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Abuse Toward Bi-polars


QUESTION: Why do mental health ‘specialists’ have such negative descriptions of us? Bipolar behaviors are not always improper? Why can’t they see that they are often last ditch reactions to abuse by family and other sick, so-called ‘normal’ people? I am bipolar, am compliant with medication, therapy, am sober and clean for 21 years. I had a breakdown in 1992; however, I believe it was a major BREAKTHROUGH. My health began with confronting and eliminating abusive people. My self-esteem is in tact. I do not surrender control of my life to a schizophrenic society’s view of who I should be. I am sensitive and glad for it. I am compassionate. I’ve been verbally and physically abused by family and ‘friends’ who consistantly manipulate me for their gain. I’ve been called "IT". Prior to treatment, many of my decisions and behavior were actually healthy. My paranoia has many times been with good reason. I have been beaten with fists and and belts by who victimized me, accused, shamed and blamed me for things I never did. "Normal is a joke!" I honor my feelings and intuitions, respecting what they tell me. I have created a good life for myself, enjoy being quiet, being responsible. I have one great gift in a trustworthy friend who is also bipolar. We have an extraordinary friendship based on honesty and recovery. My therapists and doctors take time to get to know me. They assure me I am sane and my choices in life are mostly healthy and logical. I have a conscience. They ask questions and LISTEN TO ME. Without this support I would be miserable. I would like to hear your response to my concerns and comments.

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  • Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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Part of the mission of psychology is to understand human behavior. In attempting to gain that understanding it is necessary to describe many aspects of the way human beings behave under all types of different circumstances. This attempt at description and understanding includes learning as much as possible about the mental illnesses. Of course, there is more involved in our work that understanding for sake of just understanding. Rather, we are trying to help people find relief for symptoms of these mental illnesses that cause them to feel miserable and can even threaten their lives through suicide attempts or engaging in dangerous behaviors as a result of poor judgment.

Unfortunately, we run a risk when we as psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists, focus on these efforts at describing, categorizing and learning about mental illnesses. The risk that we run is that we end up, without meaning to, reducing people to a mere label or to a collection of symptoms without really knowing this individual and unique human being. This is not good for our clients or for us. As one great psychologist pointed out a long time ago "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." What that simply means is that we are much more than the chemicals that makes up our bodies. We are more than just body organs with a brain, neurons and dopamine. We are more than categories of behaviors, types of mental illnesses, introverted people, extroverted people, etc. Each human being is a separate and unique entity unlike any other human being.

For all of these reasons I want to apologize to you for feeling misunderstood by the mental health community. That misunderstanding is not deliberate or intentional but is a by product of attempting to study, learn about and help people. We do respect and value each person and want very much to help them achieve their goals and life dreams in ways that are happy and fulfilling.

I am pleased to read that you have a friendship in which you feel understood, accepted and supported. I am also pleased to read that your therapists and doctors are assuring and supporting of you and that they take time to listen to and understand you. That is what is most important rather than these descriptions and categories we hear about. Continue your good work and continue to live you life in ways that are healthy and happy.

More "Ask Dr. Schwartz" View Columnists

  • Anna

    I am Bi-polar II, which has been very very hard for me. At this time in my therapy we are talking a lot about triggers that may have come about in my childhood. Its been very intense.

    At 47 I have been briefly hospitalized 3 times. (less that a week each time.) The first time I was 16 and was being picked on so much in school, church and even by my own brother that I finally lost all self esteem and became very afraid of life. The second time, at 21, I was coming out of an abusive marriage and my mind and body just shut down. The third time at 30 was a suicide attempt from not wanting to be everyone's pin cushion, never succeeding and being ashamed of being depressed.

    I don't want to place blame on others but the truth is I live a life of someone who has victim written on their forehead. I feel I attract and bring out in people the most horrible of actions. Of course I was raised to always take the blame when things were my fault and I do so. I have looked at what I may be doing to cause this but I cannot find anything except that I am polite, small in size and a bit different in my thinking. I appear normal, dress nice, and treat people with respect.It makes no sense.

    Some history.

    As a child I was always afraid. My father spanked us but it wasn't what I would call abuse. Although his words could cause me great harm. He often accused me of things I would never do. He had sisters who were rather bad women. So to speak. Yet, He never treated my brother with such contempt and gave him everything he ever ask for. Even though my brother was the one misbehaving when away from my parents. My father was to occupied with me not turning out like his sisters. It was horrible to be accused of things I had never even read about of heard of.

    My brother was horrible to me. He is now successful and I am disabled. He walked all over me at every turn. Even now he is still hateful and jealous. One would think I would be the one who is jealous but the truth is he has nothing I want.

    Note: I am not speaking of normal teasing. But rather over the top constant mean words and some physical abuse that would hurt anyone when done as often as he did it. If I did anything that deserved a pat on the back he would lessen it, make fun of it and then steal away any attention I may have earned.

    My mother was there but she made me do things I hated. Tried to turn me into what I wasn't. I had a few talents. Singing, gymnastics, painting and poetry. None of which she thought were good enough or appropriate. If I showed an interest in dance she would make me take piano lessons. If I wanted to be a gymnast she wanted me to be a cheerleader. Nothing was ever ever good enough and I was never encouraged to use any creativity. They wanted me to be smart like my brother. Yet they allowed him to treat me very badly. As matter of fact he still does.

    Its a pattern that I have tried to break over and over. I realize I have the power to choose my friends. Yet I tend to choose people that treat me well at first then turn on me. Believe me if I could find where my fault lies in this I would do whatever I could to change. But as time goes on I believe more and more that I am not the cause of the abusive behavior that is throw at me. What do I do that could cause people to be so rude and so cruel?


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