I appreciate recent years that there’s been a lot more awareness raised surrounding mental illness/disorders as well as autism and other developmental disabilities. But sometimes I can’t help but feel a little bit frustrated about all the misconceptions and stigma when it comes to what I have, Bipolar Disorder.
I have some things I want to get off my chest. I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of negative stigma when I try to discuss it with less informed neurotypical people.
What’s impacted me the most is when people try to tell me how I should handle it and cope. I get judged for being medicated, and I get invalidated when I try to explain that in my personal case I need it in order to function and frankly, to stay alive- because unmedicated and untreated my brain and my body are set to self destruct.
At one point I was trying a drug that wasn’t quite right for me, I was looking for answers because it wasn’t working. And so I listened to neurotypical people who weren’t informed or qualified since I was losing trust in psychiatrists because at the time I couldn’t find one that specialized in treating children and teenagers with mental disorders. I bought into the stigma and the narrative that all pharmaceuticals for psychiatric treatment are a scam, that you don’t need them￼. That you should just be yourself and practice self care and mindfulness instead.
Well, I was already hypomanic at the time, and I was convinced that my diagnosis was wrong and instead it was a problem with my character, who I was as a person. I needed to be more disciplined. I was extremely self critical and self loathing. I was certain that I was just doing everything wrong. I was relying on artificial things that hadn’t been working ￼which must mean that the real problem was myself.
I quit cold turkey and tried following all these suggestions and it went horribly. It sent me into the worst episode of my life, my deepest darkest spiral because it was a self defeating cycle. The more I tried and it wasn’t working the more hopeless and self loathing I got.
Well long story short I was thankfully able to claw my way out of that hole with some help and I finally did find a good psychiatrist and a medication that worked for and has made my life and coping so much easier to manage.
With all that backstory out of the way, I still get flak for being treated with medication. One of the things that I try to explain to people that sometimes helps them understand is the physiological symptoms that accompany my disorder. There are a range of cognitive deficits and neurological impairments that come with it.
With severe depression comes migraines, joint pain, muscle aches and fatigue. Poor coordination and mild loss of motor functions i.e “psychomotor retardation.” It has weakened my immune system in some instances. In manic episodes I’ve experienced auditory hallucinations. Lack of comprehension. Impaired judgment. Impulsivity. Volatility. Among other things.
I wish in addition to spreading awareness that we would also make it a point to tackle misconceptions and provide more information so people could better understand and sympathize.
Please don’t misconstrue though I’m not trying to advocate medication as an end all be all solution because it is definitely not the right choice for everyone. Everyone experiences mental illness differently, so what works for one person may not work for another.
I just wanted to share my thoughts and experience because of the stigma that was harmful to me personally.
If you are medicated, if it does help you function and you feel like you need it in order to get through your life, then don’t let people tell you there is something wrong with you or your choice.
It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. It doesn’t make you a lesser person because others can get by without it.
If it is helpful, then you did make the right choice and that means you are strong. You are making an effort to better yourself and your life.
You’re surviving and you are living. And you are valid.
And that’s all I wanted to say.