My last blog post referenced those with mental illness and addiction issues under the same umbrella of “behavioral health.” A fellow blogger had the insight to question use of the term “behavioral health” which is used widely in the US but perhaps not elsewhere. She is at: https://mentalhealthathome.org.
The challenge for me is finding a term that includes mental illness and addiction in the same breath. At first glance “behavioral health” does that – include mental health and addiction diagnoses. But as my fellow blogger and friend pointed out “behavioral health” is a weird way of describing mental illness and addiction. The use of the term “behavioral health” seems to imply that all that us mental illness or substance abuse sufferers need to do is change our behavior and all will be well.
Further, the term “behavioral health” does not include the more common understanding that both mental illness and addiction are associated with or caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The chemical imbalance is clearly an illness.
While there is room for behavioral change in any illness diagnosis including cancer and heart disease, the idea that a diagnosis can be reversed through behavioral change is missing the point. If I have heart disease, I can change my diet and exercise regime. If I have cancer, I can also adopt a healthier diet and exercise. However, my diagnosis of heart disease or cancer is not defined by my behavior. It is defined by the diagnosis and prognosis of the illness itself. If you are dying of heart disease or cancer, no one says “change your behavior and all will be well.”
So why should we term mental illness and addiction as “behavioral” issues? The key to understanding mental illness and addiction is in understanding there is a chemical malfunction in the brain. Sure, you can mitigate this some with behavioral changes, but that does not mean that mental illness and addiction are explained best by our behaviors or changes to our behaviors.
What are your thoughts on using the term “behavioral health?” Is there another term you choose to use to describe mental illness and addiction?
The risk of having a child with or without bipolar illness was something I contemplated a great deal but did not necessarily pray about. With my first fiancé I was bound to the idea of adoption – that a diagnosis of bipolar and a diagnosis of clinical depression were too much to hand down to the next generation. My fiancé at the time did not agree with me and wanted to have a biological child(ren) rather than adopt.
When I met my soon-to-be husband some seven years later, he also was adamant about having a biological child. Instead of two clinical diagnoses of depression and/or mania, we each brought to the table a pre-existing condition; I brought the bipolar illness and he brought an alcohol dependency under remission at that time for about 15 years. Somehow in our first year together, my soon to be husband and I settled on the idea of a natural conception. We were blessed with early success in pregnancy within a couple of months of trying which at 39 (when we conceived without any assistance) is somewhat of a miracle in itself. My position at the time of carrying my child is that Nurture is a strong proponent in the Nature versus Nurture battle. If we can avoid a divorce event or something similar such as the abuse I suffered at an early age, perhaps my daughter’s child within will be upright and healthy and right in her relationship with God. Since my daughter’s birth, we have sought continually to provide for her spiritual development and her spiritual journey.
James and I are open with our daughter who is 16 about Dad’s alcoholism and about my bipolar illness. We talk about responsible behavior for our family as avoiding alcohol and for engaging in and not avoiding emotionally challenging events. We accept that to have a meltdown and cry is an important process for growing up and challenges Mom and Dad to listen. We also talk about the importance of mood recovery. Once we have cried and released the source of our anxiety or concern, we then try to move on and recover the mood and move onto the next event or challenge.
I am hoping to teach my daughter how to be more fluent in her emotions not just successful in her studies as I have been learning to be in the last several years. She already is exhibiting signs of emotional maturity that I did not have at that age. She is not obsessed with being the top student in her class. When she feels upset about something like a misunderstanding with a friend, she is largely able to talk about it and express her feelings. When she is emotionally or physically tired and ready for bed, she says so.
I feel that with God’s blessing we will move through whatever illness may come our way – this including the current testing for breast cancer. With God’s help we will manage through any abuse incidents that may have presented in my life so as to avoid the repetition in my daughter’s life as she continues to blossom and to bloom into a beautiful young woman.
I am letting go of any childhood abuse I sustained between six and ten years of age. I recently have had an abnormal mammogram, an abnormal ultrasound and a request for an MRI for both breasts.
I feel like I am being called to let go of the abuse I experienced as a young child so that I can continue to heal particularly with respect to any sort of breast abnormality or cancer I may currently have or any cancer that is soon to be discovered.
I won’t find out for at least two weeks if I have breast cancer. My MRI is on June 17th. Until then, I will be working on forgiving those who I believe participated in the sexual exploitation of me and my body and my mind when I was six, seven, eight, nine and ten.
I release any perpetrator and give the abuse over to God as to how to handle those individuals and how to judge those individuals. The judgment is not mine to make.
Again, I will also be working on forgiveness to those parties with the main desire to move forward in my life in a way that is free from anxiety and free from these deep pockets of pain. I feel that by letting go of this abuse, I may be more able to forgive and more able to have an illness-free life going forward.
Thanks in advance for any support you can muster for me as I release this abuse to God and to the void. I no longer want to possess this experience and the anxiety and depression that comes along with it.
I am interested in writing about my experiences managing bipolar illness which was diagnosed in 1985 while a Senior at Ivy League College (name not listed). This is almost 35 years ago and also accounts for almost two thirds of my life. I believe that stigma is the primary issue I have had to deal with when managing through this bipolar illness. Similar stigma issues may exist for other mental illness diagnoses. For me the stigma has been at least 50% of the battle. If this story sounds like something you would be interested in hearing more about, please let me know. I am at the juncture now of trying to determine whether to share intimate details about my health and my life in order to get my story out there and to connect with others through story-telling who may share a bipolar diagnosis or know someone who does.