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Diagnosis – Mad Wife in the Attic! Tuesday June 11, 2013

A recent mental health awareness advert read something like: 'One in Four of us has a mental health problem. More than one in four of us has a problem with that.'

Receiving a diagnosis can be a blessing or a curse. Sometimes it's both.

I was finally diagnosed with bipolar at the age of 42, just after the birth of my second child eight years ago. For me it was the most enormous relief: finally I had a reason for why I got ill for three to six months every two and a half years. From the age of seven these mysterious illnesses had been blamed on everything from post viral fatigue through over-work to "It's just your imagination; it's purely psychosomatic, you know!" At last the puzzle was solved; I had a way forward and treatments to investigate.

For my family, the diagnosis was a heavy blow. Shocked, my husband reacted: "But I don't want a mad wife!" My mother and siblings reacted by becoming even more worried and anxious about me. Eight years on they still worry and my (lovely, caring) husband prefers to ignore it as much as possible.

I could have kept the diagnosis private, I suppose, but I wanted to fight for mental health to be a more acceptable issue. I tell people it's a bit like having a condition like diabetes. It's a bore, it has to be managed, it stops me doing things sometimes, and yes, it's a life-long condition with some specific life-threatening issues. But it's not something I'm ashamed of.

And most of us just keep on going, don't we? We gratefully swallow the drugs that make it possible for us to get out of bed in the mornings and get through the day somehow. We still carry out our duties when the world retreats behind the thick plate glass or fades to monochrome or tastes like ashes and sawdust in our mouths.

We are heroes and we should be proud of ourselves – regardless of what the 'Proud' card says on Moodscope today! Pat yourself on the back for actually getting up this morning, because we know it's often not that easy. Well Done Us!

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Lostinspace Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 7:34am

I recently saw a therapist and one of the things she told me was that I am a hero for carrying such an immensely heavy burden of depression for so long.Suddenly for a moment I didn't feel ashamed of my struggles - Well Done Us says it for me! Thank you to you, I am very much enjoying the new writings. Love the explanations next to each "Mood".

Anonymous Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 7:48am

Hi Mary, I appreciate this post and that you write here. It's certainly a great task and you reach out to many people. I also understand that it's important to look at things from the "bright side of life", especially for the likes of us (I'm diagnosed bipolar myself).

I would just be aware of this often-heard comparison to Diabetes... it shifts the illness completely into the realm of neuroscience, including the search for the "right" neurotransmitter process that we (or rather: scientists) just need to find the happiness pill.

And, it shuns off any reflection of "there's life outside this illness" - once I got the diagnosis, I refer to every state of mine in psychiatric categories. Does that ring a bell? That you (and your "knowing" environment) sees your highs (which relate to successes, or a new love, or whatever) as "hyper" or "manic"? That you and them can deal with grief (e.g., when some loved-ones die) only in categories of depression? I think *this* is the biggest curse of this illness: it takes away the coordinates that enables you to find common ground with other people.

Anonymous Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 8:09am

Oh Torston how truly true ! You have explained this
problem so succinctly...I believe this is one of main reasons I value having a BUDDY, and also for expressing my
feelings /ideas / hopes into the daily diary. ( the latter of which I
have been doing for three years.) I SHOULD SAY
I've still had bouts of LOW during these 3 years, but have been able to moniter myself.

Anonymous Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 8:28am

Thankyou for this blog. This has lifted me above my daily struggle. 16 years ago I knew my working life was over. 11 years ago I knew I would soon again relapse and that would be my final episode. Now I continue to work and love and am loved - and yet again this morning getting up to face the world was so hard. Choosing to keep going is hard. Well done us - and well done you for your keeping going too.

June Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 8:29am

Thank you Mary :-D

Anonymous Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 8:33am

Thank you!

minnie Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 8:45am

Reading this today has really helped. I have been recently diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and whilst on one hand I am relieved or the other I am still upset about Being given another label and diagnosis to fight against. My husband is relieved but I'm ashamed and my extended family are, as always in denial.

How do you come to terms with yet another label when it feels as though I have enough already?

Sometimes I think the mental health service is dangerous because once you get in the system over diagnosis of conditions can happen and this just served to exacerbate the person,s need for support rather that promoting independence and freedom from issues.

Exidia Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 9:30am

I do so agree with you, I resist as much as possible my "bi-polar" state, trying to accept the lows and rejoice in the highs, understanding that this roller-coaster existence is what makes me "me". Someone once told me that William Blake, the great poet/artist saw it as the lows were the price he paid for access to the angels. I wasn't convinced at the time, but as I get older, and grow into my creative side I'm beginning to understand.

rachel Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 10:06am

Thanks Mary I could relate to this blog and found it encouraging. This is my first time writing on this blog so here goes..

That I have a mental illness first came to my attention when my doctor told me i had depression this was a shock and a relief. Now after about seven years since that time i have a few more diagnosis's which were dysthymia, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety and these were still hard to fully accept but easier than the first time around.

