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Why We Should Stop Using The Term “High Functioning” In The Mental Health Community.

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Disclaimer: In the name of full transparency, I am not a doctor or therapist, I am just a fellow bipolar sufferer sharing my experiences in the hope they may help you. Please be aware that this blog post contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links will result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). At the end of each post, I will be recommending through links the books and other products I personally use to connect with my authentic self.

Please read my full disclosure and policy statement here:

Why We Should Stop Using The Term “High Functioning” In The Mental Health Community.

I have never felt the need to start a campaign, but I do on this issue. In the mental health community, the term “High Functioning” is being used to describe a set of people with a mental illness who have better-coping skills in some situations than others who suffer from the same illness. My campaign is to remove the term “High Functioning” from the language of the mental health community.

In my own case someone could apply the term “High Functioning” to me today, but until 10 years ago it would not have applied to my life at all as I could not function at all. Does that mean I no longer have bipolar 1 disorder? No, it means I have worked my ass off learning to manage my illness. Everyone who has learned to manage their mental illness should get a medal not a label that sets them apart.

What caused me to start this campaign?

In a medical file, a mental health professional wrote – he suffers from “high functioning” depression. Where they should have written – he suffers from dysthymia.

The use of the term, “High Functioning” has caused an individual no end of grief. The inability to qualify for any medical benefits or health insurance payments being the most devastating as these entities equate “High Functioning” as not having depression at all.

And of course, the mental health professional who wrote that statement bears no responsibility, stating: “It is a commonly used term within the mental health community.”

Why should this concern anyone?

The term “High Functioning” is not in any manual or diagnostic tool related to mental illnesses. Using a term that has no basis in any manual or diagnostic tool means other agencies can define the term as they see fit.

Origins Of The Term “High Functioning.”  

My research is showing the term “High Functioning” originally comes from either the area of mental disability or autism. I cannot be sure of which area the term escaped into the mental health community.

 I have experience in the field of the mentally and physically disabled. That is where my education is, and I worked in that field. A mental disability affects the persons intellectual capacity. The term “Higher Functioning” was used to describe the level of care a client required.

In one of the places I worked, we had two 30-year-old clients, one with an intellectual capacity of a teenager, the other client that had the intellectual capacity of a two-year-old  The client with the capacity of a teenager was “Higher Functioning” than the other client and needed less care as they could do certain tasks themselves, like dress themselves and eat unaided.

In the situation of mental disability, the term ‘higher functioning’ fits because it relates to level of care.

 I have no experience with Autism other than the understanding autism is a developmental condition. The term “High Functioning” seems to differentiate the level of social skills a person with autism displays.

This was the first use of the exact term “High Functioning” instead of the term “Higher Functioning” that is used in the field of mental disability.

How did the term “High functioning” invade the mental health community?

The term “High Functioning” seems o be applied by mental health professionals to an individual. The reasons seem to vary but the most common is to “take the sting out of a diagnosis” or “because it sounds better ( I got this statement from the professional who wrote the term “High Functioning” in my friend’s file).

The fact that the mental health professionals are perpetuating this term is perplexing as its professionals that should know better than to transfer terminology between fields with different parameters

As individuals we then perpetuate the term “High Functioning” by applying the term to ourselves without thinking how that term sets us apart.

Terminology effectively used in one field is terminology improperly used in another if the basic parameters of the fields are not the same. The fields of mental disability and autism may be similar enough to allow the term “High Functioning” to apply to both. But there are no similarities between those fields and the field of mental illness.

The Danger of Using The Term “High Functioning” In Regard To Mental Illness.

  1. The term “High Functioning” has no meaning in the realm of mental illness. The term “High Functioning” has no place in the conversations about mental health or because it may “sound better” than an actual diagnosis.
  2. is not a diagnosis, but a judgment on a person. In the fields of mental disability, this judgment is on the level of care required for them by the caregivers, not how they live their lives. In the mental health community, it is a judgment on how we live our lives.
  3. Using The term “High Functioning” and writing it in a file may cause a person to not qualify for disability benefits or disability insurance when the person needs it because they are no longer “High Functioning”.
  4. The term “High Functioning” negates the fact that someone has “learned” the skills to cope in some situations. Because they are labeled “High Functioning” leads people to believe they no longer have a mental illness. In reality, all they have done is learn to cope a little better some of the time and still suffer from the illness in all areas.
  5. divides us within the mental health community. Because a person is said to be “High Functioning” this leads others with the shared illness to think that the “High Functioning” person is not as affected by the illness the same as they are.
  6. “High Functioning” adds to the stigma put on everyone who suffers from a mental illness. Because one is able to cope a little better and gets the label “High Functioning” the outside world, which has no concept of the labels meaning, has another excuse to use against those who are not functioning as well with the same mental illness.

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If we do not allow ourselves to be labeled as “High Functioning” or label ourselves in that way, it would not take long for that term to disappear from the language of mental health conversations.

The term “High Functioning” has no place in the conversations about mental health as the term has no meaning in the field of mental illness.

It is true that all fields have their jargon and agreed-upon terminology, but in most cases, they also have the backbone to explain the jargon and terminology to outside agencies. The mental health community seems to be sorely lacking in this capacity. 

In 2017, I wrote a post entitled “Is Bipolar Like A Cold” outlining how the symptoms of a cold do not affect me a deeply as my girl friend. No medical professional would dare say I had a “High Functioning” cold even though I am not affected by the symptoms as deeply as my girlfriend. A cold is a cold as a mental illness is a mental illness. There are no varying degrees in the diagnosis. The only variation is in the way the symptoms affect the individual.

It is unfortunate “High Functioning” was allowed to pervade the mental health industry as it is divisive, hurtful to all who have mental illness and adds to the stigma that already follows those of us with a mental illness. Let us use stop using the term “High Functioning” and start using defined diagnosis only in speech and writing.

Please share post with as many people as possible so we may kill the term “High Functioning” and remove it from our community.

As we conclude this week’s blog post always remember our battle with bipolar disorder is with and in our minds. Our battle is with our illness not with other people, places, situations or other external things.  Our goal is to develop the self-discipline to take control of our emotions, minds and lives.

The great inspirational speaker, Jim Rohn, said:” Work harder on yourself than anything else.”

I say,” Work hard on yourself and everything else falls into place like magic.”

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

Subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the subscription box to the right of this post. In that way, you will be notified of all the new posts and happenings in 2020. Please comment below as I am extremely interested in your opinion.

BLOG OF THE WEEK:

Many other people blog on bipolar and related subjects. Mental wellness is all about knowledge and learning about ourselves. The more informed we are the easier our struggles may be. Each week I attach a blog written by someone else that I found interesting that may inform you as well.  This is another author’s work I am just attaching their blog for you.  I hope you enjoy this week’s blog created by Alexa Ceza

https://www.alexaceza.com/post/5-things-you-should-stop-doing-to-yourself-mental-health

MAYBE HERO’S AND MENTORS ARE WHAT WE NEED IN THIS UNCERTAIN TIME

If you are visiting through the website, please click on the posts title to open this post in a separate window for a better experience and to comment.

Disclaimer: In the name of full transparency, I am not a doctor or therapist, I am a fellow bipolar sufferer sharing my experiences and knowledge that I have gained in the hope those experiences and knowledge may help you.

Please read my full disclosure and policy statement here:

In this time of uncertainty hero’s and mentors maybe what we need for our mental health. They are out there and it is our job to find them.

What is a hero and how to find one?

A hero is that torch that you can follow. The spark that ignites the fire that says if they can, I can too. The biographies of the great men and women are waiting on the shelves of libraries, bookstores, and online in Wikipedia for you to find the hero that speaks to you in a way you can understand and want to follow.

My current hero is Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Why would I choose him as a hero? Because when most people are winding down their working lives he was just getting started. In my case after battling this illness unsuccessfully for decades my life is just getting started in my 60’s as well. If he had quit when he turned 65 and settled for his little pension, we would never have known who he was. He did not settle, and I do not want to settle either. He had something to offer the world, a secret recipe of herbs and spices, and I would like to think I have something to offer in my writing of children’s stories and this blog.

There was one other thing about Col. Sanders that his biography shed a light on. He had failed a lot in his life. His biographer John Ed Pearce wrote, “[Sanders] had encountered repeated failure largely through bullheadedness, a lack of self-control, impatience, and a self-righteous lack of diplomacy.”

I could really relate to that line as it pretty much summed up my bipolar life except the fear.

What is a mentor and how to find one?

A mentor is someone who has trod the path that you are on and can keep you from some of the errors that they have suffered through. The best mentors have no ulterior motives and only sincerely want the best for you. It is a relationship like none other in this day and age. A good mentor is not a bank, a taxi, or your savior. They are just a person who will never turn you away no matter what you have done.

My current mentor and I have welded a relationship over the last number of years and even in the depths of my last episode in 2010 never once turned me away. I just refused to listen to wise words because I was so wrapped up in my illness that nothing penetrated. We can laugh about that today.

How do you find a mentor? First, you must put yourself in a position to meet one. Attending support groups is usually a good place to start. Although many who attend support groups fall away as they reach a feeling of wellness, some stay to give back to the people who are still suffering. Those are the potential mentors. With the advent of online forums and chats finding someone you can forge a long distant relationship with has also become an option. I have a few people that I mentor through email. There is only one requirement to having a mentor and that is honesty. If you cannot be honest don’t bother. For the few that I mentor face to face the first thing I say is “I don’t care if you lie to me, just don’t lie to yourself.”

