Off Topic Messages

Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:24 am

Given recent events in the all elvis part of this board, I am reproducing here a recent post from my blog. It's primarily about issues in the workplace, but the message applies here too. Hopefully the right person/people might read it.

*

Someone said something interesting to me online a week or two ago. They said they thought that it was strange (I think that was a polite way of saying “stupid”) that I had mentioned in my blog and on my twitter feed that I have bipolar at a time when I was also looking for a job. It’s not something that had really crossed my mind until that point and, as you can see, the comment obviously hasn’t put me off talking about it again. What it did reiterate, however, was the public’s perception of mental health issues. I’ve already discussed this before in relation to depictions of mental health problems in film and TV – and, since that post, I have since seen the fourth series of Canadian cop show Rookie Blue, which really should be ashamed of itself in its depiction of someone with bipolar as an obsessive stalker who puts people’s lives at risks through her actions. We appear to take two steps forward but then one step back. (That said, I still have a soft spot for Rookie Blue).

Now, all of that isn’t to say that bipolar makes a career or a job an easy thing, and I’m the first to admit that choosing a profession carefully so that you can somehow accommodate your highs and lows is a priority. However, we don’t live in a time where people can pick and choose where they work or what they do. Six years after the banking crisis, a job is a job and many need to grab whatever they can find. Despite that, allowances need to be made and realism has to play a part because bipolar or depression or any other mental health condition is likely to cause issues at some point.

Let’s take, for an example, a job in an office in which the employee is expected sit at their desk and process 100 forms per day. The chances of me, with bipolar, being able to perform at the same level constantly day after day, week after week, is highly unlikely. By the very definition of the condition, one day might result in 200 forms being processed, and yet on another I might struggle to get 30 done. A daily deadline of this kind is therefore not really feasible; during a depressive phase everything I do is almost in slow motion. However, a weekly or monthly target is certainly possible. So, if instead of 100 forms a day, I was told I needed to 500 per week or 2000 per month, that would be fine, as I could make the most of the times when I was feeling OK and therefore give myself breathing space for when the inevitable down periods came along.

I’ve been studying for the best part of eight years, through my BA, MA and then PhD, but I did work full time for nine years before I started studying. I hope things have changed in the workplace since then, and there is more understanding of conditions such as bipolar and depression. I remember having a particularly bad spell back in 1998 and having some time off work because of it. Most colleagues tried to be understanding, although the truth is that they didn’t understand because people were less educated about these conditions back then. On my return to work, I was constantly asked if I was “OK”, and my line manager at the time told me my work needed to be checked thoroughly by her because of my “mental instability”. The truth was that my work was fine, it was just me who wasn’t. However, I got to the stage where I realised pretending I was fine was the way forward. So I started going to work each day, assuming a bright and breezy cheerful persona for eight hours in order to stop all the questions, and then arrived home knackered each night because I had been putting in an eight hour acting performance of which Laurence Olivier would have been proud.

As it happens, the coping mechanisms that many of us have in place after having these conditions for so long probably make us more reliable workers than many others. I knew I had to work around the bipolar while I was studying, and so would get coursework done a week or two in advance of the deadline in order to give myself a breathing space in case a bad patch came along. I did the same with my PhD, finishing it within the three year period and writing a 70,000 word novel alongside it. That’s not intended to be a boast, but a sign to potential employers reading this that we are as reliable as anyone else, and to those with the condition it’s a message that it can be worked around if we put out mind to it.

There are sh*t periods, though, and last week was one of them for me – probably the worst I have been for a couple of years. Luckily it was short-lived and I seem to be back to “normal” now. But, even then, the marking of essays still got done on time, and the seminar still got prepared and delivered in the same fashion as any other week. And no, I didn’t sit at the front of the seminar group rocking back and forth crying and screaming. At least, if I did, no-one mentioned it afterwards (I jest).

What I’m trying to say here is that the prejudices towards (and misinformation about) those with bipolar and other mental health issues still continue. Slowly but surely we are hearing of people who have turned their lives around and who are not only living a “normal” life but achieving more than many without the condition. Determination is a wonderful thing. Yes, allowances will have to be made at some point – not just by employers, but by friends and family too. Bipolar isn’t just a pain for the person who has it, but it can be a bastard for the people who have to live with it as well.

And attitudes are changing, especially among the young. The support amongst the younger generation on social media of campaigns to stamp out mental health stigma is staggering…and beautiful (and the same is true of campaigns to stamp out homophobia and bullying, too). And a difference is slowly but surely being made.

