Say What?

August 14, 2013

When someone finds out that I have bipolar, I often hear “You will beat this!” That’s when I cue the “What the heck?” face. Bipolar (along with many, many other health conditions) is not something that you wake up one day and say “I have been healed!”. Another response I typically get is the “I am sorry you are sick” mentality. Sick? No, I am fairly certain I feel fine today. And tomorrow. If I am “sick”, I have a cold or the stomach flu. Bipolar is not something that requires the well meant “taking care of”/coddling that often occurs when someone you love is puking their brains out. Living with bipolar is, for me, like living with asthma-you learn to adapt and care for yourself a little differently than others. The world keeps spinning, I go to work and eat meals and have hobbies. Sure, sometimes I get a little symptomatic and feel the need to impart my divine wisdom upon innocent bystanders, but who doesn’t spaz out from time to time.

Still of Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

(Image from IMDb.com)

There is a stigma around mental illnesses. Many think about them and a mini clip from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. A large percentage of persons who live with a mental illness do not need hospitalization or heavy doses of medications. The recovery process is skewed by the assumption that if one has a mental illness, then something must be terribly wrong with them. It has been described to me like this: someone who struggles with a health condition (diabetes, asthma, chronic pain, etc.) has to make life changes and maybe see a few extra doctors than the next person. They do not have a third arm, or a second head growing out of their neck. Persons living with mental illnesses are no different. Sure, I may take medications and work with a therapist, but I tie my shoes and put on pants just like anyone else. So why the stigma?

Working in the mental health field is a beautiful thing. While we are completing the duties required of our job titles, we are constantly striving to eliminate the stigma around mental illnesses. Before I started working for our county’s community mental health center, I was afraid that I would not be allowed to study and work towards becoming a therapist. Who would let someone like me try to fix someone else’s brain? What if I fell off my rocker? Well, that fear was completely unnecessary. I realized that someone who is in recovery and trying to manage their own symptoms or has someone in their life that has struggled with symptom management and the likes is a lot more effective in assisting with the recovery process and empathy is more effective than sympathy. One can have all of the credentials in the world and could have graduated top of their class from the most prestigious schools, but if they do not have some sort of insight as to how difficult it can be to manage symptoms and perform necessary tasks to get through the day how effective can they be?

I hope to continue writing about my experiences in the recovery process on this blog and to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness.

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To My 22-Year-Old Self

July 18, 2013

Cousins celebrating my 21st

Dear 22 year-old self,
Last year was a fantastic year! You made new friends, figured out which career field you belong in, and ultimately grew as a young adult. You learned some lessons the hard way and discovered your strengths. Ultimately, you began to figure out just who “Skylar” is. To sum up the year, here are a few lessons that you should always carry with you:

1. Push Yourself. This is the time in your life where you can push yourself to go on new adventures and do things you would never have thought you could. You started doing Roller Derby, singing more than to your steering wheel, and barrel rolled like you were James Bond across a busy street. Push yourself, not only beyond your comfort zone, but through those tough times. It will make you stronger and you will likely level up in awesomeness.

2. You’re Not Awkward Unless You Decide You Are. Take a leaf out of the book of Zoey Deschanel’s character on “New Girl”. Jess doe not go around saying how awkward she is, instead she embraces her quirkiness and is comfortable in her own skin. You may be quirky and sometimes sing about what you are doing, but that is alright! Keep being goofy! With that being said, try not to make a habit of making loud goat noises in a Chinese restaurant with your roommates-that is taking it too far…

3. Never Take Yourself Too Seriously. Remember, we are all human and we make mistakes. Please, do not spend countless hours analyzing why things went wrong (or even how you did something right). Sometimes laughing at yourself is all you need to do to feel better. After all, sometimes we end up making rather silly errors. Laugh it off and learn from it, I promise it will be okay.

4. Never Quit Learning. Even if you are not in school, there is always an opportunity to learn. Whether it is from life experiences, unusual documentaries on Netflix, or through your workplace, take something away with you as you embark on the next adventure in your life.

5. Relax. Do not fill up your schedule with meetings, social gatherings, and other commitments. Remember, you cannot do everything and do it well. You have to practice self care and take time to refresh. If you don’t, you will end up burning out and turning into the Grinch.

Being 21 was great, but being 22 will be even better. Remember these lessons and you will go far.

Love

Skylar A.P. Gott