Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BPB Returns, With Many Thanks

Hi CM bitches! I'm back :)

I was released yesterday and didn't even look at email or blogs or anything until today...and there I found 30-something messages of (mostly) support, camaraderie, and confessions of similar diagnoses. What a pleasant and heart-warming surprise!

My meds have been completely reworked and I'm feeling more balanced than I have in years. I'm still having highs and lows, but they'll be manageable with periodic med tweaks - so no more total medication revamps. And I've learned that if I ever need to do a total overhaul again, I'll do it inpatient to be a safe and watched over as much as possible.

My stay taught me many things - not the least of which is that I was too snobby at first - I felt a graduate student with bipolar disorder couldn't have *anything* in common with alcoholics and drug addicts and schizophrenics and anorexics, many of whom didn't even have a high-school level education. Boy howdy, was I wrong! We didn't have the same life experiences, but we had similar fears and phobias and concerns for how to live better, more functional lives. It is amazing to stop feeling alone in your pain - and the posts from many of my CM buds here helped in that department, too.

I also learned I need to seek balance in my life and that if I'm gung-ho on one thing, then I'm mediocre at best on everything else in my life that makes me human. I don't have huge ambitions when it comes to my career because of my disease and the limitations it imposes on me, so I'm having to work through the idea that I can either (1) keep my 4.0 in grad school and lose my boyfriend (who I so wish were my husband) and my financial security and my friends and my sense of humor and my ability to have a normal conversation (you know, the kind that doesn't center on dissection of a cadaver?) or (2) start accepting a few B's, slow down, enjoy my good days, work through my bad days, and have the life I desire: being a biology teacher with a loving family and circle of close friends. I now choose path # 2. :) (But don't think that means I won't bring the snowflake smackdown here when I need to vent!!!)

As for Jim's comment: "...would you want to take this person on for a thesis project?...I'll bet they suddenly find their labs full when time to consider this individual joining their teams and using up grant funding?" First, thanks to those who jumped on Jim and had my back. Second, this is exactly the kind of ignorant comment I'd expect from someone who obviously hasn't had to deal with the ADA and who doesn't know how many people in his own lab have a mental disorder. Just going by the most recent stats, if there are 10 people in Jim's lab, 3 of them are on a psychtropic drug for something or other. So, because it's simple ignorance rather than hostility, I want to say to Jim: Would you feel this way if I came to your lab and I were diabetic or hypertensive or an amputee? If so, you are one sick puppy. If not, then you simply need to learn about mental illnesses. Oh, and understand that if you tried to keep me out of your lab based on the original post I'd made, I'd have your ass in court and would win a HUGE lawsuit against your university. So, who would be losing the grant funding then??

Furthermore, of the few people at my uni who know of my disorder: one is my thesis advisor; one is a lab director/instructor who I've taught 3 labs under; one is a lab coordinator I've taught 4 labs under (and who calls me her most responsible TA); one is head of the anatomy labs and has let me teach 2 labs under her and do 2 independant projects; and one brings in the single largest grant the biology department gets (and who has promised to give me a section or two of his lab next term if my hospitalization slows me down in my Master's pursuit). So, I would have to say, most people are highly understanding and willing to work with me (not that I felt that way when I posted 2 weeks ago). The only person I'm reluctant to discuss it with is the Program Director, simple because I'm not sure yet if I want the whole department to know or if I want to hold my proverbial cards to my chest.

