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The Bipolar Black Man’s Biography Pt. 1 – Guest Blog Post

In honor of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Shawn Maxam shared this blog post:

Men are no more immune from emotions than women; we think women are more emotional because the culture lets them give free vent to certain feelings, “feminine” ones, that is, no anger please, but it’s okay to turn on the waterworks.

-Una Stannard

Being a Black man in America is difficult. Being a Black man in America with Bipolar Disorder can be unbearable. There’s a lot of emotional baggage that comes with being a Black man in this country. We still get harassed by law enforcement, we are disproportionately represented in the prison population and more of us die (via each other’s hands) annually than US military personnel do overseas

Now from a macro perspective that’s a heavy burden to carry. This doesn’t include whatever specific issues each individual is faced with. Now I’ve been homeless, physically abused, my brother has been murdered, I’ve been divorced and the police have pointed guns in my face but nothing compares to having Bipolar.

All of those things are external incidents. This mood disorder lives inside me! Lives with me and follows me wherever I go. Sometimes I think people forget that I have an actual medical condition. I have to take medication every day. I need pills to function just at a level that will keep me out of a psychiatric ward or a graveyard.

Black men aren’t allowed to be emotional. You’re considered a whoosh, soft or a punk if you show any emotion besides anger. If you’re a Black man who is self-aware and educated than you’re not even afforded the luxury of being angry or upset ever! Look at President Obama. He has to maintain the cool, calm and collected facade because he’s a Black man in the world’s most powerful position and yet he still gets compared to Hitler.

Society states that there’s nothing more emasculating than a man being unable to control his emotions. A man should be a Spock like individual comprised of only logic and reason. That’s how men are supposed to be. So how does a person who suffers from a MOOD disorder, an illness that inhibits their emotional control, encompass this persona?

When can I cry? Or feel disappointed, frustrated or upset? If I wanted to I would have a perfect excuse. Would anyone blame the epileptic who has a seizure or the diabetic who faints from low blood sugar? But the Bipolar Black man can’t show any negative emotion or even too much positive emotion.

If I’m too emotional people worry I’m having an episode. If I’m not emotional enough than I’m being a stereotypical man who is insensitive. What am I supposed to do? Sigh.

Read more Shawn Maxam here.

Originally published on the blog:  For Shawnel

Getting through Darkest Days of Mental Illness:Borderline Personality Disorder – Guest Blog Post


Getting through Darkest Days of Mental Illness:Borderline Personality Disorder

by Debbie

How do you get through the darkest days that come through mental illness?

In this video (transcript below), I discuss my own personal experience around:

  • Coping with and getting through the darkest days that we encounter as a part of suffering from and living with mental illness
  • Tolerating the distress of miserable emotions
  • The power of using your skills when you actually would rather just give up
  • The challenge of remembering another state of emotion when you have Borderline Personality Disorder
  • How DBT is not always easy to practice, but it is ALWAYS worth it

I hope you feel encouraged.

Thank you for reading and watching.

Transcript of Video:

“Hi guys, its Debbie from www.healingfrombpd.org. I want to start out this video by telling you guys how grateful and thankful I am for all of you – for you, you, you, and YOU watching this video right now and possibly on my blog reading the post that goes with it.

I have had a rough couple of days – really bad. Really distressed extremely anxious. It got to the point where the self-harm thoughts were coming. Thank God that I know how to use the DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills and that I was able to muster up the strength to do it even though I honest to goodness didn’t feel like it. I really didn’t.

I was so angry and so disappointed and so upset to find myself in a space that I had been in before that I had hoped and thought  wouldn’t get to that point again, that I just – I really wanted to just pull my hair out and scream and cry and just say ‘f’ all of this, you know?  It was so overwhelming and upsetting, but there was that Wise Mind, that little tiny bit of Wise Mind coming up and saying, ‘Debbie, you’ve been through this before, and it totally sucks, and it feels miserable, and it’s almost unbearable the distress, but life is so worth it when you pass through this – because it ALWAYS passes – and it may take a day, it make take three days.’  Who knows how long it’s going to take?

But, I was reminded, or I reminded myself, of how good I feel on those days when life is good, you know? When things are going well and my mood is pretty stable, and I’m happy, and I’m not having anxiety attacks and those kinds of things.

And, I know that’s really hard to do when you’re in the midst of a crisis when you’re not feeling well and you’re not thinking straight, and it was hard for me, too.

I wrote in my blog that I feel really embarrassed, in a way, sharing the extreme distress I was experiencing because  I’m that girl who writes about how DBT is so amazing and will help you and you’re going to feel great – and that is still true,  and I will tell you  that mental illness is very complex.

