All Articles Tagged "mental health"
On Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder And Why K. Michelle, Janet Hubert & The Rest Of Us Need To Forgive
There’s a big difference between being aware of the way people have treated you in the past while using that to propel you forward, and just being bitter.
And despite how ugly the word sounds, many of us have embodied it at one time or another, and been “angry, hurt, or resentful because of one’s bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment.”
I know I’ve been bitter. Man, was I ever bitter! When an individual I used to call a friend tried to get me booted from my job, I held on to that rage for longer than was comfortable. I stooped to her level, and it did nothing but hold me back.
Janet Hubert is bitter. That’s why she’s become the go-to commentator on anything that has to do with her archnemesis Will Smith and his family. And no, as Charing Ball pointed out last month, bitterness doesn’t efface the points that she’s made about them that we can agree with, but it clouds her statements and emanates from her when she does those computer videos with the comic book filter. And I’ve had a less than pleasant conversation with her in the past, so trust me, I know what I’m talking about.
K. Michelle is bitter. And most of us would say that she has the right to be. If you told your story of abuse and the wife of the man who abused you called you a liar, you would be upset too. But watching her go back and forth with Toya Wright on social media last night, gleeful that she could say, “I told you so!” as Wright’s marriage falls apart (and she tries to make money off of it with How To Lose a Husband…), I couldn’t help but shake my head, especially at the people cheering her on. Sure people tried to ruin her, but they failed. Why not celebrate that? Why not celebrate that you could forgive and forget with Tamar Braxton, who also called you a liar? Why focus on detractors proven wrong?
Anyone in your life who is holding on to resentment over what you or someone else did to them to the point that it is consuming them, or they can only see what everyone else did to them but not their own part in disappointing situations, is bitter. And, again, while we all might have the right to temporarily be this way, to hold on to such anger for the long-term is not only unsightly, but it’s not safe.
Bitterness makes for some cold-blooded clapbacks and entertainment for people on social media, but it’s dangerous. Studies have shown that bitterness can easily turn into an adjustment disorder. Whether you’ve lost a job or hang on to resentment over something more or less significant, if you haven’t been able to move forward from it, it can turn into post-traumatic embitterment disorder. And that doesn’t just mean that you end up filled with rage, sadness or anxiety. According to research, it can actually impact everything from your organ function to your immune system.
So while we might smile and laugh on the outside while we talk about how karma is a bitch and that we’re having the last laugh when our former foes or detractors find themselves dealing with a series of unfortunate events, I don’t think we realize how much we’re tainting ourselves from the inside.
Dr. King once said in his “Love and Forgiveness” speech in front of the American Baptist Convention that “Men are slow to forgive. We live by the philosophy of getting even, of paying back or saving face. And we bow before the altar of retaliation.” In today’s world, we call such behaviors being “petty,” and we laugh about it. Applaud it, “sip tea” and take front row seats to such displays.
But “war is obsolete,” as Dr. King said. And the “ever-rising tide of revenge” does nothing but leave a trail of damage inside and out. It fixes nothing; it doesn’t bring the peace of mind that we are so are desperately in need of.
And despite the fact that so many celebrities and people love to compare the criticism they get and what they go through to Jesus (i.e., “They killed Jesus so I’m not surprised ___ would do this to me!”), many of us aren’t in the forgiving business. But at the end of the day, people don’t tell you to forgive just because it sounds nice. It’s more for you than for anyone else. How can one move on and remove the hump that is bitterness if we harp on the past? And while we harp and make ourselves ill, the people whom we feel did us so wrong bat not one single eyelash at our pain.
So as someone who recently worked to let go of the ugliness that is bitterness, I don’t applaud when others hold onto it and pull it out to go on attack mode when it suits them. If you’re someone who claims to be happy and “blessed” and a fighter, it’s contradictory to hold on to your hurt for dear life so others can cheer you on when you bring it up or so you can use it to throw darts and celebrate the misfortunes of people in your past. We know you’ve been through things. Who hasn’t? But when does it become unhealthy to harp on it?
When faced with discrimination, how do you react to it? Well, according to a new study out of UCLA, you may be more affected by it than you think. Facing discrimination, both overt and subtle experiences, can have a negative impact on one’s mental health, and the mental health of those around them. The results were published in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Magazine.
