• Yasmin Phillips

First Know Thyself

Updated: Sep 3

This blog to share my daily struggles and insights of living with and working in the field of mental illness, with a focus on my own disorder, Bipolar II W/Psychosis

This is my first blog and first post ever and I have to admit I'm more than nervous, I'm outright afraid. The stigmas that continue to this day for those of us that have mental health illness, it is still looked upon as a character flaw, a weak mind, someone that is just attention seeking. Working as a behavioral/mental health RN for a large part of my nursing career I have a unique insight from being on both sides of the clinical intake desk.

I'll tell you this, once you enter that hospital as a patient and not an employee, you are degraded to mental patient just like everyone else, not taking as seriously, over exaggerating, not to be believed because hey she's crazy after all.

I wanted, no needed to start this blog to share my story, my experiences and ideas for implementing change to the current mental health system. I will dedicate the rest of life advocating for a change in approach to mental health with a dream to open my own center to teach people how to live with mental illness. These are all my personal opinions that may often have links to scientific research when appropriate.

I know what you may be thinking, I mean why would anyone care about what I have to say? I know I have which had held me back but I remember when I was first diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I tried read up on everything I could, hoping to find an explanation for the feelings I've had my whole life. There were many sites with information on the signs and symptoms and what to expect but it was fairly clinical. Nothing really spoke to what I felt everyday when my emotions would take me on an all day non-stop roller coaster ride or when the medications made me feel, well nothing at all, complete emotional numbness.

I want to speak to that person that feels they are secretly or not so secretly losing their minds and to let you know you are not alone, and your not crazy. We have a health condition like millions of other Americas and even more around the world, and just as like a diabetic we have to learn how to mange our conditions daily. Sometimes daily can feel daunting, let's learn to get through the hours, minutes sometimes we even have to take it a second at a time, just let me get through this next 60 seconds, I know I've been there.

I Have a Unique Perspective

The only difference between you and the medical professional that sits on the other side of the desk, is a life situation and how one handles it.

I am fortunate in that at an early age I decided to dedicate my career path to learning and advancing what we know about psychology and mental health. I was first hospitalized for mental illness at the age of 15, but I had known years before that I wasn't like most of the people around me. I felt isolated and alone even though my household was usually overflowing with people. I hated the crowd but I also hated not feeling like I belonged, something I struggle with to this day. I guess at some point in this blogging journey I will tell you more about how I grew up but for now I want to tell you about the first time I was hospitalized, because there many more.

I was 15 and homeless, bumming around on classmates couches or sleeping in an abandoned house I use to live in with my mother and brothers. Not to get to deeply into that situation but at that same time I was writing short stories and poems that were getting recognition from some of my teachers and other school staff. They were impressed with the emotion and depth of the poems but they were also highly disturbed, all my poems back then were about death and dying:

Black Night 1995

Blackness flows and drips like water, lights die out as children are slaughtered

Darkness, heavy like a cloak muffling every word, D-day is here mums the word

Mothers cry as children die, ripped from out the womb, the bombs are headed straight this way I give us until noon (from Black Night by Yasmin Phillips)

One of the many gems I was churning out at the jaded age of 14, I had no way of explaining how dark I felt on the inside, finding my voice in my writing literally, "pun intended" saved my life on more than one occasion. Well, the poems lead me to the guidance office where for some naive reason I told them everything that was going on in my life. They located my mother and she came to pick me up. After speaking with the counselor and reading the black and white composition notebook I kept my poems and thoughts in, we took a bus and ended up in front of the hospital where I was born. I had no idea why we were there and I wasn't about to open my mouth ask my mother a thing.

After a speaking to the receptionist we went to another wing of the hospital where I had to answer a hundred questions in a small office with a large woman that spoke too fast for me to pay much attention to what she asked me. All I remember is at the end of it they were leading me upstairs and my mother had once again disappeared, with promises to come visit me soon. That was in the first week of November 1995 and the next two months were some of the best in my childhood memory. I loved being at the hospital, it was secure, I knew what would happen next. I knew I would be fed and have a safe place to sleep every night. More than anything the nurses were beyond amazing, a few of them took me under their wings and made me feel special. I know that may seem petty but at the time it was what I needed to heal. Longer story short I never forgot those nurses and how much their kindness made a difference to not only me but the other kids there that came from much worst circumstances than I had. Many years and hardships later I received the opportunity to attend college and their was no question of what I wanted to do. I wanted to help people like me, like the kind-hearted nurses had done for us all. I became and RN and went straight into mental/behavioral health. At this very moment due to actions I have taken during a hypomanic episode, my nursing licence that I worked so hard for is on probation after a year long legal fight just to keep it, but I will blog about that another time.

Purpose Driven Life

From the age of 14-15 until now, and I'll be 40 years old by the time this published, I have learned much about how to live and manage the symptoms of my bipolar. I stress "my bipolar" we are not cookie cutter shapes where everyone fits the same mold even if we share the same condition. I don't claim to have all the answers but what I do know is that you can use anything that comes into your life, any mental illness, disability or disadvantage to create, discover, and become more. More than anything, I have always wanted to just become more than I am, a better mother, nurse, teacher, daughter, friend, a better person. All my life has lead up to this point, the good, the bad, and the horrifying and I couldn't change a thing so why would I want too. If we accept that we have this disorder and that it is a part of what makes us who we are, we can have a different outlook on the future and that is paramount. If you have nothing to look forward to, no future goals, or great expectations, then it's so much easier for the darkness to creep in and take hold, so easy to believe that the world would be better off without your presence, easy to surrender, but I won't let you, I won't let me either.

One last note: last year one of my worst nightmares became a reality when my teenage son was hospitalized for the first time, guess what his diagnosis was?


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