Mental Health Disabilities and Identity

Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment which can negatively affect one’s day to day life, (Google, 2012). This can be difficult for individuals and their families who live with disabilities. Weather this is a physical disability such as hearing loss or limited mobility, or a mental disability such as Bipolar or Personality Disorder, it can have adverse effects on an individual’s quality of life. This can often be difficult for physically and mentally healthy individuals to understand. However, when reading two narratives about the personal struggles of living with a mental disability, readers are given a firsthand account of the difficulties of remaining healthy and the struggles of being stigmatized as “mad” or “crazy”. Narratives may be vastly different, such as the country they live in, their family support, and mental disability.  Despite these differences, narratives allow personal incite, understanding, strength, and encouragement against their struggles of adversity. Having a personal understanding of individuals with disabilities can be helpful for the nondisabled person. The mentally ill will not be pitied, looked down upon, or viewed as someone who is dependent on the help of others. In the essay, Account of 69 Years of My Experience with Bipolar Disorder and the article, Twin Realities, the authors encourage people with and without disabilities to remain resilient against life’s challenges. Most importantly, these accounts demonstrate the relationship between identity and mental disability and how individuals come to terms with themselves and their relationships with others.

In the article and essay, both individuals fight and come to terms with their identity of living with a mental disability. While one person, Ron Price, comes to terms with is bipolar disorder, Pam Siparo-Wagner, faces the continuous struggle with schizophrenia and how it affects her relationships. Ron, in his essay and personal narrative, documents his life living with bipolar disorder. At the age of 67 living in Australia with his wife, Ron has come to terms with his bipolar disorder encouraging others to do the same. “It is part of my own effort to destigmatize the field of mental illness and it provides a useful longitudinal account of bipolar disorder for those who are interested”, (Price, 2012). Ron has no shame or embarrassment about his disorder. He has learned to recognize his “triggers”- when his disorder is taking presidencies over his behavior. To combat bipolar disorder, Ron uses coping skills and prescribed medication. In this way, Ron is able to “accept and manage the range of normal emotions”, (Price, 2012). He also works in community outreach, as he participates in different blogs, forums, conducts research, writes, and other strategies. He has a good relationship with his family. His friends are also aware of his condition and respect his needs when he is feeling anti-social. In this way, Ron is able to do his part and make a difference for people with disabilities and those who work with them.

“Pam says her mother is a wonderful woman who has grown greatly in recent years, although Pam has spent much of her life angry at her father”, (Megan, 2003). Pam continues to struggle with her identity and face various challenges due to her schizophrenia. Although she has accepted her disability, Pam continues to struggle with coping and management. Pam is an identical twin to her sister Carolyn. Although Pam has schizophrenia, her twin does not. This difference has changed the course of their lives as well as their bond as twins. Having an illness like schizophrenia, Pam allows her identity to affect her relationship with her father as well as develop old friendships or create new ones. She refuses to see or visit with old friends who knew her as healthy or without the related side effects of her medication such as weight gain, gas, and fatigue. Her relationship with her father is also directly related to her illness. Her father is a retired Doctor and University professor. His education, degree, and influence, has caused a distance between Pam and her father. They had not spoken in decades because the strain of schizophrenia and stigma. “Often it is this way with mental illness, the disease exhaust and splits families in ways other illnesses don’t”, (Megan, 2003).

Ron explains that, “mental illness is truly a heavy burden to bear”, (Price, 2012). Currently, mental illnesses have gained little medical ground. Scientists still have not discovered the cause of mental illness nor does mental illness have a cure. The only thing that can provide comfort and quality of life to people with disabilities is medication, as it subsides the effects of the disorder. However, medications do not always work and most often the result of trial and error of dosage and combinations to provide successful recovery. For both Ron and Pam medication is the key to success and emotional stability. Ron admits that he has been taking medication since the 1960’s to stabilize his mood and has finally found the right combination that has allowed him the quality of life he has today. Pam also recognizes the importance of medication. Despite this, it is a daily struggle for her to take them. She wants recovery but doesn’t like the side effects they cause. To combat this issue, Pam has a nurse visit her in her home twice a day to give her medications. This resource has significantly helped Pam remain stable, while she works through her illness and find her identity as a person living with schizophrenia. Ron realizes that, “one-third of all people in western cultures will suffer from a disorder or emotional problem during their lifetime”, (Price, 2012). Due to this, it is important that society understand the personal struggle of people with disabilities. As many people face these challenges, identity is important for successful recovery. How the individual identifies with their disability relates not only to success but also future relationships, involvement in society, and self-esteem.

                                                                                                                          

REFERENCES

Megan, K. (2003, December 14). Twin realities: The sisters were identical, until the voices began. Hartford Courant. Retrieved from http://www.schizophrenia.com/stories/twins.htm

Price, R. (2012). Account of 69 years of my experience with bipolar disorder: A personal-clinical study of a chaos narrative. In Essays and Poetry by Ron Price (12 ed.). Retrieved from http://bahai-library.com/price_mental-health_history_autobiography-memoir

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About Russia Robinson

I am an independent freelance writer and free thinker. I strive to use my writing talents to benefit the greater good of society, one word, one sentence, one page at a time. Originally from Richmond, California I attended San Francisco State University receiving a BA in English Creative Writing and American Literature in 2004. After this I attended post graduate studies in 2008 at Georgia’s Kennesaw State University in Technical Writing. With an academic background in English, I have spent more than 10 years’ helping young people succeed. This can be seen in my career background in education and mental health. I am a certifiable Language Arts teacher for the state of Georgia. I also worked in social services including juvenile mental health treatment services and counseling. As a result, I understand the diversity of problems people face in their everyday lives. With words put together like so, I promote equality and a healthy society for all people regardless of individual differences. Conducting research, writing articles, essays, and blogging, I push to educate others about various issues that affect people. I also do this creatively through short stories, poems, pictures, and a novel in progress. My hobbies and interest are reading and learning. I enjoy all things art and all things nature. From camping and astronomy to photography and cooking, I enjoy sighting seeing and socializing just as much as I enjoy curling in bed with a good book or binge watching TV.
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