“We now have decades of research showing that when people are chronically treated differently, unfairly or badly, it can have effects ranging from low self-esteem to a higher risk for developing stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression,” said Vickie Mays, Public Health professor for UCLA’s Fielding School. She teamed up with Dr. Susan Cochran of the Fielding School’s Department of Epidemiology to record the connection between such mistreatment and mental health.
For instance, in the study, it was found that the effects of discrimination go deeper than one man or woman being affected.
“We know that when people have a psychiatric disorder, it’s not good for any of us,” Mays said. “For example, it can affect parenting — a depressed mom might not be able to interact with her child in a way that best promotes that child’s development, leaving the child more vulnerable to certain behavior disorders. In that sense, we all suffer from the effects of discrimination.”
And not only that, but facing discrimination hinders our decision-making process, or in other words, how our brain processes certain data. For instance, if you feel that you will encounter discrimination again, you may try to avoid exposing yourself to things and opportunities that you worry will leave you disappointed again.
“When we’ve had these experiences and anticipate that other incidents might lead us to be discriminated against, it can interfere with our ability to cognitively function at our best,” Mays said.
Another faculty member whose past work contributed to the study was Gilbert Gee. He analyzed 300 studies from around the world, conducted over the last 30 years, including a study led by one of his postdoctoral fellows, which scanned the brain functions of South Asian women as they discussed experiences of being treated in an inferior manner. The parts of their brain that regulate emotions and stress responded the most. Through such studies, Gee found that poor mental health is consistently associated with the mistreatment individuals report, both in interpersonal insults and systemically.
“If you don’t get a job and you’re left to wonder whether it had to do with your race or gender, that can have an impact on your mental health,” Gee said. “We know that when people are worried about things, it affects their mood.”
Mays stated that prevention efforts are important for victims of discrimination. “We screen for mental health disorders when we are putting together an individual’s electronic health record, but maybe we also need to ask about their experiences with discrimination, which would identify people at risk who could benefit from prevention efforts.”
But Mays stated that prevention efforts are also necessary for those who are the individuals out here discriminating in the first place.
“We need to target prevention strategies at the perpetrators of racism, just like we’ve targeted people who are developing bullying behaviors, starting in the school system,” Mays said. ” We can do more to learn about the processes that lead people to treat others this way, and how to disrupt those through early education.”
It’s still pretty early into 2016, and already only eight percent of those who made New Year resolutions are still on track. We can have the best intentions in the world, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged by multiple demands when we get back to the daily grind.
Executive coach and transformational leadership expert Donna Stoneham, Ph.D., author of The Thriver’s Edge: Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love, and Lead, says that it’s challenging not to fall into old patterns of behavior when we get back on the treadmill of daily life. And usually, it’s because our goals and resolutions feel like chores rather than things that make us feel happier, more productive, and more fulfilled. She identifies the key actions you can take to operate at your peak every day so you can thrive in your life and career and be the best person you can be in the coming year.
1. Be Grateful. Identify what you have to be grateful for today!
Action: Each day, take a few minutes to pause and think about all you are grateful for: Your loved ones, the roof over your head, plenty of food to eat, your friendships, good health. Really think about each thing and take a few moments to relish the feeling. Then get a notebook or journal and write your blessings down every day. If you have a challenging day, go back and review them. This is a fail safe way to lift your spirits!
Practice: Make a Gratitude Jar. Every time someone in your family has something good happen, write it down on a piece of paper and put it in the Gratitude Jar. Then once a month, create a family ritual during which you pull out the jar and one by one read all the wonderful things that have happened during the past few weeks. Feel the joy and gratitude for all the good things that have transpired. These little victories will inspire you to continue this practice each month.
2. Be Present. Tune in and be 100 percent present for yourself and someone else!
Action: Practice being present for at least ten minutes each day. This can be as you’re eating a meal, helping your child with homework, participating in a conversation at work, or playing with your pet. Practice being present with those around you. Really be there. Listen to them without any agenda except being fully present. Appreciate them for who they are and how they enrich your life.
Practice: Once a week share an “appreciation meal” with your family or friends. During this time together, have each person share what they have learned about themselves and each other by being more present to one another. Let each person know what you appreciate about him or her.