But there is a long way to go. If sufferers are going to do their best to live a normal life with their condition, then there needs to be more understanding (or, more accurately, flexibility) amongst employers as well. Just because mental health issues aren’t always visible doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that there shouldn’t be a certain degree of allowances made within the workplace to accommodate the various ups and downs that come with these conditions. We’re trying our best, and all that we ask for is that we are met halfway.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:39 am

That's a beautifully written post and I agree with your sentiments 100%.

Thank you very much for sharing that with us.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:43 am

Thanks for sharing. I've had my up's and downs lately and can say it ain't easy, but like you say people seem to be more understanding these days.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:48 am

The Doc has "thanked me" for my post. The mind boggles. I think I'm going to bed.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 8:08 am

poormadpeter wrote:The Doc has "thanked me" for my post. The mind boggles. I think I'm going to bed.


The Doc is not himself today, apparently. :smt005 :smt005

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 8:30 am

Thank you once again for your honest, brave posts about this personal matter. I think it will help some others, perhaps, to feel less alone.

As to being this honest on Twitter, etc., well, that may be another matter if you are job-seeking. The world may be wee bit better than a few years ago in this regard - in regard to any health issues, really, but not that much. (I am an American, and so the situation may be different here.) It's your choice, of course, to be fully and completely open with prospective employers, but you must know that some will simply reject you out of hand on this account. Are you okay with that? Do you have a fall-back position, financially? Is this safe?

There are issues today, regarding 'net privacy and employers. Some employers and prospective employers are demanding Facebook passwords, to see what you share with your friends. (It's safe here. The odds of an employer finding anyone here, especially since we use handles, are slim to none. Unless it's related to the subject matter.) But "out there," well, employers can be pretty ruthless. I was once given an ultimatum while in a hospital bed. I had an adverse reaction to a medication, and my doctor said I couldn't return to my teaching job at a University for 2 and a half weeks. My boss, the dept. chair, called me in the hospital, and said to be there the first class of the upcoming week or "we would hate to lose you." So, I went in.

It's rough out there. I wouldn't expect too much compassion or understanding in the workplace. I certainly hope the job search goes well for you, and this experiment in full honesty pans out. It would help others. But it's . . . a gambit.

Thank you once again, and I wish all the best. :smt006

rjm
Last edited by rjm on Tue Apr 08, 2014 8:32 am, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 8:52 am

Thanks for the wonderful post. My sister had bipolar too.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 11:42 am

poormadpeter wrote:Given recent events in the all elvis part of this board

JESUS Shane, you are such a drama queen. It's a few crazy Elvis fans playing verbal volleyball, not grounds for an intervention, chill.

poormadpeter wrote:So I started going to work each day, assuming a bright and breezy cheerful persona for eight hours in order to stop all the questions, and then arrived home knackered each night because I had been putting in an eight hour acting performance of which Laurence Olivier would have been proud.

Well we ALL do that buddy, it's called 'life'. The mind follows the body, not the other way round. I think it was Shakespeare who said, 'Assume a virtue, if you have it not'. Assuming a 'bright and breezy cheerful persona' is more helpful, much more helpful, than accepting the label of victim.

rjm wrote:I was once given an ultimatum while in a hospital bed. I had an adverse reaction to a medication, and my doctor said I couldn't return to my teaching job at a University for 2 and a half weeks. My boss, the dept. chair, called me in the hospital, and said to be there the first class of the upcoming week or "we would hate to lose you." So, I went in.

And you lived to tell the tale.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 12:45 pm

mike edwards66 wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:Given recent events in the all elvis part of this board

JESUS Shane, you are such a drama queen. It's a few crazy Elvis fans playing verbal volleyball, not grounds for an intervention, chill.

poormadpeter wrote:So I started going to work each day, assuming a bright and breezy cheerful persona for eight hours in order to stop all the questions, and then arrived home knackered each night because I had been putting in an eight hour acting performance of which Laurence Olivier would have been proud.

Well we ALL do that buddy, it's called 'life'. The mind follows the body, not the other way round. I think it was Shakespeare who said, 'Assume a virtue, if you have it not'. Assuming a 'bright and breezy cheerful persona' is more helpful, much more helpful, than accepting the label of victim.

rjm wrote:I was once given an ultimatum while in a hospital bed. I had an adverse reaction to a medication, and my doctor said I couldn't return to my teaching job at a University for 2 and a half weeks. My boss, the dept. chair, called me in the hospital, and said to be there the first class of the upcoming week or "we would hate to lose you." So, I went in.

And you lived to tell the tale.


You clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 2:26 pm

Shane,

In my view, your post is very sensitive; striking a cord, it may help someone.

