The Unspoken Illness

If we knew each other’s secrets, what comforts we should find.
John Churton Collins

Mental illness is the unspoken illness, yet it is more common than many of the physical illnesses plaguing us. In Wikipedia (among an impressive array of footnotes) it says that 1 in 3 people worldwide will be affected by a mental disorder at one time during their lives, and 46% in the United States will have a mental illness. This is startling only because there is so little talk about it! The unspoken illness is just that — a pretty big secret!

I love the John Churton Collins quote. It is comforting to know each other’s secrets as they pertain to mental disorders, because keeping everything a secret produces shame for the person with the disorder. It also contributes to insensitivity, misunderstanding and ignorance in the culture.

If I don’t tell you why I cannot sleep at night. Why I struggle. Why I start to wind down for bed at 8:00 p.m. with my first regimen of relaxation on a good night. Then, knowing I love the night, you are likely to call me late, like 11:00 or so. Without knowing that a stimulating phone conversation before bed could easily keep me up for three to four hours — you might! And what about more serious matters than sleep? For these you need to know my secrets. Although, sleep is a familiar refrain for me. It is a nightly struggle for me to keep from mania. And I hate mania!

Many people with bipolar do not hate mania. For them it is a fun high. They go off their meds to experience it. Not for me. It’s not fun. It’s scary and out of control and panicky. I try to avoid it at all costs. Lately, I have been staying up late writing and paying for it.  Not with mania, yet. But with exhaustion. So this post is being written in the early evening.

However, back to my topic. Ignorance in society. Secrets. How can these things stop? I am trying one way, by speaking out. If everyone with bipolar disorder, major depression, or panic attacks quit being ashamed — or afraid of their reputations — or what others might say, and spoke about their disorders — this world would change.

I believe it would change for the better. Everyone would stop feeling so alone. Fellow sufferers would come out and talk about it too. People who don’t have mental disorders would empathize, as they have with me, and lend support. Hope and help would be offered, sought out, and found.

I believe that honesty, clarity and genuine sharing improves this world. If you don’t have the courage share, email me at I will talk with you. Share, commiserate and love you.

Don’t let that spook  you. I just know where to find a very large reservoir of love to share with you and I will. So please write and let’s get these secrets out. Let’s let the healing light of day shine on them and begin our journey of hope!

If we knew each other’s secrets, what comforts we should find. — John Churton Collins

@Copyright Libby Baker Sweiger

Also published in The Howie Blog Regional Blog May 15, 2012


2 thoughts on “The Unspoken Illness

  1. I am so glad you wrote this Libby ! Folks should know about Bi-Polar and what it can do to people. A friend here had it come upon her late thirties , there were things she didn’t accomplish in life that she really wanted and that is where it began to leave its mark. She decided to make one last try for a musical carrier, she cheated on her husband with a young musician to have a band. Was dishonest on her job. she was totally going haywire. She sought help and found out about bi-polar. all was lost, her husband turned his back as well as her employer, and just about everyone else. the last time I saw her was two Christmas’ ago. ringing a salvation army bell in front of a store. She told me all about what happened and I felt so bad that she went from starring in a Christmas musical to facing the nightmare alone. Forgiveness and understanding are so important, it is not a normal illness that can be delt with in usual terms. Keep writing you are great

    • I am so very sorry about your friend Tom! Bipolar disorder is a very difficult illness left unattended. Without medication the judgment part of your brain as well as your sexual inhibitions go haywire which can explain what happened in part to the dear girl. My heart goes out to her and the lives that were affected. I don’t want anyone to fall through the cracks like this. Somehow I am going to make a difference. Raising awareness is all I can think of at this point, but maybe there will be more. Thanks for your comment. I love hearing from you!

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