Suzanne Lea lives and works just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She is a news junkie, a pop culture addict, a self-taught crafter, and an artist. She lives with bipolar disorder, anxiety, and an eating disorder. Her mate, her family, and her friends are learning to live with those disorders, as well. She hopes that by sharing a little of her story, and theirs, others might relate to what it’s like to experience mental illness and the stigma that comes along with it. Maybe, just maybe, others will also learn a bit about what it’s like to love someone who lives with a mental illness. Here’s a hint – patience, patience, patience with a side of compassion and a heaping-helping of education on top.
Why do I blog?
For two reasons. Firstly, the inside of my head feels like my grandmother’s attic – full of random bits of history, memories bound up in china patterns and handmade quilts, secrets and forgotten treasures, and dusty corners and cobwebs. Because the inside of my head feels a bit like a chaotic collection of knick-knacks and tchotchkes, I crave order. For me, there is a linear quality to writing that puts the world in order. Secondly, I am a talker, but my mental illness has led, over time, to a certain level of isolation. The stigma of mental illness has driven some really important people away. Fear and misunderstanding have kept them away. Writing feels like talking. Sometimes you simply need to take your words for a walk, even if it’s just an evening stroll. Mainly, I blog so that my lonely words have someone play with.
I found BC2M….
…completely by accident, which is often the best way to find a thing. I was cruising through Facebook when suddenly I heard Glenn Close tell those of us affected in some way by the stigma of mental illness to, “Talk out loud, without fear.” I knew then that I wanted to be part of the BC2M family. I wanted to the hear stories and see the faces of those who felt so familiar.
What Stigma Means to Me:
Stigma feels like two sides of the same coin. I believe that the act of stigmatizing another person, or their experiences, is deeply rooted in misunderstanding and fear. Frequently, there is no real malice intended; simply a desire to avoid a situation with unknown boundaries. For those of us who have been, or still are, facing stigma, it often feels like you are either a scary monster or the invisible man. Stigma reduces you to a diagnosis. It robs you of your uniqueness and individuality. Stigma doesn’t serve the needs of either group.
The Way I Find Wellness:
I live with bipolar disorder. For years, I only went to the doctor when I felt depressed. During my manic periods, I enjoyed the slow climb to madness because it felt like a drug, a kind of pinpoint euphoria. Then I would begin to display the usual symptoms of a manic episode, but I always assumed it was just my way of being: Crazy, impulsive, promiscuous, and, often, self-destructive. When the fall into the dark pit finally happened, and it always did, I would flounder around, grasping at any life raft that floated by. Eventually, I would end up at a psychiatrist office. Sometimes, voluntarily. Sometimes, not. But, almost never the same psychiatrist twice. Wellness came to me in the form of a complete and comprehensive diagnosis. When someone finally explained my illness to me. It was such a relief to have a name for the disease that had eaten so much of my life. Now, I find wellness in the form of MEDICAL CONTINUITY. I know my disease, I stay on my meds, I keep my appointments, and I avoid my triggers.
If I Had a Magic Wand:
I would create a language where words tasted like they sound. Then, I think people would understand that the things they say truly and deeply impact those around them. The words that foster stigma would taste as ugly and bitter as the sound. Also, I’d give my cat the power to use human speech.
My Pick-Me-Up Song:
“The Littlest Bird” by The Be Good Tanyas
Favorite (Mental Health) Book:
The Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison
If I were a superhero, I would be / have powers to…
…I would have the power to read minds at will. I would be able to look into the eyes of another person and truly understand the whys and wheres and hows that brought that person to such a place of misunderstanding, disrespect, fear, or even hate. I think if we understood each other’s unique journeys, it would be so much easier to find commonality and create dialogue. Dialogue is the beginning of the end of stigma.
Words to Live By:
“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body. I believe in such cartography.” – Michael Ondaatje