In some ways they were comforting- ah yes there is a problem and this is why i find everyday life experiences and tasks harder it seems than other people, it externalizes the struggles from me. It gave me hope that maybe there was treatment and a way forward and I have learnt more about how they affect me and some ways of dealing with them.

On the other hand with all these labels I was concerned that in my own eyes and others eyes I'm now different/ they would assume things are a certain way for me when they are not.

I have not told a lot of people for this reason. I have told some close friends and some of my family. I have found it hard when my family or a close friend doesn't accept the diagnosis because I want them to understand my struggles and that it is real.

So I think overall i have found having diagnosis's helpful but have trouble communicating this with others or other accepting it.

Rosemary Berry Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 10:08am

Brilliant - and not bland. Not at all bland.

Anna Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 10:29am

Spot on! You've hit yhe nail on the head!

Anonymous Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 11:45am

Thank you. This was a thoughtful and thought provoking post. I found that having a diagnosis made it easier for me; it wasn’t about “pulling myself together” and getting on with things; I was (am?) genuinely ill and needed help. It also made it easier to tell other people, even if they didn’t like it!
Thanks and it’s good to know we aren’t fighting alone out here!

lizhill Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 12:15pm

It's great that you are not ashamed of your diagnosis Mary, and nor should you be. Wonderful post, I really enjoyed it.

Anonymous Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 12:30pm

I think we are all a 'little made' how else could we cope with this life?

Anonymous Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 12:59pm

Thank you for some interesting views this morning. Having been diagnosed/labelled bipolar at 14 (over 40 years ago) I am very aware of how objective assessments have effected my life. Key is just what Moodscope provides, an opportunity to assess and take responsibility for myself. I see bipolar problems not as moods so much as boundless energy (not to be taken advantage of by others) and relative exhaustion (to be repected as a time to recover).

Anonymous Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 7:34pm

Thank you Mary for yr words this morning - yes I made it out of bed too although I returned there later in the afternoon :) what we do is amazing given the difficulties we face. Well Done Us :))

Anonymous Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 8:15pm

Amazing posts. Well done!

Anonymous Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 9:36pm

Good blog

PS only posting anonymously as the other options are too much effort. Would it be possible for you to add a 'sign in via Twitter ot Facebook' option, pls?


Andy Liggins

Caroline Ashcroft Tue, Jun 11th 2013 @ 10:01pm

Good suggestion Andy. Leave it with us.

Anonymous Thu, Jun 13th 2013 @ 9:09am

Thanks so much for your post, my Dad had bi-polar and Im so proud of what he achieved, and how he managed to get through his complex life. Hr died 9 years ago, after having several strokes, but there's not a day that goes by without me thinking about him, and what he would have done in certain situations. It was a relief when he was diagnosed in his 50s, sadly my mum wasn't able to cope but he did :-)
THANK YOU for sharing your story x

Mary Blackhurst Hill Hill Thu, Jun 13th 2013 @ 9:52am

Thank you Torsten. I had not even been aware that diabetes was commonly used as a comparison - I niavely assumed I had come up with myself in a moment of inspiration. Yes, we do have to be careful to let everyone (who is aware of our diagnosis) know that we do have "natural" reactions of joy and grief. A very good friend GP friend of mine once told me that he has many patients who ask for antidepressants when what they really need is to go through the grieving process, and that antidepressants can sometimes hinder and prolong that process. We know that depression (and the mania that goes with bi-polar) is distinct from these normal feelings. It's a little easier for me as many people when they meet me assume that I'm in a manic phase because I'm cheerful and happy. So it's an instant "no - this is normal me. The manic bit is rather worse and not nearly as pleasant for you to cope with." I appreciate your comments.

Anonymous Thu, Jun 13th 2013 @ 1:41pm

I am 'bi-polar' and glad to see Mary tackling this side of things in the daily homilies. Going high and wild is a mixed blessing and has been enlightening in the past, but also distressing and frightening both for me and my family and friends. The moodscope measurements tell me to aspire to a high percentage but I feel happier to be measured in 'the middle ground'. My mood stabilizer, used for about six months so far, doesn't seem to quash my creativity or pleasure in life. And if it helps with depression I am all for it. I do agree that labelling can be limiting as well as liberating.

Anonymous Fri, Jun 14th 2013 @ 5:17pm

This post was amazing! I too was diagnosed with bipolar, very recently though, and know how it's a blessing and a curse. Usually at the same time, too. Taking a bunch of medicine was hard for me, but now I've fully accepted it and too want to advocate for mental health. I am working on getting a chapter of Active Minds at my university right now. I'm glad that I now have a reason for my behavior my whole life, and now I feel like it's cool to talk about it with my friends now. Thanks for sharing your story as I really enjoyed it.

Anonymous Fri, Jun 14th 2013 @ 6:26pm

I like when my mood is around 50%, too! That's the perfect score for me

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