Battling Stigma

Bipolar disorder, 5150s, and ECT — oh my! All of these are laden with stigma. Many people have the misconception that someone with bipolar disorder is happy one minute and sad the next. That would be ultra-ultra rapid cycling. Also, as is in my case of bipolar II, there are usually many more episodes of depression than hypomania. Hypomania for me can mean having extra energy and excitement, not sleeping, and being really productive. I rarely get impulsive and am never promiscuous. Basically, I have a wider range of emotions than most people. I can get really excited, and I can also have debilitating crashes. Of course, there are many times when I am “normal.” I go about my day and feel average. I can feel good and it not be hypomania, and I can feel bad and it not be depression. Everyone has their ups and downs.

Now for 5150s. That is involuntary hospitalization. I have seen people talk about it as a horrible thing to be avoided at all costs. Even some people in the mental health field seem to have a stigma against them. I would like the set the record straight. Yes, it can be scary. We as humans value our autonomy and no one wants to be held against their will. I know my initial story of my first 5150 was like a scene from a horror movie. However, they are not all like that! My third 5150 was actually quite enjoyable. I met a lot of people my age and felt a good sense of camaraderie, understanding, and support.

The following is my personal advice and what works for me: the point I would like the make is 5150s can save your life! If you are really at the point of killing yourself, PLEASE tell someone! Call Suicide Prevention (1–800–273–8255) or 911. Your life is worth it. During my stay, I got assessed by a psychiatrist, had my physical health checked, and participated in group therapy. Every time, for me, the act of being hospitalized shakes me out of suicidality. When I leave the hospital, I am much more committed to life.

On to ECT — electro convulsion therapy, formerly known as electroshock therapy. You probably have horror images from movies in your head right now. You may think ECT is outdated and barbaric. I would like to state for the record it was none of those things. It can really help with severe depression. It helped me come out of an extremely dark place. Also, it is treated as an outpatient surgery. I had wonderful nurses, an IV, and full anesthesia. I did not feel any pain, and the procedure itself lasts a very short time. There was a team of health workers devoted to my care. I was tended to after I woke up and given juice. I had someone drive me home. I believe ECT can be a good option for certain people.

As with anything, please get informed before judging! :)