About 2 weeks ago I told someone I had bipolar disorder. The response I received was ‘But you seem so intelligent’.
Okay. I replied that bipolar disorder has nothing to do with intelligence but is in fact a mood disorder and is classified as a mental illness. A couple of questions followed from others in the room and I answered them all to the best of my ability. I explained that I am, in fact, quite intelligent but I have memory problems due to my medications. In fact, I explained quite a lot of things.
But, here’s the thing. Those of us with bipolar disorder are automatically tasked with explaining it. We hate the stigma. But the stigma exists because of the lack of understanding in the “normal” population. And if we don’t explain it, than who will? No one. There is no one else in a better position to explain bipolar disorder then those of us who suffer with it. Of course, that’s ridiculously unfair, because many of us have trouble just making it through the day. But, it doesn’t matter that it’s unfair. It is what it is.
I have “come out” a lot recently. I’ve decided that I don’t care what someone thinks of me because of my bipolar. If they can’t see past it, then that’s their problem. Of course, the co-dependency that exists in many of us makes it incredibly difficult to let someone walk away from us because of our disease. And, of course, it’s ridiculously unfair for someone to do that. But, I’ve come to realize that it’s a risk, and it’s possible that I will lose people in my life because of it.
So far, so good.
The person who exclaimed that he couldn’t believe it because I seemed so intelligent listened patiently as I explained the broader strokes of bipolar. And, I’m happy to say that he is not only still in my life, but now has a much better understanding of my condition then he did the day he found out about it.
A lot of the reason that I have decided to speak out about my bipolar is because of the new proposed health care laws. If you haven’t been keeping up, this is the time to start. Medicaid recipients stand to lose all mental health benefits if their states ask the Federal Government for a waiver of the “Essential Health Benefits“. In poor states, like mine, that waiver will almost surely be asked for and granted.
Now, the Senate is working on their own bill, and we don’t really know what it’s going to say yet. But, I began speaking out for fear of those on Medicaid who are mentally ill. I have spoken at rallies, I have spoken to the press. And I will continue to do so. I’m outing myself publicly to protect those less fortunate than I am. And, ultimately, to protect myself from hostile stigma that’s sure to be coming my way.
Educate those around you. If you have the ability, educate your Members of Congress.
Stigma will never go away until those of us with the power to explain the illness actually start standing up and doing so, no matter the cost to personal relationships. It’s not easy, it’s often extremely difficult.
But it’s so very very important.
Love and Peace to you all.