Recently I noticed that I have been reluctant to offend people, particularly on Facebook. I keep my opinions to myself, especially on social and political matters, and dread being “unfriended” or starting (or continuing) a “flame war.”
This is not just a matter that relates to my bipolar disorder, though it is certainly that too. I have written a number of times about how having bipolar disorder and the behaviors it has brought out in me have cost me friends, even ones that I thought were “forever-friends.” These losses have affected me greatly, at times pushing my anxiety and depression buttons nearly as far as they can go.
Just as I have toned down my comments on subjects such as liberal vs. conservative issues, I have also let pass by posts in bipolar support groups and mental health memes on people’s general Facebook timelines that I’ve disagreed with. Oh, when I see a particularly incorrect or egregiously stigmatizing remark, I’ve been known to smack the person on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper, but often in a soft, “In my experience, you may not be correct” manner.
There are also conflicts within the bipolar world that I have strong opinions about but have not jumped into, for fear of offending someone. And I have to ask myself, what would be the consequences of offending someone in such a discussion?
Yes, I might be unfriended. More likely I would be ignored. Or (virtually) yelled at. In other words, if I offend someone with my opinions, they may in turn offend me with their opinions. And while that’s not a productive state of affairs, it’s hardly the end of the world. In an ideal world, I might cause someone to question or consider or engage in fruitful discussion. Not likely, but possible.
So, if I am trying to overcome my fear of offending people with my positions on guns, abortion, health care, climate change and the like, what am I to do about my opinions regarding bipolar disorder and mental health in general?
Well, first of all, I can state where I’m coming from: straight, white, female, married, childless, bipolar type 2, 60 years old, diagnosed for years and on any number of medications for years as well. Not much controversial there. That’s just facts about me and hard to deny.
But here are some things I believe that I know are sometimes subject to differences of opinion. And for what it’s worth, here’s my take on them.
- Psychotropic medications are good things. Yes, they can be overprescribed or improperly prescribed, but when dispensed and used correctly, they help.
- The Scientologists are way off base. Mental illness exists, and so do treatments for it.
- “Natural” or “holistic” treatments for mental illness are not enough to replace medication and talk therapy.
- Sunshine, exercise, and positive affirmations are good things, but also are not enough to replace medication and talk therapy. They do good for a number of people, less for others, and not much at all for some.
- We’ve got to change the popular dialogue about mental illness and violence. We must not let it go unchallenged. For that matter, we must change the popular dialogue about mental health in general.
- While it’s a good thing if those with mental illness take their medications properly, it is absolutely their right to refuse treatment.
- Health care (and insurance plans) should cover mental health care at the same levels as physical health. (Okay, that one’s not really controversial among the mental health community.)
- Emergency responders including police should all receive training in dealing with mental health issues, but they probably won’t.
- Most people don’t/won’t/can’t understand mental illness until it touches their own life in some way, and maybe not even then.
- Education about mental health issues should begin in grade school.
There. If you disagree with any of those statements or feel that I am an idiot for stating them, so be it.
Oh, and while we’re at it, persons with a mental health diagnosis should not automatically be prevented from owning guns, but people with domestic violence convictions should be.