Last Thursday was a big special day for the locals of the small town I live in. I have lived in La Crosse, WI for over 26 years but I still do not feel like this is where I truly belong. I am originally from Minneapolis and you just can’t take that big city Minneapolis girl out of me or away from me. It is where my heart is and will always be. It is truly who I am. I know that feeling like I do not belong here and that this is truly not where I want to live has never helped my mental illness. It has bothered me over the years. It is not good for a person to be forced or stuck in any situation they are in.

I moved to La Crosse over 26 years ago for my first teaching job. Soon after that I had my first baby and my ex-husband is a local from this area and will never leave. Therefore, I could not and cannot leave and move back to the Minneapolis area. I am planted here where my children are rooted and are continuing to grow and thrive into beautiful young people. It does help me knowing that living here by my three beautiful children is helping them and is good for them.

Tonight marks the beginning of Oktoberfest where La Crosse celebrates first by the ceremony of drinking from the big golden keg, which seems quite ridiculous if you ask me, but remember I am not from around here originally and I do not drink. They start drinking and partying from Thursday night until late Sunday and I mean they drink. This is a drunk fest for most of the town. However, they also have two parades and two carnival like areas with rides and greasy yummy fattening foods and some bands and a few other things, but it is mostly drinking and partying.

Thursday night was the Torchlight parade. My daughter Alexia marches in the parade with her High School band and I went to the torchlight parade to watch her march with her band. I try to go to everything she participates in. I love her and don’t want to miss anything she is in. She is my youngest child and she only has two more years of High School. After she graduates from High School I truly will experience the empty nest syndrome as I am a single mom. It will just be me and my two cats, so I guess I will turn into the “crazy cat” lady….. hehehe…..

I am sorry if using the term “crazy” offended anyone but it is just how that expression goes and if I did offend anyone I am sorry. I have learned we have to lighten up sometimes and have humor. We have to let some of those words roll off the top of our heads sometimes, because really what are we going to do?  We can’t get upset all of the time. Most of the time, depending on how the words are used it doesn’t bother me.

However, sometimes the way things are said does bother me a lot. I can’t stand ignorance or stupidity. If words and statements are said because of ignorance and in a cruel manner than it does bother me. People that have no compassion or common sense bother me a lot. For example, before the Torchlight Parade last Thursday night I was talking to a couple of my neighbors.

They said a homeless man was living in his truck behind his parents restaurant, which is right next door to them. They called the police on him because they said he was a drug addict. They laughed and said I would know him for sure if I saw him because he looks just like a drug addict…. hahahaha… They rudely laughed and said he just got out of the Madhouse, Looney bin, the Nuthouse etc. We called the police and that was where they threw him but he is out now. They thought this was very funny. I did not find this funny at all, but I listened to them without saying anything.

As I listened to them laugh and make jokes about him being in the Loony Bin etc. I thought to myself about how I have been there many times, too many times to count. They have absolutely no idea that I have also been in the Loony Bin, The Nut House, the place they “threw him” probably more times than him. I have been in the Psychiatric Hospital which is where they actually brought him. They did not “throw him” in there as they did not throw me in there. I might have even brought myself there at times. Anyway, Mike and I have both been in the Psychiatric Hospital and Mike and I have both been homeless and Mike and I have both been labeled with a mental illness or more than one. I might even know Mike and might have been in the hospital with him. Who knows. These people have no idea what they have just said and how their words can hurt and how their ignorance did hurt.

It wasn’t until after I walked away from them that their conversation actually had time to process into my brain and my thoughts causing their words to hurt me. My reality and their words caused my level of mood to unconsciously drop a few levels from the peace and contentedness I was feeling before their conversation. I didn’t think about it. It just happened. Boom. I forget sometimes that I have Bipolar Disorder and most people in the world still do not understand mental illness. The stigma just rang loud and true.

I am not sure if it is related to the fact that I also have PTSD as well as Bipolar Disorder that without warning some negative painful reminder memories of who I was when the pain I experienced on my darkest days flashed into my memory bank causing my beautiful peaceful light shining at the moment to darken a bit. These are the days and pain I try to forget. It also caused those painful flashes of the reminder that I have Bipolar Disorder and that by public standards of life I am different and not as accepted in this society that I should be. It is stigma. My Bipolar is a label and is an illness I have, but it is not who I am.

A person with “drug addiction” is actually a person who has a substance use disorder according to the DSM-V. The DSM-V is The Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. The DSM-V no longer uses the terms drug addiction or substance abuse or substance dependence.The homeless man living all alone in his truck has a substance use disorder which is a mental illness or a mental disorder. He has an illness. This does not make him a horrible man or person. He is a human being and still needs to be talked about kindly and treated compassionately just like everyone else does, all of us, with or without a mental illness.

Mike, never wanted to be homeless, live in his truck and be addicted to drugs. This was never his dream. He is a person. a human being, just like me, just like you and just like them .We need to have more compassion for all people, people with any type of mental illness whether it is Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Schizophrenia, or a substance abuse disorder. We must increase awareness and educate everyone of all ages to reduce the stigma, so more people can help others instead of hurting them by laughing and saying negative words. Negative words and actions related to discrimination and stigma hurt and cut like a sword leaving lasting wounds and scarring our soul.