When the word bipolar was first mentioned to me as an illness I might I have, I immediately froze. I was only having an appointment with a psychiatrist so he could prescribe me new medication – not to be analysed and diagnosed with an illness that terrified me. I did not know anyone who had bipolar and my only experiences with the term had come from overly exaggerated and downright stigmatizing representations within the media or just used as: ‘this weather is so bipolar’, ‘omg I feel so bipolar today’ or ‘omg stop acting so bipolar’. In that moment I immediately rejected what the psychiatrist had suggested, I didn’t feel comfortable with him anyway and instead told him he did not know me and had no right to label me that way. I was not going to be an inpatient, left the room and never went back.
After that appointment, it took me a further six months to work through the fears and stigma I held about actually being diagnosed with bipolar. It was a long six months of doctors’ visits and sessions with my then psychologist until I finally agreed to seeing a different psychiatrist about a diagnosis. This time I was prepared, knew what was to come and was diagnosed Bipolar II.
Whilst it was on one hand I felt relieved in being diagnosed, on the other I still felt isolated because I didn’t know anyone else who had bipolar. This is when I began to embrace the label of being diagnosed because I knew that even if I personally did not know anyone, there would be similar people online. I began to read peoples blogs about their experiences and began doing the same. Whilst the spectrum is so wide there was always glimpses of peoples stories that I could relate to. That became one of the main reasons why I decided to tell my story so that if someone else was feeling a certain way and my pieces had just the littlest bit of shared experience then that was my way of helping people navigate through this confusing thing that is bipolar.
What I have noticed since being diagnosed is that there is a growing emergence of positive representations of people with bipolar in the media. Positive representation is so important. One of my favorite television shows is the American version of Shameless, does a really good job of this. One of the main characters, Ian Gallagher has bipolar and in an episode his words about mania in that he never knows when he is manic rather he just feels good until he does something crazy really summed up my feelings towards this illness. Whilst Ian is Bipolar I and I haven’t experienced the manic episodes such as Ian’s, it was as if I was hearing myself speak. I never know when I’m inside an episode until I’m at my lowest or do act out.
These representations are important for people who suffer a mental illness. Even if it is the smallest of lines or appearances they can sit with us and let us know we aren’t alone. We need to keep sharing stories and experiences so being diagnosed doesn’t seem so isolating and terrifying. This is breaking down the stigma around mental health.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community