“normal” vs. “bipolar” = “stigma”
by jennifer kiley
i started writing a response to a comment on my blog and it turned out longer then i expected and i turned it into a post. what they said so inspired me that i ended up with this post, talking about “normal” vs “bipolar” or “mentally ill” is something that cannot be measured. and how we are exhibited in films and on tv is such an exaggeration. that is why society cannot see who we are who have a psych chart with one or multiple diagnoses.
i will not allow someone to judge me b/c of what my chart says. if someone wants to judge then i don’t feel that they are the kind of person i would want in my life. it may be hard for those in our life to deal with the effects of our diagnosis/es but that’s what therapy is for, to learn how to adjust. if someone loves you they will be willing to work on understanding. and adjust as you adjust to the effects of your bipolar or whatever your diagnosis might be. i know it isn’t easy for them but it isn’t easy for us either. there really isn’t any such thing as “normal.”
when i was a teenager and started private therapy, it was one of the best days of my life. i found someone who wanted to help me understand who i am. at that time, i was always worried that i would go crazy. what put that into my head, i am not sure. shortly after starting in therapy my younger brother had a nervous breakdown. that didn’t help with what was going on inside my mind. where did i get the notion that i could go crazy?
i really don’t remember but i do know i always felt so outside of all the people around me. my family was really f@cked up. this i recognized. when i was still a teenager my therapist helped me to get it together enough to move out of their house. at that time in therapy, i was just dealing with the trauma of my childhood. the idea of labeling what was wrong with me never came up. since then, however, i have been given so many different labels, but none of them was “normal.”
i would say it was easier to understand myself when i knew “why” and “what” was going on inside of me. labels may cause someone to be “stigmatized” by society but for me it helped me to understand myself more clearly. when i found out long after i was given the diagnosis of bipolar, at first, it was quite a shock, but then i read as many books and articles on it. i think i was lucky b/c the first book i read was “Touching Fire,” written by Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison. it’s a brilliant book and talks all about the creative/artistic temperament of someone with bipolar. she examines the lives of famous artists, writers, poets, musicians who were bipolar. it effected me in a good way and made it easier to accept having bipolar. it puts one in good company.
maybe i have a grandiose attitude, but i say f@ck you to those in society that don’t try to understand the differences of every human on this planet. to judge someone for whatever reason, is not right. when i finally realized i was a lesbian, i was stunned at first, then accepting, then i freaked out and wanted to commit suicide but eventually i found that acceptance of myself again and felt overjoyed that i was GAY. the same kind of acceptance has come with everything in my life, even my psych diagnoses.
am i overjoyed to get so depressed that all i want to do is die? NO! but then i know how creative i am able to be when i am in a hypomanic state. my partner may be driven a touch crazy when i am hypomanic b/c my thoughts come pouring out at the speed of light and switch all over the place. and my moods tumble out into anger or i will lose it for a moment and get into an argument. but i pull back as fast as i am able in order to get my behavior under control.
people that worry when they hear that you have a mental disorder, whatever it may be, should not assume from what they watch on tv or see in films, that if you are not totally “normal” or “sane” – what ever that is – that you will become violent or want to kill people or anything like that, have such a misconception of just what bipolar or any other diagnosis is. we are not those people you see in films or on tv. those are fictional creations and distortions but it is a large part of why the “stigma” is reinforced and “we” the “stigmatized” have to bear the distorted reputation in our lives.
these people, whomever they are, who think we are “crazy” when we are just dealing with a disorder or illness like anyone who might have diabetes or cancer or multiple sclerosis. society accepts a medical condition and is quite understanding if they have any compassion. but somehow, when your body, where your brain is contained, has an illness that effects how you are able to function mentally, you are somehow like a leper, untouchable and too different to be an acceptable member of society.
in the far away past, we were sent to asylums, far away from what eyes could see. forgotten. or maybe, like in Jane Eyre, hidden in a locked room up in the attic. those days are past but not forgotten. we do, in our society, still lock up those who are “crazy” if they start acting different than “normal,” but b/c of health insurance, are released onto the street to live. unprotected and looked upon as the lost and homeless.
we are actually able to function in many different ways. and are not a threat to society. all we want is acceptance and not to be looked at as less than anyone else that is categorized as “normal.” we are not “crazy,” we just have a different way of perceiving the world around us. we have our rights to be treated like the human beings that we are, no less no more.
what we want is understanding and some compassion. not to be “stigmatized” b/c we are perceived as so different from anyone else. we are artists, poets, writers, politicians, philosophers, atheletes, musicians, psychiatrists, students of life, we are everyone, part of the 98%. the 99% and the 1%. we are here. we are proud. get use to it.