Good on you.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:25 pm

mike edwards66 wrote: JESUS Shane, you are such a drama queen.


JESUS Mike, your ignorance on this matter is nothing to be proud of.

pmp’s posting here is courageous in my view, and is meant to help give us a deeper understanding of a still-greatly misunderstood subject. You cannot compare a regular person’s every day trials & tribulations with the struggles of a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

If you don’t have the social skills & intelligence to show some compassion, then at least avoid posting about a subject that you clearly know nothing about.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:33 pm

rjm wrote:Thank you once again for your honest, brave posts about this personal matter. I think it will help some others, perhaps, to feel less alone.

As to being this honest on Twitter, etc., well, that may be another matter if you are job-seeking. The world may be wee bit better than a few years ago in this regard - in regard to any health issues, really, but not that much. (I am an American, and so the situation may be different here.) It's your choice, of course, to be fully and completely open with prospective employers, but you must know that some will simply reject you out of hand on this account. Are you okay with that? Do you have a fall-back position, financially? Is this safe?

There are issues today, regarding 'net privacy and employers. Some employers and prospective employers are demanding Facebook passwords, to see what you share with your friends. (It's safe here. The odds of an employer finding anyone here, especially since we use handles, are slim to none. Unless it's related to the subject matter.) But "out there," well, employers can be pretty ruthless. I was once given an ultimatum while in a hospital bed. I had an adverse reaction to a medication, and my doctor said I couldn't return to my teaching job at a University for 2 and a half weeks. My boss, the dept. chair, called me in the hospital, and said to be there the first class of the upcoming week or "we would hate to lose you." So, I went in.

It's rough out there. I wouldn't expect too much compassion or understanding in the workplace. I certainly hope the job search goes well for you, and this experiment in full honesty pans out. It would help others. But it's . . . a gambit.

Thank you once again, and I wish all the best. :smt006

rjm


To be perfectly honest, I would rather an employer turn me down for a job because of it than employ me and then expect something they're not going to get. The point of my post when I originally published it was to explain that we can work just as well as anyone else, we just do it differently.

I also firmly believe that the only way we educate people on these matters (and the same has been true about sexuality) is by making a stand and being honest about who we are. If we all hide behind a façade then no-one's view is going to change.

Either way, any potential employer who sees my CV will know that I've given papers on representations of mental health issues in film and Tv - it's not a subject many talk about in that way unless they have first-hand experience. So it wouldn't take a genius to put two and two together.

My potential employers are likely to be put off employing me far more by my blog post on the things we need to change in academia than my honesty about my condition. I got some VERY angry emails from academics about that one.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:40 pm

I have no idea what its like to be in that situation Shane ,but i wish you luck in all you do

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:17 pm

wonderful post PMP

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:30 pm

Great post Peter. rjm said it best: "Thank you once again for your honest, brave posts about this personal matter. I think it will help some others, perhaps, to feel less alone."

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:34 pm

Rock Legend wrote:
mike edwards66 wrote: JESUS Shane, you are such a drama queen.


JESUS Mike, your ignorance on this matter is nothing to be proud of.

pmp’s posting here is courageous in my view, and is meant to help give us a deeper understanding of a still-greatly misunderstood subject. You cannot compare a regular person’s every day trials & tribulations with the struggles of a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

If you don’t have the social skills & intelligence to show some compassion, then at least avoid posting about a subject that you clearly know nothing about.


Well said.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 6:09 pm

mike edwards66 wrote:JESUS Shane, you are such a drama queen. It's a few crazy Elvis fans playing verbal volleyball, not grounds for an intervention, chill.

Well we ALL do that buddy, it's called 'life'. The mind follows the body, not the other way round. I think it was Shakespeare who said, 'Assume a virtue, if you have it not'. Assuming a 'bright and breezy cheerful persona' is more helpful, much more helpful, than accepting the label of victim.

And you lived to tell the tale.
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Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 6:35 pm

poormadpeter wrote:Given recent events in the all elvis part of this board

Oh the drama of the 'all elvis part' of this board.

poormadpeter wrote:I had been putting in an eight hour acting performance of which Laurence Olivier would have been proud.

And again............. PROMPT (ironically, probably the only person who will get that is Shane).


Anyhow, anyone who wants to discuss my original post, in it's unedited form, and in the CONTEXT of Shane's points, to which I was addressing, let's go.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 6:51 pm

mike edwards66 wrote: Anyhow, anyone who wants to discuss my original post, in it's unedited form, and in the CONTEXT of Shane's points, to which I was addressing, let's go.


