Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NaBloMoPo Day 3 "Lost Nuts, Living a High Functioning Mental Illness Life"

 Living with a mental illness no matter what the diagnosis is never easy, we face a maze of barriers every day. These barriers vary greatly amongst the mental health community and from region, and country. The barriers I faced in the United States are very different in many ways from the ones I see every day here in Canada. The one constant one that myself and many others like me battle with everywhere is that of the high functioning mental health survivor.

 Everyone has seen the visible person living with a mental illness, you know the scene. The man or woman who is talking to people who are not there, or the young person wearing a winter coat in July who cannot make eye contact or seems socially in pain. What we rarely see is the person who goes to a office every day or works in a factory seems on most outward appearances to be fairly normal.

 There are lots of services and support for the lower functioning or persons with multiple barriers in the community, from drop-ins to medical and therapy services. The community actively looks out and rightfully for this segment of the Mental Health Community but those who do not need such intensive support has a hard time accessing help.

 Not being visibly ill leaves us unable due to economic or social reasons to access services available to others.
I see it when I speak with mental health professionals, they are so overwhelmed by the community that is on the edge that my invisible community falls through the cracks and is left to seek out help on ones own.

 I perfect example of this is Vancouver is the "Mental Health Team". The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority Mental Health Teams provide Psychiatric care for thousands of people in the lower mainland. But I cannot access their services because I make too much money and I seem to not be quiet the kind of sick they can take. I am still on a waiting list for a private Psychiatrist this could take 6 months to a year. I am high functioning but I am also living with a drug resistant, case of BiPolar I. And I can become very ill very quickly. It is a simple case of being very sick, yet not sick enough.

This problem may seem to a outsider to be trivial but to the millions who live in my segment of the Mental Health Community it is not. We tend to suffer in silence and that too is a shame. On a positive side social media has become a place where the community can and does share information and support  in ways many others cannot access regularly. In so many ways we are the  "Lost Nuts"  of the Mental Health Community.


  1. This is an excellent post. I know so many people, friends that feel the same way as you. It just goes to show how misunderstood people with mental illness are, especially those trying to manage a chronic illness and live their life. Thanks for putting into words how so many people feel

  2. I'm sorry you have to wait so long to see a psychiatrist. We live in the U.S., but when my husband had his psychotic breakdown, he had to wait about 6 weeks after getting out of the hospital to see a good psychiatrist. I don't know what we would have done if he'd had to wait for a year.

    The problem with the lack of access to resources for high functioning people is that, without appropriate treatment, you never know when they might tip over into the non-functioning category. Prevention is a thousand times better than crisis care.

  3. Here in Western Australia I live both sides of the fence: most of the time I live in a high functioning state without the need for psychiatric assistance, but there are times when the illness overwhelms me and I end up in either “voluntary” admission or sectioned.
    Despite the best efforts of family and friends, for various reasons I’m unable to do the best thing for myself. This is where regular contact with my GP has been essential: I’ve been referred to private psychiatrists before, without having to wait, and without having to pay.
    This isn’t about incomes, it’s about outcomes, and the fact that the Australian and Western Australian governments are willing to pay for a positive outcome speaks volumes for their intensive commitment to health.
    The system is by no means perfect. There are cracks and I’ve fallen into cracks many times. By shear good fortune or by the hard work of my support base I’ve survived. If only such fortune and support was available to everyone the results would be better. My guess is that social stigma is still so great it’s too difficult for many people to open up about their symptoms and illness: it’s taken me nearly 30 years to be relatively comfortable to talk about it in any context to people I don’t know, or even blog about it.

  4. From what I can tell from my Australian readers and friends you have a much better Mental Health System than Canada and we have a much better one than the States. I lived in the States and the MH system is very very broken. It is reactionary not proactive.