It’s hard to understand a mental illness if you’ve never had one… And having support from family is crucial to the recovery of those struggling with their illnesses.
In her book, “How to Enjoy Life with Bipolar Disorder,” Ann Latta Donnan details her life with bipolar disorder from age 12 to present day. Having been misdiagnosed for seven years as a teenager, Donnan details the hilarious and horrific effects of the illness, as well as her journey to stabilization.
I had a chance to interview Ann to learn more.
What are some factors that led to your misdiagnosis?
The factors that led to my misdiagnosis are: 1) My manic episodes lasted about a month. I was hospitalized four times and put on large doses of tranquilizers. When I came down, I appeared normal. The doctors thought that teenange hormones were responsible for my erratic behavior. 2) When I was depressed, I slept fifteen hours per day. I didn't bother anyone. The doctors thought I was exhausted from my sped-up episodes.
Why are mental illnesses so often improperly diagnosed?Not much was known about bipolar disorder in the 1960's. Since then, they have learned a lot and psychiatric medicine has improved a great deal.
What are some of the best ways that you have learned to cope with your mental illness?I cope well by taking all prescribed medicines. I can't stress this enough: the medicine is what treats the illness. Also, I try to sleep 8 hours per night. I also try to limit stress.
How can family and friends support others who have a mental illness?Family support is vital. My parents, and now my husband and children, understand that I have a mental illness. They help me to avoid stress. Most of all, they love me. A mentally ill person can be very confused during a manic phase. I needed to be reassured that I would be all right and that I would be taken care of.