Author Archives: Howisbradley

Blog for Mental Health 2013

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.blogformentalhealth20131

When I first started blogging back in 2008, I was part of a small, but supportive, group of bloggers sharing our successes’ and our struggles that come with living with mental illness.  This past January, when I came back to blogging full time, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the number of Mental Health bloggers had grown tremendously.  Happily I stumbled across A Canvas Of The Minds and the Blog for Mental Health Project which is an excellent way to locate a variety of mental health bloggers. Each sharing their own experiences.

I always considered myself a weird kid (I’m sure many others thought so as well.) For many years I was diagnosed with depression, but something about that diagnosis just didn’t feel right. Over time my behavior became more erratic and reached the point where my life was completely falling apart and I didn’t know what to do. I sought help from the Los Angeles County Mental Health Department. Being underfunded and overloaded, I was turned away several times. I was terrified and began to wonder what was the point of staying around in this world any longer.

I don’t know where I got the perseverance to keep trying, but I did, and was finally accepted as a client. It was not a moment too soon because my life was a shambles and I believed I was going completely insane. It was through the county system that I was, finally, accurately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It was a pleasant surprise to find that I was just crazy, not insane.

It took several years to find the right medication cocktail I needed to get my life in order. I wish I could say I am cured, but I am not. I have, however, reached the point that most of the time I am able to be a productive member of society. My life is a country song played backwards.

I returned to writing regularly on my blog to share those times that I still struggle with mania and depression. In addition, I hope my story will show many that life can get better. I consider my painful journey a success today and with that I hope to inspire others.

Thank you, Ruby Tuesday of Canvas of the Mind for the opportunity to be a part of this growing network. If you are a mental health blogger and would like to be a part of this special project I highly recommend you take a look at Blog For Mental Health 2013 to see how you can qualify.

Looking for other mental health bloggers? Here’s an excellent list. It’s the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Official Blogroll. I’m sure you’ll find something on that list that speaks to you and help you feel you are not alone on this wild ride we call mental illness.

Fun Friday: Dog Wants a Kitty



Impending Doom

doom

I worry. I fret, I fear, I agonize, I stress, and I get anxious. For the last several days, however, I’ve been dealing with something I’ve never felt before – impending doom. I don’t know where’s it’s coming from. I don’t know why I’m feeling it. But it’s there, looming over me ready to strike.

I have a lot going on these days. I’ve overloaded myself by taking on too much at church. I have finals coming up in 1 1/2 weeks. I’m trying to determine when I’ll be able to visit my daughter this summer. Even worse, I don’t know how I’ll pay for the trip. I’m fretting over what classes to take coming up in the Fall semester.

My list goes on. All of these things are creating a lot of anxiety in my life right now. I don’t like to feel so anxious, but I’m use to it. This impending doom feeling is not something I’m use to.

I don’t believe in psychic ability, so you’d think I could shrug it off, but I can’t. What I’m feeling feels real. It’s up there looking down on me and it’s going to turn my world into a living hell.

There’s not much I can do about this feeling I’m feeling. The only thing I know I can do is hunker down and wait for whatever it is to happen. Logically, I know all will remain right with the world and this feeling of doom will pass. I don’t know when, but I’ll be damn grateful when it finally does.

When You Get Worse, Part II

The end of my blog post yesterday left me hanging by a thread trying desperately to find help for what I then thought was depression. I was reaching the point that I couldn’t stand it anymore, but every county mental health clinic I went to for help turned me away because they were backlogged. All I wanted was for someone to care enough to help me get my life back. I was going through a period of depression that was much worse and different than I experienced before. I didn’t understand at the time what was happening, I just knew that I was falling apart. It regularly felt like my brain was like cauliflower and someone was reaching in and ripping it to pieces.

I progressively got worse. I became agoraphobic and would not leave the apartment, especially if there was anyone outside in the courtyard. I couldn’t go to the supermarket because all the sounds (people talking, registers ringing, carts moving, checkers paging) were hitting me all at the same time and it was horrifying.