As for Angry Archie, April, BlackDog, Clara from Cleveland, Dr. Cranky, EnglishDoc, Great Lakes Greta, JaneB, Meany, Midwest May, Online Ophelia, PickyHistorian, Professor Snugglebunny, SnarkyGeekChick, SocioConvert, V, and Wombat of the Copier - wow. I didn't mean to start a confessional, but knowing we're not alone, even in our tiny corner of the blogosphere, is therapeutic in and of itself, isn't it? *HUGS*

In the Ivory Basement - You aren't alone (see above) :)

Academic Monkey - One of my best friends is epileptic, so I understand your pain, too. And I know the fear of lost memories - although mine are due to rare dissociative states. At least you don't have to worry that you went on a shopping spree while having a grand mal... *HUGE HUGS*

April - Start the blog and I'll co-admin with you. I love the idea!! And I'm sure CM would let us post links and we can get a lot of CM peeps to blog over there - but in a more serious fashion and only about their diseases and how it affects them in the Academy - a kind of online support group. Although I agree that it should be anonymous like CM. Our students already have too much ammunition to use against us in our evals. I'd hate to see some of them displace their hatred of me as a teacher onto ALL people with mental disorders. I'd rather they just think I'm the bitch I am. :)

Oh, and Wombat of the Copier? (1) I now wanna be called Wombat of the Anatomy Labs for some reason... and (2) alcoholism is frighteningly like bipolar disorder - I learned that from my hospital stay - consider people with mental illnesses your friends and equals in your fight for normalcy. There's a HIGH incidence of substance abuse in people with psychiatric disorders, so we definitely feel your pain. *HUGS*

And now, can we return to the fucking snark?!? Puhlease?????
BPB out (of the loony bin) and outtie


  1. OK, some snark: what about me? I'm on meds too, and I told you so. I want to be special too! Wahhhhhhh.

    Oh, wait, that's snowflakery, not snark. Sorry!

  2. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia gets *hugs* *hugs* *hugs*
    I must have missed your name as I scrolled down the list. Oops! Sorry!!!

  3. Shortly after or before you posted, a colleague who is quickly becoming a friend had reached out to me with a "me too" about feeling depressed about my relationship and realizing that my chosen partner pretty much despises higher education and treats me like crud because of it. He had experience this with his ex-wife, and it had lead him to feel worthless, lost, and suicidal before finally getting a divorce.

    Just that little bit of reaching out from him did wonders. I was more than well on my way to feeling the same (and although most of my tweets about the subject were joking joking joking he saw right through it to the heart of the problem) and I have had depressive episodes before so... yeah. I owe this guy a lot, as well as you and everybody else who admits that this stuff happens to us too.

    So I thank you for sharing your story, as I thanked him for sharing his. We're not all alone, and we're not immune. We've got nobody but each other, and we don't even have that unless we actually are honest!

  4. good to see you again!

  5. Glad to see you're back and feeling better. We missed you.

  6. This is as good a place as any to say that y'know, sometimes I'm grateful to teach where I do. Had a student with a sudden medical problem in class this morning. One student immediately started working (competently) with the stricken one, I called 911, one of my colleagues who's on the local volunteer ambulance squad was there in about 30 seconds, and all the other students were quiet and supportive and praying until the EMTs arrived and while they did their work. And then we just got back down to business.

    No rudeness, no snowflakery, God I love my students sometimes.

    Of course if any of my students read this blog I've probably outed myself, so I'm gonna use a different profile this time!

  7. By the way, BB, welcome back.

    Signed, Severus

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  10. ps: I am also tired of dealing with hungover senior faculty. Mainly the ones who seem to think I should photocopy stuff for them or ignore them when they fall asleep in meetings.

  11. PPS: First comment removed in the interest of collegiality. For a sociologically interesting but seriously helpful support community for folks with MI: (Look for Charlotte...she's a Black Dog.)

  12. Jim --

    You've got no idea what you're talking about and you're an arrogant ass to boot. Bravo for showing yourself yet again.

    And as for being a "normal," I wouldn't want to touch a prick like you with a ten foot pole. Having a mental illness does NOT make people irrational and not a single person said mental illness was a necessary criteria for being able to do high quality research. Learn to read.

  13. Welcome back, Beth! I was wondering when you'd return. Your post was so enlightening. Everytime I'm feeling snowflakey and "unique" I'm gonna read it. In fact, maybe I'll put a copy on my hard drive!

    There are so good thoughts for all of us to chew on.

  14. Welcome back, Beth!

    As for Jim. . . well, no comment. Just sadness, but no comment.

