Speaking Openly About Bipolar and Being Judged For It
I’m a mental health writer and I have a mental illness, so, of course, I write about my mental illness. I write about my symptoms and the affect they have on my life. I write about their treatments and their success or lack thereof. I write about what it’s like to have bipolar disorder.
And boy do people feel fine about judging me for it.
Commonly people will say that I don’t have bipolar disorder (being, I’m sure, expert diagnosticians) or say that I’m an idiot (and whatnot) for trying the treatments I have. It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that some things I don’t like to talk about at all. People like to attack me for electroconvulsive therapy and vagus nerve stimulator use specifically. And I don’t like to talk about self-harm, because inevitably people yell about that.
But I learned something earlier this week – not everyone judges people with a mental illness.
Speaking Opening about Bipolar Disorder
On Tuesday I was privileged to give a talk about my mental illness through the Bipolar Babe Project to a class of ninth-graders. And yes, I told them about razor blades and broken glass and surgery and electricity. And there was not a snicker or a nasty word among them. In fact, when asked to give their feedback in writing it was almost universally positive and almost every one thanked me for teaching them about bipolar disorder.
Wow. I don’t know that I saw that one coming.
Not Being Judged for Bipolar Disorder
Now true, these minds are young and not jaded like some others, but what they seemed to get out of the talk was empathy and compassion and not hatred and judgement. It was truly inspiring for me. I realized that sharing my story was having a positive impact on others.
And it’s not like I don’t know that happens every day with my writing, but it’s easy not to see it through the barrage of other garbage seen as well. Sometimes it seems like judgemental people are the only ones out there (especially if the judgy ones happen to be in our family or close circle of friends).
But they’re not. There are people that will hear you, will listen to you, will learn from you, and will surprise you with the amount that they care and understand.
Sharing Your Mental Illness Story Matters
So I have come to believe that sharing your story, in whatever way you choose to do it, to one person or in front of crowds, is meaningful. Screw the people who would judge you. They are ignorant and they are wrong. Just, plain wrong.
So please, keep being open and keep being honest because those you would help need you. And their appreciation outweighs the negative nonsense any day, even if you don’t get to see it in writing.
Tracy, N. (2012, November 8). Speaking Openly About Bipolar and Being Judged For It, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, September 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2012/11/speaking-openly-about-bipolar-being-judged
Author: Natasha Tracy
I have been thinking the last few days about what parts of me are actually me and what parts are because of my illness. I am also bipolar.I am almost 22 and was diagnosed at 15. I went from having selective mutism to anxiety and panic attacks to bipolar. I have struggles since preschool. After reading your blog, for the first time in my life i finally do not feel alone in my thoughts. i cannot thank you enough for sharing your talent. My mom tries but she can never truly understand and i can never truly tell her what goes on in my mind. thanks to you, i dont feel as if i am alone.
43 yrs dealing with B.P. 30yrs worked in healthcare!Read abt my true story heretohelp.bc.ca or go to Visions magazine!Working to try &help others has been gift!Same for mental illness!Can be blessings or curse!But if didn;t have this !Would not been directed to my work !Pts &clients were like therapies!May have BP but it doesn;t have me!!!
In my case, disclosure was not my choice (long story shortened). I was so overwhelmed by 1) the violation of my privacy and 2) the extremely negative reactions, that I am often suprised when people say they were glad to have their diagnosis out in the open, that they felt a sense of burden lifted from them. Because of the nature of my experience, I feel the opposite - I feel tremendously burdened by this disclosure. I imagine that when one gets to the point of being able to talk openly about bipolar disorder, they have probably had adequate time to process everything, on their own time, in their own way, probably without all the pressure and stress (which, in my case, was akin to pouring gasoline into the fire - it really made a bad situation worse). I'll be honest, the experience was so revolting to me, that I NEVER want to talk about it to anyone. I literally have a physical reaction to it. I did talk to those close to me, but it was only because I think whatever transpired affected them, and I owed them that much.
