself precedes four out of five suicidal deaths.)
  • Has he tried to commit suicide before?

Dating While Bipolar And Playing The Field

August 12th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock

I enjoy being in a romantic relationship, but I hate dating. Dating, which to me is everything before a monogamous commitment, brings up all of my insecurities and control issues. I stress about everything I do and say, and how it will make me appear to the object of my affection. I’m convinced that I’ll be able to cleave him to my every will and am disappointed when, inevitably, that does not happen. And I obsess over every detail of early dates to figure out whether the man I’m seeing is marriage material or whether I should get rid of him and be alone. And dating while bipolar doesn’t make this any easier, leaving me prone to mood swings and deep depression when intense emotions are in play. But I’ve figured out a way to smooth out my rough dating edges so that I can act more like regular people. I’ve started cultivating more than one relationship at a time, what used to be called “playing the field” before the days of serial monogamy.

To be clear, I’m not using “playing the field” as a euphemism for “sleeping around.” I’m not really built for that, and I’ve found that having multiple sexual partners is detrimental to my mental well-being.  But that’s a story for another time. Rather, playing the field for me means that I have more than one man in my life at a time, and each relationship provides me with a different emotional outlet. It’s my strategy to make dating while bipolar more like dating is for “regular” people. Right now, I count three men among my field of suitors and potential partners. First, there is the man I’ll call Richie.

A friend of a friend, Richie has been around for a couple of years. We’d hung out a bunch of times, always with other people, until one night we spent some time alone, and the mood shifted. You could probably call what we have a classic “friends with benefits” situation; we hang out and talk and have sex, but there’s no expectation of commitment. From a practical standpoint, it’s easy for me to manage this situation because while I like Richie, I know we’re not compatible when I think about things from a long-term standpoint.

Under ordinary circumstances, I’d probably become more connected to Richie than I should because he’s available to me, and because I’m one of those people who bonds through physical intimacy. Since I’m dating while bipolar, the situation also might trigger negative thoughts about my desirability as a mate. Or my willingness to settle for less than true love, and those feelings might manifest in some undesirable behavior. I still have those thoughts, but I counter them with positive self-talk and the help of Jerry, my long-distance flirtation with potential.

Jerry and I met on Facebook, and we frequently flirt online and have phone conversations that last for hours. My interactions with Jerry provide a distraction from any discomfort I have with Richie, and distractions are a valid therapeutic tool for negative emotions. Also, I actually like Jerry, and our conversations tend to move towards life issues and major topics like marriage and children. Unlike Richie, I see long-term potential with Jerry. If we lived in the same city, I’m pretty sure we’d be dating. But as it stands, Richie can give me the physical closeness that I won’t get from Jerry until we meet each other in the flesh and figure out what we’re doing. I used to feel tense and anxious about what would happen with Jerry, but having someone local to occupy my time is helpful in quelling those feelings.

The final man in my love interest trilogy is Joe, whom I met through an online dating site years ago. Joe is everything I’d like in a romantic partner, except for the fact that he’s a Republican, and I’m not. For that reason, we never went out. This year, I’ve seen him dozens of times at our local coffee shop, and we’ve started talking, exchanging contact info and chatting in person. He’s turned out to be more of a Moderate than a Conservative and I can respect that. Plus, he seemed intrigued when I mentioned that I’ve been writing about my mental illness, so perhaps there’s hope. Thankfully, I have some other prospects to keep me occupied and deter me from blowing up Joe’s Facebook with the dregs of my desperation. I’m going to play it cool, mock him for being a Republican in this presidential cycle and see how everything turns out.

Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.

When Depression Reinforces The Belief That You’re Unlovable

July 29th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

We’ve all been in a bad relationship. Despite our best efforts, we found ourselves mixed up with someone who didn’t have our best interest at heart or was just a bad match in general. I, of course, have been there a few times. When I’m feeling well and generally in my right mind, I can end a bad relationship as soon as I identify the signs of it. But when I’m feeling depressed or on the verge of a mental illness relapse, my judgment goes out the window, and I end up sticking around in an undesirable situation longer than I should.

I was friends with my last boyfriend — henceforth to be known as “Ronald” so as to protect the guilty — for many years before we became a couple. More accurately, we were friends for a while, then friends with benefits for a while and then, I would say five years later, we started dating. Everything was great between Ronald and I. We talked several times a day, had lunches and dinners every week, and the sex was terrific. Eventually, we had sleepovers, spending several hours in bed talking, reading, and making love. That’s right, I said hours. He said, “I love you” first, and I responded in kind. I was happy.

Anyone who has ever started a relationship with a friend knows the comfortable sense of intimacy you feel when you know someone well on many levels. Being with Ronald made me feel comfortable. Despite knowing each other for quite some time, we still laughed at each other’s jokes, remembered details about each other’s families and finished each other’s sentences. For me, the most satisfying thing about being with Ronald was that he knew about my bipolar disorder, and it didn’t change his opinion of me. He still thought of me as smart, successful and beautiful in spite of my disease, and even brave for being honest about my condition and fighting for normalcy. Being accepted with bipolar is a big thing for me, given the stigma that many people place on those with mental illness. We are thought of as universally broken, crazy, incompetent and any number of qualities that would be undesirable in a relationship. So being with someone who didn’t think those things of me, and who treated me like the person I am was perfect, most of the time.

Things with Ronald moved into bad relationship territory after about a year, when he started to become less communicative. Instead of him immediately returning my texts and phone calls, he’d go a day or two without contacting me. We’d see each other for lunches, but our dinners and weekend sleepovers turned into Ronald leaving my house after sex and requisite cuddling. I tried not to think anything of it, attributing the change in his behavior to the natural ebb and flow of a relationship. I thought about asking him what was up, but I was afraid to bring up the topic. Like a lot of women, I suppose I didn’t want to confront Ronald about the changes because I was afraid of what I might learn. Instead of talking about it, I ruminated and became depressed.

In the midst of depression, I did things that I would not have ordinarily done. I ignored my instinct to bring up my concerns to Ronald, preferring instead to wonder what I’d done wrong to change his behavior. I told myself that as long as I never said anything, I was in a relationship and having someone was better than being alone. I told myself that I’d never find anyone else who cared about me as much as Ronald did because of our history together. And I lied to myself, believing that I’d never find another man who’d accept me with my bipolar disorder and that I needed to hang on to Ronald as long as possible, no matter what. After all, he wasn’t exactly treating me badly, and he still told me that he loved me, so there was probably no reason to worry. He was probably just stressed out at work or something like that, and since men can’t multitask, everything would eventually return to normal.

As often happens in these cases, my relationship with Ronald never returned to its initial, happier tenor. We still talked and texted frequently, but we saw each other less and less. For months, I still held on to the belief that Ronald was my boyfriend, even though we were more like friends who had sex every time we hung out. I realized that while he’d frequently come to my apartment, I’d only once seen where he lived. And I noticed that he’d become increasingly vague about his whereabouts, particularly when rejecting my invitations to get together. I suspected that he’d begun seeing another woman and still I didn’t confront him because I thought it meant losing the only person who really accepted and understood me. I remained depressed, trapped in a series of negative thoughts about my self-worth and my relationship prospects as someone living with mental illness.

Of course, Ronald eventually confessed that he’d begun pursuing another woman, even while maintaining a romantic relationship with me. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to tell him never to contact me again since I don’t do liars and cheats. I know for sure that I never confronted Ronald because I was too depressed to think highly enough of myself to do so. I’ve been in other relationships in which I’ve felt good enough to end things when they went south, so I know that I can be honest with men about my needs. It was my mood that enhanced my feelings of self-doubt and the belief that I was unlovable, and those feelings made me stay in a bad relationship.

“Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.

Harlem Principal Jumps In Front Of A Train Amidst Test Scandal

July 28th, 2015 - By Veronica Wells
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Harlem Principal

Source: NY Post

If you know anything the school system in New York City, you’ve heard about the all important Common Core exam.

The standardized state test, like many across the country, serves not only as a [problematic]  way to measure student learning, it also determines a school’s success rate and ultimately determines how much funding that school will receive from the state.

There is a lot of weight placed on this exam.

Sadly, it might have proved to be too much for one West Harlem principal to bear.

On April 17, the day after her students took the Common Core exam, Principal Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, jumped in front of a B train at the 135th street station on St. Nicholas Ave at 9:20 a.m.

According to the New York Post, Worrell-Breeden, a 49-year-old woman who served as principal at the Teachers College Community School, was pulled out from under the train and taken to Harlem Hospital where she died eight days later. The city Medical Examiner’s Office ruled her death a suicide.

Worrell-Breeden took her life after the school’s third graders took the English portion of the exam for the first time in the budding school’s history.

It was also the same day someone reported cheating at the school to the Department of Education.

Initially, students were not made aware of the circumstances surrounding her passing. In fact, many thought she had died in a car crash.

Later, in June parents learned the truth about the cheating scandal and were told that their students’ exams had all been “red-flagged’ and “invalidated.”

Superintendent Gale Reeves said during a meeting, “The children didn’t do anything wrong, and the teachers didn’t do anything wrong.” She refused to provide additional details.

For months, the DOE refused to provide clarification about what happened with the tests. Finally, this week, the acknowledged Worrell-Breeden’s role in the matter.

A spokeswoman for the department said, “Principal Worrell-Breeden was the subject of allegations of testing improprieties. An investigation substantiated these allegations and we closed the investigation following her tragic passing.”

