Bipolar, Personal History, Stigma

Bipolar is My Elephant in the Room: Let me introduce you.

(Originally published on www.woundedbirdsministry.com)

Sharing my bipolar diagnosis is terrifying.

Questions circle my mind:

  • Will they understand it?
  • Will they accept it?
  • Will they remain in my life?

The stigma of mental illness is so colossal and tenacious that people become uneasy discussing mental illness, let alone trying to understand it. To be stigmatized is to be shamed, disgraced, humiliated, and defamed.

Some stigmatized beliefs of those with mental illness are:

  • They’re dangerous.
  • They just need to snap out of it.
  • They bring it on themselves.
  • They have no willpower.
  • They’re violent.

In fact, when I first knew something was wrong with me…and admitted it to my doctor…I was so embarrassed due to stigmatization that I trembled when asking for help. However, that was the beginning of my ten-year journey to being gifted with a proper diagnosis. I say gifted because it was such a long, painful, frightening battle that the proper diagnosis finally offered me hope.

Previously, my hope for finding peace within myself had been crushed, trampled upon, and forgotten. I didn’t realize during those years that I didn’t yet have a proper diagnosis. When I finally heard, “You most likely have Bipolar 2,” it was a gift. I could now receive proper therapy and proper medications. There is no cure, but the quality of life improved tremendously with therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes. Lacking even one of those is life-altering.

My bipolar becomes the elephant in the room, especially when new people come into my life.

When do I point out my elephant…and how? Or, should I? Although I am masterful at faking all’s fine…or explaining away emotions or behaviors…being open about my bipolar elephant means I don’t have to hide the real me.

Everybody hides something: political or religious views, parenting failures, addictions, or more serious skeletons in the closet. Eventually, though, we open ourselves up to those closest to us. If we don’t, our relationships will suffer in some way.

So, yes, I’ve learned to introduce my elephant. With time, it’s become easier, most likely due to writing about it publicly. However, it’s still scary to put it all out there.

Why I write about it:

I continue to write about mental illness because countless people struggle and battle in silence, feeling like failures as human beings. They need to know they are not alone, nor offbeat, as they feel. Others have elephants in the room, too.

What’s your elephant?

Do you share your diagnosis with others?
Why/why not?

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