Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Before you judge
Before her death at age 27, British singer Amy Winehouse was often the target of tasteless jokes on late night talk shows.
What hasn't surfaced in too many articles is the fact that she suffered from bipolar disorder, and didn't like the side effects of her meds. So she refused to take them. So she self-medicated, which is probably what led to her death.
This may seem open-and-shut to you. But consider. I work with people who have tried medication after medication, only to have all of them fail. I have met people who have gained 50-100 pounds as a "side effect" of their medication, putting them at risk for diabetes, heart conditions, etc. - not to mention the effect on their self-esteem. It's not so easy to just pop a pill. Even when you find one that works, it won't fix everything.
My heart goes out to Winehouse and her family because, frankly, I put my own family through hell when going through severe depression. I self-medicated with alcohol, and but for their support and a medication that worked (thank God) without serious side effects, I would likely not be here today.
I understand that pain, that depression that seizes you and makes you unable to do the simplest things, like get out of bed - or even want to wake up, ever again.
Mental health care sucks in this country and even in others, mental illness is drastically misunderstood. I am sick and fucking tired of comments people make when a tragedy of this sort happens, connecting mental illness with creative talent.
It doesn't spur the talent, friends. Those of us who are creative will tell you it's hell on Earth trying to create anything when we're down.
Drinking, for me, took the edge off. I was a little more social, a little less unhappy, felt a little less alone. I would always crash - always end up feeling worse the next day.
It has been almost 14 years (I quit drinking, funny enough, right after I turned 21), but I still have dreams every month or two that I screw up and have a rum and coke or whatever, and have to start all over again. That leaves me to wake up in a cold sweat, kissing my toes that it's not real.
So before you judge her - or others who have substance abuse issues - please consider. There may be a very sad reason behind it. And more importantly, they may be forever grateful if you are there when and if they have the strength to move forward.
I know I am.