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Saturday, April 27, 2013

The story from a woman in recovery from bipolar disorder

This article, written by Linda Logan, will be in tomorrow morning's Sunday Magazine section of the New York Times.  This is one of the best first-person narratives I have read about the long road of recovering from bipolar disorder.  The good news is that those suffering from this disease can re-assemble their lives.  The bad news is that the life assembled via recovery is not the same life that was taken by the disorder.  The desire to "get back to where I was before I got sick" is a huge source of grief and frustration to folks with mental illness.

And here is a quote from another mentally ill person struggling with recovery:

"If the truth be known, I fear that I may be abandoned by my family.  I offer my family the same opportunity to accept and love me as I am, rather than seeing me as a blasted hope, whose life has suffered a sad and irreversible loss.  But it is hard to know if that will happen."

It is hard for a person with a mental disorder to accept and recover from their situation.  And even if they succeed, they may lose their family and friends anyway.

By the way, all of this effort to recover must be strong enough to overcome the continuing widespread social stigma and revulsion that "mentally healthy" people direct at people with mental disorders. And let's not forget that only the very rich and the very poor have full access to mental heath care.  Perhaps that will change someday, but that day seems quite a ways off.  And Medicaid cuts brought about by state budget issues will make care less available to poor people.

On any given day, 240,000 people with mental illness are homeless and another 283,000 are in jail receiving little or no treatment for their disorder. In the U.S., Canada and Western Europe, mental illness accounts for 25% of all disability.  By comparison, heart disease and cancer account for 5% and 3% respectively.

This is an epidemic that people don't talk about or think about.  And when many people recognize mental illness in a person they see on the street, they avert their eyes or cross the street and avoid that individual.

This is a bias that is still perfectly acceptable in our culture.

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