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  16. So glad to see you back and feeling better, Beth! ((hugs))!!

  17. Welcome back Beth!

    I bet, incidentally, that if you ease up on the work it is not going to affect your grades as badly as you think it will. Do report back and let us know.

    And, Jim, I have a bipolar colleague, and he is wonderful. I know damn well whom I would rather work with, and it's not you. I would go a long long way to avoid contact with a colleague like you.

  18. And Jim, could you PLEASE send my department some of the normal, rational, hardworking people you describe? THere isn't a one of my colleagues who doesn't either bring personal circumstances to work (i.e. allows them to affect their ability to perform their duties once in a while) or is in some other way uncollegial or tough to work with.

    As for grad students - known issues means that support can be put in place, things can be planned. The worst student problems I've encountered have come out of the blue (to me, at least).

    And yes, mental illness can probably be compared to many physical impairments - it is chronic, it presents varying degrees of challenge depending on the task and the context, varies in a fairly unpredictable way... and it is stigmatising.

  19. Wow, I'm not even a fan of BB but I think Jim's comment is pretty harsh. Most people have personal problems at some point or another, it's just that we often don't know about them. There might be perfectly capable people with whom you are already working who suffer from mental illnesses that are under control. And plenty of people take meds for physical ailments, too. So if your definition of normal is someone who does not take medication and has no mental or physical problems, that's a very slim percentage of the population.

    I do have a reserved attitude about coworkers. They are not my friends, and I prefer to think of them as whatever their role happens to be, not "recently divorced, clinically depressed alchoholic" or whatever afflicts them. I am not even thrilled about knowing the details of my coworker's hernia operation, which he chose to share with me. Now I just can't help but think of him as "hernia guy" instead of the perfectly capable director he also happens to be. So I do agree that it's not appropriate to share details about personal problems at work, unless you work with close friends or need to reveal the information to cover your ass. But most of what you wrote is just plain mean-spirited.

  20. "speaking for all the normals out there"

    Uh, what? It's not normal to be such a jerk. I know lots of people with no history of mental illness who aren't. Plus, Jim, I bet many medicated people have professional profiles better than yours.

    Welcome back, Beth.

  21. Beth -- do I know you? Because "At least you don't have to worry that you went on a shopping spree while having a grand mal" Um, this happened to me. And I had to spend 2 years fighting creditors because I HAD NO MEMORY of the shopping spree or the new credit card I opened on said spree.

    How strange if you're a friend of mine.

  22. Scratch that, I just reread your statement. It appears that you and I both go shopping during our disassociative states! Credit card companies beware...

  23. LOL @ Monkey
    Yeah, I meant that as a "silver lining" for epileptics - grand mal seizures pretty much prevent an impromptu shopping spree, but they cause memory issues, too.

    And I might know anyone here. Seems like most of us are in the same boat.

    But my dissociative states are getting better - just an hour or 2 long at most (though now usually only a few minutes!). But when they're long, I have Delusions of Prosperity supposedly. And I have the $1500 in books with their covers torn off so I couldn't return them to prove it!! That's why I only carry a debit card. And shit, I don't think I ever thought to open a charge account while out of it...stop giving my subconcious ideas!!!! :)

  24. Welcome back, Beth! I'm delighted to hear that the med adjustment was successful, and that you're making other productive changes (which I, like Merely Academic, suspect may hurt your academic work a lot less than you expect; in fact, I'd guess they might even make you more productive in the long run).

    As for Jim's comments, I'd far rather work with someone who has identified her issues (we all have them) and developed a solid repertoire of coping strategies than someone who's so determined to be "normal" (aka never admit to human weakness) that they deny the very real effects of life's vicissitudes until problems are out of control (I'm not saying that's the case with Jim, just that his attitude tends to lead to problems, for the person with the attitude and for those around him/her, in the long run).

  25. Glad to have you back among us in the Ivory Basement, Beth!

  26. I'm a bit late, but welcome back!


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