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Comfort in a lonely time

Guest Author: Marlene

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

I write to share a recent experience which shows how strong the mental health stigma continues to be, even in a national medical association.

I am shocked that the intensity of the stigma of mental health and also the lack of knowledge and compassion for someone who copes with a mental illness.

I call it a hidden disability and once exposed, there is prejudice and discrimination. How sad is that in 2018?

I call it a hidden disability

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about 35 years ago and have been both an inpatient (three times) and an outpatient at a large local mental health centre. I am now retired, but during that time, I worked continuously in member services which was a demanding and stressful position due to the high standard of professionalism which was required. I was stable for the past 11 years with only a small dosage of anti-psychotic medication and a similarly low dose of an antidepressant.

I was very proud of my success in controlling my mental disorder throughout the illness and subsequent death of my younger sister, who was my soulmate and chief supporter when I was ill, in addition to the passing of my father who too understood and supported me unconditionally. I considered my success in managing my bipolar disorder as the greatest achievement in my life.

While I was working, I went to the trouble of hiding my parking passes from the mental hospital when I had appointments on my lunch hour every four months. I feared that if anyone saw the pass in my car they would know I had a mental illness and think I was incapable of doing my job.

I always had excellent reviews for my work and was considered the person to go to when things got really busy. Which they often did, as I was considered to be the calm and stable voice. How ironic is that?

I went into, what I would call, a mini mania.

This fall, my sister, for reasons known only to herself, thought I was having a manic episode and she initiated a Form 2 against me under false pretenses. She refused to believe the psychiatrist who determined that I did not require additional support.

Due to the extreme stress I was under, I went into, what I would call, a mini mania.

When I go into mania, I think that the CSIS has taken advantage of me. I have an uncle retired from CSIS and it all makes sense to me. It’s my escape from reality when I am being treated so cruelly by the real world. I sent an email to people I thought were friends where I had worked to tell them about my situation and to tell them how angry I was with the CSIS.

I did not threaten anyone, nor did I indicate I planned to harm myself. It was sent to people I have known and worked with for 20 years for the most part and we had close relationships, even after retirement. This association is a very family-oriented organization as one would expect from a medical association and normally very supportive when staff needed help. I received an email from my former director indicating that they were blocking my email access as my CSIS email had disturbed some of the staff.

There was no sentiment or concern for my health issued.

There was no sentiment or concern for my health issued. It was simply to inform me that I was basically no longer welcome to communicate with staff.

I wrote to the CEO to say how dismayed I was with that insensitive response from both staff and management. I offered to speak to the staff at what they call a Lunch and Learn session which the HR department holds regularly. The CEO responded that he had heard my message and understood my intention. I am waiting to hear from the HR director to know if they will let me speak to the management and staff, in addition to having a representative from the mental health centre informing them of how to assist staff with mental difficulties.

At the very least, I have made the CEO and the HR Department aware of the state of mental health knowledge and stigma at the association. It has been my experience that as doctors they are caring and concerned people.

I do hope that I can help the organization where I worked to learn to deal positively with staff who have a mental disorder.

I listen to Michael Landsberg’s daily blog and he has given me the courage to speak up and tell my story.

It gives me comfort to hear him speak when my life is so very lonely at the moment.

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I am so sorry to hear about this incident and can completely relate. The best and worst treatment I have received is from the medical community. I suppose if even the health care field gets it wrong, one can’t expect much better from other folks, small comfort though it may be.

I agree, it is through Michael’s efforts that we continue to break down the barriers that make our battle more difficult…ignorance and stigma. Sometimes I despair when someone with a physical health issue is free to share and receive emotional and other support whereas we must hid in the shadows and battle alone.

You have every reason to feel proud of how you’ve managed your illness, don’t let this incident dissuade you from your achievements. You are doing the right thing to offer to inform and educate, that takes great strength. Kudos.

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