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Life-saving mental health services face threat of closure

Bipolar UK was the first organisation that I approached for help when I was first diagnosis with bipolar disorder NOS, and their help and support was invaluable. They provided free printed information, free telephone support, free user-lead support groups, and a very important forum space for people directly or indirectly affected with bipolar disorder. These services are now under threat.

In the current financial climate their income has dropped.

They’ve already had to make cuts to their essential services, but they refuse to become hostage to the recession and are fighting not to compromise any further.

In recent years Bipolar UK has invested a great deal of time and money into expanding our peer support, information and advice to meet demand. We are working as productively as we can, making each pound stretch as far as possible.

However a phone call from a distressed individual or family member takes time, resources and compassion to answer.

Telephone and email requests for information and support are currently rising by 35% per year and yet this is one of the services currently under threat.

This combination of lower income and unprecedented demand for their support is simply not sustainable. They are asking you to make a donation, however small, to help them through this ugly financial period and come out the other side as strong as before.

Help save their life-changing services – make a donation today

Donate online
Visit www.bipolaruk.org.uk/donate

Donate by phone
Call us on 020 7931 6480

Donate by text
Text ‘BIPO33 £3’ to 70070 to give £3 today
(or change £3 to any amount you wish to donate)

I’ve made a small donation today and would ask you to do the same. Every pound truly makes a difference.

Thank-you

Supporting my mum with bipolar: just a fine-tuned normal day

I was surprised at the negative press and general online comments that Jodie Foster received after her ‘I’m single’ speech at the Golden Globe this week. Do people no longer have the right to privacy when discussing their sexuality? Is this especially true for celebrities?

This was a speech by a 50 year old women with a tonge-in-cheek reference to rumours surrounding her sexuality but more importantly it was about privacy. She referred to the children she has with her ex-partner Cydney Bernard and spoke with genuine love for her.

“… my heroic co-parent, my ex-partner in love…. – I am so proud of our modern family”

She also spoke about having come out to family and friends a thousand years ago and that she is a private – and boring – person.

She didn’t mention the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, or any other label that people may choose to place upon her, and she didn’t make a speech supporting the great work of the charity Stonewall. But neither did she speak about supporting the great work of the charities dedicated to mental health and dementia, which her mother suffers.

“Mom, I know you are inside those blue eyes somewhere”

What she did was to speak openly and honestly about parts of her private life to the world but mostly to direct all of the sentiment to the people she loves – and I found that inspirational.

So back to my question…. Does coming out need to be a fan fair?

I watch a video yesterday by a young teenage boy called Harry Hitchens, who appeared on The Young Apprentice, called ‘I’m Gay’. This was a coming out to the world video and was performed in a very positive and informative way, and I won’t take anything away from this brave young role model. Harry is trying to question public attitudes, and in his latest video questions assumptions about where people live. He also lost 108 Twitter followers as a result of coming out, so please add your support by following him on Twitter and sharing his video.

George Clooney is a vocal support of equality, yet has chosen to stay quiet about his sexuality, stating that he doesn’t give a shit if people think he is gay or straight, and I think that Jodie Foster was in some way saying the same thing. Yet I seem to be in a minority as this article in New Statesmen summarises.

My point is that sometimes changing attitudes doesn’t have to involve in your face actions, demands, and unwavered support for the cause, but can sometimes start with changing the attitudes of the people closest to you and then the rest of the world, one person at a time.

The first openly gay American politician Harvey Milk said….

“Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better”

…. but he didn’t say how to do it.

I was ashamed of my mental health issues but Tea and Talk changed my life

Shell’s grounded oil rig in Alaska and their plans to avoid paying taxes; Climate change and Britain’s second wettest year on record; The official extinction of the Javan Rhino in Vietnam; – in the first few days of January there were already a number of significant events to discuss and I was sure that the environment would take centre stage for my first ‘editorial/feature‘ on the new blog. However, I found myself reading – via the Twitter feed that I’d become addicted too – first one blog on the Time to Change website about Dave’s experiences of depression and the support by four of his friends, then another blog by Tim speaking about the great support from his best friend, then finally a review of the most popular blog of 2012 on Ruby Wax’s The Black Tribe by guest blogger Andrew. This piece was also about relationships with people who have mental illnesses, included the difficulties of the people trying to offer support – please read it.

All three blogs were basically about the same subject, although took different angles, and the retweeting and replies by others this week showed how important and sensitive the subject of relationships and mental illness is to the mental health community. I assumed that most replies were from people with personal experience of mental illness as I found myself connecting with most of the messages – and then found myself feeling uncomfortable about my own experiences.

This wasn’t a suitable subject for me to explored at the moment, I thought. It would only upset me and it would be better to write about this once I was back to full health. But I had already made massive improvements over the last six months and I was already starting to address this issue with the psychiatric team – and my thoughts were clearer on the subject although I still wasn’t happy with how I felt about changes to relationships with family and friends. I should wait six month and then write about it…..

Avoidance is one of the biggest problems that I have at the moment. It’s not a clinical symptom of bipolar disorder but more a psychological side effect, and one that had, I thought, given me some time to make improvements.

….. No, I should write about it and it was a perfect time as nobody would read it anyway – plus I could blog about it again in six months and see if my thoughts had changed.

After attending a focus group about a new tv campaign for Time to Change, it dawned on me that mental health charities often sugar-coat some issues of mental illness to make it more understandable and appealing to general society. They try to put a positive spin on people’s experiences although every private forum and support group that I’m involved with talks about losing family and friends as a direct result of the illness – and this is my experience too.

Over the last five years, I have intermittently become angry, upset, confused and distant with some family and most friends, and damaged beyond repair many long-term relationships. I still think that I have to take responsibility for all my words and actions, but I’m not sure that I should blame myself for getting unwell – or blame others for their reactions to my behaviour. Well, that’s where I want to be!

In reality I still feel embarrassed and ashamed, abandoned at my most vulnerable moments, and hurt that people seem to be judging me – without judging the illness. I remember family and friends joking about my behaviour after I was first diagnosed ‘Have you taken your pills because you’re talking bollocks?!‘ but I rarely recall anyone saying ‘It’s not your fault, it’s the bipolar‘ when my behaviour was unacceptable – to them and to me! Instead many friends have questioned the diagnosis, called the friendship in retrospect unhealthy, or even claimed to not to have notice the signs – I lost my job, my home, spent excessive amounts of money, moved back with my parents, and stopped contacting people!

I realise that I do try to hide my symptoms but I am also very open to talk about my mental health – although it’s hard to open-up when people just want to hear ‘I’m fine‘ when they ask how you are. There are times to walk away and protect yourself but there are also times to offer support and ask ‘How are you?‘ – then just listen.

So what’s the solution? Actually, I don’t know. Friends have spoken about a ‘no win situation‘ during the worst episodes, and they may be right. But does anyone need to win? This illogical illness either puts you in an elated mood where you can’t be wrong or a depressed mood where you can’t be right, or leaves you with psychological side issues – but the key word is illogical. These are the times that our expectations of others are most distorted and we shout out for help, or at least think that we do. So are the expectation we have of others too high? My expectations of others and myself are definitely lower now, and life seems a little more balanced although I wonder what the next episode will bring and how many relationships it will damage.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh said it best

“The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now.”

Loving Someone with Depression