I have Bipolar Disorder. I'm not sure what you know, or think you know about this debilitating illness. Do you think of those happy/sad theatre masks? Do you think I go from screaming to crying in the span of seconds? Well, let's just erase all of that.
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that comes in many shapes and forms. Mania, hypomania, depression, psychosis. Mania is a flood of energy, it's like all your thoughts are too fast and you can't stop them. You become impulsive, you believe you are invincible, you are high, and sometimes it won't stop moving so fast and it's not fun anymore. You miss sleep. You miss being able to string your thoughts together. Depression can and will crush you. You feel hopless, you stay asleep, you hate your life. Then there is rapid cycling. There is a lot to bipolar disorder, a lot more than just feeling sad and then happy! But instead of writing it all out here, take the time to read these resources: NIMH on "What is Bipolar Disorder", Help Guide.
I also have OCD. But no, it's not about organizing my colored pencils in ROYGBIV, it's not making my bed neat and tidy. It's not like that at all. It's an anxiety disorder that has compulsions, intrusive thoughts, obsessions. It can be checking things for hours on end. It can be repeating an action over and over. There is also a lot to this disorder so here are resources for that: IOCDF, "What is OCD?", OCDUK "Different Types of OCD".
I wanted to bring this up, after the inner hell that was these last few weeks because it's incredibly important to me to be fully and completely open about these mental illnesses. It is important to me to break the stigma surrounding them, by talking openly and loudly about it.
If I stay silent, if I don't yell about this I just continue to let the stigma grow. Stigma that keeps thousands of adults from seeking the help they need. And considering that People with OCD are TEN times more likely to commit suicide and People with Bipolar Disorder are TWENTY times more likely than the general population, it is really important we talk about it and encourage others who need help to get it. There is absolutely no shame in getting help.
When you say things like the "weather is so bipolar lol" or "man I am so OCD I cleaned my room for an hour!" you both deminish what a person is going through and make these disorders have a negative light to them. You add to this stigma.
On top of those things, there are many other ways you can add to a stigma or keep a person from getting the help they need. Are you infantilizing someone who is mentally ill? Have they tried to provide you with resources to help you better understand them yet you ignored them? Have you ignored their warning signs? Do you treat them like their illness and not like a person?
The long short of this is that it can be hard and tiring to have mental illness, and a lack of communication and the increase of stigma can make it much worse. I try my best to be a present and active member of society with my mental illness, but sometimes it's much too hard. I can be a downright shitty person. I always try to apologize and better my actions, but it is not easy, and it is less easy with little to no understanding of how I fight my brain everyday.
The great thing about having people in my life that do understand me and how my brain is, is that it becomes much easier. My sister will always help me manage my triggers, she will reassure me during panic attacks, she sends me cute and happy pictures. My husband brings home flowers to brighten my day, he makes sure I remember to stay hydrated and eat lunch, he asks how I am doing and holding up. These things help, until finally the fog lifts and I can do my best to be there for them too. My wish is for everyone to have a support system like this.
Please, if you need help, I urge you to contact a doctor or therapist. I believe in you, and it gets better. Click here for a list of hotlines for you to use if you need them.
Click here for more resources
Overall, things are going much better for me and on the whole I have it much better than a lot of people. I am loved and blessed and have a support system. I just felt like it was important for me to talk openly about mental illness, since many people don't know how to be there for others with mental illness, or will continue to add to the stigma, or don't know anything about disorders like ocd and bipolar disorder. I want to be the best version of myself, and to be a light of positivity in this world, and I can do that best by doing my best to be an open, honest individual about mental illness.