I tried everything I could think of to get help, but there was nothing left I could do. I ran out of ideas. At this point suicide was whirling in my brain on a regular basis. Then, one day, Melissa, a good friend of ours, offered an idea. It sounded a bit crazy, but at that point it seemed like my best option. We rushed to the emergency room at a county hospital and told them I was going to kill myself. Plain and simple – if they didn’t check me in I would be dead very soon. It didn’t work at the clinics, so I wasn’t real hopeful that it was going to work at the hospital. I was wrong.

After telling the admissions people I was going to kill myself, I was taken directly to the psych ward, stripped of my clothing, and handed a hospital gown to wear. I looked at the terrible rooms that people were assigned to. I was envious. I couldn’t wait until I was formally checked in so that I would have a room. I thought that it may be ugly and it may be loud here in the psych ward, but I was looking forward to it. Just let me curl up in my cell and not have to worry about anything. I was handed a blanket, but I wasn’t assigned a room yet, so I curled up on a bench and tried to sleep the best I could. It wouldn’t take long. I knew they’d come get me soon and put me in one of the small individual rooms.

I fell asleep so I have no idea how long I had been there, but it felt like several hours. A doctor woke me up and sat down to speak with me. She told me she had been talking with Maurice and Melissa. I was excited that she was finally going to get me the help I needed. I was wrong. She told me she was sending me home. After talking with them she decided I had a strong enough support group that it was safe for me to go home. That was when I snapped.

For the first time I didn’t ask for help. I DEMANDED it. I refused to take no for an answer and I told her I was not going anywhere. She was in shock. I told her how badly I needed help and I wasn’t leaving until they helped me. All I asked for was a place for me to go the next day and get the help I needed. I needed a guarantee. She walked away.

Finally after a grueling amount of time she came back with a piece of paper with a phone number on it. She assured me that if I called that number in the morning that I would get the help I needed. She was going to make sure of that. I was skeptical. How would I know if I would get in? Should I demand to stay until an appointment had already been made? I took a leap of faith and left the hospital.

The next day I called the number and voila I had an appointment. Not with an admissions person who would turn me away again. This time I was given an appointment with a real, honest to God, doctor. I was ecstatic. It was at this clinic that I was finally, and accurately, diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. After many years I finally manipulated the system enough that I got in. It took far too long than it should have, but it finally happened. I now have a psychiatrist who I see every month and I see a psychologist twice each month.

Think of the many, many others out there who never get the big break I did. Those who don’t have the energy to persevere. Think of those who have fallen through the cracks. Think of the 1 in 5 people who are bipolar and successfully commit suicide. I think of them all nearly every day.

When You Get Worse

Once upon a time I was a young(er) lad who was having struggles getting help from the Los Angeles County mental health department. I was dealing with acute bouts of major depression, but, I was turned down again and again and again. Each of the clinics told me they were working with more clients than they could handle and they weren’t taking any more. I spiraled out of control and wound up sleeping in the streets for a while.

I felt defeated until finally there was a break through. I was able to check myself into the psychiatric ward at Cedars Sinai Hospital. They kept me for 10 days. They expected to release me after seven days but had to keep me for an extra three because they couldn’t find a county clinic that had room to accept me as a client. Finally, to my doctor’s relief, he was able to get me assigned to a clinic that was only a three hour bus ride from my home. That’s right, a three hour bus trip to the outer edge of the city to get there, then sitting in the waiting room for at least an hour, about a half an hour with an intern and then another three hour bus trip home. A seven in a half hour day. The process of receiving therapy from the intern was disheartening. She literally had a booklet that would tell her what questions to ask me. When I would respond she would then turn to the appropriate page to ask me the next question. Apparently my responses took me to the right pages because the sessions would end with me finally getting a prescription for anti-depressants.

This went on for about three months. I tried numerous times to get into the clinic in Hollywood because I could walk to it, but they always turned me away. They are the busiest mental health clinic in the county, so I couldn’t get in. Finally I just stopped going on my long bus excursions. I don’t recall it being any kind of conscience decision. I just stopped.

