Shame and fear often stop people who really need support for their mental health or addiction from reaching out. COVID 19 has created a mental health pandemic. For many, anxiety is now part everyday life. Alcohol and drug use has increased as people try to cope. Opiod use and overdoses have increased dramatically. And many of our kids are in crisis because of social isolation from their friends and school.
Every brain is unique and there is no life script to follow for people living with mental illness. Life Unscripted is a weekly radio show hosted by Janice Arnoldi Sundays at noon on 610CKTB. Each week she shines the light on the issues surrounding mental health through the stories of people with lived experience and those who work in the field of mental health.
“If I can reach one person living with a mental illness or addiction or reduce stigma by helping someone understand – that’s why I do the show”
I have lived with bipolar disorder (manic depression) for more than 30 years. I was first diagnosed in 1990 and for the next five years I was in and out of hospital with extreme mood changes from depression to mania. I was diagnosed with rapid cycling and at one point I would have dramatic moods swings in a day, waking up depressed and thinking of suicide then swinging to being full of energy, talking rapidly and unable to sleep.
Different medications would only stabilize my moods for short periods of time. Eventually I had Electro-Convulsive Therapy, commonly known as shock treatments. Again, these only worked short term so were not an option.
In 1995, during a period when my mood was stable I began working with a psychiatrist on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). At the time the medical profession largely believed that only medication would work for manic depression and no amount of talk therapy would help. My doctor at the hospital – who was absolutely wonderful – told me it wasn’t a question of will I get sick again but when.
CBT was hard work. One of the first and most important things I learned was I needed a daily routine. So I developed a strict daily schedule. I learned to get up at the same time, eat at the same time and do simple tasks like laundry. I also had to go to bed at the same time. No matter how manic I felt I could not get out of bed, even if I didn’t sleep all night.
Once I got my routine under control I worked on my thinking and in 1998 I was able to go back to school and study multi-media. I’ve been very fortunate that my mood has been largely stable since then.
I decided being open about my illness was one of the best things to do for my health and I quickly learned about the depth of stigma. That being said almost everyone I’ve talked to has a family member, a loved one, a friend who was living with bipolar disorder.
Over the years I have talked to many groups about mental illness.
Life Unscripted is a way for me to help reduce stigma.