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Still Living With Mental Illness

In December of 2009 I “came out of the closet” as having a mental illness. I have a bipolar condition that Dr. Hagop S. Akiskal, the psychiatrist who developed the bipolar spectrum and who was a few years ago also one of my diagnosing psychiatrists, describes as bipolar type II ½. Some others in the mental health community refer to that specific bipolar condition as cyclothymia, and other times as bipolar type III, but my experience with my bipolar condition is often more than that the mild depression (dysthymia) and mild hypomania that are seen as the primary symptoms of cyclothymia.

Image: BrainWhen I wrote about my bipolar condition in 2009 I was experiencing more hypomania than depression. These days I’m experiencing more depression than hypomania.

And, why talk about my bipolar condition and depression? It’s because sometimes internalized ableism is often a powerful thing in my life — it’s definitely more a powerful thing in my life than any internalized transphobia I experience.

I’m fairly self aware, but even when I believe I’ve worked through emotional stressors and situations I find what I actually did to “solve” these stressors and situations is bury my emotions. I’ve unconsciously been doing that for awhile now with a number of circumstance related emotional fountainheads.

I can be triggered by a variety circumstances too — from every day circumstances to big life stresses.

In the past few weeks I’ve had the quantity and intensity of both my buried and on the surface emotions coalesced, and my emotions bubbled over the top in a quite painful and overwhelming way. And in the process, I became aware of many of the sources of the stresses and the overwhelming emotion that were at the fountainhead of my recent experience of a painful, bubbling over of raw emotion.

As a function of self-care I’ve had to change my tact from consciously and unconsciously burying emotions to dealing with the issues and circumstances at the root of those emotions.

And sadly, I have public and private issues relating to the steps I’ve taken to physically and legally change my sex and gender. My recent “bubbling over of raw emotion” experience is mostly rooted in my emotional responses to the external pushback I’ve experienced from uncaring government bureaucracies and private individuals who’ve worked to erect various types of barriers in the way of my legal changing of sex and gender.

On a certain level, it feels like I’m internally fighting for my survival as a woman because of external efforts to define me as a man. And internally for me, this is at the intersection of being a trans woman and being disabled due to mental illness.

From experience, I know it takes a lot of personal effort to work myself out of significant depression — the kind of depression I’m now aware I’m experiencing; the kind of depression that my bipolar condition — my mental illness — amplifies. It takes switching from a position of trying to bury emotions to doing something to resolve what’s at the roots of those emotions.

So, I’ve began the process of doing just that; I’m taking actions instead of allowing myself to be emotionally overwhelmed. For example, just yesterday (August 7, 2012) I filled out the California Form VS 24 that I received a few weeks ago in the mail — I then mailed off the completed form to the California Department of Public Health, Office of Vital Records. This VS 24 form is the form I needed to fill out and send off to amend my California birth record. In taking that effort, I’m working to address the issue of the barriers to legally changing my gender — addressing the issue of those barriers instead of just being emotionally distressed by those barriers, or focusing on those who’ve worked to erect those barriers.

Taking action — in actively doing instead of passively, yet intensely, emoting — is my path out of the significant depression I’m experiencing…the depression I’m feeling that’s being amplified by my bipolar condition. At this point in time, it’s the best self-care tact for me towards functionality given the disabling aspects of my mental illness.

* Living With Mental Illness
* The HHS To Now Collect Data On Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, And Trans People
* Thinking On Bipolar Depression, Anxiety, And Hypomania… And Christine And Me

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Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen