Yesterday morning I awoke to a text message from my sister Sherry who also lives with bipolar disorder. She wrote, “I hate bipolar illness.” It didn’t take long for my wheels to start to turn. Of course you hate this illness. I hate bipolar too. I don’t like how it interrupted my life and made my path much more difficult. But I know I can only entertain those thoughts of dread for a little while. If I spend too much time hating bipolar and the fact I have it, I lose out on life.
The fact is no one wants to have a mental illness. It’s hard to come to terms with when we get an initial diagnosis. It’s even harder for loved ones to watch as people destroy their lives because they refuse treatment. I’ve walked in those shoes, so it’s not a judgement simply an acknowledgment of what can happen.
I’m standing on the side line right now watching a young man blow up his life because of his refusal to accept his diagnosis. He’s manic and psychotic. At only 27 years old he’s burning through friends like an out of control forest fire. Soon, he’ll be all on his own to one day, hopefully, pick up the pieces of what is left of his life. I hope that’s soon for his sake.
I’ve spent a great deal of time learning about bipolar disorder and quite frankly other mental illnesses. One the reasons people don’t get help is because no one wants to have a mental illness. I said that once, right? Well, when I was diagnosed with a mental illness it felt like a personal failing. It was as if somehow I had brought it all on myself. There wasn’t much compassion or understanding or anyone who I knew to turn to with questions. I was all alone in my struggle.
Because I felt like it was a personal failing I kept denying it existed. Eventually I did get treatment, but it took a long time to find the right treatment regimen. It was even longer before I learned the necessary lifestyle changes I was going to have to make. On average, it takes 8-10 years from the initial diagnosis before someone gets the proper treatment and that’s if she ever does.
Startling. Right? How can anyone jump right in and accept she has a mental illness, follow a flawed treatment regimen and trust health care providers who too often don’t know jack about what they are treating.
It can get really dark and toxic pretty quick. This is why I only allow myself to entertain the dark side from time to time. I am human, unfortunately. Ha.
The bottom line for this post today is to say no one wants to have a mental illness. But constantly focusing on all the negative things about it are counter productive. Of course I hate my illness. But to be honest it could have been far worse. All things considered I’m one of the lucky ones.
No one wants to have a mental illness but if you do have one please get the help you need. Your life depends on it.