I’ve No Magic Wand

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Recently I read an article called “I Watched My Sister’s Life Unravel from A Distance” by Mark Mehler. Mark spoke about his sister’s lifelong dependence on methadone as an alternative to a heroin habit. It struck a chord with me. What’s this got to do with bipolar disorder I hear you ask?

I admit to level of discomfort when it comes to watching family members, close and those more distant, struggle with their mental health challenges. I’ve lived with depression for over 20 years and more recently I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (type II). With this new diagnosis I decided it was time to speak openly and comfortably about my bipolar diagnosis.

As a result of my most recent diagnosis I decided to tell anyone who’d listen I lived with bipolar. I wanted to make a difference in the way mind health was talked about everywhere. I signed up to be a Black Dog Institute Community Presenter. I flew two states away so I could participate in their next training session.

Up next, with some amazing support and encouragement from two women - who were at the time complete strangers – I showed the large body of art work I created while I was lying on the floor with the black dog on my back through four exhibitions. As I was doing artist floor talks at a well-known regional gallery I got talking to a woman who hosted a local regional radio program. After a guest appearance on her program she recommended that I start my own program on mind health matters. I pitched the idea to the station on the spot and started my radio program ‘But I Feel Good’ …talking about pink elephants and black dogs a couple of weeks later. Yes, I jumped into this disclosure stuff boots and all.

There remained one more piece to add to the outcomes of my willingness to disclose my bipolar status openly and comfortably. I wrote a book which was picked up by a European Publishing House. Called Disclosure: casting out the shadows plus strategies for mind health resilience. I bared my soul and shared my knowledge and experiences on how I have lived my life as resiliently as possible. And so to the crux of this story.

When people shared their stories, I listened. When asked questions, I would share my experience. When resolution of their concerns was expected, I drew a line.

This gets far more messy, complex, complicated and difficult when the person asking for, or expecting, that help is a family member. Having ‘been there and done that’ it seems others believe it is my duty, obligation and responsibility to step into the breach. More than anything I wish for an easing of the inherent suffering of carers and those living with bipolar and any other mental illness. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all better for them and for me. But there is no magic wand. There is trial and error. There is Google. There is the Yellow Pages. There are books to read. There are people who speak about their lived experience that you can to listen. There are psychiatrists and psychologists.

However, like in so many areas of life; the mental health practitioner, the surgeon, the social worker, the people with a mental illness are not the people whom I believe family members should ask or expect to resolve their issues. They can point you in a possible direction… but even that path is scattered with land mines of blame and responsibility when ‘the suggested fix’ doesn’t work. Particularly when it comes to mental health. I strongly believe for the mind health of all involved that in the case of mental illness it is more effective for family members follow a path to an outside source of support.

Understand that I and the royal ‘we’ of those living with mental illness don’t keep our distance cos ‘we’ don’t care, ‘we’ do. I know all too well what it’s like. I keep my distance to ensure I maintain a path free of triggers that can all too easily blow my own ‘in order’ status apart.

If you’d like Jacqui to speak at your conference or to your organisation please contact her via the details below.

Because your Mind Health Matters…