Why do I take a personal interest in writing about bipolar disorder? The first reason I write is for is my seventeen-year-old self: to give her all of the knowledge and insight I was helplessly unable to give her so many decades ago. To give her hope, guidance and, perhaps, a different path forward into the future. The only way I can do that is to write, instead, for all of the young people who are out there now, struggling and in pain, without any idea as to what is wrong or where to go for help.
Things are far different now than they were when I was a bipolar teen. There are many people like me out there who have the capacity to reach out to those kids. There are a lot of young bipolars who need guidance in navigating the chaotic world of bipolar disorder. And there are a lot of social platforms on which to impact them. They need guidance and empathy from me and people like me who are here for them, knowing what they are going through.
Second, I am writing to share my stories with other bipolar people and with the people who know and love them. Often when we are in the midst of a manic or depressive episode, we feel isolated and alone – trapped inside our own often tortured minds. Hearing similar stories from others who have comparable experiences resonates and helps us feel a little less solitary. It can help loved ones feel a little less left out at sea. Community is extremely important in achieving stability and mental wellness. It’s also an added support for family, friends and other loved ones.
The bottom line with bipolar disorder is that we have a brain that is, literally, broken. It doesn’t function correctly, and it doesn’t work like a ‘typical’ brain. It is not our fault. We know that chemical irregularities and inheritance issues are likely causes of this mental illness. I often look up questions that people ask about bipolar disorder and bipolar people. I am utterly amazed at how little people know about it and about the people who are suffering from it. A little good information would go a very long way.
That is the most significant reason why I share my stories about bipolar disorder. They show the ravages of an illness when it is untreated, not at therapeutic treatment levels (yet), or misdiagnosed. They also prove that there is joy in putting a treatment plan in place that allows a person to thrive with careful monitoring and strict adherence to that plan. You can substitute the word ‘bipolar’ for ‘diabetes’ or ‘heart disease’, or any number of other chronic physical illnesses. Why should bipolar disorder carry a stigma or shame when these other illnesses don’t? It’s time to ensure that the stigma surrounding the label is dropped so we no longer feel ashamed or feel the need to hide. While it’s nobody’s business but our own, at the same time we should not feel the need to hide in mortification either.
There are serious consequences when the diabetic individual or the person with heart disease doesn’t follow their care plan or take their medications properly. And there are serious outcomes for bipolar people who fail to do the same. We just tend to be a little louder and more overt when we don’t. That’s why I’m here. If stories are told with compassion and honesty – empathy and understanding should follow.
We are not the monsters under your bed or in your closet. We are people at different stages on our journey to stability and happiness. Many of us are being forged into the steel that forms as we walk on a bed of coals along the way. And, as we walk, we get stronger. For some, it takes longer than for others. But, hopefully, we all become fighters at one point or another. And as we learn to fight, we can band together to battle the stigma of bipolar disorder and mental illness.
Now, what was the question? Why do I write about bipolar disorder? Oh, now you know.
Deb Wilk writes for various publications and she runs her own blog, Living Bipolar.