I woke up this morning and like any other morning scrolled my news feed while drinking my coffee. I ran across a PLAYBUZZ.com quiz like so many others that are popular amongst my Facebook friends. I have taken these as well
and posted my results and giggled or rolled my eyes with the rest of them. But today was different.
Today’s Quiz Du Jour was “How Bipolar Are You?”
I was guilty of using the term in a derogatory manner myself…until I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2. And then it wasn’t funny anymore.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health,
”Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out daily tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder can be severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.
Bipolar disorder often appears in the late teens or early adult years. At least half of all cases start before age 25.1 Some people have their first symptoms during childhood, while others may develop symptoms late in life.
Bipolar disorder is not easy to spot when it starts. Some people suffer for years before they are properly diagnosed and treated. Like diabetes or heart disease, bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that must be carefully managed throughout your life.”
In other words, Bipolar is a serious, life-threatening disorder that is genetically linked, biologically based and while there is no cure, it is infinitely treatable. And totally misunderstood.
The stigma that follows mood disorder is tragic. It causes people to hide in the shadows and avoid treatment for fear of being “outed”. I used that term recently myself. Outed. The fear is based in reality as evidenced in the comments on that quiz. It is one of the largest barriers to treatment out there. Like a huge elephant.
Having bipolar in 2015 reminds me of the time that cancer was scary and misunderstood. Remember the movie “Terms of Endearment”? The stigma that surrounded cancer in the era in which the story took place was real. I saw the movie with my mother. I didn’t know then that cancer would take her life 15 years later. And I thank God that we were supported and loved through it all. Yet today I wonder why we don’t support families dealing with mental illness in the same gentle manner. The thing is, you would never have a quiz that spurred jokes about cancer or autism. No pop quizzes asks “Are you Autistic?” or “Are You Diabetic?” and then generate hilarious responses.
I don’t point this out to judge; I misused the terms myself pre-diagnosis. I point this out to start a conversation and ask you to think about how you can help end the stigma once and for all. Treatment does exist. Life does get better. In fact, bipolar life, for me, is beautiful.