I have bipolar and I am not violent

I had an opportunity to teach a group of school teachers about mental illness. After last weeks Florida school shooting I was prepared for questions about mental illness and violence. It’s beyond sad this is an ever occurring topic.

But what happens to those of us who live with a mental illness when the public, president and politicians point the finger quickly at mental illness as the sole explanation for the violence? It’s a complicated answer.

I’ve spent the past three years publicly talking about bipolar disorder, my psychotic episodes and the consequences of my untreated, under treated mental health condition. As confident as I am owning all of who I am, I get a little rattled and defensive when people say mental illness caused the shooting. I get upset being stigmatized into a small group, though disturbing number of people who commit horrendous crimes.

But something happened to me tonight as I taught the class and openly shared my experiences with bipolar disorder. I could talk about the fact more than 14 million people live with serious mental illness-and very few are violent. And I can also say that sometimes people with mental illness can be violent. Probably more impactful was the fact I was the “teacher” living with bipolar disorder, openly talking about it and saying, “I’m not crazy, whacko, looney, nuts, dangerous, or violent. I’m just a person with bipolar disorder who takes medication so I can live my life productively. For the most part, I’m just like everyone else.”

And as satisfying as it is to have an honest and open conversation about mental illness, most people aren’t as fortunate as me. Most people don’t have a platform where you can look people in the eye and tell them you have a mental illness and you aren’t violent. Even if they were terrified of me they were a captive audience there to of all things learn from me.

I have found there is no greater confidence builder than being open about my bipolar disorder. But I’m also realistic in knowing not everyone has the freedom in sharing that information.

Many people do believe those with mental illness are violent-end of story. That’s probably the same people who say, “It’s time to bring back mental institutions and lock me’ all up.” That was sadly an actual comment on Facebook to an article written about the Florida school shooting. I cringed when I read this…

Then, reality set in. We don’t even have enough funding for research or current mental health treatment, where are we going to find the funding to put over 14 million people in institutions that don’t exists. It’s just people scared and uniformed lashing out with what terrifies those of us with mental illness-the threat of being locked up against our will.

I digress…anyhow the point is all these comments people say about those with mental illness matter. It effects people. No one wants to be assumed as violent. Would you?

When you’re having a discussion about a mass shooting, perhaps we should consider all the facts and not try to simply blame mental illness as the only cause. There’s more to the story.

And by the way, most people with mental illness aren’t violent.

10 thoughts on “I have bipolar and I am not violent

  1. Very well said Amy! I too cringe when hearing the comments about mental illness is the root of all the violence such as in Fla. Besides, we don’t have anything being done to help treat more with mental illness as is. Practicality have to take a number & wait for 4-6 months to even see a Psychiatrist as is. What are we as a society doing about that. So, if you are going to pass the blame on mental illness for the violance. Make treatment accessable to those who do seek it. Having a bed available to anyone in crisis is not much better. If mental illness is going to get the blame. Make treatment easier to get so more can be helped. Not just point fingers!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It was but once in a very manic episode, did my brother scare any shit out of me. Often, he would just be smiling or hiding his stare not to look at others or to look so piercing etc. But to say he could even hold a gun and kill not one but 17? Hmm that your country scares me now for real. Amy you are doing an awesome job – more solutions are needed and not finger pointing

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  3. Tough but much needed information. I to struggled how to explain that all killers are not mentally ill and not all mentally ill are not killers. There are days I question if the stigma can turn around, it’s so easy to point a finger at a large group of people. Glad to see you posting. I’d like to reblog, I’ll take a look for a reblog button. 🙂 M

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  4. Thanks for the post. There are degrees of mental illness but that is not the point with this shooting. Adults gave a military weapon to a screwed up teen with poor impulse control. It’s as if America is struck dumb, as in stupid. As someone who has a chronic mental illness and who has worked in long-term treatment settings, I have mixed feelings about mandated treatment. There is nothing worse than being locked up and too sick to care for yourself surrounded by people who don’t care about you and there is nothing worse than being hungry, filthy, and too sick to care for yourself on a public street surrounded by people who don’t care about you. There is a sensible middle ground between these two hellish scenarios and I wish our culture would stop clinging to political dogma and just sit down and discuss reality. I am also lucky. It is by dint of God’s grace that I am well enough to use my mind again. But my way of life is not the typical one for people who suffer from chronic and debilitating C-PTSD. Thanks to the lack of adequate mental health care, the kind of care that includes intensive in-patient treatment, too many people with C-PTSD wind up living in the second scenario.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your insightful perspective. The shooting is clearly more about access to military style weapons that got into the wrong hands very easily. But mental illness gets blamed to avoid having the conversation about guns. I’m with you on treatment-there must be a middle ground. Thanks again for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

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