There are many tools to be found on the path to mental wellness. Two of the best are finding a hero and a mentor. They are the fire and the forge that can weld you into a person of integrity and keep you on the path to mental wellness.

As we conclude this week’s blog post always remember our battle with bipolar disorder is with and in our minds. Our battle is with our illness not with other people, places, situations, or other external things.  Our goal is to develop the self-discipline to take control of our emotions, minds, and lives.

The great inspirational speaker, Jim Rohn, said:” Work harder on yourself than anything else.”

I say,” Work hard on yourself and everything else falls into place like magic.”

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

Subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the subscription box to the right of this post. In that way, you will be notified of all the new posts and happenings in 2020. Please comment below as I am extremely interested in your opinion.

BLOG OF THE WEEK:

Many other people blog on bipolar and related subjects. Mental wellness is all about knowledge and learning about ourselves. The more informed we are the easier our struggles may be. Each week I attach a blog written by someone else that I found interesting that may inform you as well.  This is another author’s work I am just attaching their blog for you.  I hope you enjoy this week’s blog created by Madelyn Chung

https://www.madelynchung.com/blog/2019/4/26/i-showered-today-1

JOURNALING, THE GREATEST TOOL FOR MENTAL WELLNESS

If you are visiting through the website, please click on the post’s title to open this post in a separate window for a better experience and to comment.

Please read my full disclosure and privacy policy here:

________________________________________________________________________

There are many benefits to journaling, be it pen to paper in a book or on an App. In the battle for mental wellness, journaling can play a big part in winning the battle. I am the first to admit that developing journaling as a habit takes works, but remember our goal is to develop the self-discipline to take control of our emotions, minds, and lives. Journaling is one way to develop that self-discipline and begin to take control.

Ten Benefits of Journaling:

  1. Calming and clearing your mind
  2. Releasing pent up feelings
  3. Reduces stress
  4. Improves self-awareness and shows triggers
  5. Used for mood tracking.
  6. Shifts your perspective.
  7. Gets those repeating thoughts out of your head and on paper.
  8. Allows you to see other options.
  9. Cultivates gratitude.
  10. Allows you to track successes and promotes change.

Pointing out the benefits of journaling is all fine and well, but how do I journal?

For most people starting out, journaling is best done at night before bed to reduce racing thoughts.

The basic elements in journaling for mental health are medication and mood tracking, a gratitude list, finding something positive in your day and tracking your thinking.

Medication tracking – entails keeping track of the medications you are on and how they are making you feel. This is critical at the beginning of our journey towards mental wellness. I have often shared how I trialed fifty-two meds or combinations of meds in two years before I found the med that worked for me. By keeping track of each med or combination of meds and how they made me feel gave me the ability to go to my Pdoc with indisputable evidence. It also made it easier to see what was tried and never to repeat the prescriptions. We never had the, “I will prescribe this” not realizing that was prescribed months ago conversation.

Mood Tracking – entails keeping track of your moods. Mood tracking can highlight exposure to triggers that you may not even know you have.

By mood tracking, I found out I fell into a funk every Wednesday. The reason was on Wednesdays I had to deal with a really negative person for the entire afternoon. I had to quit that assignment.  

By mood tracking, we figured out I had seasonally affected bipolar disorder.

Mood tracking gives us clues and then we can act on them.

Gratitude: list three things you are grateful for

Positivity: list three things that were positive today, like I made my bed, went out for coffee, did the dishes.

Thought Tracking :

Worry Tracking – entails writing about the people, places, situations or other external things that we are worried about and make us anxious. Then writing a conclusion – can we do something about this right now? Yes or No. If yes, what can we do right now? If No, why are we worrying about this?

Believe it or not, this one exercise caused me to stop worrying about a lot of things and put my life into perspective.

Racing Thoughts – reduction entails writing down everything you are thinking about. Putting them on paper makes it possible to see these thoughts in the light of day and judge if any of these thoughts are important. The truth is that when you go to write down all of those thoughts in your head a lot of them just disappear.

For me, journaling took what was once an all-day, every day, constant head pounding to an almost quiet mind.

Recently, I went through a period of racing thoughts as I implemented the changes to this blog. Too many ideas and tasks running in my mind proving that, yes, I still have bipolar. My constant journaling kept this episode short and it did not take over my life.

Trigger Tracking –This is done in three parts. Part 1. Writing down the triggering event and what my response was. Part 2. Writing down how best to handle the trigger in the future – I will a. avoid this trigger or b. learn to cope with this trigger.  Part 3. If I choose to learn to cope with the triggering event, I then list all the resources, people, books, courses and other help I can use to learn these coping skills.

Since I started trigger tracking and deciding on how I will handle triggering events I have found that I am not triggered much anymore. But that took a number of years.

Journaling is one of the best tools there is for bipolar management. Journaling does not have to be detailed, just started. Everything I have outlined that a journal should contain is less than a page in my journal. There are many mental wellness journals and apps ready-made for you to start. I just encourage you to start and keep journaling. Your mental health will thank you.

As we conclude this week’s blog post always remember our battle with bipolar disorder is with and in our minds. Our battle is with our illness not with other people, places, situations or other external things.  Our goal is to develop the self-discipline to take control of our emotions, minds, and lives.

The great inspirational speaker, Jim Rohn, said:” Work harder on yourself than anything else.”

I say,” Work hard on yourself and everything else falls into place like magic.”

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

Related Products:

Self Talk: How to Train Your Brain to Turn Negative Thinking into Positive Thinking & Practice Self Love (2nd Edition: Edited & Expanded) 

https://amzn.to/2RQXZaw

365 Days of Positive Self-Talk for Finding Your Purpose 

https://amzn.to/2U2lqAa

Subscribe to this blog by entering your email in the subscription box to the right of this post. In that way, you will be notified of all the new posts and happenings in 2020. Please comment below as I am very interested in your opinion.

BLOG OF THE WEEK:

Many other people blog on bipolar and related subjects. Mental wellness is all about knowledge and learning about ourselves. The more informed we are the easier our struggles may be. Each week I attach a blog written by someone else that I found interesting that may inform you as well.  This is another author’s work I am just attaching their blog for you.  I hope you enjoy this week’s blog created by Eva Grant originally featured in Bustle.

https://www.bustle.com/p/7-ways-to-tell-if-your-racing-thoughts-might-actually-be-a-mental-health-issue-9655043

What Is The Purpose

 

This week’s topic was to be a continuation of building a support group, but a comment on my Twitter feed caused me to address a different topic.

The comment was, “Mental Health Advocacy has become synonymous with being a motivational speaker. I’m concerned the mental health world is going to kick all of us depressed, mentally ill people out for those that “overcame” their illness.”

I thought long and hard about how to respond to this tweet because there is a valid point here. It is true many of Mental Health Advocates have “overcome” their illness, which really means found what works for them most of the time, including my self. If you had made a discovery that changed your life would you not want to share not only what tools you are using, but that there is hope that others can find what works for them as well. In that light, most of us do sound like motivational speakers.

On the other hand when issues come up that affect the treatment of the mentally ill or mental illness we, advocates, are yelling at the top our lungs because we have learned to speak out. The thing is people listen to us because we have “overcome.” A prominent politician, who knew me before, told me that the change in my life was the only reason he listened to me on a mental health issue. I am not saying my voice swung that issue because my voice was just one of many, but I know if I had not “overcome” my illness I would have had no voice with that person.

So yes, we who have “overcome” do sound like motivational speakers, but that voice is solely directed back at those that are still struggling with their illness to offer hope that you too can find what works for you. If you are a member of the mental health community that is still really suffering this means that is the voice you will hear the loudest.

Those of us who have chosen the role of mental health advocates are also members of the mental health community. We still struggle, just not as often. We have found what works for us most of the time and because we have done so people are willing to listen to us. There is no risk that “the mental health world is going to kick all of the depressed, mentally ill people out for those that “overcame” their illness.” By “overcoming” our illness we have proved the mental health system can have successes which give’s hope to both sides. It provides hope to those that are still struggling and to those that provide the services and fund the projects, that mental health is still worth fighting for.  Without that hope of success, there would be a problem getting anyone in power to listen or fund the needs of mental health.

As we conclude this week’s blog post always remember our battle with bipolar disorder is with and in our minds. Our battle is with our illness not with other people, places, situations or other external things.  Remember our battle for mental health will always be with our minds and our minds alone.

The great inspirational speaker, Jim Rohn, said:” Work harder on yourself than anything else.”

I say,” Work harder on yourself and everything else falls into place like magic.”

Keep to the path, the hard one. The easy one does not go anywhere.

 

Please subscribe to this blog, or check back every Monday. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

 

BLOG OF THE WEEK:

Many other people blog on bipolar and related subjects. Mental wellness is all about knowledge and learning about ourselves. The more informed we are the easier our struggles may be. Each week I attach a blog written by another author that I found interesting that may inform you as well.  This is another author’s work I am just attaching their blog for you.  I hope you enjoy this week’s blog created by Hayley Hobson for Positively Positive

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