As some of you may or may not know May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as such I thought I would write a blog post to try and help do my part to help raise awareness, and end the stigma of mental illness. I also hope to show provide some hope in the process. As many of you already know I have a mental illness, and that is Bipolar Disorder, which I was diagnosed with only relatively recently, about a year ago, although I have had it for a nice chunk of my life. It is something that while I am still just in the beginning stages of starting to understand and control, I don't feel that it is something that I should have to be ashamed of or have to worry about others finding out about it. unfortunately though there is quite a large amount of stigma that surrounds mental illness especially "serious mental illness", which they are for those that suffer from them (and those close to them as well) unfortunately though it also makes it sound scarier to those that don't know about them.
For those of you that don't know what Bipolar disorder is highly suggest reading the Wikipedia article because for one thing it is very good, and another is that it has links to in depth explanations of terms used as part of describing the disorder. For those of you that don't want to read the article I will give a very quick and dirty explanation of what it is, basically Bipolar Disorder, or as it used to be known Manic-Depressive Disorder, is a disorder in which the sufferer experiences periods of Mania (or hypomainia) and periods of depression. This is not the same as having a good day and a bad day, the ups are higher than normal and the lows are lower than normal. When depressed it is not uncommon to have suicidal thinking, where one is obsessed with suicide, and those with bipolar disorder are at a much higher risk of attempting to/committing suicide while depressed then the general population. Like I said the Wikipedia article is a very good one that I strongly recommend reading.
Then there is the misconception that somehow those with a mental illness are weak and that is why they have it, now this is so far from the truth that it is truly in another galaxy. Matter of fact they are probably some of the strongest people out there. I know that even though I may have a very hard time believing so when I am at the depths of my depression it is true that it takes a heck of a lot of strength to keep fighting day after day to go to work, to get dressed and cleaned up when all that you want to do inside is to not get out of bed to crawl away to hide from the world and die, but instead you get out of bed get dressed and plaster on your "happy mask" and go about your day doing the motions pretending everything is fine, while those around you don't notice. It takes a great amount of strength to fight off the thoughts of killing oneself when all that one wants to do is die, it takes a hell of a lot of inner strength to make it through those dark times and to come out the other side. That is strength, that is strength that many don't know, and it is a strength that many don't ever get to see. I think mental illness is not a mark of weakness it is a mark of strength, I know that not everyone is religious/spiritual, but for myself I find that my struggles have made me very I guess one could say spiritual, I believe that it is a mark from god saying that is knows you are stronger then others. Mental illness like physical can strike anyone, it does not care what sex they are, what religious views or affiliations they are, it does not care about nationality, levels of education or socioeconomic standing, it is non discriminating, The sooner that we as a society except that the sooner that the stigma starts to fall away and those that need help feel free to seek out the help they need.
it also does not mean that one cannot live a "normal" and happy life, it may take that much more extra efforts at times, and there may be extra challenges along the way. The thing that most often stands in the way of that is the stigma and misconceptions that surround mental illness, like that someone is not capable of doing their job, one that they have done or are perfectly capable of doing simply because they have this condition. We would not stand for it is someone that had cancer or diabetes or any list of physical health ailments were told that they could not do a job that they are perfectly capable of handling simply because of their physical health ailment, yet as a society we are all too willing to accept such things when it comes to mental health.
Lastly mental illness are not made up things, they are not something that is made up for people to get attention, they are just as real as say cancer or diabetes , just like a physical ailment they are not something that can be wished away. They are not something that can simply be thought away ether, like physical ailments there are treatments that can help to control them and manage them. There are combinations of drugs, and psychological treatments that can help to improve one's control of the illness as well as how they cope with it. And like dealing with a physical illness it often takes time and work to find the right course of treatment, but it is very possible. What stands in the way of being able to get help is the stigma that comes along with it, and keeps people from seeking out the help that they need, because they are afraid to be seen as even possible having a mental illness, let alone as having one. It is time that we let the stigmas and prejudices that we have healed for way too long final go, that we replace them with understanding with knowledge and caring instead, for it is with the death of stigma that more and more people that need help will be able to find it and get the help that they need. It is also with the death of stigma that we will be able to know those that fill our lives more deeply and truly as well. I know that very few people in my life know about this part of me because of the fear that stigma has instilled in me, that makes me fear the repercussions of telling them this one small fact about my life. Until next time dear readers, please share this or your own feeling or stories with those you know, so that we can break the chain of stigma.