When we lose touch with the World because of mental illness, we also lose the continuity of all the things that are important.
According to a World Health Organization report, bipolar disorder is ranked sixth in the top 10 causes of disability worldwide in the 15 to 44 year age group. It is estimated that a person with bipolar disorder will lose an average of 9.2 years in their lifetime due to illness or premature death – not the happiest of news!
During the periods in remission, we try to rebuild the life and relationships that have been placed on hold or have been damaged, often beyond repair. Accepting these changes can be difficult and have psychological issues of their own, but moving forward rather than looking back with anger and regret is the healthier option.
Although I usually don’t like to generalise, on this occasion I will….. People with mental health problems often have the biggest hearts, are more empathic with others, and care about the World and the people that inhabit this planet. If it’s a side-effect then it’s a good one, and if it’s a result of their experiences of mental illness then everyone should experience it for a day – although I wouldn’t wish mental distress on my worst enemy.
The Mental Health Foundation has produced a booklet on the benefits of help others for people with mental health problems. Called ‘Doing Good Does You Good‘ the guide says that helping others can have a positive effect on our mental health.
What is altruism? What do we mean by the word altruism? In short, altruism is when we put other people’s needs before our own, whether it’s offering your seat to a pregnant woman on a bus or making a cup of tea for a work colleague.
Altruism is as natural as anxiety, built into us and other animals to protect our young or to run away from lions and tigers! But where anxiety is increasing in society, altruistic behaviour has become less fashionable.
I have always tried to help family and friends with their problems, and taken time to listen to their problems and research possible solution. I enjoy seeing other people happy and have never offered help with the expectation of getting something back – or at least that’s what I thought until people didn’t reach my expectations of helping me during a difficult episode. Today I am trying to accept that we all have limitations, and today mine include the inability to give so much of my time for other people’s problem. I have to make sure that I am healthy first.
Currently I am volunteering my time to help my local mental health and dementia groups, and luckily the people that I’m working with have an understanding of my sometime’s unusual behaviour, and that I can’t fully commit to a consistent working pattern. Although I am doing something to help other’s in my community, I can’t call it altruistic because I’m helping a community that has and continues to help me. Plus as the booklet says, it feels good to help others – so volunteering is basically free therapy. Just don’t tell anybody!
For those people who are struggling to keep in contact and maintain a relationship with a person with mental health problems, remember that these people are struggling too and that their friendship was once an important part of your life. They are worth holding on to, if you can cope with the changes in their life.
The continuity of life can and does include changes, and sometimes these changes can lead to positive things – for us and for other people.
By the way, sorry for the gap in my regular blogging. I hope you’ll continue to read even with the gap that are sure to reappear in the future 🙂