In response to some of the comments I see here and elsewhere, here is my response to another ten myths about bipolar disorder.
1. I’m being forced to take medication.
No, actually you aren’t. If you’re an adult and you’re not a danger to yourself or others, it’s your choice what to put into your body. No one is going to send an armed guard to your house and force medications down your throat. You have to take responsibility for that choice.
2. I have to stay on medication.
No, you don’t.* Again, what you put into your body is your choice, see #1.
3. Psychiatric medication is used to control people.
While I have no doubt people have controlled others with the help of mind-altering chemicals, this is certainly not the case in general. People on psychiatric medications (and yes, those who have ECT too) continue to lead full, uncontrolled lives. Carrie Fisher, Patty Duke and many other successful people.
4. My doctor lied and told me I’m bipolar.
I highly doubt that. Your doctor made a diagnosis that you disagree with. You’re free to do that (although one wonders why you were seeking a diagnosis in the first place).
5. Drugs are worse than bipolar.
If you feel that way, feel free to stop taking them.* See #1.
6. Bipolar doesn’t exist because there are no tests for it.
Throughout medical history diseases have been treated before they were understood. We don’t understand a lot of what happens to the human body, especially the brain. However, scientists find more and more neurobiological evidence of mental illness every day. Yes, mental illness does exist. Yes, there is proof.
7. You take medication because someone labeled you.
No, I don’t. I take medication because I’m in pain. The diagnosis is a way of labeling the pain. You could call it “Joe” and I wouldn’t care. Treatment is about treating the pain, not the label.
8. Mental illness is caused by childhood trauma and can be fixed through therapy.
While, no doubt, many people have experienced childhood trauma. However, not everyone with childhood trauma (even those who have not dealt with it) have a mental illness. And you can take years of therapy and not be able to successfully treat a mental illness. And some people with mental illness have no childhood trauma to speak of.
9. Anyone who is different gets labeled bipolar and put on medication.
Actually, no, this is not the case. People don’t get help for mental illness because they’re “different,” they get help because they are in pain. I am a very “different” kind of person, but that has nothing to do with a mental illness, that’s just me.
10. Bipolar is just the normal highs and lows of life.
This is so patently untrue I can barely express it. Yes, life has highs and lows. When someone dies we are very sad. When we’re in love we’re very happy. That is not bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is about unreasonable amounts of emotion for unreasonable amounts of time resulting in pain and negatively impacting life. When the amount of sadness associated with death overtakes you because you saw a toilet paper commercial, this is not a normal low. Closing your eyes while driving and thinking the wind will tell you when to turn, is not normal.
The Truth About Mental Illness
Bipolar disorder isn’t about labels, highs and lows, life events or being different; bipolar disorder is about a brain that can’t regulate itself properly. This dysregulation is experienced through emotions, behaviors and other problems. Bipolar disorder only matters because of the pain you’re in and the impact it’s having on your life.
* With medical supervision, of course.