Since I was diagnosed as having Bipolar Affective Disorder in November 2001 I have had the good fortune to meet and work with a multitude of people who have a mental illness. These people are far from the stereotypical mentally ill portrayed by the media and sensationalised in film. These people work, own businesses, run companies, are highly trained and/or qualified, exceptional artists, volunteers; they raise families, socialise and all the other things so called ‘normal’ people do. For that is what we are, ‘normal’ people, with a treatable, but not curable illness; similar to other illnesses caused by a chemical imbalance such as Diabetes, Hypertension and Hyper/Hypo-Thyroidism.
It was through my desire to reduce the fear and sense of isolation associated with diagnosis for sufferers and their loved ones, as well as increasing awareness and reducing stigma surrounding mental illness, that the goal of producing an uncensored and accurate glimpse into the lives of those with a mental illness was put into action.
All who have contributed to this book did so in hope that their story will help others with a mental illness, their families and friends, by benefiting from the ‘real life experiences’, encouraging better communication and acceptance of mental illness within their immediate circle; most of all recognising that they are not alone in this endless struggle.
Some contributions were written in the midst of an ‘episode’ where the writers perception is askew and their ability to articulate their thoughts are diminished, disjointed and inconsistent; therefore their stories may seem hard to understand or follow due to the irregular thought patterns. Where this occurs, I ask that you do not try to understand at the time of reading but take on board that what is being shared, accurately reflects what the person is experiencing at that point in time.
There are far more people with a diagnosed mental illness than is acknowledged in society and I would not be exaggerating if I said every third person I speak with has a relative or friend with a mental illness. With many of us choosing to ‘come out’, society will learn of the many positive contributions we make to society and this will inturn reduce the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
There are some wonderful books available to increase understanding of the manifestations of these illnesses. These are of particular importance to families and friends of those with a mental illness. Knowing the danger signs as they begin to appear can be the difference between a full-blown episode and a little bump on the charts. But more importantly, they assist our ability to recognise the signs leading up to a suicide attempt.
If you know where to look, support networks are available to assist or refer you to other appropriate organisations/groups and many have recommended reading lists. For your benefit I have listed as many as possible on my website www.thisismyreality.com.au, so that you do not encounter the circular attempts to find assistance as I, and many others have encountered when first diagnosed.
If you would like to tell your story to help increase awareness, you can upload it on my website www.thisismyreality.com.au
I wish you well on your path to insight, education and recovery.