The DOE still would not explain exactly what she had done to tamper with the results. And officials would not say whether or not Worrell-Breeden had been made aware of the investigation before she took her life.

Though all 47 third grade English exam scores were invalidated, they took the math exam later on April 22-24. Those scores will be released later this summer and the superintendent assured parents that all the children would graduate to the fourth grade.

The Post reports that the Common Core exams have caused anxiety for several educators with on 34.5 percent of city student passing the math tests and 29.4 percent passing the English tests in 2014.

One educator said, “A lot of people are getting sick and leaving the system because of the pressure the high-stakes tests are putting on them.”

But one parent, Diane Tinsley told The Post that Worrell-Breeden seemed to be confident and relaxed about the exams.

“She was reassuring us parents. Her whole attitude was that they’re going to breeze through this test, and that she had prepared them to ace any test.”

During the three day testing period, Worrell-Breeden served the students breakfasts and even held a pep rally.

“She had them run around the gym cheering to get rid of their nervousness.”

And while she was projecting one image to the school community, a family friend said Worrell-Breeden’s personal life was more bleak.

The unnamed friend said, “Her grandmother died last year. Her husband moved out last year. He had a child with another woman. She was under a lot of pressure at home.”

“The was the first principal at that school so she was trying to make…a good impression. Maybe all that pressure, added to what was going on at home, got to her.”

Teachers College Community School was opened in 2011 in partnership with Columbia University’s Teachers College. It boasted student access to Columbia facilities, student interns and researchers. The school, planning to grow, only served students from pre-K to third grade last school year.

I don’t know Ms. Worrell-Breeden’s character or intentions for that school, but this story seems to highlight two crucial, yet often overlooked issues, in our society.

One, the issue of mental health in the Black community. Every week, there seems to be another Black woman who is either coming forward opening up, discussing her life with this particular disease or, in the more tragic instances, we hear the story of a woman who died shockingly and unexpectedly, taking her life. We have to get to the place in our community where conversations about mental illness are so commonplace and normalized that people who are actually suffering with these type of diseases feel comfortable telling their Black friends, family members, teachers, preachers and licensed professionals that they are suffering and need help.

Secondly, this story tragically highlights the flaws in the American educational system. It seems very clear to me that standardized tests are a way to capitalize the school system. For some it might be a way to measure comprehension and achievement, but the fact that there is money tied to it, means that someone stands to gain from these exams. Furthermore, there have been countless studies have shown that the tests include racial bias that affect minority students.

At the end of the day, our country has to find a way to stop teaching for the test and start teaching for retention, however that may look for each individual student.

What’s At Stake When We Ignore Mental Health?

July 24th, 2015 - By Charing Ball
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Sandra Bland


If anything, the Sandra Bland case speaks to two particular problems we have here in America: First, there is the criminalization and mass incarceration of the Black community; and secondly, the need for more mental health treatment, as well as awareness.

Just as it is possible that Bland was murdered, it is also possible that she was also severely stressed, if not depressed. Let’s look at the facts: she was looking for work, sad about the world (particularly racism, police brutality, and violence) and had previous bouts of depression. It is true that she had finally found a job and appeared to be in good spirits. At the same time, just as those dominoes were starting to line up for her, here comes the criminal justice system to knock them all down. That is systematic racism for you…

I can’t speak for anybody else (or even Bland because we just don’t know what happened in that jail cell). But if I were in a depressive state, I could see my wrongful arrest being the final straw on the back of an already mentally burdened camel. And yet, it seems that even acknowledging the possibility that Bland might have been triggered by her wrongful detainment to take her life is both offensive and shameful to some folks. “Suicide is for the weak.” “Mental Illness does not exist, at least not in our community.” I’ve seen sentiments like this written online and said out of the mouths of other Black people. We have people who use the defense that “black women would never” and the strong black woman narrative as a way to deny the alternative view of this case.

While it is true that regardless of her fate, Bland had no business in jail in the first place, our denial of her mental state and how it played into her demise is an example of how our continued neglect of mental health in our community contributes to the criminalization, and even deaths, of people just like Bland.

I am reminded again about how deep our reluctance to talk about mental illness runs when I seen the reaction to a video of a Memphis woman having a psychotic break, abusing a 19-day-old baby. The video is heartbreaking, and I advise you to not watch it. With that said, the video went viral over the weekend, which means a lot of you have probably already seen it. And a lot of folks have been asking for this woman to be buried under the jail. To summarize, the 13-minute video features Faith Moore speaking religious gibberish while repeatedly tossing her newborn across the room. An older child is also seen in the video, sitting on the mother’s lap, crying and trying her best to keep her mom from attacking the baby again.

According to WHBQ My Fox Memphis, the video was recorded by Christian Banks, the father of the newborn, who told the news reporter that he filmed the episode because he needed “evidence.” He also said that the reason why he had not intervened and tried to save the baby from the abuse, but instead goaded the mother on by telling her to “go head” was because he was scared. Thankfully, the children are safe and in the custody of another family member.

