I am 40 years old and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder when I was 22. I have been living with this illness for almost half my life. It has been a real roller coaster ride. I am now living at home with my husband of 13 years. I am unable to work right now and haven't for nine years. I tried to get on Social Security Disability but was denied three times. That's the nutshell of it but there is so much I would like to say about my experiences. I have learned alot over the years and I have experienced things that most people don't get to go through in their lifetimes. There are so many issues related to mental illness that I also would like to discuss. The mental healthcare system in this country is broken. I don't know how it can be fixed but talking about the shortfalls of the mental health care system in the country is a start.
My older sister also had Bipolar Disorder and was on disabiltiy for most of her adult life. She died partially as a result of the broken mental health care system in this country. I would like to have her story told as well. She was a good person with a bad disability. She tried hard to live a good life and to find happiness. To some extent she did find some happiness even with her situation.
Her faith was her strength and comfort. I'm glad she finally found peace.
Living with mental illness in this country is extremely difficult. The healthcare system is broken and people with mental illness fall through the cracks. If you don't have a job and are homeless you are screwed. I have lived just one paycheck away from being homeless. It's a terrifying thought. I need to be on medication but I have gone without when my husband was unable to find work for 18 months in 2003 . We lost the house and I finally had a severe breakdown as a result of not being able to afford medication. When my husband finally found work I was able to get back on medication. There are so many people out there who have lost jobs and are wondering how they are going to pay for their medication. I think the number of folks out there who end up in the hospital because they can't get their medication is going to rise significantly. The toll on the general health care system is going to reach a breaking point.
I think that people with mental illnesses have to have a certain amount of strength to endure each day. I find that people underestimate the kind of will it takes to face each day with a mental illness. Even with a medication that works there are still symptoms that persist. On top of that there are scars that have developed from each breakdown and regrets and feelings of low self-esteem because of the illness. I came to admire my sister for going through the struggles she went through during her life. Her ability to face each day with optimism touched my heart. I wish people could see the strength and beauty of spirit that people with mental illnesses have and how difficult it is to face each day. When I was working I struggled mightily to get up and go to work each day. Some days were worse than others but I felt I had to go to contribute to the household economy. When I had a breakdown and was unable to work anymore I felt so ashamed. I felt as if I had let my husband down because I couldn't work anymore. I tried to work form home but even that was too difficult. I felt like a failure. I tried to go back to school to finish my degree but I had another breakdown. I couldn't go to school anymore after that.
I've only had three breakdowns in my life but they have been so severe that it has taken me years to recover from them. My last manic episode was in 2004. I was in the hospital for 2 weeks. It has taken me all this time to recover from that one. The other ones were in 1992 and 2000. It took me 2 years each to recover from those. That doesn't mention the numerous times I was severely depressed. I haven't been hospitalized for my depressions but they have been serious enough that I probably should have been hospitalized.
When I applied for SSDI for the third time I used a lawyer. I tried to get the judge to see that I needed to be on disability because my illness had gotten worse. He argued that I was fine with medication and could do menial work. It was very hurtful and frustrating to get that denial. Now we have been living paycheck to paycheck on just one income. We don't have a car and we dread either of us getting sick or hurt. There's just enough money to live on. I feel betrayed by my government. I worked ten years and paid into social security. I should have gotten it when I needed it the most. I think the SSDI system is also broken when if denies people who really need it. With budget cuts the way they are more people are going to be denied disability when they need it.
These are just a few things I have touched on but will talk more about as I continue this blog.