Little-known secrets about Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar Disorder. What do people think about when they read those two words? Crazy? Nutcase? Unstable? Those are probably just a few of the words that come to mind. The truth of the matter, is... people who suffer from bipolar disorder are no more "crazy" or unstable than the rest of the world's population.
The disorder, more times than not, is inherited through familial genes. In my case, my biological mother suffered from the disorder. A nephew has been diagnosed with the disorder. Many, other biological family members have not been officially diagnosed, however do live a very dysfunctional and chaotic life (as is usually characteristic of those who suffer from the disorder).
In all my research and education concerning bipolar disorder, there were some things that struck me as odd, or that I, myself, had preconceived notions about. One of those things came in the form of a statement made by a clinical psychologist. We were talking about treatment options and how some clients deal with bipolar. She said, "There are many, high-functioning people out there who suffer from bipolar." I had to think about that. I had the idea that being pronounced "bipolar person" was akin to a death sentence. I viewed it as one more, huge struggle I'd have to overcome in life... being miserable and highly dysfunctional along the way.
The difference, as I well know, is whether a person chooses to seek help for the disorder, or not. Many people live in denial that there's even anything wrong with them. Unfortunately, mental illness has been given a very bad reputation. Mentally ill individuals were often treated with such barbaric "treatments" as electric shock therapy or the use of bodily restraints. Historically, there was very little research done on these condtions. The patients simply suffered, were tortured/beaten and treated as society's throw-aways.
So, if a person does willfully seek treatment, he/she has a much better chance of living a "normal" life, as opposed to the ones who do not seek treatment. Not only will they be seen by a mental health professional (where they will gain knowledge and ideas about their disorder, and- if needed- be prescribed meds. that will help them), but they may even be linked up with a therapist that the individual can see, on a regular basis, whom they can confide in and learn how to deal with some of the issues that may be going on in their lives. These professionals may also be able to refer the client to other community resources that might be of use/interest to them.
Another "secret" (misconception, really) is, that... people in society still hold onto these old, antiquated ideas about mental illness and people who have mental issues. It's sad. I see it a lot. The hesitation in a person's voice, the look of pity in a person's eyes. Rather than judgement, disgust and fear, what people who suffer from bipolar disorder really need is your kindness, understanding and help.
The big reason why these misconceptions prevail, is... because, there are just not enough resources and information (or, money for either) going out, into society. One of the first things to be cut, when money is tight, is services for the mentally ill. These services are not only fundamental in keeping people healthy, but are vital in assisting those with mental illness to remain healthy. People need to be educated about these things... first of all, our government.
Another myth I've heard, is... people with bipolar are loud, obnoxious, very energetic. This phase of bipolar disorder is referred to as mania. Mania is not a disease in itself, but is a part of the bipolar spectrum. The other part is depression. Without going into specific detail, depression is just that... an extreme low (much lower than mere sadness, as some believe). Mania, on the other hand is characterized as being very energetic, very talkative, having an almost "superhuman" ability/desire (shopaholic, dangerous/risky behavior). Some have done research on the manic (mania) phase of bipolar, and it is believed that many famous and note-worthy people, in society, not only suffered from bipolar disorder, but also did some of their best works while in the manic phase.
Some of these individuals include the following: Patty Duke, Peter Gabriel, Kristy McNichols, Charley Pride, Axl Rose, Ted Turner, Vincent Van Gogh, Georgia O'Keefe, Peter Tchaikovsky, George Frederic Handel, Hans Christian Andersen, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, Tennessee Williams and Leo Tolstoy. These are just a few, of the MANY, popular people who suffer/have suffered from bipolar disorder.
There is no doubt the above individuals are/were very talented and artistic people in society. The unfortunate part, is... people who do so well (on the outside) and then fall apart (as it appears to us, who don't personally know them), are automatically, and unfairly, judged when the diagnoses of bipolar disorder rears it's sneaky head. I can see people shaking their heads now, "Poor guy! If it wasn't for that awful disease... he probably would've made something of himself." The thing is... we who suffer from this disorder CAN, VERY WELL, manage and live with it, have a "normal" life and do great things. We all aren't doomed to failure.
So, in conclusion, what I really want people to take away from this is education. Don't judge others. A friend of mine told me, "You know, we all have problems- some of us just have lighter loads than others!" It makes sense... especially in this case. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder don't ask to be given this stigma. The majority cope the best they know how, talk to a therapist and take their meds like clockwork. Those who don't (the minority) are always the ones who make the news, and the rest of us are judged by that, small minority.
The real secret, is... people who suffer from bipolar disorder are just as "normal" and as functioning as anyone else out there. Some of us are very kind, caring people. Some of us are not. Some of us love to swim, commune with nature, meet friends for lunch, read classic literature, listen to music, act in plays, teach dance class, love children, enjoy gardening, doing arts and crafts, sing, play with pets and so on. Don't count us out just yet! You might just learn a thing or two!