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But you look alright... Sunday November 20, 2016

Isn't it fun experiencing a mental health difficulty? (Not.)

I'm bipolar, whatever that means, so I know what it feels like and I suspect you all do too.

I experience the low moods - in my case a lot of the time despite Moodscope/medications/psychotherapy/whatever else you want to try, and it's not a lot of fun...

I also experience episodes of elevated mood which at times CAN seem like fun but in reality aren't.

I know the statistics on the prognosis of people with a label of bipolar. I know for example that the suicide rate is higher than in the general population and that's really comforting to know (sorry about the sarcasm) and I know that the life expectancy is lower than in the general population, also a great fact to live with!

I know that all ill health conditions are challenging and often can have life changing consequences but I do feel mental health difficulties can be particularly challenging - I'm biased of course.

Part of the problem with dealing with the consequences of it all is other peoples' perceptions of mental health difficulties, after all, we usually "look alright".

This was brought home to me recently when my very supportive wife was sharing her perception with me that she felt I wasn't pulling my weight in the gardening department of our domestic division of labour issue. She was probably right, but I hate gardening and usually find any excuse to get out of it. Anyway the point is that she said that if I'd had had a stroke she would understand better. Hmmm, I had to think about that for a while. Anyway, I concluded that I didn't want to have a stroke to get out of my share of the gardening so I found some motivation from somewhere and have done a little... aren't leaves a pain at this time of year?

I'm lucky, I still have a wife and family. I'm vaguely aware of the statistics about the prevalence of singledom in people who experience mental health difficulties, but I don't want to think about that at the moment.

Hope you all can keep safe, one way or another.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Mary Wednesday Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 5:19am

Yes. Yes, exactly. I usually hate it when people offer advice (as if I haven't thought about everything already. The most recent piece of useless advice was to eat some good chocolate!!!) But one thing that has helped my husband understand is getting my Moodscope score every day. He now knows what "normal" looks like. When the figures head into the nineties he knows to watch out to make sure I don't do anything stupid (murdering our incredinly annoying children seemed like such a good idea at the time - oops) and when the score falls off a cliff into single figures he starts nagging me to rest. Before he had something concrete to go on, he did not understand and was therefore not that sympathetic.
Anyway - you probably do that anyway. Grandmothers and eggs and all that. Go well, Chris. Great Blog. Totally resonated with me. But then, you'd expect it to, wouldn't you?

Tracy Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 6:25am

Yes! I didn’t see your comment before I made my depressing comment. You’re so right that our daily scores help those closest to us see how we are in a fairly objective way. I just wish there was a similar method to express the messiness we feel to other people in our life. Thank you for pointing this out Mary! I hate when I stop noticing things right in front of my face like that. :)

Chris Tue, Nov 22nd 2016 @ 7:53am

Thanks for that...will consider this suggestion. ANything that will improve the quality of our relationship is worth a go. Chris.

Tracy Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 6:01am

Hi Chris, I really can relate to so much of what you wrote. I’ve been battling mental illnesses literally my whole life (I recently was diagnosed with autism; I’m 42). The depression and anxiety diagnoses in various forms have been with me since I was 12. Depression was corrected to bipolar when I was 20. I honestly never thought anything physical could rival the pain my mind can dish out, even though I’ve had migraines since I was a teen. But I was wrong. I’ve been disabled now for 12 years. The disability decision started out based on my bipolar disorder and the chaos it helped create, but 12 years later with an ME/CFS diagnosis and a fun gang of other mostly physical invisible illnesses, I’ve realized pain is pain no matter what … it just hurts and it's creative enough to hurt in endless ways, each equally difficult to express to others. There really is no objective way to help someone else fully understand how much pain we’re in, or for us to really understand their pain.

Invisible illnesses just suck; mental and physical, or if you wait long enough mental pain often becomes physical and vice versa. An objective measurement or test for our pain would really come in handy with the people who think our story of pain is suspect because we can’t show them our pain. It doesn’t matter to them if that pain is mental or physical. All that matters to them is that we can’t "prove" we hurt. Even some doctors fall prey to this thinking. It's exhausting to engage with other people on these terms.

I’m really sorry for rambling on. And I’m sorry that I have no helpful ideas to offer. But I hope that somehow you can find a way to help your wife "see" your pain. I hope that is in the future for all of us, because there is a lot of power and hope in being seen, being believed. Take care and thanks for listening to my ramble,

Chris Tue, Nov 22nd 2016 @ 7:56am

I enjoyed your ramble....

Mimine Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 8:15am

Very clear blog full of insight, Chris. Dare I suggest, if you can afford it, helping your wife in the garden by finding someone who would help a little there every week, if the load is overwhelming for her? Ignore my comment if not appropriate!

the room above the garage Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 9:06am

Hello Chris, thanks for the blog. I'm one of those singles but I do have three children so I'm not alone and they probably save me in their need of me. If I don't get up and show up who will teach them? I agree with you, I find it incredibly hard when people do not see how challenging the everyday stuff is with a mental illness. But then...I generally don't tell people so it's a catch 22. I'm not ashamed of it anymore, I just can't face any more of the misunderstanding about it. People seem to be able to imagine what it would be like to go through their day with a broken leg but not a broken mind. I pay a student who cuts grass and keeps the basics tidy...I like to embrace nature with the leaves and let them stay as they lay!! I'd sweep if it was clogging a drain, otherwise I find this a proactive and healthy mulch (avoidance) technique!!! :-) love ratg x.

Chris Tue, Nov 22nd 2016 @ 8:14am

We have a 3 hrs a week gardener so could get him to do more...or I could do more. I think the latter would help my relationship it's leaf sucking on the agenda this morning..

Jul Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 9:29am

First of all Chris, I really loved your blog. It made me smile and even chuckle, the way you write. You remind me of Eyeore in Winnie the Pooh. When I'm down, I am sarcastic and Eyeorish. On a more serious note, when I was suffering at work, those with a physical medical condition received much more sympathy that I did. People thought I was malingering. I think the publics' perception of mental health is slowly changing but those who have never experienced depression quite often think they know what the best course of action is for us whereas so much has been written about life threatening strokes and cancer, heart disease, that the public are in awe of the terrible illness that has befallen their friends, colleagues etc. and think they are so brave (which they are of course but so are we) Jul xx

Sally Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 10:16am

I have to agree, Jul. It sort of makes recovery worse knowing that you have to underplay what you are experiencing to save people's sensibilities. And they might not understand either . Winnie the Pooh and Eyeore are just great....lots of psychology / insight from A.A. Milne there! And fun too!

Chris Tue, Nov 22nd 2016 @ 8:17am

Hi....funnily enough my wife's calling name is we're now eeyore and roo....thanks for that

Sally Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 10:00am

Hi Chris,
I too loved your post.
Strange though it may seem, I have never even thought of showing my Moodscope chart to my husband, so a big thank you for that idea. I am a very private person in many ways, particularly where my emotions are concerned. It may have been a lesson learned early in life that you smile, put up and shut up.
I did all of that until one day, I "burst " and had a breakdown. It took me a long time to 'recover', many years of being further depressed, until in my mid forties I reluctantly saw a counsellor and everything was unravelled.
I still get bipolar- type episodes, but the medication I take, and understanding what is happening, and the Moodscope blogs and chart help immeasurably so that I would advise everybody to write a comment on the test page every time they do their test, as this is often revelatory in hindsight! Having reread some of the "comments I wrote, I have difficulty recognising some of what I wrote! Maybe in answer to the Who Am I question posed by a Moodscope blogger a couple of days ago, I am many different people!! ( and I am happy with that on the whole!)
Many thanks, Chris, for a thought -provoking blog ...and I enjoyed your ironic style. Great stuff . :-)

Leah Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 10:38am

thanks Chris
What a great blog I can relate to so much.
I have had people say to me over the last 40 yearsof being diagnosed with bipolar, you are too young to be depressed, you cant be sick you look so well, what have you got to be tired about you have done nothing etc etc.
I dont tell people when I feel tired and why I am tired as they dont get it so I just let them believe I am lazy- which i am not.
Thanks again for starting this discussion.

The Gardener Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 11:53am

Dear Christ - the real fundemental problem with depression - break your leg and people can write rude things on the plaster. If you are out in publicearly training and pride won't let you droop around complaining - so, as you say 'well, you look alright'. I find the voice is the most reliable symptom of depression - and only people really sensitive to sound recognise it. I wheel-chaired Mr G to church - just dug out my winter clothes, include a delectable mediaeval type beret - was admired for looking smart. It helps - self esteem very low. Sermon was good - my own philosophy, don't waste your talents. Psalm 23, the 'comforting' psalm (once I recognised it in French, and not, oc course, sung to 'Crimond') and our best organist was letting fly with some glorious Buxtehude. I am struggling with back-ache - almost have to wheelbarrow Mr G everywhere - lack of sleep, pain and being woken up - scary storm - check on property - and Mr G's complaint has driven him to be severely depressed - lasted for years - medication has no effect. I have written three achievable things for the day - forgotten to add 'have a rest' or exhaustion will turn to hysterice. And Chris, you might not like gardening - but you seem quite keen on keeping your wife - and if you have the storm you really will have some work to do.

Chris Tue, Nov 22nd 2016 @ 8:19am

Thanks for that.

Caroline Ashcroft Moodscope Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 3:03pm

Hi all, We welcome Hopeful One's efforts to cheer us up each day with a joke to lift our spirits. However today I have decided to remove his joke and the comments as it clearly will upset and cause offence to some people. " Caroline, The Moodscope Team.

The Gardener Sun, Nov 20th 2016 @ 5:42pm

Just glancing through posts - made a glorious typo addressing you Chris!!

the room above the garage Mon, Nov 21st 2016 @ 6:23am

Brilliant!!! :-D

Mary Wednesday Mon, Nov 21st 2016 @ 12:01pm

Love it! Especially on a Sunday!

Chris Tue, Nov 22nd 2016 @ 8:22am

Thanks again, for all your comments, very helpful...
Kind regards,
Chris...alias Christ...alias Eeyore...

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