I think it's great that you, and a lot of other people are able to speak of it, but to me, it's like throwing salt into the wound. I am only bringing this up because this article seems to suggest that everyone can do the same. The trouble with this is not all cases are the same. I would prefer that I deal with things in private and put the whole thing behind me. I don't know how I can come to a place of peace with it. I suppose everyone deals with things the best way they can.
My name is Mark and I am the father of a 26 year old daughter who has bipolar disorder. Its been a really rough last week. She became allergic to Geodon last Thursday and we have been to ER 3 times and finally her Psychiatrist twice in the last 2 days. She has anxiety now that she cannot eat anything without her throat closing. They have on lithium, vistial, abilify and other knock out drugs. Its so hard to her suffer so much. Fortunately I recently retired and can take her to the doctors when she needs to but she wants her mother to be with her. My wife was told yesterday she cannot be absent again for my daughter or she will lose her job as a nurse. No empathy from her Doctor-Boss . This of course has been going on since she was three. She is going to a Behavior Counselor tomorrow, if she will go. She just wants it to all stop. I hurt everyday for her. Mark
Hopefully, there is a medicine to stop the side effects of Geodon. I don’t have knowledge on that medicine except that after reading about your daughter, I was thinking how horrible that is. I hope that your daughter feels better. It seems like medicine can cause bigger problems. If I had that side effect, I would be anxious. So I believe that understanding if she is more anxious might be necessary. It’s not your fault because I don’t think you were aware of the negative side effects
Hi Natasha, thank you again for sharing. And that's all that matters really. Sharing your story. It's not just a story. What you are sharing helps other people to understand those who have bipolar disorder. Yes, it might seem that you are surrounded by judgmental people all the time, but then again that's because those people are the most vocal. That's what they do. They are not spending time to understand people, they only want to judge. They only want to criticize. And those are NOT the voices that you should be focusing to. People like me would like to know more so that we can help and we forget to be vocal. I have only read 2 of your posts so far and I love you. Thank you so much for your sharing. And by sharing your story, I cannot emphasize enough how much you might have help another life. Those kids you shared your stories to, they might have their own problems (current or future) and you did help them. Just by sharing.. you DID! Wishing you all the best!
Also, Natasha: where do I find your posts on vagus nerve stimulation, if there are any? General info. and personal experiences would be appreciated. Thanks.
Brant: NAMI has a program called "In Our Own Voice" that trains people with mental illnesses and sends them in teams of two to speak to various audiences about their personal experiences. It is a powerful and rewarding experience, and helps people understand and not judge us -- and also is often a turning point for people wondering if they have a mental illness and should seek help. I can't say enough good things about this program. Look up your state's NAMI affiliate and check their website for links or contact them for info. All of us who can should be a voice for mental illness.
your writing gives me the hope to carry on. thank you
I was diagnosed 15 years ago wheh I was 12 with bipolar disorder. It has been quite a journey and I am just now being able to tell my story with others. I am fortunate that I have a family that supports me. I work in a pharmacy and due to my insurance I am required to fill my scripts at me store. When that happened I didn't really have the option of keeping my diagnosis a secret. I became a open book ready to answer any questions. I have shared more of my story with others but I am ready now to tell anyone. The only thing I still hide is self-injury. I don't think my coworkers would understand, I am still trying to share that detail with some of my family
Excellent post Natasha.
I never get tired of reading your writing. On days where I feel terrible and I'm ticked off that this never goes away you make me laugh or give me a glimpse of hope. Thank you for being YOU.
It makes a difference every time someone says unashamed, "I am bipolar." It makes a difference every time people don't bite their tongues but stand up for themselves. Natasha, you are not only fighting the stigma of mental illness, you are also educating others and inspiring them to do the same.
Please continue to sort through the garbage of replies and pay attention to ones like this. You have made a difference in my life.
Thank you for sharing your story. The courage you display inspires me and many others so much. I have shared my story and have been judged for it as well, mostly by family or close friends. I have found that it is more important to speak candidly, because to many are confused by a hollywood interpretation of mental illness. Your articles explain things so well that i now give curious minds your blog address's, and some other research pages or blogs. Thank you humbly!