3. Focus on Your Purpose. Feel more connected to your purpose today!
Action: When we lead busy lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and forget about the reason we do what we do every day. That’s why it’s important to remember and to focus on your purpose. Think of the difference that you’d like to make in your world. Maybe it’s being the best teacher you can be, or the most effective parent, or helping people to grow and develop if you are a manager of others.
Practice: Practice seeing and feeling your connection to your purpose by taking one action each day that helps you feel more deeply engaged with the reason you’re here. If you’re a teacher, then help someone in classroom learn something beneficial. If you’re a manager, then seek out and facilitate a development opportunity for someone on your team. If you’re a parent, then make it a point to let your children know how much you love them and appreciate the wonder that they bring to your life. Revel in the joy of knowing how instructive you are in the process of watching your children learn and grow. Whatever your reasons are for doing what you do, take one action each day that helps you feel renewed and recommitted to your passion, purpose and mission.
4. Move Your Body. Feel more connected to the magnificence of your body!
Action: Practice moving your body, from stretching to walking to more vigorous exercise. Feel the power you have in your muscles and in every step you take. Feel how vibrant you are now, knowing you’re getting even stronger with each movement.
Practice: Each day, turn off the TV, leave your phone behind, and get outside and take a walk, even if it’s a walk to the cafeteria on your lunch break at work. Breathe in the air, notice the beauty around you, feel the power in your steps, feel your connection to the ground beneath your feet. Realize and be thankful for the magnificence of your body to take you wherever you want to go.
5. Quiet Your Mind. Spend more time being and less time doing!
Action: We’re called human beings for a reason, but many of us have forgotten how to “be” in a world of 24/7 demands. Carve out a few minutes every day to stop “doing” and simply be still. Learn how to savor the silence, listen to the rain or even stare into space. Hit the reset button on your inner hard drive at least once a day by being still. Notice what you notice when you’re quiet that you aren’t able to hear when you are caught up in the fray.
Practice: Practice getting up 5-10 minutes earlier than your normal wake-up time each day. This way, you aren’t losing productive time, so you won’t have an excuse not to do this. Sit up in your bed with your back straight or find a chair in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Set a timer on your phone or on your alarm for 5-10 minutes. Close your eyes. Focus on breathing from your abdomen, rather than from your chest. Breathe in and out of your nose. Notice where you feel your breath most prominently on your inhale and your exhale. If you mind wanders, bring yourself back to your breathing by focusing on the sensation of your breathing until your timer goes off. This practice will give you at least 5 minutes a day just to be.
6. Appreciate Your Abundance. Identify where in your life are you truly abundant!
Action: When it comes to money and material things, enjoy what you have and make the most of it rather than always wanting more. Are there places where you spend money on things you don’t need? Where can you create experiences rather than buying things?
Practice: Instead of going out to dinner or getting take-out, how about staying home one night with the family and creating a meal together. Cook together, sit down together, and enjoy one another’s company without any electronic devices or television to distract you.
7. Pay it Forward. Help someone else! Do it!
Action: Do something nice for at least one person every day that enables you to extend yourself to others without the expectation of anything in return. What are the small acts of kindness that can make a difference in someone else’s life that require minimal effort to do?
Practice: Every day, practice delivering one act of kindness and notice how that makes you feel. For example, pay the road toll of the person behind you. Smile at strangers and watch them smile back at you. Hold the door open for someone else. Buy a colleague a cup of coffee. Let someone in front of you in your lane of traffic who wants to move over even when you’re in a rush.
The Thriver’s Edge
Seven Keys to Transform the Way You Live, Love and Lead
Donna Stoneham, Ph.D.
Donna Stoneham, PhD, is a master executive coach, transformational leadership expert, facilitator, author and speaker.
For the past twenty-five years, Donna has helped hundreds of Fortune 1000 and not-for-profit leaders, teams, and organizations create powerful business results by helping leaders lead from their core strengths, leverage their full capabilities, and unleash the potential in their teams and organizations through her innovative approach to leadership development, Integral Intelligence®. Her client list includes Gilead Sciences, Genentech, Hewlett Packard, The American Medical Association, Wells Fargo, MasterCard, Comcast, and UC Berkeley.
Donna holds a Ph.D. in Humanities, with a concentration in Learning and Change in Human Systems and an M.A. in Human and Organization Transformation from the California Institute of Integral Studies. She has completed advanced studies in Appreciative Inquiry from the Taos Institute, and holds a Certification in Integral Coaching.
Donna’s company, Positive Impact (www.positiveimpacellc.com) delivers break-through development programs that inspire people to create transformational results in their work and lives that create a ripple effect in the world. Known for her spirit of candor and compassion, Donna has written for the International Journal of Coaches in Organizations and Presence. As one of the world’s top coaches, she will be featured in the upcoming Coaching Movie (coachingmovie.com/cast) to be released in 2017.
When she’s not coaching, she enjoys swimming, philanthropic travel, writing and spending time at home with her spouse and rescue dogs in Pt. Richmond, CA.
Talking about mental illness is a bummer. It sucks every bit of joy from the room. I can be having a perfectly fine time and if someone mentions bipolar — even if it’s not related to me — it harshes my mellow. Maybe that’s why I don’t like talking about mental illness with my friends.
Don’t get me wrong. I do talk about my bipolar disorder with people in my life. I have some cousins that know a lot about my condition. And I have two friends who live with mental illness themselves, so I talk to them a lot. But the rest of my friends get a very brief, very cursory review of my prognosis if they ask. Even my closest friends. That’s because I don’t want their pity.
Over the last two years I’ve had a very difficult time managing my illness. I’ve been hospitalized twice, I’ve had to quit my job and I’ve had to deal with daily debilitating depression. During that period, my mental illness was all I could think about, and it was all I could talk about as well. I’d never been the kind of person who asked for help, but my outlook had been so bad — and my life had changed so drastically — that I needed to reach out. Fortunately, I had very good friends and family that could support me when I wasn’t doing well. They checked on my condition, visited me in the hospital and helped support me financially. I’m rightfully grateful for having had such a caring and generous network.
Now that I’m better, I want to forget the bad part of my bipolar. I might not be flush money-wise, but I’m being productive with work and social obligations. When I’m feeling well and operating close to 100 percent, I have very few reminders of my disease. Yes, I intellectually understand that I have a mental illness, and I take medications three times a day and see my treatment team. But I’m not currently experiencing the emotional or physical toll that my disease can cause. When I’m feeling this good, discussing the minutiae of my disease just feels like bringing up old ish in a relationship: it’s over, so let’s move on.
In my “normal” state, talking about mental illness with friends feels like reminding them that I’m different than they are. That even though I’m healthy, there will always be something wrong with me. And having an incurable illness, no matter how manageable it is, begets pity. I never want anyone to pity me, mostly because my life and my outlook are pretty great most of the time. Having a mental illness isn’t a death sentence, but it feels that way when you’re in the middle of an episode. I felt pretty hopeless for a good period of time, and I told my friends about it. I wrote about it. Heck, I use it to fuel my career. But as much as I’ve talked about the difficult parts of mental illness, I don’t want that knowledge to linger if it means someone is going to feel bad for me. Because you can’t see someone as your equal if you pity them, and relationships are best among equals.
Maybe someday I’ll do more than say “I’m fine” when people ask me how I’m doing. There could come a day when I’m as comfortable talking about my bipolar disorder to my besties as I am writing about it for total strangers. Until that time comes, I’m sure that I’ll still find a way to express what I’m feeling about my mental illness and to keep my good friends around until I’m ready.
By Abiola Abrams
Love lesson: Healing from being a fatherless daughter.
Let’s talk about the impact that not having a father has on your health and well-being as an adult. According to Carey Casey, CEO of the National Center for Fathering, there are “more than 24 million children in America who don’t live with their fathers, and we know a large number of those kids rarely or never see their dads. What may be even more disheartening is that the 24 million doesn’t include the countless children who do live with their fathers, but whose dads are emotionally and relationally distant or absent.” Statistics show that not having a father may negatively affect every aspect of our lives from depression to educational prospects.
Clearly, this is a touchy subject. When I barely mentioned the topic to a couple of people I know and respect, who happen to have had absentee fathers, some immediately became defensive. One woman said, “Yes, my father wasn’t there but my life is better for it. My mother showed me how to be the woman and the man and now I am doing the same with my daughter.” Her daughter is also being raised in a fatherless home. Like her hardworking mom, she is making the best of a potentially painful and damaging situation by making sure her daughter has all she needs. She acknowledged a family pattern as her grandmother was also a single mother.
