Even though I’m doing well and have absolutely NO symptoms, I thought I’d throw in something educational for the folks with good intentions but who are clueless as to what those of us with bipolar go through. Here are a few of the things I wish people knew about the illness.
1. We didn’t ask for this.
And who ever would? This disorder isn’t glamorous or sexy; it’s ugly and cruel and nasty, and no one on earth would choose to be discriminated against because of it. Yes, it has its “fun” times when everything seems possible and the world is our oyster, but those are far outnumbered by the soul-killing depressions and the irritable manias. There is nothing quite like locking yourself in your own bathroom for three hours, terrified that you’ll harm yourself because you know where the gun is and where the pills are. Does that sound like something a person would choose?
2. With few exceptions, we are more of a danger to ourselves than others. I hate it when there’s a mass killing someplace and automatically the media presumes that the offender was mentally ill. How many times have we heard “he was bipolar/depressed/schizophrenic and off his meds”? Why does it never occur to them that MI isn’t always present in these cases? Sometimes people commit evil acts just because they felt like it. But according to political correctness, we can’t go around making value judgments and calling people evil, So we call them mentally ill.instead.
And the one that gets me the worst:
3. If we could just “snap out of it”, believe me, we would.
Again, who would choose to be so depressed that life has become a burden and ending it all looks like a much better alternative? Being exhorted to “snap out of it” or “count your blessings” does absolutely NOTHING for the sufferer; in fact, it’s apt to make things even worse. Guilt is not a good motivator!
Imagine having a broken arm and being told “Everybody’s broken their arm at least once, just buck up and play through the hurt”.
Imagine having cancer and hearing “This is nothing, you should see my cousin from New York who has stage IV throat cancer and he’s still alive and working at his mechanic’s job”.
Imagine having pneumonia and your best friend says “Oh for Pete’s sake, you are such a whiner! Get out of that bed, take a shower and be a decent human being!”
I really wish mental illness were seen as a medical condition; number one because it IS, and number two because there is nowhere near the amount of stigma and judgment surrounding physical illnesses. Why is it so hard to understand that MI is a brain disorder? It is no more and no less than a disease of the body’s most important organ, which makes it a medical problem no matter how you slice it. Unfortunately, even most doctors and scientists fail to see it that way, and until they do there is little hope that society will catch on anytime soon.
Anyway, that’s the lesson for the day. I’m sure I’ll come up with more things I wish people knew about bipolar disorder—or any mental illness for that matter—but for the rest of today I’ll enjoy the great weather and the company of my husband. After all, Summer Is here!