Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Okay. So, here’s my latest dilemma: it’s one thing to be admitted to a mental hospital. It’s another to be admitted three times over the duration of five months, twice within two weeks. I was discharged on Wednesday after my third stay, and let me tell you, it really messed with my head. While I emerged feeling more confident in my ability to cope with my wonky mood swings and erratic emotions, my sense of self was immensely distorted. The inpatient psychiatrist not only added another mood stabilizer to my little medley of pills but also modified my diagnosis. After seeing a side of me that I prefer to keep tucked away in a far off closet, the she officially pronounced that I have a “personality trait causing social impairment.”
Ouch. For the record, I full-heartedly admire the psychiatrist in the unit and hold her in the highest esteem, but she is really making it difficult to accept my situation. I’m just kidding, of course. I know it isn’t really her fault that I feel the way I do. The truth is that, while others may help steer me in the right direction, it is up to me to come to terms with my recent diagnosis. Still, I am finding it difficult to ward off the invasive thought that there is something wrong with my personality, with who I am. I’ve realized, though, that I am the same person as I was before I was diagnosed. A label does not define me. I am who I am, scarred as my body and mind may be. I am so incredibly broken, but I continue to gift pieces of myself to others. I love with such intensity and dream with such grandiosity that I appear foolish and naïve. I remember the past, reside in the present, and embrace the future. I rebuild myself from nothing and fight to become everything. I am who I am, and it is as simple as that.
The the name of my blog may be “She’s Bipolar,” but I am not bipolar. I am an individual who happens to have Bipolar Disorder. It has been said one too many times, but I will say it again: you are not your mental illness. When you allow your diagnosis to define you, you give your condition permission to rule your life. You cannot possibly lead a healthy lifestyle if you believe in your bones that you are no more than a list of symptoms. It is imperative to your well being that you learn to detach from your diagnosis and view yourself as an individual not a condition. It will not come easily. Little in life does. As I explained earlier, I am now struggling to cope with my new diagnosis. Even if it is not too different from my original one, it still gives me bouts of anxiety. I have moments of immense doubt and moments of extreme confidence. There is really no in between, and that is anything but healthy. Even I must learn to control my thoughts and improve my constantly fluctuating sense of self.
My psychiatrist recently implemented Acceptance and Commitment Based Therapy, also known as ACT, into our sessions. This subsection of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is centered around the philosophy that we must accept what is and commit to making necessary improvements. My goal for the coming weeks is to work towards accepting my situation–both the positive and negative aspects–for what it is. I then intend to commit to making minor improvements, to changing my thought and behavioral patterns without changing who I am. A doctor diagnosed me with a medical condition. So what? What changes? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Needless to say, it is a constant battle, but I will not allow a label to distort my sense of self.
After all, your diagnosis is not important; it is what you choose to do with it that matters.
Okay, everyone, my recent posts have been rather impersonal, but it is time to get real. With Bipolar disorder–with any mental disorder, for that matter–comes a whole lot of pain. Relationships involving someone with the illness can be healthy and inspire growth, but they are likely to be plagued with conflict and disorder. I mean, look at me. My psychiatrist blatantly stated that I have not maintained a single stable relationship over the past year. Pathetic? I think not. My illness is a raging storm that looms over my head, that feeds on the blood and guts of my failed relationships. Bipolar Disorder does not simply terrorize the suffering individuals; it infiltrates the lives of all who surround them. Yes, of course I’m capable of maintaining meaningful relationships with others. I possess the ability to quiet the storm that looms over my head and terrorizes everyone in the vicinity. But implementing such drastic changes takes time and active effort. I am doing my best, and I am learning. One is never pathetic so long as she is learning.
This post is directed at those I’ve hurt, at those I’ve taken for granted, and at those of whom I’ve asked the impossible. Bipolar Disorder is not an excuse, but it does influence my behavior. The list below could not possibly be considered a proper apology, but it is better than nothing. I only hope it explains the reasoning behind my actions and depicts how very sorry I am.
Since I’m pretty–okay, incredibly–open about my mental illness, I receive certain frequently asked questions. One such question is the ever-perplexing, “How do I talk to my loved one with Bipolar Disorder?” Well, the simple solution would be to treat him or her like a fellow human being. Of course nothing is ever so straightforward. I’ve found it is much easier to list what you should not do as opposed to what you should when dealing with a loved one with the illness. So, here’s my little list of don’ts, if you will. This one is for the kind souls who feel they can’t properly communicate with their loved ones, be them diagnosed or undiagnosed. Whether you choose to take advice from a 17 year old girl who was only recently diagnosed is up to you…
If you are not battling mental illness, if you are not hosting demons in your mind, then you have no right to use stigmatizing language. Words associated with mental illness are not intended to be carelessly tossed around. You wouldn’t use the word “cancer” in such a derogatory manner, would you? No. You wouldn’t simply because cancer is a serious, life-threatening disease. Mental illness, according to a painfully large portion of the population, is far from severe. It does not ruthlessly murder its prey. Please, it isn’t even worthy of discussion. While cancer survivors are venerated (and rightfully so), those of us battling mental illness are ignored. People do not think twice about mental illness because of this little pest commonly known as a stigma.￼￼￼
Where did it come from? Well, that’s a question I’ve been asking myself ever since my diagnosis. In part, I think it has become such a taboo topic that people do not feel comfortable asking for help in times of suffering. Still, we must ask ourselves why the topic is so controversial, why we are avoiding discussions that should be of the utmost importance. I attribute much of the stigma surrounding mental illness to over used words like “crazy,” “insane,” and, God forbid, “mental.” By spitting out such terminology without proper understanding, you are unintentionally invalidating the suffering of mentally ill individuals. Through our societies excessive reliance on stigmatizing language, mental illness (or the concept of it) has become rather commonplace. Of course people do not feel the need to discuss it. Of course they see it as a lesser demon, one that is not serious, that does not kill.
The key to eradicating the stigma lies in promoting awareness of mental illness, which, according to WHO, steals the lives of an estimated one million individuals each year. Just because you could not recall the formula for kinetic energy does not mean you are retarded. You have an eclectic taste in clothing? Here’s a wild guess: you probably aren’t bipolar. You think you’re depressed, huh? If the feelings of utter depletion and worthlessness went away the minute your BFF cancelled her plans with her boyfriend, it’s highly unlikely you are depressed. There is a reason that mental illness is not taken seriously, and it is that, through stigmatizing language, it has become associated with what could be categorized as minor inconveniences.
Now, people who use words such as “retarded,” “bipolar,” and “depression” as adjectives may, indeed, be battling mental illness. Or perhaps they are simply uneducated. Either way, I am not here to judge. My intention is, simply put, to report what I have observed first hand, to explain the detrimental effects of witnessing my illness become a frequently visited word in someone else’s vocabulary.