It seems that you’re getting all worked up, old chap. Please remember to breathe slowly :smt002

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:16 pm

Rock Legend wrote:
mike edwards66 wrote: Anyhow, anyone who wants to discuss my original post, in it's unedited form, and in the CONTEXT of Shane's points, to which I was addressing, let's go.


It seems that you’re getting all worked up, old chap. Please remember to breathe slowly :smt002

Well I'm trying to breathe slowly, but then I catch sight of the all elvis part of this board, and I get all a flutter.

Oh the drama.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:21 pm

mike edwards66 wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:Given recent events in the all elvis part of this board

JESUS Shane, you are such a drama queen. It's a few crazy Elvis fans playing verbal volleyball, not grounds for an intervention, chill.

poormadpeter wrote:So I started going to work each day, assuming a bright and breezy cheerful persona for eight hours in order to stop all the questions, and then arrived home knackered each night because I had been putting in an eight hour acting performance of which Laurence Olivier would have been proud.

Well we ALL do that buddy, it's called 'life'. The mind follows the body, not the other way round. I think it was Shakespeare who said, 'Assume a virtue, if you have it not'. Assuming a 'bright and breezy cheerful persona' is more helpful, much more helpful, than accepting the label of victim.

rjm wrote:I was once given an ultimatum while in a hospital bed. I had an adverse reaction to a medication, and my doctor said I couldn't return to my teaching job at a University for 2 and a half weeks. My boss, the dept. chair, called me in the hospital, and said to be there the first class of the upcoming week or "we would hate to lose you." So, I went in.

And you lived to tell the tale.

...

Anyhow, anyone who wants to discuss my original post, in it's unedited form, and in the CONTEXT of Shane's points, to which I was addressing, let's go.


Yes. Your original post - let's discuss that, shall we?

Paragraph 1- there was no verbal volleyball. Austin has never set out to make an enemy of the doc, and yet he has been repeatedly accused by the Doc of somehow being a cheat, liar and fraud. Nothing in his original post prompted any games of any kind. His admission of Asperger's was also straightforward and to the point. What the Doc does with the people who attempt to take him on, and what he does with somebody who has no intentions of getting into a fight is something else entirely. His response was accusing Austin of lying, was venomous, and totally uncalled for. And, it should be added, follows hot on the heels of his belittling someone with poor eyesight last week, and the English of someone whose first language is not English. It takes two to play verbal volleyball - the Doc was playing verbal paintball against someone without a weapon and without realising they were a target. It was a cowardly move - and even more cowardly was his decision to then remove his posts and not apologise. I hope that answers your point.

Paragraph 2 - Your trivialising of my point was uncalled for and ridiculous. Of course everybody puts on a happy face from time to time, but being forced to do so, day in day out is something completely different. And the scale of what you are talking about and what I am talking about is completely different - and anyone with any sense would realise that (that seems to be everyone who read the thread except you). Sadly it's people like yourself who seem to believe that depression is a case of someone being "a little fed up" and who can "snap out of it" is half the reason why we're battling such prejudices in the first place. Your unwillingness to be educated about such a condition is sad, and only highlights that your constant Greek chorus-type posts seem to be because you have nothing pertinent to say yourself. No-one anywhere is suggesting that people with these issues are victims because of their condition - they are victims because of the intolerant and uneducated in society.

Paragraph 3 - RJM’s post does not demonstrate how those who are ill, or suffering from a condition, should behave – they should look after their health first and their job second. Instead, it shows that there are there are two groups of people – one that has empathy with people’s conditions and problems, and one that is made up of complete and utter ar*holes. As with RJM’s boss, it seems quite clear which group you belong to.

I hope that addresses your post as requested.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 9:45 pm

Hi Peter,

Thank you for sharing such an elegantly written post. From your writing style, you are obviously a very intelligent man who has lot to offer the world.

I personally read these 100 positive thinking exercises daily and I believe these are brilliant and are very helpful for everyone:
http://www.rncentral.com/nursing-library/careplans/100_positive_thinking_exercises_to_incorporate_into_your_life

Their have been many creative people throughout history who have suffered with bipolar disorder including the amazing Jimi Hendrix:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_bipolar_disorder


I wish you all the best in your future :smt023

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 9:56 pm

mike edwards66 wrote:JESUS Shane, you are such a drama queen. It's a few crazy Elvis fans playing verbal volleyball, not grounds for an intervention, chill.


poormadpeter wrote:Paragraph 1- there was no verbal volleyball. Austin has never set out to make an enemy of the doc, and yet he has been repeatedly accused by the Doc of somehow being a cheat, liar and fraud.