Beautiful writing - thanks for much for sharing your experience. I am not bipolar but I have had life-long problems with depression and anger and am actually on Lamictal which has been a god-send - I still get angry but it is nothing like it was before Lamictal. I have a wonderful psychiatrist whom I see every other month for an hour of therapy. I recently got into yoga. I am in a long good period because I left my job at an academic institution for private practice (i'm a psychiatrist myself). I am blessed to be able to get good care and afford medications (additionally Lamictal has become literally cheap as dirt). But some people are not as blessed. Their care is fragmented, they get 5-10 minutes with a psychiatrist and minimal therapy. Again thanks for your viewpoint - worth sharing :)!!
Two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (after having a mood episode at work and having to finally admit I had a problem and seek help). It hasn't been easy, looking at my past through the lens of the illness and realizing what was going on all these years. Then I found your blog- it means so, so much to me to be able to read about someone else who is bipolar and realize I'm not alone. It makes me sad that anyone would say such ignorant things about your experience- a experience that belongs to you, including your choices and opinions. Please keep going, keep your head held high even when you know some days you won't be able to get out of bed- and other days you'll be flying around the house, feeling like your head is about to explode. It means a lot that I can share a little in your experience that you choose to write about. Thank you.
I strongly recommend asking your pdoc to write your diagnosis down for you.
Doctors try to "explain" things and in all those added words, they confuse the heck out of patients because you walk out without getting a straight answer to the straight question, "What's my diagnosis?"
The doctor _has to_ make a diagnosis for the way insurance companies do things. The doctor _has to_ attach a diagnostic code to your visit. So any hedging and hemming and hawing about not telling you what it is is baloney.
Goldie: finding out your diagnosis is usually as easy as asking the doctor who is prescribing your meds, "What is my specific diagnosis, please? Can I have that written down so I can file a copy, because people say so many different things it gets confusing, and I want to be accurate."
If you get in a car accident and are injured and you're filling out the paperwork at the hospital, you need to not just tell them you have a mental illness, you need to be able to tell them exactly what you're diagnosed with, who diagnosed you, and it's generally helpful to be able to tell them when you were first diagnosed with it, etc.
Mostly, the attitude of keeping information away from patients is either Hollywood or old-fashioned and very behind the times.
You do have a "need to know" what your diagnosis is. Generally, a psychiatrist or psychologist will consider it a _good_ sign if you ask them, "What's my actual diagnosis? I need to know it for my medical history."
When you can accept your diagnosis as just another chunk of information for filling in on your medical history forms, then you're making giant steps in coping with this disability.
So anyway, next time you see your pdoc, just come right out and ask. In the rare case that you have a pdoc that flat refuses to tell you your diagnosis when you've asked point blank, go get a new pdoc.
Reading your article makes me see that I'm not alone but in my every day life, family and friends have decided its to hard to deal with a person with mental illness. I get hushed by my husband and my mother says "where do you get it from?", as though I have some contagious disease. I've lived with a mental illness since I was 17y.o. Diagnosed with Bi POLA in 1998, but only put on he right medication in the last three years after my 3rd suicide attempt. Life is just becoming normal for me but I cannot escape the judgement that my last actions have caused, people in general find it hard to believe that your mental ability can cause such devastation. I've learnt not to wear my heart on my sleeve and persist to grow from the experiences I endure. Thanks for your articles.
I wish I knew exactly my diagnosis , all I have read here points to Bi Polar and I have had a series of anti depressants that did not work now I am on Zyprexa which still has some serious side effects I came off it for awhile but now has to go back on it,but Inever dare tell my story, for already both friends and family have nearly all abondon me,
This is a great article. My 14 year old son was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is currently in his second inpatient treatment stay in a little over 2 months. It has been a really rough road for us all but mostly for him. It is heart breaking to watch him battle his demons.
I am 29 years old, a college basketball coach, former D1 athlete and I have been diagnosed as Bi Polar. I would love to help educate and am proud to tell my story! Can you think of ways I can help?