Thursday, October 9, 2014

Memoirist Tara Meissner on the stigma of bipolar disorder

Tara Meissner has just released her first book, Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis.  

As part of her release tour, she has shared some additional insights on the stigma attached to mental illness.  Please don't be shy about leaving questions or comments for Tara below!  

I was shopping the other day. I came across a wall hanging that said, "Your crazy is showing. You better tuck that shit in." As someone with a mental illness, should I laugh at the joke?

Taken literally, the word art could be taken to insinuate that one should hide their symptoms of mental illness. Less kindly, the sign can imply that one can flippantly "tuck in" a mental illness without having serious medical intervention.

In general we hide things that are unflattering or embarrassing. Gray hair? Hide with with dye. Wide hips? Try an empire-waist skirt.

The word stigma is tied to things that shame or disgrace us. It remains socially unacceptable to reveal a mental illness. We should "tuck that shit in."

However, just because society still attaches a disgrace to mental illness, seeking treatment is the best option. And receiving treatment does not have to involve exposing one's entire self. Outside of my family, the only people who have to know that I have bipolar are my pharmacists and doctors. I don't have to experience the stigma to live well with bipolar disease. I chose to reveal it freely, because I don't want embarrassment to continue to prevent people from getting proper treatment.

There is no inherent shame in having a biological medical need to treat a mental illness. Society needs to change. It is happening, progress is slow to recognize, but some day we might be aghast to recall a time in history when people went without mental health treatment because of stigma. Yet, it is a true reality today.

However, I maintain the sign was funny. Tuck that shit in if you want. Keep it private. But don't let the ignorant let you believe the disease is false. If a qualified medical professional has suggested a course of treatment, don't let fear of embarrassment stop you from following it.

Many friends lost their hair as part of a cancer battle. Some wore wigs closely resembling their hairstyle before chemo, some wore beautiful scarves, some baseball caps, and some just walked around completed exposed. Where ever your personality lies, respect that. I think I'd be in the beautiful scarf category.

Stigma exists. It shouldn't, but it does. I believe it will one day change. Don't let stigma stand in the way of you or a loved one receiving treatment to try to get healthy. Not all my friends won their battle with cancer, but they all followed the advice of their doctors and accepted the prescribed treatment. Not everyone with mental illness is going to survive either, but hopefully stigma or not, those afflicted with fight the disease with treatment. Health is worth it! Put on some make-up concealer if you like to hide from the stigma, but fight the fight!  

About the Author
Tara Meissner is a former journalist and a lifelong creative writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and works part-time at her local library. Tara lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Mike, and their three sons. She writes longhand in composition notebooks. Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis is her first book. 

Connect with Tara

About Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis
Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis is a moving and honest psychology memoir about the things that break us and how we heal. It offers a raw view a 33-year-old wife and mother swallowed by psychosis. The psychotic episode includes meeting Jesus Christ, dancing with Ellen DeGeneres, and narrowly escaping eternity in the underworld. 

Casually called a nervous breakdown, psychosis is an entrapment outside of self where hallucinations and delusions anchor. Family, doctors, and fellow patients witnessed a nonverbal, confused, distraught shell of a woman. In the security of a psychiatric care center, the week-long psychosis broke and spit out a bipolar patient in the cushioned place of middle class medicine.
Outpatient recovery consumed the better part of a year with psychiatric treatment and spiritual contemplation. Left scarred and damaged, health returned allowing her to tentatively embrace a grace and peace earned through acceptance of bipolar disorder. 

Paperback: 224 Pages
ASIN: B00L8G6C66

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