Ugh. I just read the thread in question and it's shocking to say the least. I love the majority of Doc's posts but his behavior has been so erratic lately that it really makes me wonder about his mental well-being; it’s actually causing me concern because I think he’s a good guy. But at this point it seems as though he’s baiting the moderators with his increasingly erratic posts. (“Ha! Look what I can get away with!”) I'm not trying to defend him but maybe, just maybe he might be going through something we don't know or understand. He has always played the role of the witty but cantankerous fella who has a TON of knowledge and it's mostly entertaining; lately, however, his behavior is disturbing. And he's losing a lot of allies in the process. I hope everything is well with him. I'm genuinely concerned.

The upside of this whole thing is that Austin seems to be a person with a great head on his shoulders. I really hope he hangs around because he seems like a really intelligent, cool guy. Some of the more immature members of this board should look up to him as a role model. (I'm talking about the members who find mental disabilities hilarious. You know who you are.)

Mental disabilities are no laughing matter. My own issues with social anxiety/extreme shyness caused me to drop out of the graduate program at U.C. Berkeley because I could no longer bear the pain of speaking in front of a large group of people. While people like mike edwards66 might say “Quit being a drama queen - Just get over it,” it’s not quite that easy. This was a life-changing decision that I did not want to make. And I certainly didn’t do it for attention or to be a “drama queen.” Fortunately, I was clever enough to easily transition into another career path – one that didn’t require that I speak in front of large groups of people.

PMP: Thanks for the post. I always admire the way that you seem so unflappable. Several members have said the most dreadful things to you and you always handle it with grace. It all seems to roll off your back. I’m quite the opposite! I would actually get my feelings hurt!

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:13 pm

InheritTheWind wrote:
mike edwards66 wrote:JESUS Shane, you are such a drama queen. It's a few crazy Elvis fans playing verbal volleyball, not grounds for an intervention, chill.


poormadpeter wrote:Paragraph 1- there was no verbal volleyball. Austin has never set out to make an enemy of the doc, and yet he has been repeatedly accused by the Doc of somehow being a cheat, liar and fraud.


Ugh. I just read the thread in question and it's shocking to say the least. I love the majority of Doc's posts but his behavior has been so erratic lately that it really makes me wonder about his mental well-being; it’s actually causing me concern because I think he’s a good guy. But at this point it seems as though he’s baiting the moderators with his increasingly erratic posts. (“Ha! Look what I can get away with!”) I'm not trying to defend him but maybe, just maybe he might be going through something we don't know or understand. He has always played the role of the witty but cantankerous fella who has a TON of knowledge and it's mostly entertaining; lately, however, his behavior is disturbing. And he's losing a lot of allies in the process. I hope everything is well with him. I'm genuinely concerned.

The upside of this whole thing is that Austin seems to be a person with a great head on his shoulders. I really hope he hangs around because he seems like a really intelligent, cool guy. Some of the more immature members of this board should look up to him as a role model. (I'm talking about the members who find mental disabilities hilarious. You know who you are.)

Mental disabilities are no laughing matter. My own issues with social anxiety/extreme shyness caused me to drop out of the graduate program at U.C. Berkeley because I could no longer bear the pain of speaking in front of a large group of people. While people like mike edwards66 might say “Quit being a drama queen - Just get over it,” it’s not quite that easy. This was a life-changing decision that I did not want to make. And I certainly didn’t do it for attention or to be a “drama queen.” Fortunately, I was clever enough to easily transition into another career path – one that didn’t require that I speak in front of large groups of people.

PMP: Thanks for the post. I always admire the way that you seem so unflappable. Several members have said the most dreadful things to you and you always handle it with grace. It all seems to roll off your back. I’m quite the opposite! I would actually get my feelings hurt!


Thanks. I have to say that I agree with you regarding the Doc - I'm never going to say I like him, because it would be untrue, but his postings have been erratic and, on occasion, downright weird of late. I genuinely hope if there are problems that he gets them sorted sooner rather than later. However, you can have issues and still not behave like a jerk.

I'm not quite so unflappable as I used to be - certainly not during the last few months. But I do have to say that the post yesterday has made me more angry than anything I have seen written on here before. Had the post been aimed at me, it would have been at least partially understandable - we don't like each other, and things are said in the heat of the moment. Austin has, as far as I'm aware, never hurt anybody - but has been bullied by the Doc regarding who and what he is ever since he got here, and for no reason whatsoever.

Re: Mental Health Issues: A Personal Post

Tue Apr 08, 2014 10:36 pm

His posts were deleted but he still has not done the right thing and apologized.