The media often gets it wrong.
Today I am going to break a lot of blogging “rules.”
I’m not going to offer you solutions or ways to make your life better. I’m not going to provide you with products or websites to visit. I’m probably not even going to tell you that things will get better, though hopefully, I will.
Instead, I’m going to talk about me and something that is weighing heavily on my mind.
The News Is Upsetting
There’s a reason why I don’t spend much time on the news. Even a brief story will often stick with me for days.
For instance, I read an article yesterday about a deeply disturbed man with bipolar disorder. He was not receiving appropriate medical care and ended up committing some horrific actions.
I am choosing not to go into detail and not providing a link to the story because the news article was so upsetting that it has haunted me all last night and all through today.
Too often, it’s the worst of the worst who gain any media coverage when bipolar disorder is discussed.
We’ve all seen the stories of the unmedicated mother who killed her children or the celebrity who is talking out of his head at the most inconvenient times. You know what I’m talking about.
Yes, those are faces of bipolar disorder. It’s sad, awful, difficult to swallow, but true.
Those terrible stories are the minority when it comes to those of us who are dealing with bipolar disorder on a daily basis.
Here are some more faces of bipolar.
There’s the store clerk that greets you with a smile every day no matter how rude you are.
It may be the teacher that takes extra time with your child to make sure they understand their lessons.
Perhaps it’s the nurse that is dutifully caring for your aging loved one.
I personally know of people with bipolar disorder that are filling each of these important roles and many more.
Personally, I have worked for more than 18 years in the insurance industry and currently am working as a bookkeeper and tax preparer. Yes, I have bipolar and yet go to work almost every day. So does everyone else I just mentioned.
The Wrong Ones Get Noticed
If someone isn’t shaving half their hair off and dyeing the rest purple or walking down the freeway speaking an alien language, no one wants to talk about it.
No one sees the bravery that it takes for that teacher to get herself dressed each day so that she can be there for her students no matter how many voices are fighting in her head.
There’s no one acknowledging the nurse who hasn’t slept soundly in days but is changing catheters and cleaning up bodily fluids so your loved one can keep some dignity.
No commendation is offered to the cashier that shows up to work every day even though she fears driving and struggles to be around people.
I want to commend all of them. They all need to be recognized, as do so many more.
In my personal life, I know about two dozen people living with manic depression, as it’s still sometimes called. Every one of those people is a productive member of society, either working to provide for their families or to maintain a safe and clean home for their families.
Their stories aren’t sensational. Those stories aren’t going to go viral or garner thousands of clicks on social media. They are the unsung heroes, but they are the majority.
Fighting in silence, they do their jobs, take care of their families, and smile for the world around them.
I appeal to the news media, and to each of you reading this post, take a moment and recognize those mental health warriors that are fighting mental illness and living successfully with it every day.
Let’s Talk Celebrities
There are several celebrities living with the condition who have been brave enough to tell their stories, and many of them have lived extremely successful lives. Consider just a few.
Jane Pauley became a household name as a TV journalist while living with the condition.
Jean-Claude Van Damme became a movie icon while fighting the disease. While it’s true that he had some very rough years before being properly diagnosed and treated, he stands out as an example of what can be achieved.
The beautiful and talented Catherine Zeta-Jones lives with bipolar II disorder. Yet, even so, she has won an Oscar as well as other film awards during her journey all while maintaining the life of a woman of dignity.
You Know People With Bipolar
If you don’t know anyone bipolar in your daily life, most likely it’s not because your community is full of people with perfect mental health. There is no such community.
More likely is the fact that there are several people you know right now living each day with mental illness but afraid to talk about it because of the abundance of negativity and stigmas surrounding it.
Think how many times you have heard bipolar used to insult people.
“Stop acting bipolar.”
“She’s acting crazy. She must be bipolar.”
“He can’t commit, so he must be bipolar.”
I implore you – STOP SAYING THOSE THINGS.
They are hurtful and painful and NEVER funny.
Bipolar is not an insult, and it’s not the punchline to a joke. It’s a very real, very complicated illness. It colors every day and affects every conversation.
But it’s not a death sentence, or it doesn’t have to be, and it’s seldom a reason to not be living a productive life.
I See You Who Are Struggling
Now to all my bipolar friends, I know that many of you are having a tougher time than I am at this moment.
Many of you are severely hampered by your condition and have trouble leaving the house, holding down a job, or maintaining relationships.
I see you. I understand you. In my life, I have been there, and more than once. Likely, at some point, I will be there again. That’s the nature of the disease.
You don’t have to stay where you are. There will be bad days, weeks, and months. Sometimes there are bad years. The years 1995-1998 were all terrible for me and included a hospital stay, over 30 different medications, destroyed relationships, and a demolished career.
Let’s face it, sometimes life with bipolar sucks. There’s no sugar coating it.
Just because today is bad, though, doesn’t mean that tomorrow will be. There is hope.
There is always hope.
Others have found their peace and are living successful lives.
Don’t give up. Don’t listen to the negative stories and equate that to mean that you can’t be better, that you can’t do better. Never give in to despair.
This poem video is about the internal pain you think no one sees.
For many of us, Robin Williams was the face of hope for living with bipolar disorder. He was the beloved Mork, for those of us old enough to remember. He was Mrs. Doubtfire, Peter Pan, and the comedian that made us laugh more than any other. He was kind, charming, and cared about people.
Sadly, Robin eventually gave up his fight. Many are inclined not to mention him because of that fact.
He needs to be remembered, though, for all the years that he did fight. He should be honored for all the years he set the example and made us laugh or cry. His memory should center around all the years he gave us hope and the belief that we could overcome.
I never met Robin. I don’t know any celebrities nor move in any famous circles. Still, my life is touched almost daily by his loss.
I hate that things reached a point where he felt like he couldn’t go on. I wish I had known him and been able to sit with him and hold his hand and assure him that there would be better days.
Even so, when morning comes, and I feel like I can’t get out of bed or put on my smile or be a productive, functioning member of society, I think of him. I think of how hard he worked and how many lives he improved. I know he improved mine, and he still is, every day.
To conclude, I am fired up today. I am ranting and shouting from the top of my soapbox. If you have followed through with me to this point in the post, thank you.
To be honest, though, I didn’t write this post for you. I am glad you are here and honored that you would read my words. This post, though, is for me.
I had to say what’s been in my head since I read that awful story last night.
I had to reassure myself that a good life is possible even with bipolar disorder.
I had an overpowering need to shout out to the world that it’s okay to be bipolar and that you can keep fighting.
Yes, this post is for me, though I am always happy to have you here.
If any of these points touch you, I will be overjoyed.
In any case, the words are now out in the world, and maybe for one person, they will do some good. That one person might just be me, and that’s okay.
Until next time… Keep fighting!
Read next: Sharing My Story: Are Repressed Memories Real?