My blog is “healing” from bpd.org, not “healed” from BPD, because I think it’s probably an ongoing thing, possibly for the rest of our lives that we have to learn how to keep everything in check.

I’m vulnerable still. I still have these symptoms, and I apply the skills. But, I’m glad that I did share this with you because as expected, and even though it’s been tough, I am starting to feel better…and it was REALLY bad. Really bad. Some of you saw me on Twitter and Facebook at 2 in the morning my time when it was 10 a.m. in England, and you were asking, “What are you doing online, are you ok?”  And, I wasn’t.  I was NOT ok.

I’ve really had to do my 9-1-1 DBT Skills. The reason I’m glad that I shared after all…Number one, I have received Facebook messages, tweets, direct messages on Twitter, emails, you name it –messages on YouTube – you name it – just an outpouring of caring and support and love and encouragement and people saying, ‘Hey – don’t’ be embarrassed. You’re one of us. It happens’

They were encouraged to see that even on these really, really dark days, that I have been willing to push through and work through it, and so, I feel that, and I’ve  said this before, I’d be doing you a great disservice if I did not share with you the times that I have really difficult – like a crisis or a difficult time with my emotions, because then it looks like, okay, this girl has completely got her act together, and she’s doing DBT, and she never really has a downfall…just oop! A little challenge, oop! A little challenge,  but you know what?

The truth is, a lot of time – and it has gotten more consistent since I have started DBT – I’ll be stable for quite some time, and there will even be a trigger, and I’ll still just come right back up, but when there are multiple triggers at once, especially, that’s when I get really, really vulnerable and end up, a lot of times, in the situation that I was in the last couple of days.

So, thank you for your support. Please know that if you are going through one of these dark valleys or having dark day after dark day, and you just feel like giving up, and if you feel like it’s just not worth it and you can’t muster up the strength to even try the skills or it doesn’t feel like it’s going to even do anything, PLEASE learn from my example that it does help and it does work. It may take time. It may take longer than it’s taken me.

I’m not completely feeling 100% well. I’m still kind of shaky. I was anxious today, but my appetite is coming back, and that’s a huge sign to me that things are getting better.

It will get better for you, too.  It might feel completely horrible, like you don’t know how you are going to bear it another minute, but please just HOLD ON. Hold on.

There’s a song from the late 80s, early 90s by Wilson Phillips called “Hold On.” I’ll put that video underneath this one on my blog as well. If you’re feeling this way, please listen to the words of the song,  and know that if you hold on – if you practice your skills even when you honest to goodness don’t even want to and don’t feel like it, even if it feels like it won’t help at all, please trust that if you hold on, tap into Wise Mind, do your skills, stay safe – let someone know in terms of a psychiatrist or therapist if you feel like you might not be able to stay safe,  please take care of yourself and please do whatever it takes.

I want you to remember those times when you were laughing, and those times when you felt the sun on your skin and you noticed it, and it felt warm and good. Or, the time you were able to focus and get into a really good book or watch a really good movie – or anything like that. In fact, one thing that I do now is on the good days, I make note of it.

They say it’s one of the hardest things for us to do when we have Borderline Personality Disorder –  to remember another state of emotion when we are so intensely engrossed in the one that is happening right now – but I find it’s really helpful to make note of the good days– make note of things that make you feel good, things that make you happy, things that make you smile – so when you’re in those same circumstances but you’re being affected by the negative emotions and the anxiety and depression, you can recall that, and it kind of gives a sense of hope that it can be that way again. It just totally sucks right now. And, I know it does, and I’m not trying to minimize it, but please know that you’re not alone.

Thank you guys so much for everything. I really appreciate it, and I look forward to seeing you in the next video or on my next blog post, and I hope you have a great rest of the day.  Thank you. Bye.”

Click to listen to Wilson Phillips sing the song Hang On: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=uIbXvaE39wM


BIO: My Name is Debbie. I live in California, and I am diagnosed with BPD. I am in the process of healing. I don’t claim to be all well. I have my days where I backslide on a large scale, and I have days wherere I show a lot of progress. As time goes on, I seem to be more aware and insightful, as I hope you will see in my writing. But, we have to remember, it is all a journey, and we each have a voice worthy of being heard.

I am currently attending a weekly DBT group, which helps many conditions but was especially designed to help those with Borderline Personality Disorder, and is helping a lot.

To read more of Debbie’s blog posts visit: www.HealingFomBPD.org