Out of the Mental Illness Closet

at 10:43 PM

I have bipolar type I disorder, and I am not ashamed to say it.

I am frequently shocked at how ignorant the general population is when it comes to mental health issues. Someone once told me that I should be able to talk my way out of being bipolar. I suppose I could cure cancer by kissing the Blarney Stone.

Bipolar is like baseball; it's a game of constant adjustments, but of meds and of behavior. Instead of nine innings, there are n innings. And there is failure. People can look at me and fail to notice that anything is amiss. I go to the shops, I go to the gym, I play softball - sort of. But they do notice the light-speed temper that gave me the nickname of Hotspur.

I have difficulty sitting still, and I can rarely concentrate long enough to read an entire news article. I have given up trying to read books for the time being. In the past I was more functional. I have a degree in classical literature from NYU, a degree in astrophysics from Columbia, and a Masters from Columbia in - whatever.

And now I struggle to read the latest adventures of Spider-Man.

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To Hell with the stigma of mental illness! In the words of John Lennon, I am "crippled inside," and to hide that fact is to do me harm. It's not for me to be ashamed for being mentally ill. It's for you to be ashamed if you pass on the street someone made homeless by mental illness and do not feel outrage at the collective failure.

One of my failures was to forget to take my lithium; I slipped into an acute manic state.
Imagine reliving your worst nightmare, and at the same time you are reliving every other nightmare you've ever had, but you are awake the whole time, and it will not stop. That's how I experience bedlam.

When the police came for me, I tried to trade a Starfleet insignia for one of their badges. I was not cuffed. If you can navigate through the tempest of an infinity of nightmares -- and still retain a sense of humor -- then we have something in common.

With a Perspective, I am Nicholas O'Mahony.

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Nicholas O'Mahony is a former teacher and sometime poet who lives in San Rafael.

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