23.12.2016 09:38

Trapped in your own mind: Mental disorders are not just “hell on Earth”

Autor: Dominika Bayerová | Kurz: English section | Kategorie: Features and other

She is mentally ill, but “at the right time”. University student reveals how is living with mental disorder in a world, where it is no longer considered a taboo.

Lucie “Lucy” Schwarz is an attractive twenty-year-old young girl from Austria who is studying art and design and loves to laugh. On the first sight she is a perfectly average student with hobbies similar to her peers: travelling, going out with friends, theatre… Her other side lies beneath the image of mediocrity: she has been diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder with inclination to depression three years ago.

Mental illnesses are nothing really extraordinary in the 21th century. Some kind of mental disorder affects 1 of 10 children and young people between the age of 5 and 16. WHO states that among adults, more than 27 percent of European population have experienced some kind of mental disorder. And we are talking only about those who are having a diagnosis! Statistics predict that about half of current population is suffering from mental diseases and the number will increase in the following years. Life with any sort of mental disorder can be similar to life of people we call “normal” – if it is treated properly. However, not even the best treatments and doctors can make it absolutely “ordinary”.

“My life is constantly divided into periods,” says Lucie. “There are the moderate parts of those periods or remissions, which can be compared to healthy people’s state of mind. And then there are the two poles of mania and depression that you won’t mistake for anything ‘normal’”. She knows what she is talking about – the sudden change of her mental state happened many times in various places, such as theatre, party, school, subway, restaurant, and managed to scare many people including some of her friends and family.

Bipolar affective disorder basically consists of two main, polar opposite states or stages, mania and depression being the extreme parts. Then there are the borderline stages between them in which some people are living most of their lives; others experience remissions, when everything is normal… until it slips.

Lucy is trying to maintain a positive view on the illness, though she confides it isn’t always easy. “I am currently on medication and being watched for signs of other disorders or symptoms – schizophrenia, suicide tendencies. I feel safe with myself now. It’s getting better, although it’s not like I expect to ever be cured.” Bipolar affective disorder, along other disorders, is probably caused mainly by genetics and it is sort of dysfunction of human brain. The patients are completely unpredictable and endangered by a “relapse” for their whole life, even if they feel alright for some time.

The manic phase is safer than the depressive one. Most of the people affected don’t even feel ill during the manic phase. They are extremely happy, self-confident and active; living faster than others, thinking quicker, coming up with crazy ideas, spending money. It can get dangerous easily but they are mostly just over-active or acting a bit immorally.

Depressive phase is a completely different chapter. It doesn’t have its name without a reason – it’s similar to a “classic depression”, only with the possibility of slipping into manic or pre‑manic phase. Depressive state comes with all the symptoms of a classic depression – tiredness, dejection, loss of will to do anything, pathological sadness, anxiety and so on.

“It’s tiring,” says Lucy, “when you are not able to know what to expect from yourself.” That’s true – bipolars don’t know if they will be able to go to the concert they bought tickets for, if they will make their home assignments, if they can get out of bed the next morning all due to depression. They can’t be sure whether they manage to sit for 10 hours on the plane, or whether they slip into the manic phase and will feel the need to run, drive or be outside. “At times I feel as if there was a different person living in my head, someone who is so sad. I think of myself as of generally happy, positive, creative person, not the sad, tired someone who gets there… sometimes.”

Despite everything, Lucie is still struggling to stay optimistic. After all, she is being treated and slowly getting better. She also says it makes her way of thinking unique and her personality stronger – and the illness itself is not really taboo-ized as it used to be. “This is the right world to be mentally ill in. You are not burned at a stake – you are almost a hero instead.” And it’s true: just take a look at all the famous people affected or people behind aid projects. Having bipolar disorder didn’t hurt the career of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stephen Fry or Russell Brand in the slightest – and in some cases, it even helped. Many works of great musicians such as Kurt Cobain, Frank Sinatra, Amy Winehouse, Beethoven or burlesque-like artist Emilie Autumn would not exist without them being mentally ill. Bipolar disorder or mental illnesses in general are no longer a shame or “only hell on Earth”.

Klíčová slova: mental disorders, bipolar disorder, mental health


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