I was able to function as a productive member of society for a good number of years after that when suddenly things began to fall apart again. This time I could tell was going to be different than my previous bouts of depression. This time was going to be much worse…and it was. I lost my job, I began having seizures and became agoraphobic. I lived in an entirely different area of the county and had no idea where to go or what to do. I called the county mental health line and asked where I could seek help. The clerk on the other end of the line told me where to go and then warned me to “keep in mind that the county clinics are struggling for funding so the primary function of those who work in admissions is to not admit you.” This was not what I wanted to hear. I was going to have to jump through hoops all over again. He then proceeded with this advice, “when you get there you need to make it look like you really, really need the help. They have to believe that you are likely going to kill yourself, if you don’t get in.” In fact, he continued “it would be best for you to put on a really good show and flat out tell them emphatically that you are going to kill yourself. If they don’t believe it, you are not going to get in.”

Apparently I am not a master thespian because I didn’t make the cut. They refused to admit me “because [I was] too high functioning.” I didn’t feel like I was high functioning. Then the saddest thing anyone has ever said to me was “when you get worse, come back and we’ll see if we can get you in then.” WHAT??? He really said “WHEN” not “IF”, but “WHEN.” Once again, “when you get worse…” Clearly preventive care was a very low priority. Perhaps, not even part of the program.

What happened after that? Was I able to get the help I needed? If so, how was I able to get the help? The answers to this question and many more will be posted in Part two of “When You Get Worse.” See you tomorrow.

Fun Friday: Evolution of Dance

Here’s another one that went viral, but that seems like a long time ago so I decided to bring it back. This is one very talented guy.



Wednesdays Quote: Marya Hornbacher

“Soon madness has worn you down. It’s easier to do what it says than argue. In this way, it takes over your mind. You no longer know where it ends and you begin. You believe anything it says. You do what it tells you, no matter how extreme or absurd. If it says you’re worthless, you agree. You plead for it to stop. You promise to behave. You are on your knees before it, and it laughs.”
― Marya Hornbacher, Madness: A Bipolar Life

Some of my Heroes

In February, Carrie Fisher, of Star Wars fame, acted erratically while performing on stage during a cruise, which included her belting out songs off key, and having to clean up after her dogs who pooped on stage. Carrie was not drunk as some believed. She had to see her doctor and have her meds adjusted. Carrie has been up front and honest about living with bipolar disorder and even wrote a couple of books about it.

Carrie Fisher is one of my heroes.

A few weeks ago, Catherine Zeta-Jones checked herself into a health care facility to better manager her medication for her bipolar disorder. Catherine has been open about having bipolar disorder, hoping it would diminish the stigma associated with it.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is one of my heroes.

In 2004 Jane Pauley released an autobiography, in which, she openly discusses being diagnosed with bipolar.

Jane Pauley is one of my heroes.

Other heroes I admire are Jean-Claude Van Damme, Linda Hamilton, Sinéad O’Connor, Mariette Hartley, Sting, Patty Duke, and more.

None of these individuals are my heroes because they are celebrities. None of them are my heroes because they are celebrities who have bipolar disorder. I consider these folks heroes because they are celebrities, who have bipolar disorder, and have been open and honest publically about it. Coming out of the mental illness closet can be a huge inspiration for many out there living with bipolar disorder. It also comes with a huge variety of risks. Each of the individuals above took that risk in industries that are all about the publics perception.

Coming out of the closet as a gay man was extremely difficult. I knew it was going to change my life forever, either good or bad. The same thing can be said regarding my coming out as being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Mental illness is a scary thing. It’s scary for the individual with the disorder, and it’s scary for the general public, most of whom have no idea what it is like living with bipolar, chronic depression, schizophrenia, etc.

My entire purpose for starting this blog 5 years ago was to educate and to let others know they are not alone. In most respects I believe I have been successful. I continue this blog with those same goals today. I look at the names above and am happy I don’t stand alone with that goal.

Fun Friday: Carolyn Scott & Rookie



Wednesdays Qoute: Kay Redfield Jamison

“Others imply that they know what it is like to be depressed because they have gone through a divorce, lost a job, or broken up with someone. But these experiences carry with them feelings. Depression, instead, is flat, hollow, and unendurable. It is also tiresome. People cannot abide being around you when you are depressed. They might think that they ought to, and they might even try, but you know and they know that you are tedious beyond belief: you are irritable and paranoid and humorless and lifeless and critical and demanding and no reassurance is ever enough. You’re frightened, and you’re frightening, and you’re “not at all like yourself but will be soon,” but you know you won’t.”
-Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness