By Moses Kim
Now that I am stable in terms of my bipolar condition, I am feeling incredible both physically and mentally through hard work with mental health professionals, support groups, and a regular gym routine. After it was suggested by my therapist, I started to slowly navigate today’s dating culture.
One issue I seem to have is bringing up that fact that I have a bipolar disorder diagnosis, which I like to refer as a condition of my mind, not an illness. I am the type of person that likes to be authentic and real rather than lying about things like occupation, appearance, and marital status. So this issue of not disclosing my mental health condition feels like I am kind of misrepresenting myself.
I have had two different experiences so far. First, I made a connection after disclosing to someone who was also living with a mental health condition, but there was no attraction. With another person, there was an immediate attraction, but once I disclosed the fact that I was bipolar, all communication halted.
How do YOU break the news or do I even disclose? And what kind of experiences have you gone through?
The buzz for this year’s Grammy Awards is fading, but I’m still thinking about Brandi Carlile, who was this year’s most-nominated artist. I learned about her from a loved one several years ago, before she sold millions of records and earned the respect of her musical peers. All day yesterday, I wished I could pick up the phone to talk to my loved one about this and about how much I love Carlile’s new album. I listened to the album before the Grammys and cried. Grief hits you hard at unexpected times.
This is the part where you might wonder how I lost lost my loved one, or why I am using “my loved one” instead of a name or a more specific identifier.
The short answer: my loved one is mentally ill and won’t speak with me.
When a loved one passes away, we grieve and slowly accept the reality of living without the person in our daily lives. They say time heals our wounds and, while we don’t believe this at the time, we learn it is true. When a loved one is living with a mental health condition that is not being treated, we also grieve — but it’s different.
When someone we love dies, we have no choice but to eventually accept the person’s absence. But when we have a loved one with a mental illness, what we must accept is that things won’t be as we hoped or expected. While they are alive, they might not be able to communicate with us, or they might lash out at us and shut us out. It can feel like we’ve lost them.
This explains the grief I’ve been experiencing for my loved one. They have an untreated mental health condition and they’re refusing any contact with me. I use “loved one” and “they/them” because my loved one has had paranoid thoughts. They’ve said that they don’t like people talking about them. They insist that I mind my own business and leave them alone and stop invading their privacy. It’s heartbreaking.
Because far too many consider mental illness to be a taboo subject, we can be tricked into believing we shouldn’t talk about it. Sometimes it might seem better to keep it to ourselves. It’s not. Mental illness might not be easy to talk about, but I’ve learned it’s even harder to stay silent.
At NAMI support groups, I have connected with other family members and friends of people with mental health conditions. Hearing their stories and sharing my own helps me feel less alone. We talk about the sadness we feel for our loved one’s pain, and about how we can sometimes feel frightened, guilty, angry, frustrated, powerless, and exhausted. We talk about finding ourselves in situations that seem impossible. We learn to let go without losing hope for the possibility that things could be better. We express our feelings of loss and recognize it as a safe place to grieve.
I talk about wanting to be there for my loved one, even as they shut me out. The reason I couldn’t call my loved one to talk about the Grammys and Brandi Carlile is because they threatened to call the police to say I was stalking them after I sent birthday and Christmas cards and called to wish them a happy new year. I share this knowing it is painful for both of us, but that they are not currently able to find relief from that pain.
I am grateful to have the support of peers who understand what I’m going through and who remind me that I am not alone in feeling an overwhelming sense of loss at times like these. It helps me to have the courage to talk about this outside of those closed doors. I do so because I believe that is necessary to help end mental health stigma and create hope for those affected by mental illness.
Yes, hope. We hold onto hope that our loved ones will be treated and experience relief, even happiness. We hope that we might someday talk on the phone again, sit down to listen to music together, and maybe even get tickets to see a favorite artist like Brandi Carlile perform in concert.
After we shared a list of the reasons we are grateful this year, and asked our members and supporters to do the same. The responses have touched us and filled us with hope.
As this is #GivingTuesday and it is the season of giving, we are asking you to consider support for NAMI Westside Los Angeles. One in five Americans lives with a mental health condition. Your contributions can make a difference by providing support, education and advocacy for our community.
Our membership funds and donations are used to support the free services we provide year-round. We rely on these funds to help us work on services to benefit the participants in NAMI Westside LA’s programs, from our classes and groups for those affected by mental illness, to our school programs and outreach efforts in the community.
With more funding, we could:
You can be assured that each donation will make a difference.
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