I express the experience of having bipolar disorder in a very specific way – my way. I express the bipolar experience with my words, my language, my thoughts and my metaphors. I approach bipolar disorder the way I live it: primarily depressed with short bouts of hypomania or bipolar mixed moods. I often write politically incorrectly if I feel that expresses my bipolar experience more accurately. But one thing I have learned after doing this for many years is that not everyone likes this.
The Price of Publicly Being Bipolar
Dating with bipolar disorder can be tricky for so many reasons. You’ve got a bipolar routine to maintain, emotions to keep in check and a massive elephant in the room that you will have to deal with at some point. This evening I will be having a first date. And I have a fear of dating with bipolar disorder.
Many people with bipolar disorder hold down jobs, just like everyone else. We get up, swear in traffic, survive on coffee and rant about our bosses behind their backs. But people with bipolar disorder or another mental illness have special challenges when it comes to work. We’re sick more often, we need time off for medical appointments and stress affects us more than your average person. Here are a few tips on handling work and bipolar disorder.
A get questions from all sorts of family members and friends of people with mental illnesses and, luckily, many of these people want to help. The trouble is people feel intimidated by a diagnosis of mental illness. They don’t even know where to start to help. This is completely normal. A probable lifetime diagnosis is enough to make anyone feel powerless. But you are not powerless. If you love someone with a mental illness, there are many things you can do to help.
After reading my last post, Starting Conversations About Bipolar Disorder (When You Don’t Have Bipolar), a commenter requested a similar piece on how to start conversations on mental illness when you do have bipolar disorder. I thought this was a good question as it’s as hard for people with a mental illness to bring up this tough subject as it is for those around us. After all, we don’t want to frighten people or get into major emotional upset. So are there things to consider when bringing up bipolar disorder with people who don’t have a mental illness?
In one year I write over 100 blog articles for Breaking Bipolar. I’m honoured to say that many people have responded to this writing and it has spawned many great conversations. Popular topics this year ranged from self-harm to passing down of bipolar to your kids to the understanding of mental illness. Check out these popular articles you might have missed.
Since I’ve started writing for HealthyPlace I’ve learned a lot about what you’re not supposed to say about mental illness. Some classics are the word “crazy” and not referring to oneself as “bipolar” directly. In other words, I’m not allowed to say I’m a crazy bipolar. There are many other things I’m not allowed to say too. “Mental health” can only be used in some cases whereas “mental illness” must be used in others. And then there’s “behavioural health” and the myriad of rules around talking about suicide. One could get permanent writer’s block worrying about ticking off some group of people who care about some specific word. So I have a rule. I do what I want. And I tick off some people. It’s not on purpose; it’s just that if I didn’t, how in the heck would I write?
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.
If you haven’t been turning in to Homeland, you’ve been missing out on a new bipolar icon. Homeland stars Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) office who, unbeknownst to her employer, has bipolar disorder. Homeland is no average show. Homeland won Best Show, Best Writing, Best Actor and Best Actress Emmys. You can catch Homeland on Showtime in the US and Super Channel in Canada. Of course, the reason I tuned is was to see how this show handles mental illness. And they do not too bad a job.
As you might have heard, last week it was revealed that Jesse Jackson Jr., an Illinois congressman, is in treatment for bipolar disorder. Jackson Jr. has been on medical leave since June 10th and has been diagnosed with bipolar II. As Candice Crawford, CEO and president of the Mental Health Association of Central Florida in Orlando, says, “People with bipolar II can lead perfectly normal lives.” I agree completely, but the question is, can they be elected to public office?