This blog is written to provide encouragement to those struggling with life to have hope, joy and fulfillment. I try very hard, however, to accurately portray life as we live it and to set reasonable expectations. We live in the storms of life so I’m not going to tell you I can give you the sun. The feelings of hopelessness and loss we experience colors our world. For us, finding joy involves changing our mindset rather than changing our circumstances.
One of my friends, who suffers from bipolar disorder, challenged me to write about the anger we feel having a mental illness. I want to stick with my mission and remind us all that we can’t give in to the anger, we can’t express the anger in unhealthy ways but the anger is a real and present part of our lives.
Why are we angry? We’re angry because we’ve been betrayed by our mind. A husband who betrays the sanctity of marriage faces the wrath of his spouse and legitimately so. He was trusted and loved. He was relied upon to provide safety and security. He was supposed to be a source of joy but instead became a source of pain. That is betrayal. For those with mental illness we have been betrayed by our minds. We have been betrayed by our source of self. We can no longer trust ourselves. We are no longer safe in our own bodies. We hate the mind that cannot be relied upon and like a wayward spouse it feels like it shouldn’t have to be that way.
No one ever said life would be fair but we still want it to be and suffering with mental illness is not fair. It afflicts loving people and hateful people. It affects the young and the old. We like to stereotype those with mental illness as criminals but we’re not. We’re moms and coaches, employees and managers, we just keep our illness to ourselves. We didn’t do something to “deserve” mental illness.
We want more
Like an addict with a craving we want more out of life. We don’t want the limitations placed on us. We want the success that feels just beyond our reach. We want the happiness that eludes and while I preach joy I still want the simple happiness that I see others experiencing.
We’re angry at the treatments
Whether it’s a handful of pills multiple times a day, a diet that must be followed rigidly, or an alternative treatment that other people don’t understand we don’t want to have to do it. We don’t want to watch or measure. We don’t want to be chained to a pill box. As my friend says, we don’t want the continuous reminder that we “battle an irreversible disease”. We don’t want to constantly evaluate our mood to see if the treatments are working or not working. We don’t want the doctor appointments and medical bills.
We’re angry at our reliance on others
Full independence is hard with a mental illness. There are doctors and counselors to treat the illness. There are family and friends needed for a support system. There are those that help us, watch us, monitor us. We appreciate those in our lives who fill these roles but we're angry that we need them. We're angry we can't stand our own. We want to be the caretaker. We want to be the support system.
Having a mental illness sucks!
It’s miserable, rotten, horrible, draining, embarrassing, humiliating and bottom line: SUCKS!
So when you wonder why we’re angry and frustrated. That’s why. I can’t even claim to have captured it all. This is just a glimpse into our experience but I don’t say all this to create fear, merely understanding. Because while the occasional betrayed spouse acts in destructive ways, most move on, find ways to cope, and experience joy. They put the anger behind them. I wish I could leave my brain behind me and get a new kinder, healthier one but that’s where the analogy ends. But those of us with mental illness are strong. We'll find a way to cope and find joy. We’ll find a way to overcome the anger.