Celebrating Women: Increasing Awareness
Since 2006, 14 Valentines has striven to both celebrate how far women have come, and to increase awareness for how far we still have to go for full equality, autonomy, and inclusion.
TW Mental Health, TW Substance Abuse
While I was growing up, my mother abused a variety of substances, both uppers and downers. I was in my teens before I realized that substance abusers typical trend towards one or the other. However, it wasn't until I was in my early twenties, and in therapy, that my therapist listened to my descriptions of my mother's behavior and substance abuse issues and posited that my mother might have been bipolar. It took another two years before I broached the topic with my father. He told me that, before I was born, my mother had been diagnosed as bipolar by a psychiatrist and placed on meds. He told me these meds worked and that it was one of the only times he'd seen my mother balanced, functional, and happy.
Unfortunately, in the aftermath of that diagnoses—years after she presented symptoms, I would discover from conversations with family after her death—she relocated and switched treating physicians. At that point, she was diagnosed as depressed due to how she presented, and placed on meds for it. Of course, this resulted in her going into a severe manic episode. From that point on, she began self medicating her mood swings—uppers when she was feeling low; downers when she was manic.
My mother attempted suicide more times than I can recall. I've lost count of the number of times I had to call 911 and report on how many of what colored pills she'd taken; to scream at them to hurry up while I held a towel to her wrists; to examine the area around her and dutifully recite what illicit substances she'd imbibed. It was an endless self-perpetuating cycle that was hell on her overall mental health, her physical health, and on my own psyche.
Like a number of other physical and mental illnesses, bipolar disorder presents itself differently in men than in women. This is a seriously problematic, because research and literature is biased towards men's perspectives, quite often, or societal constraints can inform and restrict presentation to men's experiences.
As well, there are some mental health issues that are entirely female (such as Premenstrual Dysmorphic Disorder) and which don't receive the research funding or attention that issues which affect men equally or in the majority. And then there are mental health issues that present differently between genders, or require different treatment. Overall, even now, mental health—like so many other fields of study—remains examined and prioritized from a male perspective.
Like so many other things, intersectionality plays a role, too. Poor women are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than non-poor counterparts, and women of color's mental health can be directly and adversely affected by racism. Likewise, trans women's mental health is not only overseen, and their transition dictated by, mental health practitioners, but can be detrimentally affected by societal biases. Additionally, disabled women are disproportionately affected by mental illness disorders.
womenshelath.gov has a variety of resources focused on, and targeted to, the unique needs and perspective of women, including treatment resources and help lines, and is a good starting point for understanding of, and treatment options for, women's mental health.