More than a few tears of understanding, and being understood, came to my eyes tonight as I watched NBC Nightly News.
Brian Williams featured a report on an initiative of Glenn Close called Bring Change 2 mind. Ms. Close and her sister Jessie, who is bipolar, were part of an amazing public service announcement shot at Grand Central Station in New York.
I was diagnosed with bipolar II in late 2006 after being untreated – or should I say treated for depression only – for years. It was an “Ah-ha!” moment that I will never forget. Accustomed to what depression felt like, having only been officially diagnosed with that shortly after my positive HIV test in 1989, for years I rationalized manic behaviour as merely the absence of depression. But it really caught up with me, spending money hand over fist, then spending money I no longer had, seriously considering running for national office despite being on long-term disability due to AIDS and, oh yes, drinking even though I had long ago concluded this was a problem for me that required complete abstinence.
Some well-meaning friends have tried to persuade me to do without psychiatric help. One in particular has severe biases, based on her own experiences related directly to the treatment she received and the host of medications she was prescribed. Recalling how she was in those days, I understand her bias. So as conscious as I am of stigma with people who know little about mental health I also feel it with those who have had some experience in treatment.
However that “Ah-ha!” moment came with my diagnosis. It was such a relief to know that there was something to explain some of my untreated feelings and behaviours. I felt freedom. The combination of a tried-and-true medication I am on, along with “talk therapy”, has worked for me so far.
This first clip explains how the PSA project came about. (I’ll follow that with the actual public service announcement.)
I’ve always been grateful when celebrities have lent their names in the fight against HIV/AIDS issues. I am now also very thankful that Glenn Close and her sister have put themselves out there in such a personal way to help fight the stigma of mental illness.