Mental Health Language

How many times have you heard some variation of the phrase “Looks like someone forgot to take their meds today” or even said it? I certainly know I have heard it plenty of times. Now, this is not meant to attack anyone or say you’re a horrible person if you ever have said something like that. Rather, it is just to get people thinking. Phrases like this, along with others like “I must be bipolar or something, my emotions are all over the place today” are used a little too freely in my opinion. Just as most people are probably aware of refraining from saying things like “that’s so gay” when describing something that makes them upset or frustrated or that they don’t like, they should be aware of the language they use when describing mental illnesses.

Oftentimes, people say things along the lines of what was described above without even thinking twice. I feel this in a way trivializes mental illnesses and people who do indeed take medications for them. As someone who takes medications and sometimes struggles with the thought of it, hearing a joke about someone who is acting silly or different than usual forgetting to take their meds does bother me a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dwell on it all the time, but I have thought about it enough to feel like I wanted to write a post about it.

Even in popular culture, there are references to mental illnesses that are not particularly considerate. In a song “Beautiful Girls” by Sean Kingston that came out when I was in high school, he sings “They’ll have me suicidal, suicidal when they say it’s over.” Now, is he actually saying he will want to kill himself when a girl breaks up with him? Probably not. Personally, I think he is using that word in a way to try to convey just how heartbroken he would be, but that probably isn’t the best choice of words to describe his feelings. Someone who actually is suicidal probably wouldn’t appreciate hearing it in a somewhat glamorized fashion in song lyrics. The song got a lot of radio play and probably millions of people sang it without really thinking of the real connotation of those lyrics, showing how this type of language can spread quickly. This is just an example of something that came to my mind first when thinking about this whole topic.

Going back to when I described someone saying their emotions are all over the place and saying they are bipolar, the sentence is oftentimes accompanied by a laugh by them or others laughing with them. This is something I heard someone say at work just recently, and I know she is not aware I do have bipolar. Thus, the point is, you don’t know the story or situation of everyone around you. If you make some kind of joke like that, it may actually be upsetting to someone else who’s affected by bipolar or other disorders. It also shows there is a real misconception among many people about what bipolar actually is. A common perception is of Jekyll and Hyde, where someone who has bipolar is constantly  changing moods on a dime. However, in my case and probably in many other cases, that is not true. As I explained in an earlier post, I had phases of ups and downs. Yes, I do have some mood swings sometimes, maybe more than many people, but the majority of them when I was untreated came in cycles, not rapidly fluctuating throughout the day.

As I said before, this is not meant to criticize anyone who may read this. It is only to bring awareness to the topic. What is the real solution? Simply try to think about the phrasing you use in everyday conversations regarding mental illnesses, and to encourage others to do the same. You never really know how what you say could affect others due to conditions they struggle with. This is not to say that the whole field of mental health has not made great strides, especially recently. In general, it seems like people do accept the legitimacy of mental illnesses more than ever. With people speaking out about mental illnesses more and more and there being better quality care, I am very grateful and happy in general about the state of affairs. However, there still is some work to be done as far as realizing the need to be more sensitive in regards to language used around mental health disorders.

A Night With Betty Who

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of seeing the singer Betty Who perform at Royale in Boston. Inconspicuously settled near the Boston Common, Royale is a relatively small venue that makes for an intimate concert experience. A place I had visited a few times before, I looked forward to returning for the first time in several months. Also familiar to me was the opener Vérité, who I had seen open for Marian Hill the last time I went. Vérité did not disappoint yet again, but it was Betty Who who made more of an impression on me.

It was an ideal spring day in Boston and I arrived early to take advantage of it. I always enjoy walking around Boston, this time spending most of my time strolling around the Boston Common. It was filled to the brim with others soaking in the beautiful day as well. Some interesting sights were had, including a parade of costume wearing runners. The dinosaur really stole the show amongst onlookers. The energy in Boston was palpable. Several Boston Marathon runners and spectators were walking around, the Bruins had a playoff game in Ottawa, and the Red Sox were hosting a game, making for a packed T ride into the city.

Once I made my way to Royale, the concert began with Vérité taking the stage by storm, opening with her hard hitting new single “When You’re Gone.” I am a big fan of artists who really make you feel strong emotions with their lyrics and the way they deliver them. Vérité is definitely one who does just that. A twenty-something (I think) singer from New York, Vérité has powerful vocals and songs that are usually somewhat angst filled/ angry, yet beautiful all in the same. She is able to sing with such emotion that you are really taken into the song, and almost makes you feel the same way. Vérité referenced how New York crowds at concerts seem bitter compared to the Boston crowds, and admitted “I’m somewhat bitter too, but it’s OK” in a nonchalant way. With her debut album coming out in June, she is certainly an artist to watch.

The anticipation was soon in the air for the singer everyone came to see, Betty Who. A 25 year old Australian singer whose real name is Jessica Newham, she went to Berklee College of Music in Boston and started out as an acoustic songwriter before evolving her music into the more colorful pop sound she is now known for. Right from the start, the crowd really took to her and was loud. One of the things that impressed me most about her was her stage presence. I hadn’t really seen an artist who dances as much as her, especially not with backup dancers and choreography for most of the songs. This made for a fun and playful environment, with Ms. Who really acknowledging her band and dancers and having fun with all of them. Her talents went beyond her singing and dancing, however.

Who knew how to work a crowd, saying in a playful manner early on in the show, “The only rule is that you have to sing the words if you know them. If I see you mumbling the words and I know you know them, we will lock eyes and I will tell you to really sing them.” The playful tone she set at the beginning continued throughout, with her calling out several members of the audience at different points. At one point, she acknowledged a girl who was singing all the lyrics in the balcony, saying she made her heart explode. Other times, she cracked jokes or pointed out people wearing interesting apparel, from asking a boy wearing a Def Leppard shirt if he knew any songs by them (he didn’t) to getting excited when she saw a fan donning a “Who Crew” hat.

In one of the more intimate points of the show, she went back to her roots and played a couple acoustic songs. A powerful moment took place when she asked the crowd to sing back the chorus of one of her more popular songs “Wanna Be.” A tale about wanting to be with a guy who is already taken, Who croons “I know she’s sweet, but she isn’t me/ Where she lies in your eyes/ That’s where I wanna be.” Another great moment of the show took place during her empowering song “Beautiful” where she posed a question to the crowd by singing “Do you feel beautiful?” to which the crowd yelled “Hell yeah!” Of course, the show also included her hit songs, including “Mama Say”, “Some Kind of Wonderful”, and “Human Touch” from her album The Valley which came out at the end of March.

Betty Who certainly has a bright future ahead of her. Referencing Beyoncé as someone she looks up to, she definitely possesses some of her charisma on stage and dancing skills, although she most likely won’t reach quite that level of fame, but who really can?Nonetheless, her tour promoting The Valley should be a great boost to her. I am certain she will continue to produce more uplifting songs that speak to her fans.

Going to a concert is such an uplifting experience, and one that everyone should experience at one time or another. I feel fortunate to have seen so many great shows over the last few years. This one was probably more of a treat for me since I hadn’t been to one since December. Perhaps this blog will take on more of a musical direction, as it is something I have a great passion for. Maybe introducing up and coming artists I have my eye on, or reviewing concerts I go to like this one, who knows. The beauty of the blog that I love is I can take it in any direction. So far, it has been an enjoyable experience I look forward to continuing.

My Journey

Just as I have a habit of putting many things off, I have unfortunately put off writing this blog for quite some time now. If anyone who may be reading this didn’t know, I am now employed for the first time since starting the blog. I began working in downtown Springfield at a company called Stentel with a title of property estimator a couple weeks ago. I won’t be getting into detail with that as that is not the real topic of this particular post, but if anyone feels like finding out more, they can ask me about it and I will be happy to discuss it. I will say it has been going pretty well so far.

For this post, I felt like talking about my journey so far since my mom died. Well, really a little before that. It is something I have been wanting to write about for a while, but as I said, I have been putting it off, telling myself I will do it soon. This journey is particularly important to me since it deals with when my Bipolar disorder, which I was officially diagnosed with in November of last year, really began to take shape.

