What? You have bipolar disorder?
This question never surprises me; however, it does remind me of the stigma associated with mental health disorders in general. What exactly are people looking for when dissecting bipolar disorder? Are they looking for a non-functioning, irritated and disassociated zombie like human in their midst?
Every time I look in the mirror, I see a woman with bipolar disorder (not a bipolar woman, see the difference there). I see a face with a story, with life. I am the person you are standing next to in line at the grocery store. I am the person you are next to praising God at church. I am the person you encounter every single day. You may never know a person with bipolar is right next to you, but we are here.
Stigmas begin with one person’s fear and misunderstanding of something.
A few common stigmas:
- People with mental health disorders are dangerous to the community
- People with mental health disorders want attention
- People with mental health disorders just need to ‘snap out of it’
- People with mental health disorders are always depressed
This is a very short list, but happens to be a few of the stigmas that irritate me the most. I am not dangerous. I do not fake moods to gain attention. I work my way through episodes so that I can come out the other side stronger. I am not always depressed, lying in bed, and crying in my cheerios!
I try to smile at everyone I meet. I work through the highs, or mania, of my bipolar, and I work on those days I am struggling with depression. I steady myself the days my mind is racing, if I don’t, I am reckless and irresponsible- but the only one in danger- is me and my bank account. In fact, the only one in danger during any episode is-me. Depression is real, and it can lead me down a path to suicidal thoughts and actions. Lessons have been learned, and one hospital stay put me on a course to learn all I could to handle bipolar. If I had not done that, then bipolar disorder would be handling me.
I used to think I was just crazy. Diagnosed in my twenties, after intense mania, and then tumbling into depression. I refused to believe the professionals for a short time. After all, I knew what people said regarding bipolar disorder. As I began assembling my mental health puzzle, it all made sense. I came to terms with the fact that this was part of me, and I could still live. It was after accepting the diagnosis that I slowly began to live. There was a peace and a freedom in knowing I wasn’t crazy after all- I was normal with a side of crazy!
I will never snap out of it folks. I cannot wish it away. My prayers have never completely healed me, but they sure do calm me. By the power of Jesus, I am in a place where I can cope, accept, and live. He never leaves me, and that is guaranteed therapy and treatment right there. He guides me to additional resources, and care when needed. God does not play favorites; we all receive the same loving attention- whether we are physically or mentally ill, or perfectly healthy.
Stigmas continue to plaque those of us out here.
We are trying to find our way in a society that refuses to believe what we have to say. I refuse to allow your misunderstood ideas interfere with my living life to the fullest. I also refuse to live within the confines of the margins you create. If you believe stigmas, then you are the crazy one. As for me, and my bipolar community, we do not have time to worry about you. We will speak up. We will stand for all. We will continue to contribute to this world, whether or not you believe we can.