by Christine F. Anderson
Christine writes about mental health/mental illness in her column, Forever Different, where she shares from her own experiences as someone who has bipolar disorder. Christine has also started a Facebook support group for those with Bipolar Disorder: www.facebook.com/groups/foreverdifferent.
Those of us who are around mental illness on a daily basis, have to ask ourselves what is me authentically and what is the illness? It’s hard at times to distinguish between the two.
I suffer from Bipolar I Disorder, and recently, I made some poor business decisions that led to an arrest and pending felony charges for larceny—accepting money under false pretenses like taking a payment and not performing the work. This is completely, 100%, not true, but in the past I served time in prison for securities fraud which was true. My current clients were aware of my past, and my mental illness because I am open about and also wrote my memoir, Forever Different, describing my life.
While I feel my illness allows me to take more risks than a normal person, I don’t feel that it necessarily makes me a bad person or a habitual criminal. In the instance that these clients complained to the authorities, I feel I am being prosecuted for past sins rather than the validity of the current charges.
It makes the water murky when you have a past because, most times, when it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck. But what do you do in the case that you have done nothing wrong but are defending yourself from prejudice for both your mental illness and your past?
I asked my therapist, what can I do differently? What can I do to break the cycle to keep me from finding myself in these situations? Sadly, there was no definitive answer. All she could do was caution me as to maybe not putting myself in the position to handle people’s money.
So the question remains, are my poor choices that led me into making poor choices, habit, behavior, or my mental illness? The consensus is split. You have the general public which says it’s poor choices and bad behavior, and you have mental health professionals and people intimately involved with the mentally ill that say it’s the illness.
What if both were true? What if the Illness gives us the confidence to create the behavior?
I am not looking for sympathy, or an excuse, it seems to be a simple fact that I did not have these or exhibit these behaviors before their onset in 1987, and now that the illness is full blown, I have a hard time with impulse control and risky behavior.
One can only hope that justice in its truest sense will be served, and I am praying in my favor. I hope that people will see what I did may have been risky but in no way was illegal. My hopes is that with continued counseling and medication compliance, we can work on these two issues that seem to plague my life and that someday I find peace.
Check out KRL’s Mental Health section for more mental health related articles, and watch for more from Christine.