Soon before my mom died, and especially right after, I went into a phase that could be described as being on the lower end of manic. I developed an intense passion for singing, thinking I was going to sail off into the sunset as a professional singer and be set for life without ever really dealing with my mom’s death. My love for music didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere, as I had years before been called a human top 40 jukebox, but the idea that I was going to be a professional singer was one that caused concern amongst family and friends. It became quite an obsession, where I would stay up all night oftentimes or close to it, singing or watching music videos/ interviews of musicians. As many know, I wrote songs and posted singing clips on Instagram, thinking that would catapult me to a career as some but very few had done. I would brush off any comments or concern others had, saying that it didn’t really come out of nowhere and I was fine. However, looking back, it did take off quite rapidly after singing just once in front of a small crowd of a few friends at a bonfire.

I could go on for a long time about this phase, but really to condense it, it went on for months and the bottom line is I never actually dealt with my mom’s death. Inevitably, I was setting myself up for a crash, although I didn’t really know it when I was going through that phase.

On came the depression, as quickly and seemingly out of nowhere as the manic phase. I can’t really point to a specific event that brought on the depression. All I know is that it hit really hard. I stopped singing altogether and was really down in the doldrums. Things I loved before like sports, I no longer cared for at all. I was living life, but wasn’t really there. Again for months, this phase lasted. Contrary to my more outgoing self during the manic phase, I was withdrawn during the depression. People would call, but I wouldn’t answer. I wouldn’t respond to text messages most of the time. Most days, I didn’t really do anything productive at all, wallowing in my misery. Of course, this again caused concern from family and friends. This time, I knew something was wrong, but as much as I knew that, it was seemingly impossible to bring myself to do anything to change what was happening despite countless suggestions from family and friends. Soon, however, and again seemingly out of nowhere, another manic phase would come.

Perhaps it was already building up, but I can point to seeing Halsey, my favorite singer, last August at Madison Square Garden as a real turning point and possibly a catalyst for the mania. It was a sweltering day, with temperatures reaching the high 90’s. I had been outside at the Yankees game all day, which kind of exhausted me, but I remember even then not really feeling like I belonged there, not feeling like I belonged anywhere in fact. During the concert, however, I started to feel hope again. I can’t really describe it fully, but there is something about being in a crowd of thousands of people who love the same artist you do that brings out a feeling of euphoria. Coupled with the fact that she has Bipolar herself and has battled anxiety and depression, even going through a suicidal phase, I felt like I had a great connection to her. I remember walking out of that concert and seeing the bright city lights of New York. I felt hope again, like life was breathed back into me. It was like a movie.

This set off a period of only a couple months where I went to a ton of concerts and sporting events, culminating with a trip to California on a whim, soon spending all the money I had. Yes, I did literally spend everything I had and at one point went into the negative by a few cents. Again, I didn’t see how dangerous and really sometimes reckless my behavior was. Citing things such as “well I’m not staying up all night or drinking this time”, I had convinced myself I was fine, even great, adopting a me vs. the world mentality. Soon enough, this came to a head, where there was a night family members ended up getting through to me. After I adamantly and quite loudly disagreed for a little while, I finally agreed to think about seeing a psychiatrist.

Soon, I did see a psychiatrist and began taking medications. As some may recall, I made a post back in November about having Bipolar and taking Lithium, a mood stabilizer I am no longer taking due to medical issues it caused. It was a way for me to own the bipolar at that time, and this is a way for me really to work through and in some ways make sense of it all. However, I am still taking another mood stabilizer and anti-depressants, to try to prevent another period of depression from occurring. Right now, I feel pretty decent about where my life is, working full time for the first time in a while and realizing the value of actually saving money and not getting caught up in going to as many events as possible. Really, those events were a distraction for me, but not the remedy by themselves. The cycle of mania and depression has for the time being been broken, as since probably November really, I have not been too high or too low.

If you have made it through this post, thank you. I really appreciate anyone who reads the blog. Hopefully, anyone who read this can possibly get something out of it and know that adopting the mentality of fighting the world as I did doesn’t really work out. Although I certainly would never want anyone to go through the experiences I have, I hope this may be of help to some who are battling or have battled anything like depression, anxiety, Bipolar, or loss of a loved one dear to them. Until next time, which will hopefully be sooner than the last.