Tuesday, June 5, 2012

“Oh No, I’ve Just Been Diagnosed With a Mental Illness…”

By Yashi Brown
Yashi Brown/Courtesy of the artist

These were my first thoughts when I was discharged from UCLA and Harris Methodist hospital in 2002 and again in 2007.

I can remember like it was yesterday. Right after our art therapy class, when the nurses met with us one by one, I was shown my diagnosis. The reason it happened to me twice is because once I got stable footing after the initial episode in 2002 I came to the conclusion the medical system was completely unreliable and inaccurate in their “opinion” of my mental state and therefore I disregarded any “illness” they claimed I had.

Then in 2007 after another severe manic episode I was diagnosed severe bipolar disorder type 1 the “Oh no, I have a mental illness” dialogue reared its head again in my head.

Very often I like to poke and prod on this topic of self-imposed stigma when advocating because most of us either living with a diagnosed mental illness or those with a close family member have experienced it—or are still struggling in this area. Education and awareness take away the mystery and reduce the fear. We talk about society and “stigma” but I’m a firm believer that the first place to begin applying the anti-stigma campaign is with ourselves. There are plenty of avenues to help us reduce the crippling stigma we may be imposing on ourselves. So that we can enjoy the lives we were truly meant to live.

Today we have several magazine publications, books, Internet sites and individuals speaking out about recovery and maintenance in every area of mental health. 

There are also some amazing authors, self-help books and daily positive affirmations to help us reprogram whatever negativity is going on in our heads.

I’m really big on my “quiet time.” For me this is an everyday morning ritual which sets the pace for the rest of my day and hones those tough areas where my emotional challenges are still very sensitive. Hey, I’m nowhere out of the woods, I’m just now in harmony with them which is why I really love those “60 days,” “90 days” or “365 days” of affirmations, enlightenment, devotions or whatever you want to call them.

The bottom line is they’re a wonderful guide for maintaining focus and mental health. Each morning there’s something new to keep me focused on feeling good and boy do I look forward to it. 

Also, included during this time is a moment of reflection; prayer; meditation. We may all call it different things but the essence is to allow your subconscious to have its way with those positive thoughts you’ve just planted there.

Once we free ourselves from the bondage of thinking we are our diagnosis and are defined by it—versus something we treat and maintain daily in recovery—then what’s around us will soon shift and reflect our newly defined thoughts and aspirations.

Some books I love: 


Ninety Days of Devotions by Joel Osteen


 
Yashi Brown is the author of Black Daisy in a White Limousine: 77 Poems. She will be the opening speaker at the “Celebrating NAMI and the Arts” event on Thursday, June 28 during NAMI’s National Convention in Seattle. The convention theme is “Wellness, Resiliency and Recovery.”

2 comments:

Bob Lundin said...

You're very wise for your years. See you in Seattle.

crazygirl said...

Too bad I missed the conference and your talk. I also talk about stigma especially among people of color and how it impacts getting treatment and staying healthy.

I agree with you that destigmatization starts with us.