I haven’t written an article in several weeks. Maybe months. It’s more than a little embarrassing. I am not able to write because I am in a state of depression that comes with my disease. See I am Bipolar. I also have Depression.
I share this with you because since 1949 Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed during the month of May by presidential proclamation. I also share this with you because I feel that it is important that we have a conversation about all that comes with having a mental health disorder.
To further the conversation I would like to share with you five things that everyone should know about Bipolar and Depression. These are misconceptions that I have come across since being diagnosed. Some of these have come from strangers, some from doctors, some have even come from my own family. It’s important that we clear the air and learn from the mistakes of others. Let’s get down to it.
1) I’m not crazy. Disorders like Depression and Bipolar are not diagnoses that mean that you are crazy. They often mean that you have a neurological imbalance in your brain that simply needs medication to correct. While I often suffer severe symptoms when I am not medicated correctly, a simple medication can make a huge difference in my life. This is because my brain has a chemical imbalance, it has a physical illness just like diabetes where the pancreas has a chemical imbalance, a physical problem that needs medicated. I am not crazy. I have a medical problem that requires medicine, that is all.
2) I’m not lazy. While I am going to need some days I am not a lazy person. Some times I am going to need a lot of days off. I will have times that are really hard for me. I might not make commitments that I fully intended to make. I might not keep up with household chores. I might just plain let things fall through the cracks. It’s not because I am lazy, it’s because I am depressed. For me, the simple solution is to see my psychiatrist and adjust the dosage on my antidepressant but even then this can take weeks to work and in the meantime, I am still depressed. I do my best and keep up with what I can, but sometimes, I just can’t get to everything.
3) I’m not spacey. With my Bipolar I also suffer extreme anxiety. I don’t know if this is something that is common, or if I am the only one. I do know that because of my anxiety I sometimes take anxiety medication. People in my family have said that I am spacey because of this. From my point of view I am still catching everything that is happening. I am still aware. I am still present. I am simply a little bit calmer than normal. Considering that I am Bipolar, and my normal state is a little bit manic, seeing me calm may be alarming, but I am fine. I am not spacey I am not out of it. I am fine. I am simply not having a panic attack.
4) I don’t hear voices in my head. This was perhaps the most hurtful thing I heard a member of my family say. I was shocked that they thought this about me. It is important to remember that there is a difference between a Bipolar diagnosis and a Schizophrenia diagnosis. If a loved one has a mental health diagnosis it might be worth your time to Google it and see what it is and how you can help them cope with it. Knowledge is power and ignorance can be hurtful.
5) I just need empathy. This is simple. Treat me like you still care about me. Don’t treat me like a leper. Don’t tell your children to stay away from me. Don’t judge me. Tell me you love me. Treat me like you did before you heard my diagnosis. I am still the same person. In fact no that I am medicated, I am the person I was always meant to be without the chaos, without the ups and downs. I am me. Give me a chance to be the me I have always meant to be and I will love you back.