I’ve been really open about my struggles with bipolar disorder. Before I had a good handle on this illness it really rocked my world. I’ve come to learn that bipolar disorder will destroy your life if you don’t get the proper treatment and learn how to manage the condition. It can be life threatening during times of severe depression episodes and suicidal thoughts. It can put us at risk during manic episodes which often lead to psychotic episodes.
After my initial diagnosis I felt terribly ashamed. The other day I was thinking about an analogy people might be able to relate to. If you’ve ever had a night of drinking way too much alcohol and you engaged in embarrassing behaviors, the next day you might wake up with not only a hangover but guilty feelings about your behavior. The things you said and did while drunk didn’t take away the fact you said and did those things.
This is what happened to me during manic and psychotic episodes. I’d say and do things and then when I was stable I’d have to deal with the guilt of what happened. The guilt leads to shame and the terrible tapes rolled in my head about what a bad person I was for having been sick.
But after many years of learning about bipolar disorder, I don’t feel badly about what happened to me while sick. I’ve come to learn that I have bipolar disorder and it’s not my fault. What is my accountability is now that I’m stable I need to manage my condition so well I won’t ever end up in a compromising position again.
But if for some reason I have break through symptoms, I’m not going to be ashamed. I’m going to be proactive and do everything I can to manage my condition. And if I have moments where I feel a little paranoid, make up a story or two based on that paranoia, I’ll live with it too.
One day people are going to realize mental illness doesn’t make you crazy, it just makes us vulnerable. I wouldn’t blame myself for having cancer. I’m not going to blame myself for having a mental illness. And neither should the general public.