I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2007, and in the 7 years since then, I never cease to be amazed at the misconceptions people have about mental illness in general, and bipolar disorder in general. Here are some things I wish everyone knew.
Mental illness is just that, an illness or a disorder. I definitely is not a choice. Believe me when I say I would not chose this life willingly. It is a flaw in our body chemistry, not a flaw in our character.
Not everyone with a mental illness is going to shoot up a movie theater or a school. Those people have gone untreated, or have stopped taking their medications. They are also the extreme example of mental illness
Our medications do not keep us in a constant state of rainbows and unicorns. I take medications that stabilize my moods. But, and this is important, I am still allowed to be sad, and have good days or bad days. I am still allowed to have emotions. That does not mean I am going to swing off the deep end.
Because mental illness is a chemical flaw that means that our disorder is fluid and ever changing. It can be effected by foods, drinks, illness, and stress, anything that can change the chemical balance in our bodies for any length of time. Because it is fluid, that means there is no single course of treatment. Our medications and treatments will always have to be checked and adjusted. It is not a fun disorder to live with.
What you see on the outside is nothing compared to the chaos that lives inside our minds. I fight every day to live a normal life. That means I have learn to shut out the endless racing thoughts that are constantly swirling in my mind. I have to make a conscience effort to let go of things I can’t change. I tend to get fixated on a situation and my mind will obsess over it. When I am in a bad mood, it is a sure bet that the chaos in my brain is much worse than I let you see.
We are not crazy. That is an easy term to use to describe people with mental illness. It’s used to describe people who don’t act like the norm. I talk to myself when I am by myself. It helps me work through the thoughts in my head. I am sure people see me and think I’m crazy. I am just coping. We are not crazy, we have an illness.
If you know or love someone with a mental illness, learn everything you can about it, for yourself and for them. Knowledge is power has never been more true. Knowledge gives you understanding and you can help them, especially when they can’t or won’t help themselves.
Trust me when I say, we did not choose this disorder, or this life. It is frustrating both for those of us who live with it, and those who love us. But with treatment, and support it can be pretty close to normal. And normal is all we really want.