I started thinking about this topic a few months ago when Oprah Winfrey and Iyanla Vanzant created groundbreaking television by introducing the subject on the OWN “Daddyless Daughters” series.
Then this week I received the following letter from a daddyless daughter:
“Dear Abiola, My father has never played an active role in my life. When I was little, arrangements would be made for him to pick me up and he would always let me down. I often forgot I had a father because my mother made sure I never went without and always showered me with love and affection.
I seem to be attracted to guys who are emotionally unavailable and disconnected but I try to look past these faults. They all seem to have a good heart but not for me. I am 23 and in the past five/six years my father will text me every so often “hope you’re okay” and “we should meet up.” Recently he called saying that he knows he hasn’t been there and wants to meet up and talk but he is not going to force it and he will let me come to him. I felt hurt by this. Like if he really cared or I was worth having in his life he wouldn’t leave it up to me.
He has never been stable. He does construction so work is sometimes there sometimes not. Now apparently work is good and he’s got his own place but I don’t know if I’m ready. I want to heal from what his absence has caused in my life so it does not stifle my growth or future relationships. I used to believe his absence did not affect me but it is clear it does. What can I do to heal?”
First of all, kudos to the writer of this letter and anyone who is seeking to shed her own baggage. It’s not easy, but that’s okay. While you still have breath, you are able to rise to any life challenge and come out of the other end even better.
Here are six key elements to consider when healing your own abandonment issues if your father was absent:
1 – Accept your father for who he is.
Your father is not going to suddenly morph into a different person. Think about how hard it is to change yourself. You are certainly not going to change another person. The surest way to heartache is to keep expecting someone to be different than they really are.
Wanting your father to be different is like waiting for your cat to bark or your dog to meow. No matter how much your puppy loves you, he is not going to meow because it is not possible. It’s the same for your dad. He can only be the person he is. Whether you want a relationship with him or not is your decision alone. Either way, accept him for who he is right this moment, rather than the fantasy dad you yearn for.
2 – Give yourself closure.
You want your father to ride in on a white horse and say, I was a terrible person and I am sorry. Like the writer of the letter above, you may want your dad to fight for your affections just to prove that you matter. You may expect your father to make up for lost time and give you the closure you never had as a child.
Here’s the deal: you have to learn to give yourself closure. Closure is coming to terms with the situation and giving yourself permission to move forward. If you don’t give yourself closure you will remain emotionally stuck. I had a coaching client whose parents had a bitter relationship filled with mean letters and emails going back and forth and all kinds of disturbing allegations. Her mother has since passed and she now wants to have a relationship with her father. She didn’t realize that having folders of these hateful letters was getting in the way of her own closure and healing.
It is okay to let go of the past. You are not betraying yourself by letting go of the anger and the “evidence.”
3 – Forgive your dad.
Your father may be a deeply flawed human being but (like all of us) he was only doing what he knew how to do. What kind of trauma must he have experienced that his concept of parenting wound up being so flawed?
Release the hope that the past could have been any different. When you are unable to be forgiving toward the person who gave you life, you hold you both hostage. Forgiveness does not mean that your father is “off the hook” or gets to be in your life. Forgiveness is a gift of letting go that you give yourself. Forgive the man and the circumstances.
4 – Feel your feelings and express your emotions.
Parental abandonment takes many forms with those of us who experienced it having deep and longstanding wounds. Many of us shut down because being vulnerable and open to being hurt by anyone feels like weakness.
If you want to have healthy loving relationships, romantic and familial, you must learn to be vulnerable. being open in this way won’t feel good right away if it is outside of your comfort zone. In fact, it can be downright terrifying. However, this is the key to everything you want. You won’t be able to allow yourself to be loved if you can’t be vulnerable. You can’t be soft and tender if you can’t be vulnerable.
Feeling your feelings is a strength, not a weakness.
5. Get support.
You are not alone. We have no idea what went on in anyone else’s home. A friend’s life could look picture perfect and they still feel somehow abandoned or betrayed by a parent. If you feel that not having a father is affecting your relationships, be courageous enough to get the support you need.
