It’s Not Easy to be Bipolar

“…People walk on their tippy toes not to say anything cruel to you and everything that’s been going on.”

At first, when you made ignorant statements about my bipolar disorder, I let it slide. I tried to justify it by saying that you didn’t have the background knowledge regarding what it really means to be depressed, manic, or even suicidal. Maybe, you didn’t know better. You didn’t realize how hurtful the remarks you made were to me. But, now, after three years since my first bipolar episode, it seems like you aren’t even trying to understand.

It’s easier to see depression as someone not even trying anymore rather than a devastating illness that impacts everything from concentration to sleep to “will to live”.

It’s easier to see self-harm or suicidal ideation as “attention-seeking” behaviors than as symptoms of severe, suicidal depression.

It’s easier to see full-blown mania as controllable periods of being reckless, irresponsible, and impulsive, rather than as the course of the illness that I have not been able to control at all.

It’s easier to see medication non-compliance as stupidly being stubborn rather than a result of severe side effects that impacted my ability to see, eat, or even walk.

It’s easier to see my mental health and suicide prevention efforts as a silly waste of time rather than efforts which have already led some people I personally know to seek help.

It’s easier to stick to the false sense that you know what it means to have a bipolar disorder diagnosis than it is to actually educate yourself on the manic, depressive, and mixed features of my illness.

It’s easier to blame me as a person than it is to acknowledge that I have a mental illness that is terrifying, one that some research suggests is progressive and even neurodegenerative in nature.

It’s so easy to have a stigmatizing view on mental illnesses. That view is on display everywhere, from news headlines to tabloid covers. There is “us”, the normal ones, and “them”, the “crazy” ones. Maybe you don’t appear to take my mental illness seriously because it’s embarrassing to have a family member with mental illness, especially one who publicizes it on social media and through multiple online platforms. It’s not easy to hide me.

I hope one day you will be proud of me, rather than ashamed. I want you to understand what I am battling on a daily basis, not judge me for my illness. You wouldn’t attack someone for their battle with a physical chronic condition, so I wish you wouldn’t do it for my mental chronic illness. This isn’t a phase. This is my life now and we all have to accept the changes, none of which are easy.

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