As Moore’s mom told the local Fox affiliate, Moore had been off of her medication since finding out she was pregnant and giving birth. The woman’s mother says that she was concerned about what the medication would do to the baby. Moore is now receiving help. Meanwhile, a warrant has been issued for Banks for aggravated child abuse. He had been arrested twice for domestic violence previously, including an incident in which he hit Moore so hard with a telephone, it left a bruise.

In this instance, the authorities stepped in and did the right thing. Not only were the children placed into safer spaces, but Moore was given the treatment she desperately needed. But that is just one case. And the reality is that our criminal justice system, and prisons, in particular, are filled with people with mental health issues. Many do not deserve to be there and are not receiving the help they need so that they can function better in society.

Unfortunately, the bias we show to people with mental health issues, including our inability to acknowledge the fact that someone might actually be mentally ill, helps the system to further alienate, if not do more harm, to these people. I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve read from folks who, in spite of her mental illness, thought that Moore should be locked away or worse.

Whether the mentally ill person is a victim of the system, or of their own delusion, jail is not the place for them. Sandra Bland was likely hurting from within and needed help. Instead, what she found was her life – as well as her mental state – compounded even more by the system. And ultimately that complication cost Bland her life. The question is: Where would Moore and her children be if authorities would have merely locked her up?

I Use My Relationships To Judge My Mental Illness Recovery

July 15th, 2015 - By Tracey Lloyd
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Image Source: Shutterstock

Image Source: Shutterstock

Most of us can probably look through our romantic past and formulate some kind of opinion about ourselves based on the people we’ve dated. You might say, “Ooh, that was my blue collar period” or “I was really into locs then.” It is probably natural to classify dates and relationships into periods corresponding to one’s preferences or frame of mind at a particular time. But I look back on my relationships, whether in the recent or distant past, to help gauge my mental health and mental illness recovery.

This year, I went out on a few dates with Matt, a guy I knew from high school. I had been several months into mental illness recovery and thought that I was ready for romantic endeavors when we started dating. We initially connected via text and had great conversations about our shared past. Our exchanges became sexual in nature, and I learned that he was into polyamory — having simultaneous, committed relationships with multiple people. He asked me if I was cool with that, and I said that I was. I guess I was caught up in having someone interested in me after a long dry spell. But even though I agreed to go along with Matt’s way of doing things, I had a bit of trepidation about seeing a man who I knew was involved with other women. Would I be the primary person? Was I allowed to get jealous even though I’d agreed to be part of Matt’s erstwhile harem? I squashed my doubts with the hopes of having regular sex and dinner dates again.

As weeks went on, I spent days agonizing over my “relationship” with Matt. I wondered who he spent his nights with when he wasn’t with me. I questioned what I said to him and whether it was better conversation than that of his other dates. This continual torturing of myself wasn’t necessarily due to Matt, though. It was because I’d agreed to something that I didn’t want or need to do. I agreed to relationship terms that were both undesirable and bad for me. Not only did I not want to share a man with anyone, but I also didn’t want to have to convince myself that it was a good idea. For me, acquiescing to an undesirable situation — and one that made me anxious and over reflective — was a sign that I hadn’t fully recovered from my last bipolar episode. I’d willingly put myself in a place where I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied, where I’d beat myself up for my choices and make myself even more depressed. When Matt ended the relationship I was initially distraught, but soon realized that being out of the relationship was the best thing for me and my mental illness recovery.

Right now I’m seeing Roger, someone who doesn’t push my buttons, nor does the situation we’re in make me feel stressed or depressed. While it is true that Roger is a different person than Matt, and I know him better, I can see that my behavior is different with him. It’s better. In the time between dating these men, my mood has improved, and I feel more confident stating my desires. Instead of settling for an arrangement that was damaging to my mental health, I’ve been proactive with Roger about what I want and need from our coupling. I’m also very clear with myself about what I want from a relationship at this point in my life and feel like I can walk away from something that isn’t healthy for me. In this frame of mind, the thoughts that I have about Roger aren’t ruminating about what’s wrong with our relationship, but rather, they are the positive thoughts of new beginnings with an interesting person.

It has been a small amount of time since I stopped seeing Matt, but I can see big differences in the way I see myself in relation to the men in my life. I’m not sure if I’m 100 percent recovered from my last bout with bipolar depression. However, I do know that I’m moving in the right direction with respect to my moods and my choices in romantic partners. And those two factors alone will make it easier for me to get to the healthiest place for me.

“Tracey Lloyd lives in Harlem, where she fights her cat for access to the keyboard. You can find more of her experiences living with bipolar disorder on her personal blog, My Polar Opposite.