Fatherlessness is an epidemic. That means that you don’t have to go through this alone. Get an amazing therapist, counselor, coach, or support group. Google “parental alienation” and “fathers and neglect” to see what others have to say on the topic. Websites like Fathers.com and The Fatherless Generation may have resources that could be of help. Talk about your feelings in an open and honest way. If you are raising another generation of fatherless children get support so that your kids can break these patterns.
6. Build up your own self-acceptance, self-love, and self-worth.
Realize that even if you had the most amazing mom in the world, you may have some healing to do. A father who is absent on purpose perpetrated a form of emotional child abuse on you and your family.
Whether or not your father ever acknowledges you, you are worthy and deserving of being loved. Congrats on taking the first step on your journey from abandonment to healing. Experiment with dating outside of your type if you always go for those who echo your abandonment. It may seem like a stretch at first but it will be worth it.
The more secure you become in your sense of self, the less you will be interested in anyone who disagrees with your worthiness.
Abiola Abrams is the author of The Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love and founder of , where she offers empowerment coaching.
Trigger warning: This is a column about suicidal behavior, depression, and suicidal ideation. It is for informational purposes only and not intended to treat or diagnose any mental or physical illness. You must check with your own health care practitioner. If you are feeling like hurting yourself right now, go to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at SuicidePreventionLifeline.org or call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Since my first mental illness diagnosis, I have been afraid to disclose my disease to employers. The stigma surrounding those with mental illness still brands us as incompetent and unstable — the opposite of a successful employee. Rather than be saddled with negative baggage in spite of my educational and professional accomplishments, I believed that hiding my bipolar disorder was the best way to navigate the workplace. I learned a few lessons from my subterfuge, mostly that hiding my bipolar disorder wasn’t as good for my career as I’d believed it would be.
During my first manic episode I was a marketing manager at a cosmetics company, which was a busy and stressful position. I had a great deal of responsibility, including the growth and revenue for my products, and I often stayed late to complete my work. With the high mood and quick thinking I experienced during a hypomanic state, I was far more productive than during average circumstances. I came to work early, flew through my reports quickly and responded to my boss’s requests efficiently. I was a model employee.
Then my depression hit and my behavior changed completely. I was sluggish all of the time and I took frequent coffee breaks to perk myself awake. I seemingly never got enough sleep, so I was frequently late — a habit sited at my annual review as a “career breaker.” Instead of going to human resources to disclose my disease and ask for an alternate work schedule, I said that I’d change but couldn’t amend my behavior, even when my psychiatrist tried changing my medication. Eventually lateness became unplanned absences because I couldn’t get out of the bed. Again, I continued hiding my bipolar disorder rather than making better arrangements for myself.
Eventually, I had to come up with a reason for my behavior and I told my boss that I’d been having panic attacks. At the time, I believed that panic disorder was more commonplace and acceptable than bipolar. I was mistaken, and some of my work duties were taken away by my boss until she felt that I could “handle” them.
At my next job, I was clear about hiding my bipolar — or any mental or emotional shortcoming — from my employer. I’d already experienced what I thought of as work-related discrimination as a result of a mental condition and I did not want to repeat that event. Instead I fell back into a pattern of behavior designed to cover up my bad periods. Overall, I was great at my job but was frequently late when my energy flagged due to worsening depression. To cover for particularly teary days, I called in sick or asked to work from home on a regular basis. If I could make it into the office, I tried to look busy even when my concentration flagged. Again, my boss noted that my lateness and absences were not models for executive behavior.
At some point, my depression got so bad that I couldn’t make it through my days. I started scheduling meetings out of the office so that I could knock off a few hours early and cover myself. My commitment to hiding my bipolar disorder was finally starting to affect my ability to complete my job. I eventually had to take time off work to get treatment for my depressive episode. When I returned, as a result of my previous behavior, my boss began micromanaging my time and my projects to make sure that I didn’t leave the office without permission.
In retrospect, I could have spoken with my human resources department about getting special accommodations for the symptoms of my bipolar disorder. I could have arranged for special permission to work at home when I needed to instead of appearing to have a spotty attendance record. Even though these accommodations are allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, I still feared the kind of backlash related to my disease that I’d already experienced once in my career. My reactions to my employer and, ultimately, my negative behavior could have been avoided had I initiated legal protection by disclosing my disease instead of hiding my bipolar disorder in the workplace. Lesson learned.
