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Abuse Toward Bi-polars

Question:

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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Answer:

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.

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