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.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that 20% of Americans suffer from some form of mental illness each year. With those statistics, it’s easy to imagine that we all know someone with mental illness even, if we’re not aware of their condition. Because mental illnesses are virtually invisible, we all run the risk of potentially insulting 1 in 5 of the people with whom we come in contact regularly. That’s why you should know what you should never say to someone with a mental illness.
DON’T compare your sadness to their depression. It’s tempting to want to empathize with people, and when someone tells you that they have depression you may want to say, “oh, I was really sad when…” Don’t. Depression is orders of magnitude more heartbreaking than sadness, even if you were completely devastated when your dog died. Though grief may trigger a mental illness, depression has emotional, mental and physiological components that make it harder to overcome than average emotions.
DON’T tell them it’s all in their head. Technically, some mental illnesses — like bipolar disorder — are caused by changes in the brain. However, “all in your head” has the connotation of something being fake or imagined instead of a real disorder with real consequences. Someone with anxiety disorder isn’t pretending to have the physical symptoms associated with an attack any more than someone with migraines is feigning the pain and discomfort they experience. Try to talk about mental illnesses in the same way that you speak about physical illnesses, and give those who suffer the same respect.
DON’T imply that someone with a mental illness should “just get over it”. Would you tell someone with diabetes to shake it off? Should you tell someone in a wheelchair to just get up and walk? Mental illnesses are diseases just like physical ailments, and many are considered disabilities because they are so debilitating. Many people with mental illness have gone undiagnosed for years because they’ve tried to “get over it” and have thought themselves weak for not being able to overcome their symptoms. A common stigma of mental illness is that those who suffer are weak, and this thinking frequently leads to worsening of the disease.
DO use respectful language. Never refer to someone as “crazy” or “nuts”. Refer to diseases by their names, which will show respect to people around you who may be suffering from a mental illness in silence. So many stigmas exist against people with mental illness — in families, in the workplace, in romantic relationships — that simple words often hurt the people who suffer, even when no offense is intended.
DO sympathize. While it may not be appropriate to compare your feelings with someone’s experience of mental illness, you can still show compassion for someone’s struggle. If a friend is struggling with depression, offer your help with grocery shopping or other tasks they may be too exhausted to perform. You don’t have to know exactly how someone feels to help them.
DO ask questions. If you know someone with a mental illness and you don’t understand what they’re going through, you can always ask — respectfully. Depending on your relationship, you can ask about symptoms, about how someone feels or about their treatment. Don’t assume that you will learn all there is to know about someone’s disease, but asking questions will show that you care and are interested in their well-being.
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.
Police report that Gloria Darden, Freddie Gray’s mother, attempted suicide on Wednesday evening.
Freddie Gray, Darden’s 25-year-old son, was killed in Baltimore, Maryland, last April at the hands of police officers. The news of heinous and tragic death captured the nation’s attention as it was one of a string of deaths of unarmed, innocent Black men at the hands of law enforcement.
After an investigation, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said the police officers had no good reason to arrest Gray and the neck injuries, that would later be cited as the cause of his death, were a direct result of the way the officers restrained him.
According to KHOU, police responded to a call “for a person needing medical attention” around 9:35 p.m. on Wednesday. Gray’s mother reportedly suffered superficial wounds and was taken to the hospital that same evening. No surgery or stitches were needed.
She is said to have undergone a mental health evaluation on Thursday.
Diana Bruce, a neighbor, told CBS Baltimore: “I seen the police and ambulance right there. They were taking the lady out and putting her on the stretcher bed.”
The family lawyer, Billy Murphy, told CBS, “She is still mourning the loss of her son. The family asks that you continue to pray for her and for them.”
A month after losing her son, Darden sat down with Lester Holt, where she broke down in tears saying that she would never be the same since her son’s death. She was barely able to speak throughout the duration of the interview.
In September, the city of Baltimore agreed to pay the Gray family $6.4 million to settle a civil suit.
Gray’s twin sister Fredricka said, “For me to lose my twin I can’t sleep some nights. I cry. I really miss him…the pain I feel, it’s unbearable.”
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 BPDCenteral.com, 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.